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'Design Star' gets creative in the nursery

  • Kansas City Star
  • Published Friday, July 10, 2009, at 6:12 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, July 11, 2009, at 1:37 a.m.

Jennifer Bertrand recently won another reality show that many of us play: parenthood.

"It's a lot tougher than a television competition, that's for sure," says Bertrand, who on Feb. 20 gave birth to son Winston Spencer Bertrand. While she rocks Winston, she jokes that she and her husband, Chris, plan to ground him when he's 13 for keeping them up at night.

Bertrand is the Olathe design consultant who won HGTV's reality contest "Design Star" last year. The prize is her own show on the channel, as it was for the winners of the two previous seasons: Kim Myles, host of "Myles of Style," and David Bromstad, host of "Color Splash."

Since winning, Bertrand has appeared on two one-hour HGTV specials, "Paint-Over With Jennifer Bertrand," in which she demonstrated how painting techniques can transform rooms, kitchen cabinets and furniture, and "HGTV Showdown," which pitted her against Myles in a four-hour design of a children's playroom. (Although homeowners chose Myles' room design, many liked Bertrand's better because it included way more storage and style).

"At least Winston will get to see himself on TV," says Bertrand, laughing. She was visibly pregnant during the episode.

With her perky personality, Bertrand would like to be "the Rachael Ray of design," making decorating approachable for the masses. Bertrand wants to start taping her show in the fall (stay tuned for details).

She recently returned to work in the Kansas City area; she and Chris own a design business, Bertrand Designs, and they're remodeling a client's master bedroom and bathroom.

Meanwhile, at home, in addition to caring for Winston, they're finishing their basement. Given their hectic schedule, it's a good thing they finished the nursery before Winston was born.

"It's a room that's all about creativity," Bertrand says. "We wanted to make it personal and happy, but we didn't want it to scream nursery. We wanted it to reflect our modern tastes."

Family heritage

The nursery is special, which you'd expect from the winner of a national design competition. The room contains a soothing palette of cream-colored walls with olive-green stripes. Bright splashes of grass green and red artwork pop in the room.

The modern crib and changing table by Amy Coe for Babies R Us were gifts from family members. The couple designed the room on a tight budget with furnishings including a DwellStudio zebra area rug from Target and drapery hardware from Wal-Mart, proving that you don't have to spend a lot of money to make a big impact.

"This economy is tough, and even though Jennifer won a reality show, our business hasn't been immune," Chris says. "People are doing smaller projects like painting rooms."

The first detail you notice in the nursery is the giant Union Jack front and center. The British flag is an ode to England, where Chris was born and raised before moving to the Midwest.

But in this room, grass green substitutes for the flag's traditional blue. Bertrand, a former art teacher in the Blue Valley School District, painted the flag and stripes. Using the same green paint, she painted wooden frames (from Marshalls) containing childhood photos of her and Chris.

"See, Winston has the same chubby cheeks as his mom," Bertrand says, smiling. "Like chipmunks."

The family uses Skype, the online camera chatting system, so relatives in England can see Winston and the nursery and feel like they're around.

Local art

As an artist, Bertrand felt passionate about using original art in the room. Besides her own paintwork, pieces by friends who are local, Kansas City-area artists decorate the room.

A plush deer wall hanging, an owl pillow and a bullfrog are by Alisa Ross. Ross' husband, Scribe, painted a graffiti-style rhino that hangs in the closet.

Jodie Stallard hand-painted a red child's chair.

Peterjun Custodio, who is deaf and mute, sewed the custom slipcover for the glider and a crib blanket.

"I always have my ideas and conversations typed out before I see him," Bertrand says. "He truly is inspiring."

Bertrand also has art hanging in the nursery from artist Jenean Morrison of Tennessee, whom she'd never met, who sent her a congratulatory e-mail after Bertrand won the show. They chatted about art, Bertrand checked out Morrison's Web site and liked what she saw.

Morrison sent her a painting with colorful dots as a gift, which served as the inspiration for the nursery.

"The painting is very special because it represents such a huge moment in our lives of winning the show," Bertrand says. "We wanted to share that with Winston."

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