Masterful Military Makeovers
Photos courtesy of Jennifer Bertrand and Military Makeover
Meet Jennifer Bertrand. You will be glad you did!
Best known as the winner of HGTV’s Design Star, Jennifer currently co-stars in Lifetime TV’s Military Makeover with Montel, a very special home improvement series created to thank those who have served and sacrificed for our country.
Her commitment reminds all of us at Helen Jon of something very important: We all have different gifts and ways in which we can pay tribute to and thank our country’s proud veterans.
You know first-hand how creating a beautiful, livable space can truly lift your mood and improve your sense of well-being. What do you like best about transforming houses for veterans and their families?
A lot of times the veterans are suffering from various issues—from injuries to PTSD. It’s amazing to see how giving them a new, fresh environment can affect the soul.
The best part is that we get to give love to families who have dedicated their lives to protecting our country.
To any gray day or low mood, you are the antidote! You bring the fun, the happy, the color, and a real sense of love, life – and purpose – to every canvas or home you touch. What are some ways you imbue a new mood and look to these veterans’ homes and to their quality of life?
First off, thank you, that’s super nice to say!!!!
I’ve learned a few important things in design….the most important one is if your home is in order, your mind is in order. Purging and identifying what truly matters in your world is a key part of the journey.
Second, color can make you happy. Create a color story through your home, and, yes, you can count white as a color! 😊 But 3 colors that bounce between the home help keep you from looking like a crazy person!
And, third, playing with tones of a color is fun, so if you are using red as a color, play with dusty corals and blushes. Greens play with hunter greens and citron. If you are thinking right about now: “What are you talking about, lady?! That sounds crazy!” Well, take your cues from fashion week. I love watching the fashion shows from NYC, Paris, Milan and London to see color palettes that feel fresh!
Each family has a unique story. We have seen moving episodes where veterans come home— wounded or suffering from insomnia and PTSD—they’re so changed by what they’ve seen and experienced. In one show, you helped a family in Missouri whose home lacked not only color and décor, but whose backyard for their children was a safety hazard. What was the family’s reaction to the transformation of their Military Makeover?
Getting to do these makeovers helps you understand what really is important in life. On ‘Reveal Day’, our design and construction crew get to feel like Santa. Often, I will hide and listen to their reactions because it’s so gratifying. All of our hard work and lack of sleep pay off when you hear the tears of joy and the utter relief of worries being taken off of their plate.
The families feel so thankful knowing that their biggest home worries have been fixed. And a lot of times, these things are not the pretty, fun, makeover things; instead, it’s roofing, heating and cooling, retaining walls, etc.
I always try to remind others of this important truth—when you renovate your own home or help others do theirs—children don’t care how their home looks. They just want a happy, fun place where their parents play with them. Sometimes as I journey in life, I have to stop and tell myself, “my child doesn’t care how far I get in my career or what my resume says.” It reminds me to turn off my phone and be present…that’s the best thing you can do to design your life and help your mind!
You say, “Great design should make you happy and your life easier.” What are your favorite design tricks to transform a space?
- Get rid of stuff!
- Remember less is more and stuff doesn’t have to be on every wall!
- Play with scale---have fun with large art or gallery walls that touch the ceiling and go to the floor!
- Plants are good for the soul! They oxygenate the air and plants like Sansevieria and Jade are easy to maintain!
- You can never have too much sunlight! It feels so great to have natural sunlight throughout the home!
- Have fun and who cares what people think of your home! Be happy!
There is such a spark and sense of fun in your whole being. Just watching you and being near you makes people feel happy. How do you meld your personality and taste with others who might have a different beat?
Thank you! I always try to find the positive in life. Now the irony is that I married an Englishman who is like Larry David and the complete opposite! I believe that your environment and your home can truly make you feel better, but often a mindset is the most important thing you have to adjust and “renovate.”
You live in Missouri but do projects all over the country. Do you find that there is a true tie that binds, a commonality of spirit and humanity that feels very American? If yes, how would you describe it?
Great question! Honestly, the love of veterans all over the country is just so simple and pure. I also think that goes for all people in service—firefighters, police, etc. I feel like when it comes to helping, it’s easy to meet a stranger and become friends when you are engaged in the process of doing good. I feel very lucky to be a part of this. My father was an Air Force Colonel, and as military kids, we are so used to making friends, but I think the tie is that people who get it, just get it. And the American spirit is that when someone needs help, we jump in!
Yes! Jennifer Bertrand, you inspire us to cultivate that American spirit that defines the best of what our country is about. Thank you for talking with us and for all that you do.
Happy Independence Day to all!