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Kitty's Corner

Energy to Spare Is the Secret Behind HGTV's Hands-On TV Host

November 05, 1998|JEANNINE STEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As Kitty Bartholomew leads a tour of her backyard, she makes one thing very clear: All plants that inhabit her soil must produce something--a flower, a food, a fragrance. There is no room for slacker flora in this woman's garden.

The edict may seem strict, but it's nothing Bartholomew wouldn't ask of herself. She's on the set of her television show while she knits a sweater while she's on her cell phone while she's thinking about what to make for dinner.

If it all looks pretty seamless, chalk it up to her filing-system brain, or the fact that she's been juggling a regular TV gig and raising three kids for the last 10 years.

But the former interior designer and current host of her own show on the Home & Garden Television cable network doesn't want to give the impression that she's gunning for the I-can-do-it-all award. By her own admission, "I can't just do one thing at once. I was born with this much energy. I've always got three or four different layers going at all times."

It's certainly been an asset. HGTV-aholics will recognize Bartholomew as the host of "Kitty Bartholomew: You're Home," a half-hour design and decorating show covering everything from making curtains out of puckered packing plastic to restoring Victorian houses to faux-finishing floors. The Los Angeles-based show combines guided home tours with interviews and easy-to-do projects.

One of the first shows to air on the almost 5-year-old network, "You're Home" has a coveted prime-time slot twice a week, kicking off a one-hour block of design shows.

She pops up occasionally on other home-themed shows, as well as in magazines. She is the personality corporations covet as their spokesperson; currently she represents Glade and Pier 1.

Got Her TV Start on ABC's 'Home Show'

Pre-HGTV, the petite Bartholomew, with her trademark black-and-white striped hair, was a regular for six years (1988 to 1994) on ABC's "The Home Show," a five-day-a-week morning program with a "family" of experts; Bartholomew was the resident building, remodeling and decorating diva who wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty.

After a decade of advising the domestically inclined and challenged, Bartholomew's bright-ideas bulb hasn't dimmed a bit. She is still striving to give more and more to the viewers who depend on her expertise.

"I am so information-driven," she says, "and I'm always on the lookout for it. I know that there are enough people out there who depend on me to give them good information, usable information. I have a very good sense of what people want to know."

And what is that exactly?

"I don't want to tell people what look is right or wrong, but within the margins of good taste I want to be able to empower them to be able to identify what their own unique home family life situation is and be able to make changes. Because you can make changes, even without spending a nickel. . . . People may not attempt the exact thing that I do, but money is not a reason to stop you from ever making changes in your life."

Don't doubt for a second that Bartholomew doesn't have 101 ways to accomplish just that. She points out some in her own home: leaves plucked from the backyard and placed in a vase; last year's Christmas tree, de-branched, recycled as a birdhouse post.

"When I was an interior designer, we did some very fine projects," she says. "And it was fun enough, but it didn't really get my juices going. What really got me going were my low-budget projects--that's where I really became creative, and that's where stuff came up through me that I didn't know existed."

A New Husband and a New Home

It still gets her going. In fact, she's entrenched in a personal project that's drawing on her creativity big time--a new house she just bought with her new husband, Jack Shakley, president of the California Community Foundation, a philanthropic organization. Blending their styles has been a hard lesson in compromise for Bartholomew, whose taste is decidedly English country, right down to the vintage stove, overstuffed chairs and wicker tables.

"Now that's very Kitty," she says, pointing to a cozy little corner nook that contains a slipcovered reading chair and a small side table. "And that's very Kitty," she says, gesturing to a barn-red distressed armoire.

Her husband, on the other hand, treasures his modern art collection and has little affinity for cute little collectibles. When they married on July 4, he sold his condo, she got rid of her craftsman bungalow, and they moved into this sunny two-story contemporary Santa Fe-style house in Santa Monica that they both love. High ceilings and copious wall space lend openness, but warm-tone tiles, wood furniture and lots of windows and glass doors keep it from being austere.

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