Jennifer Bertrand aspires to do in the design world what numerous “American Idol” winners have done on the pop music scene: win big and capture hometown pride.
The prize for Bertrand, a 32-year-old Olathe, Kan., artist, would be her own show on Home & Garden Television. She's competing on the network's reality show “Design Star.” Charlottean Jerome Scottie Miller was eliminated from the competition early on.
Bertrand, owner of a decorating business with her husband, Chris, was selected from thousands of applicants to appear on the program.
So far the show, based in Nashville this season, has shown auditions and a tough “Survivor”-style challenge that turned out to be a ruse: building your own lodgings.
Contestants also teamed up to decorate different rooms in the house where they'll be staying. Bertrand and a partner worked on the dining room, starring a long organic-shaped table they painted glossy white.
Waiting to learn Bertrand's fate was a nail-biter, because she ran out of time and left tape on the walls, which the judges noticed right away.
“I know Jen will do well,” says Kim Wood of Lenexa, Kan., who hired Bertrand to paint her kitchen, living room and dining room as well as other projects. “She's outgoing and very talented. I can't wait to see what happens next.” (Bertrand actually knows, but she can't say a thing.)
In Kansas City, Bertrand, once an art teacher, has a lot of other fans watching the show and cheering for her, including former students at Cottonwood Point Elementary in the Blue Valley School District.
Bertrand grew up surrounded by art. Her mother, a sculptor, has work displayed in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif. Her father is director of the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art in St. Joseph, Mo.
While Bertrand was teaching, she painted drinking glasses and worked part time painting home interiors, including faux finishes. She and her husband, Chris, who is from England, eventually started working full time together. He also auditioned for “Design Star,” which was shown on the first episode.
If she wins, Bertrand envisions hosting a design talk show with interviews and how-to demonstrations. She'd like Chris to be her co-host. Both have teaching backgrounds, she points out, and are good at presenting information.
The couple's home stands out in their subdivision because it resembles a Bavarian cottage. They painted the garage doors to look like distressed carriage doors.
Inside, the home is what the couple calls a laboratory. The kitchen cabinets, originally the honey oak everyone had in the early 1990s, are now espresso. A bathroom has been painted a metallic rust color for a modern industrial look. The living room walls are faux painted to appear centuries old. Bertrand's next project?
“I'm going to paint them white,” she says. “That's what makes art pop.”
Bertrand's paintings hang throughout the home. Some are abstract, often a mix of colors and metallics. Others are inspired by haute-couture fashion ads.
One of Bertrand's current projects is designing a high-style boutique in Johnson County. She's drawing inspiration from Hollywood Regency designers Dorothy Draper and current it-girl Kelly Wearstler.
“I love that style,” says Bertrand, who has a few Hollywood Regency pieces in her home, including a starburst mirror. “It's so glamorous.”
Most of Bertrand's residential projects have been Old World. She painted murals and did other design work at Marian Tutera's house in Mission Hills, Kan.
“My favorite is the medallion she painted above my stove,” Tutera says. “I went on vacation and just told her to surprise me. She definitely did. It's green, teal and terra cotta, and it's so unique. I like how she uses color and how she's not afraid to go beyond the limits. I just know she's going to be extremely successful.”
Brian Mills, who taught with Bertrand at Cottonwood Point, is also watching Bertrand on “Design Star.”
“It's great to see someone succeed at a high level,” he says. “It doesn't surprise me that she would be picked for it. She has all the energy in the world.”