Hilary Farr has loved refurbishing homes ever since she fixed up and sold the London apartment she’d bought when she was 18.

But becoming the TV designer whose job is to persuade people to love their homes rather than list them wasn’t an obvious destination on her career path early on.

Back then she was pursuing an acting career under her maiden name, Hilary Labow. She even played bride Betty Munroe in the 1975 camp classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

In the late ’90s, though, Farr ended up in Toronto, which at the time lacked a thriving entertainment industry. So she started staging houses for realty agents, then flipping them, and Farr was on her way to an interior design career and eventually a role as co-host of HGTV’s popular Love It or List It.

This weekend, she’ll be at the Cleveland Home + Remodeling Expo, sharing her advice for making any home a place its occupants can love. She’s scheduled to speak at 1 p.m. Saturday at Huntington Convention Center.

Farr promises a fairly nuts-and-bolts presentation. Among other topics, she said, she’ll offer guidance on envisioning new purposes for a space and give the skinny on what’s involved in big renovations, particularly kitchens and bathrooms.

The vision part is often hardest for homeowners, Farr said by phone last week, just after shooting the reveal of her latest renovation. It’s difficult to see a home with new eyes after you’ve lived there a long time, she said, and it’s hard to imagine using space differently from the way you always have.

That’s probably why so many people look for bigger houses when their own homes aren’t working well.

“People love space. They tend to think that bigger is better,” but that’s not necessarily true, she said.

She uses large kitchens as an example. “If it’s not set up right, you’re going to spend your time traipsing back and forth,” she said.

In fact, Farr said smaller homes can have advantages over larger ones. When there isn’t space for everyone to hole up in their own separate rooms, families spend more time together and communicate more.

Renovating a smaller home doesn’t always mean knocking down walls, though. Sometimes, she said, it’s as simple as creating a cohesive look for the whole house or figuring out a better way to use a room.

One of her favorite renovations on the show involved widening the opening between a living room and kitchen to allow space for a kitchen island. It was a fairly simple change, she said, but one that allowed the house to better suit the owners’ needs.

Talking homeowners into modifications and dealing with problems that arise isn’t always easy. In fact, Love It or List It is really about relationships as much as home searches and renovations, Farr said.

The central relationship is the one between Farr and co-host David Visentin, who are known for butting heads on the show. He tries to talk clients into selling their homes; she tempts them to stay put with a renovation.

The sparring is genuine, “but it’s with much respect,” Farr said. Just as genuine, she said, is the admiration she and Visentin have for each other.

Farr describes her approach on the show as tough love, and that’s real, too, she said. She’s had to learn over the years how to deal effectively with clients and contractors, and that can require a firm hand.

But being tough in business doesn’t necessarily mean being tough all the way through. Farr has a soft spot for the vulnerable, she said, particularly for animals.

She often posts on social media about her two cats — one of them with only one eye — and her dog, a nearly 14-year-old Pomeranian-Chihuahua mix who accompanies her everywhere and has “no interest in me getting another dog.” She even has a raccoon that lives with her off and on, coming into her home when it’s cold.

They’re a centering force in a busy life, which typically finds Farr juggling five projects at one time.

She’s quick to point out, however, that she doesn’t do everything alone. “I depend upon an extraordinary team to be able to do what I do,” she said.

When you have a hectic and very public job, that’s the kind of support that allows you to keep on loving it.

Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or mbrecken@thebeaconjournal.com. You can follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MBBreckABJ or on Twitter @MBBreckABJ .