How two best friends are enlivening HGTV Canada with their fresh, thoughtful designs
By Brooke Madden
HGTV Canada has been a welcome presence in many Canadian homes since its inception.
There’s something about watching spaces transform from shabby to chic that can often help you unwind at the end of the day. (Or wake you up early on a Sunday morning!) However, the network is not known solely for its jaw-dropping designs, its beautiful builds, and its charismatic characters. Arguably, one of the most interesting elements of binging HGTV Canada programs is the unique, often quirky host dynamics. That’s why I was so excited to hear about HGTV Canada’s newest program, hosted by two best friends of twenty years, “Styled.”
Pioneered by Nicole Babb and Caffery Vanhorne, “Styled” is HGTV Canada’s next best new home renovation show. Joining the growing club of Black female hosts on the network, Nicole and her best friend, business partner and award-winning Black stylist and designer Caffery Vanhorne, transform the homes of their clients in a whole new way. Bursting into the public eye with their playful, bold designs, these industry leaders intend to expand the HGTV Canada audience, revolutionize and revamp spaces, and set a new precedent for the types of designers represented in the media along the way.
An entrepreneur and leader in her field, Nicole Babb is the founder of R&P Home, a family-owned and -operated design firm she founded in 2015. As she is a stager, stylist, house flipper, and travel lover, it’s no surprise that when she met her soon-to-be business partner, Caffery, they hit it off immediately.
“We met when Caffery was a hairstylist and I was a makeup artist; I used to go to the salon he worked at, and we also have mutual colleagues and friends. [But] we really started to hang out when we were out of Toronto,” explains Babb. “We both travelled a lot for extensive periods of time. Our relationship blossomed when we were both in Colombia at the same time. We made lifetime memories travelling throughout the country. The pandemic caused us both to return to Toronto; I asked Caffery if he’d like to come work with me. He said yes!”
The two became instant friends, bonding over their love of exploration, style, and allowing their personal backgrounds and cultures to influence their collaborative work. “Nicole knew I’d enjoyed success as a hairstylist, photographer, fashion designer, and furniture designer, and noticed my affection for interior design through my well-appointed personal space. She thought we could collaborate well on some design projects on my next trip to Canada. She’s amazing, so I was excited to create with her and knew we would have fun,” says Vanhorne.
After the pair began their working relationship at R&P, Babb and Vanhorne quickly established themselves as visionaries. Iconic in their uniqueness, the two are passionate about reflecting on the lessons they’ve learned through their travels in their projects. “Travelling is the fastest way to learn,” says Babb. “I yearn to learn. I have such an appreciation for culture, design and craftsmanship from all over the world.
“I like supporting local artists. Authenticity is one of the most crucial parts of design. Being authentic is a huge part of my work and my personality. There’s nothing more authentic than an artisan telling their story through their craft. I think our niche has become offering our clients, through our travels, unique, special design,” she explains.
An additional component contributing to the types of designs we will see this season is how each host incorporates different personal and cultural backgrounds in their concepts. Nicole and Caffery both honour their heritage and love to pay homage to it in their work.
Babb is, proudly, “a multi-ethnic woman. I grew up with a biracial mother whose Chinese and Afro-Guyanese-Caribbean culture had a huge influence on me. There were always Black and Chinese art and decorations in our house. This was my first visual inspiration,” says the designer. Caffery mentions spending many years in the tropics, so he always strives to include elements of warmth in his style choices, which he says can be “as simple as the use of white bedding, or a jute rug, or even a silk print on a cushion. No matter how cold the climate, I’ll throw in an aspirational warm tropical element.”
While of course, viewers can look forward to witnessing the projects featured this season, they can also look forward to the hosts’ quirky, fun, best friendship on screen! They each contribute their own essential qualities to the projects they take on. While Nicole insists Caffrey is known for his infectious sense of humour, Caffery appreciates Nicole’s budget-consciousness. Both hosts enjoy finding creative solutions when budgets get tight, but “Nicole knows it’s up to her to make sure that nobody goes broke in the process!” jokes her co-host.
It’s exciting to acknowledge how much these two prominent, talented creators are changing the landscape of HGTV Canada with this project. “I can’t wait for viewers to see a group of BIPOC designers share our process to bring great design to a whole new audience,” says Babb.
“There’s no other show like ‘Styled’ on the network, and I am so excited to connect with this audience. Overall, we hope to add style and heartfelt moments to the network, and show our unique perspective as successful Black business owners,” Caffrey states. “It’s certainly time, and Canadian TV is ready for it!”