Get to know Debra Salmoni, Scott McGillivray’s stylish sidekick on Scott’s Vacation House Rules, and the owner and principle designer of Debra Lillian Design. This Ontario native may live and breathe design, but it’s her pursuits and passions off-screen that truly define her.
From the early days of her career to sweet first dates, here are 10 things you may not know about Debra!
1. Though Design Was Her Passion, Debra Actually Studied Business and Marketing
Growing up in Brampton, Ontario, Debra didn’t have any interior designers to look up to. She knew she loved design, but the thought of launching that career where she was living was daunting.
“No one had interior designers. It just seems like a really unattainable dream. So I figured wherever my career or the world takes me, I’m going to have to know how to market myself. I’m going to have to understand marketing and business.”
Instead of studying design, Debra studied marketing at Seneca College. We’d say that education paid off, and then some!
2. Travel is Debra’s Happy Place
Outside of her family and the design world, travel is Debra’s greatest passion. She travels so frequently, Scott even teases her about it! Her most memorable trips include a family trip to Alaska and her honeymoon in South Africa.
“When I’m able to take my kids on trips and watch their eyes light up, like when we were in Alaska and watching icebergs, those are magical moments. That as a parent is kind of where I find it’s most rewarding.”
3. Debra and Her Husband, Dave Salmoni, are Tied for Coolest Job
Debra’s husband Dave is an animal trainer and television personality, so her two children get to see both parents in the spotlight, doing what they love.
“They see Daddy playing with a grizzly bear and then Mommy’s playing with paint colours!”
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4. Debra’s First Date with Dave Lasted Seven Hours
When a friend asked to set Debra up with Dave, Debra thought it was a joke, but eventually, she agreed. Good thing she did, that blind date lasted seven hours, and they’ve been together for nine years! For those in Toronto, they dined at The Saint on Ossington Avenue, followed by drinks at Reposado — two Ossington staples!
5. A Blind Date to Remember
That first date was so memorable, Debra has the date, September 7, 2013, etched on her ring. It doesn’t get cuter than that!
6. Debra Finds Inspiration from Afar
Travel is a major part of Debra’s life, it even inspires her work.
“I get so much design inspiration from travel, just being exposed to different cultures and colour palettes. It really helps me, seeing how different people use different spaces too. I’m like, ‘wow, that’s really interesting.’ Sure you can see it in magazines, but until you’re actually there and experiencing it, you don’t fully understand. Travel is very important to my soul.”
7. In Another Life, Debra Could Have Been an Event Planner
When asked about her hidden talent, Debra shared that her friends would say it’s event planning.
“My girlfriends have told me ‘You are the best event planner in the world.’ We’ve had a few girls vacations, and I just take complete control over it. We’d all arrive and then 10 minutes later, a catering company shows up with a bunch of food.” It’s all about the element of surprise!
8. When it Comes to Parenting, Halloween is a Highlight for Debra
Debra went all out for her family’s Halloween costumes (just take a look at her own Hocus Pocus costume!), and you better believe her house had the best decorations on the block.
9. Debra is a Mom of Two (Plus Two Fur Babies)
Debra’s family includes Honey and Mo, two of the cuddliest pups you’ll ever see! While the English Mastiff and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel are as cute as can be, Debra admitted on Instagram that their Amazon delivery person might tiptoe past their door!
10. Debra and Scott are Best Buds but Mildly Competitive When it Comes to Instagram
It’s no doubt that Debra and Scott are aligned when it comes to design (their reveals are some of HGTV Canada’s favourites), but when it comes to Instagram likes, there might be some friendly competition. Check out this cheeky post by Scott to see what we mean!
11. Debra Loves Antique Shopping in Paris
Debra is a big fan of Paris and a big fan of the variety of antique markets that are there. Whenever possible, Debra loves frequenting the world’s biggest antique market Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen. For Debra, the hunt for decor pieces with a story to tell makes the experience of decorating a home all the more thrilling.
12. Debra is a Proud Canadian
Born in Brampton, Ontario, Debra has lived her entire life in Canada and proud of it. Having the opportunity to work with many Canadian families across the entire country, Debra has grown ever fondly of Canada’s natural wonders, hospitality and even chilly temperatures. Debra can often be found soaking up rays on the French River or venturing off into the mountainous regions near Banff.