As if he wasn't flipping out enough, now Jeff Lewis has taken on a new title: design therapist. "Interior Therapy With Jeff Lewis" (premieres Wed., Mar. 14, 9 p.m. ET on Bravo) follows Jeff and his hilarious Girl Friday-slash-comedic sidekick Jenni Pulos as they move in with their clients to oversee redesigns and construction work in their homes.
Lewis has been known to get incredibly personal with his regular design clients on "Flipping Out," but the Bravo personality teases that we'll see a whole new side of him that's much less stressed out on "Interior Therapy." Of course that doesn't mean the show is light on drama -- one episode even ends in the breakup of the client couple. Naturally, Lewis has dubbed that one his favorite of the season.
I caught up with Lewis to hear all about the wide range of clients we'll meet each week, how his years of therapy ("a ton," he admits) prepared him to play style shrink and why "Interior Therapy" won't be "generic and boring and ordinary ... like every other HGTV show." (His words, not mine.) He also dished about his personal life, walking Jenni down the aisle this year (half way, at least ... maybe) and a new Jeff Lewis Design employee we'll meet when "Flipping Out" returns in August.
Whose idea was this to have you actually move in and live with your clients during remodeling and construction?
You know, Andy Cohen has been one of the biggest supporters of "Flipping Out," and he told me from the very beginning, "Just so you understand -- these docuseries have a lifespan of about three seasons, and then you're done." So I always kind of thought in my head that "Flipping Out" was going to be three seasons and they we were just going to move on. Then around, Season 2, Bravo had already started saying, "We really want to do another show with you." And I thought this was so premature, but they started kind of pitching ideas -- I'm gonna say, no joke, probably 100 ideas were pitched to me. And they all sounded generic and boring and ordinary, and just like every other -- sorry -- HGTV show. They were pitching home improvement and home design shows, and I said, "Well, what if we did some sort of hybrid?" I really fought for the reality hybrid part. So we go into a home, we get to know the family, we get way too in their personal business, and they said, "OK, and you should sleep there, because then you're really going to get way too close to the family, when you're up until midnight having drinks, then up in the morning having coffee together." And they were absolutely right. If you spend five straight days with someone, you really get to know them.
And there's no escaping the clients when things go wrong! But also you get some very nice places to stay for a few nights. It's almost like a mini-vacation.
Felice and Michael, the Steinbecks [in episode 1], their house was really nice. The Lorsch's house [in episode 2] was really nice. But you'll see as the episodes go on that the houses aren't as nice ... sometimes it was cramped and Jenni and I had to share a room. The whole standard of living went way down, way fast.
[Laughs.] Well, you started off so good -- you got really cozy with the Lorsches.
I really did. That was one of the homes where I was like, "OK, I've got it better here than I do at home." I really wanted to stay. But as the episodes go on, some of the homes were dirty, they were cramped, they were cluttered -- it was not as enjoyable.
You attract a certain kind of client though, am I right?
With this show, it's pretty diverse. Not everybody is affluent. We have couples that are married, couples that are unmarried, a gay couple, families and ... I'll tell you my absolute favorite episode: We had a situation where there wasn't a happy ending. The other producer on the show, she and I got into a humongous fight because she wanted to put this whole Hollywood twist happy ending on it, and basically wanted to produce the ending, and I said, "But that's not what happened here." They ended up breaking up!
Wow, that's kind of sad.
But it was my favorite episode -- not because they broke up, but because we embraced what truly happened and it was not a happy ending. The thing was, these people should've never been together in the first place, they'd both come out of relationships and rebounded and were afraid of being alone. They were hanging onto each other, and they didn't even like each other. From the moment I walked in the door, I never saw affection or love, never saw the connection -- and I called them on it! He treated her very badly, which pissed me off, and I was working on her the entire week, like "Are you sure this is right?" because they were talking about moving in together. She was in denial!
And you say it in the opening credits: If something's not right in the home, that means something's not right in the relationship. You've become a therapist!
As a house flipper, I can't even tell you how many houses I've been through -- thousands -- and if you are really in tune, you can tell. When you walk into a house and the house feels good, it's not really about the floorplan, and it's not really about how they decorated. It's if the people are happy. You can feel it. We've all been in miserable relationships. I've had a lot of relationship experience, and I know what an unhappy relationship is, and you can just tell. So no, I haven't been to school and I'm not a licensed therapist, but I've had a lot of therapy and I've had a lot of life experience and a lot of relationship experience. I deal with people all day long ... and all kinds of people.
Speaking of relationships, who's watching your babies -- the dogs -- while you guys are sleeping over with clients? Zoila?
Yes, Zoila and Gage are at home. Thank God for Gage, because when I'm not home or I'm traveling a lot, he's sort of manning the fort.
Aw ... it's good to know that he's still in the picture!
He is. It's going really, really well. It's been a little over three years now.
What about Jenni and her Greek doctor?
She's engaged, and they're getting married over Memorial Day weekend. It's gonna be on the show. Isn't it exciting? I've been through this whole thing with her -- I mean, the divorce, all the terrible dating experiences -- then she met him through church and he's religious, she's religious, they're both Greek, their families love each other. It's like a match made in heaven.
Are you going to be the flower girl?
Um, I'm going to be the Maid of Honor. [Laughs.] Kidding. But she jokes that her father's going to walk her down the aisle half way and I'm going to walk her the other half.
[Laughs.] I'm just so happy for you both, which is a testament to how much of yourselves you've shown viewers. We feel like we know you.
Well, you do know us. We can smell bullshit, Jenni and I ... I watch a lot of reality, and my BS meter goes off. There's very few shows on TV that aren't slightly produced, and I think that's why my show still seems fresh each season, because there's so many twists and turns in my life, and all the people that are in and out. And because it is so character-driven and there are so many interesting personalities, every season is fresh. I mean Sarah, Trace, Jett ... all these people that have come in and out of my life. And now I have someone new who is so complicated. He's extremely competent, but he's also quite a trainwreck -- he's going to be in "Flipping Out."
I'm glad that "Interior Therapy" won't be on instead of "Flipping Out" ... that we'll get both.
Oh yes ... "Flipping Out" is back, probably in August. I got scared when they picked this show up because I love, love, love "Flipping Out." This is totally, completely different -- I think people are certainly going to see a different side of me. Someone mentioned that I seem so much less stressed on this show ... I'm stressing about one client instead of 12, so I'm still stressed and tense, but the intensity is turned down a little bit because I know I'm not having to worry about my dozen clients at home.
And you probably do have a dozen or more clients because I keep hearing you say that the flipping business is back.
The flipping business is back. I have resisted doing any flips just because the design business has been doing so well, I'm thinking, "Why take the risk on a flip when I can make the same money designing somebody's home in Miami?" I've been doing a ton of traveling, which is a major part of my business, and I've been really enjoying it.
I know you're on "Watch What Happens Live" this week after the show premieres, and Andy will probably ask you, but if you were one of the "Real Housewives," what would your opening line be?
"Money doesn't buy everything. But what it can't, I wouldn't use." [Laughs.]
"Interior Therapy With Jeff Lewis" premieres Wed., Mar. 14, 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.
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