Jeff Lewis bills himself as America’s most famous house-flipper, and he may well be: His Bravo reality show, Flipping Out, debuted in 2007 and has since racked up eight seasons. And in addition to earning him a coveted spot in the modern day lineup of celebrity decorators, the show has yielded a line of interior paint, rugs, and, soon, tile sold by the Home Depot.
Lewis will be speaking this Friday and Saturday at the Home & Remodeling Show in Chantilly. Ahead of his touchdown on our turf, we threw him a few questions about Bravo, fame, and what’s big on this year’s design circuit.
Washingtonian: Zoila is your right-hand gal on Flipping Out. Will she be coming with you to Washington?
Jeff Lewis: She will not, because Zoila is really the only person that I trust to stay home and take care of the house and the animals. So I usually leave her behind. Gage will usually come with me, sometimes Jenni will come with me, but Zoila is really the only person that I trust to be home.
You know, she really is HBIC—no kidding. Like, she runs this place. She rules it with an iron fist. But she’s a master delegator. So she’s really good at sitting in a chair and telling people what to do.
Washingtonian: Who else on Bravo do you hang out with—willingly?
Jeff Lewis: I’m friends with a lot of the girls, so I have hung out with most of them. I think I’m closest at the moment to Shannon Beador. We met through Tamra [Judge]. We invited Shannon and David to drinks, and we were so loud that we were asked to leave. We drove to Shannon and David’s house and wound up partying until very late in the evening. And I think Shannon had an entire bottle of vodka and David had to carry her up to her bedroom. I’m not kidding.
Washingtonian: And when you hang out with fellow Bravo stars, do they act more or less how they act on the show?
Jeff Lewis: Everybody’s pretty much the same. It’s exactly what you see. The very first season, which was eight years ago, I tried for the first couple weeks to kind of filter myself, and be on my best behavior, and it’s a lot of work, because they’re filming you all day long. And finally you’re just like, ‘Forget it, I’m going to be me.’ It didn’t work out so well for me the first season, because I think people didn’t really understand me—or like me—and then, fortunately, there were a few big people in the industry like Ellen DeGeneres who were like, ‘Oh, this guy’s a trip, we want to have him on the show.’ And because there was so much buzz we got picked up for a second season.
Washingtonian: What do you think about when you think about DC design?
Jeff Lewis: I can appreciate beautiful buildings, but I’m always drawn to residential architecture. And I’ve only been to DC twice in my life, and I believe that the architecture generally is more interesting there. And I think there are more homes that have either been preserved or redone tastefully. And unfortunately in Los Angeles there’s a lot of amazing architecture that has been destroyed. Like, literally just leveled and replaced with a stucco-and-drywall box. There’s also a sense of respect for the architecture in DC that I don’t necessarily find in Los Angeles. And I don’t know if there are associations that govern that, or certain preservation bodies that maybe we don’t have in LA, but I found it to be a beautiful place.
Washingtonian: Your aesthetic—is there a name for it?
Jeff Lewis: I think I used to be almost exclusively modern or contemporary, and that was a very limited audience, so I would have people reach out who wanted white-on-white with concrete floors and three pieces of art and Italian furniture, and that used to be what I enjoyed, and what I liked to do, and what my houses would look like.
I think my design aesthetic has evolved. It’s definitely more transitional now. I’m not exclusively contemporary and I’m not exclusively traditional. It’s a warmer aesthetic, it’s more layered. And it also appeals to a greater variety of people.
Washingtonian: What’s big this year at the Capital Remodel show how and others like it?
Jeff Lewis: This whole modern farmhouse movement. I feel like it’s a modern twist on country furnishings, and country decor. And now we’re seeing all these kind of vintage pieces, and more rustic finishes and decor accents. And I like it. It feels very warm to me. It’s almost like a hip, current take on grandma’s house.
This interview has been edited for style and clarity.