Jeff Lewis is best known as the semi-neurotic design genius behind Bravo’s hit shows Flipping Out and Interior Therapy. Though he has a reputation for being rather harsh with his staff, Lewis has a soft spot when it comes to pets—he currently lives with three dogs (Casey, Oliver, and Chris) and two cats (Monkey and Stewie). Having flipped more than 40 properties in his career, Lewis knows a thing or two about making your home work for you.
Q: Sometimes it almost seems as if you like your pets more than people. True or false?
A: True. I love animals. I love my pets. They changed my life for so many reasons. I just care about them so much. I’m responsible for them, they depend on me. I hate to say it, but I do: I care more about my animals.
Q: In one episode, [your project manager] Jenni mentions that you have a pet integrator. Pardon my ignorance, but what is that, exactly?
A: This is somebody who is very much like the “Dog Whisperer.” I rescued Oliver, the little dog. Somebody had just abandoned him at the dog park and we brought him home. The cats were not happy, so we hired the integrator to work with the cats and dogs so everyone could live together harmoniously. It actually really worked. We probably had four or five different sessions with this guy. He worked with Oliver, and Oliver learned to respect that the cats were there first, and ultimately, the cats run the house. They’re in charge.
JENNI PULOS WEIGHS IN:
It’s important that your home speaks to who you are. [One of the] things that makes my home uniquely me: My dogs LuLu and Janet. My “children with fur” are by far my favorite and most cherished [fixtures] in my home. They have loved me through good and bad times and they always make me happy. They do have the run of my home—I have four dog beds, I cook beef and rice for their food, and they each have multiple outfits. So worth it. They bring life, energy, humor, and happiness into my home.
Jeff Lewis’ Pet-friendly tips:
I’m not a carpet guy. I love the solid floors, wood or stone, with area rugs because I can lift them up and clean underneath. I think that carpet is generally kind of a host for dust and mold and that makes me a little crazy.
If you have dogs, kids, or just friends that drink too much, you’re probably worried about shattering glasses. I always recommend using plastic stemware to take the stress out of outdoor entertaining.
Jason Cameron is an actor, model, design superstar, and pet parent to dog CJ. He starred on TLC’s While You Were Out until the show’s end in 2006, and currently hosts Man Caves and Desperate Landscapes on the DIY Network. Recently, Cameron made up a third of the “dream team” behind Beneful’s Dream Dog Park contest. TAILS Editor, Laura Drucker, caught up with him to talk backyards and dogs.
Q: Who runs the house—you or your dog?
A: We share the house, my dog and I—we’ve come to an agreement over the years. We’ve had to work it out, but now we have a perfect understanding—he has his space, I have my space, and it works out really well.
Q. What is your number one design tip for people with pets?
A: The yard is a place where I really focused on with my dog because I wanted to give him his own space. I wanted it to be his backyard, so I put in synthetic turf. The great thing about synthetic turf is that you never have to worry about your dog getting muddy, ticks don’t like it, and it’s really easy to clean from a maintenance point of view. [CJ] can run out when it’s wet, and we don’t have to worry about him coming in all muddy and leaving paw prints everywhere. Grass would be a problem because you have to constantly re-turf; any dog [parent] that has natural grass knows what I’m talking about. I also had to make sure that [the yard] was safe for the dog. For instance, everything I’ve done in the backyard is elevated; our planting bed is elevated so the dog can’t get at it and eat things he shouldn’t be eating. It’s all about what’s safe for the dog, and then giving him his own place where he can play.
Q: So CJ likes having his own space?
A: Yes! He has his own space inside and outside—he’s got more than me, now that I think about it!
Interior designer Nate Berkus is an expert on style, appearing for many years as the resident design guru on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and eventually moving on to host the The Nate Berkus Show, which aired for two seasons. When he’s not busy sharing his tips and tricks on television or running his interior design firm (Nate Berkus Associates) in Chicago, you can find him hanging out at home with his two rescue dogs—Henry and Emma.
Q: What do you want people with pets to know about designing their space?
A: For me, the philosophy is, if you want to have a full life, you have to make certain decisions and certain concessions. The order for design as far as priority is concerned is always people, animals, things. And that never wavers. So even if you are absolutely dying to have a look or a feeling in your home but it’s not going to be conducive to your lifestyle, then you’re making a mistake. Who wants to live in a beautiful, empty house? Not me.
Q: Let’s talk about a huge problem for many people: Fur. Any suggestions?
A: Let it go. Let it go. Let it go. It is what it is. Regular brushing can definitely cut down on shedding, but in the summer months it looks like I have carpet and I don’t! Tweeds and men’s suiting fabrics tend to be really effective for not showing a lot of hair.
Q: Any other fabrics you particularly like?
A: Overall, I think natural materials are the easiest materials to maintain—cotton, linen, wool—linen probably being the easiest. Linen is very easy to vacuum. And pay attention: If you have this fantasy of having this white sofa and you have a dog like mine with black hair, it’s not going to look good. I don’t really get into covering furniture. I mean, to me, I think the house should look as it looks, regardless. I don’t cover anything with a sheet. To me, I think that—and not everybody agrees with me—my dogs have full reign. They sleep in bed with me every night. They’ve got it all figured out.
Q: What about floors?
A: Wood and stone can be cleaned easily. I use carpet much, much less. If you can avoid carpet and do a natural area rug, it’s going to look better and wear better for years. I think really the only consideration is what rugs are made out of. A natural woven rug like sea grass or sisal is absolutely ideal because it’s made for high traffic, and it doesn’t show hair and paw marks.
Q: And the walls?
A: Anything that’s wipeable. A flat paint is probably the easiest to maintain.
-TAILS Interview, 2009