Entertainment » Television

Flipping Out’s Ryan Brown finds new TV home

by Jim Halterman
Monday May 30, 2011

The Learning Channel (TLC) is moving back into the design business and what better way to do that than with a fun concept and a super cute (and familiar) host.

Television audiences first met Ryan Brown on the Bravo series "Flipping Out" as the former love interest and business partner of designer Jeff Lewis. While the business partnership (and friendship) fell apart in dramatic fashion on that show, Brown can now be seen on TLC’s "Spouse vs. House".

In each episode of the series, a couple is given $25,000 to redesign their house but the catch is that the husband is assigned the task of spending the money and designing the house while the wife is sent away with practically no knowledge of what the house will be like when she returns. Will she like what she sees when she returns to the house or will sparks fly with disappointment and anger? Will Brown have to offer up his shoulder for crying?

EDGE’s Jim Halterman rang up Brown and chatted about the show, whether gay couples will be in the mix and if he and Lewis have reconciled at this point in time.

A little scary

EDGE: Tell me the genesis of your involvement in "Spouse vs. House".

Ryan Brown: TLC called me up and asked if I’d be interested in doing it and I obviously jumped at the chance. TLC is such a great network and so I was thrilled to be at the forefront of their launch back into the home development programming, which they’ve been out of for awhile. It’s very exciting to be the first one out of the gate - and a little scary, too - but I think it’s a great concept and a cool show. A lot of these home improvement shows are just home improvement but this is home improvement/marriage improvement. It’s the psychology and design all mixed up in one and something totally interesting and new.

EDGE: In the format of the show, is it always the husband that actually does the home improvement over the wife?

Ryan Brown: Yes, it’s always the husband that gets to do it, which is in an interesting twist. I think the women, in general, were the ones that really pushed for the whole thing on the show. The guy was probably like ’Yeah, yeah, whatever’ so to have the woman pulled out of the house was a big deal for them.

Therapy needed

EDGE: And I’m guessing in your line of work there is a therapy side to things as you figure out the psychology of a client’s decision, right?

Ryan Brown: Yeah, definitely. I feel like design is not just about the way something looks but it’s also about the way something makes you feel and our homes have to reflect that. Oftentimes people approach it just on the aesthetic component but just as important is the emotion that an environment evokes in someone. What I love about my job is I get to work with people, get to know them and get into their heads. I don’t think a lot of the clients I work with - whether on the show or not - really think about that. It’s super important to create an environment that is nurturing to you and rejuvenates you.

EDGE: You primarily work with the wife on her own project while the husband is working on the house, right?

Ryan Brown: I don’t meet the husband at all. I just work with the wife.

EDGE: So the husband can make mistakes and you’re not going to be there to stop him.

Ryan Brown: [laughs] I think that’s what makes the show really interesting and that’s the angle that they wanted to take. It’s the wife and I on one side and the husband off on his own on the other. He can have people come in and help him but he has to make the big decisions on his own.

EDGE: There’s the moment in the show when a friend of the wife’s goes into the house and spies so she can report back to the wife. That was my favorite part!

Ryan Brown: I think that’s a fun component. It gives the woman a little bit of information but sometimes a little bit of information makes you even crazier because it’s at the point where things really haven’t come together. In the first episode, Erin got the news and was like ’What’s going on?!’ I loved that the first thing her husband spent money on was beer and a big TV.

A straight guy thing?

EDGE: I think that’s not even a straight guy thing but a guy thing! I’d buy the TV first, too!

Ryan Brown: It’s kinda funny because I feel like when any of the men were handed $25,000, the first thing they thought was ’How big of a TV can I buy?’ Of course, the women approach it from a very different angle. I have to say I did have one of the wives actually say to me ’I want a big TV and I want to hang it in the living room’ but that was the first time I’d gotten that! Truth be told, TVs have gotten so much better looking now that it’s not really the taboo it used to be to have them in the living room. They can be tastefully incorporated.

EDGE: $25,000 sounds like a lot but in the design business that probably goes fast, right?

Ryan Brown: It can. I think it’s a healthy budget for these guys and they really stretch the dollar and I think in the first episode, you see the great kitchen and he spent a lot of money. I think that’s a part of how people tackle this whole process and are given money up front. From what I’ve seen of the other episodes, there are some guys who are better at budgeting as others and we’ll see more of that repeated where the guys go over budget.

EDGE: For the fans that know you from "Flipping Out", was it a conscious choice to not do a show where you were the focal point and cameras followed you around all day?

Ryan Brown: I was approached to do that and I had decided not to. I felt like this show is a better way for me to go. It takes the emphasis off of me and makes it more about the individual family stories and it allows me to work with a lot of different people that are so grateful and happy to be in the position that they’re in. A lot of the people really needed that money and it’s really rewarding for me to work with people like that.

EDGE: Do we see any gay couples in this first season?

Ryan Brown: Not this time around but I hope we get to do that. I think it would be great to show that side of things.

EDGE: I know it’s becoming a much more common things that we see on a lot of the other design shows out there.

Ryan Brown: Absolutely. I think that would be wonderful since the guys or the girls may have to flip a coin to see who has to move out! I hope they move in that direction with it.

EDGE: It’s been awhile since the drama happened with you and Jeff Lewis on "Flipping Out." Do you and Jeff have a relationship at this point?

Ryan Brown: Jeff and I haven’t spoken and I’m at a different place in my life. I really enjoy living in Santa Barbara and having my offices in LA and Santa Barbara. I’ve got the best of both worlds right now and my life is really great. I wish Jeff the best and that’s about it. We’ve gone in separate directions. He’s doing well, I’m doing well and I’m really happy about that.

EDGE: We had seen your daughter, Chloe, on "Flipping Out". How is family life?

Ryan Brown: She is wonderful. Chloe is turning five soon, which is amazing. Time has flown by quickly. It seems like just yesterday her third birthday was on "Flipping Out" and now she’s turning five. She’s such a great kid and my partner Dale and I are having our 10-year anniversary.

EDGE: Congratulations!

Ryan Brown: I’m very, very blessed! I have the best husband... well, I use the term husband but we’re not married... but I’ve got an amazing family life and I’m very thankful for that.

EDGE: Were kids always in your plan or did that come as you got older?

Ryan Brown: I’ve always wanted kids. When I was younger, actually during college, I was a lifeguard at the California State Beaches and I loved all the little kids running around and having fun with them. I have a tendency to be a real serious workaholic and having Chloe really forces my playful side to come out. It’s really a good, healthy balance for me.

"Spouse vs. House" airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on TLC.

Jim Halterman lives in Los Angeles and also covers the TV/Film/Theater scene for www.FutonCritic.com, AfterElton, Vulture, CBS Watch magazine and, of course, www.jimhalterman.com. He is also a regular Tweeter and has a group site on Facebook.


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