By Brendan Lemon
One of the last queer clich's to be toppled, right up there with the one about how we don't score touchdowns in the NFL, is the notion that gay guys aren't handy around the home. According to the reigning TV-abetted mythology, we tell the world what color to make that new bedroom, but we leave the construction of it to the straight guy'or the lesbian.
Todd Oldham is proof to the contrary. This 43-year-old Texas-reared designer, who came to public attention in the late '80s with his fashion shows and became famous through his appearances on MTV's House of Style in the '90s, is right at the top on the scale of around-the-house handiness.
'I'm a definite 10. I can do anything,' Oldham says during a conversation at his design studio in New York's SoHo neighborhood, arranged to give a preview of his upcoming book, Handmade Modern, to be published in March. There will be a related television program, which will be a hybrid of This Old House and Trading Spaces. 'The pure how-to programs are boring,' Oldham says, 'and the swap-and-redo shows create a lot of false tension, which has gotten a little tired. I want to bring personality to the program and fun, but also do projects that people at home can accomplish without calling in professionals. Not everyone has as much practice as I do.'
So how did Oldham get to be so useful around the house?
'Well, my family is super handy,' Oldham replies. 'Both my parents spent a lot of time teaching me and my three siblings how to do everything. We were always working with our hands. I never remember anyone saying, 'Let's sit down and watch TV.' We were always doing something'building a fort, wiring something. One time the six of us even put an addition on to our house."
Such a supremely American, can-do mentality has been a hallmark of Oldham's career. After a decade in fashion, where he dressed stars like Susan Sarandon and his good friend Amy Sedaris, he closed his rag-trade business in 1999 and moved on. He designed nightclubs and hotels, partnered with Target on a line of dorm-room products, and photographed for magazines like Nest. This year he launched a home and furniture line for La-Z-Boy, and a retail store carrying those items, the first of several outlets, will soon open in New York.
For more on Todd Oldham, pick up the November issue of Out.