While the star of Bravos Flipping Out is obviously obsessive-compulsive house-flipper Jeff Lewis, its design guru Ryan Brown that wins over the gay audience with his calm demeanor, killer looks, and storybook perfect alternative family. We caught up with the notoriously even-keeled Brown just before the season finale of Flipping Out to chat about his new business ventures, collagen, and how he puts up with the king of mean.
Out: Quick, whats on your iPod right now?
Ryan Brown: Whats on my iPod? Oh my gosh. I actually dont really listen to a lot of music. I listen to Wayne Dyer. Do you know who that is?
Nope, no clue.
Hes like a spiritual health and wellness guy. So I listen to him, and lets see here, Im actually opening it right now. Dude, this is so boring, its unreal. I have lama chants, which is like Tibetan Buddhist chanting. I have some Kundalini yoga music on here. You know what, then a little further down I do actually have a playlist called Parties that has all the gay favorites. But for the most part Im more into my spiritual kind of stuff than I am with any of the music. Probably not the answer you were expecting.
Not at all. So tell us, how on earth did you date Jeff Lewis?
We were actually introduced by a mutual friend of ours. Yeah, I mean, it seemed to work at the time. I actually ended up moving, when I met Jeff, to Spain, and I lived there for a little while. He actually really courted me the whole time I was there. So when I came back, thats when we ended up getting together.
Was it hard dealing with him and his infamous OCD?
Well, we were actually only together about a year and half, which, you know, flies by. Our break-up was kind of tumultuous, I guess, like a lot of peoples. But then we started working together pretty much immediately right after. I guess our relationship just morphed from one to another. So obviously were still in each others lives -- just in a different capacity, I guess.
Give it to me straight, Ryan. Did you steal all of Jeffs clients and try to sabotage his business?
Absolutely not, absolutely not. Its another one of Jeffs kind of well, like, this week he was on the witch hunt for Jenny -- how Jenny doesnt do anything for him, and that sort of thing. Jeff has a tendency to lash out at the people closest to him. So no, I didnt do any of that. In fact what I really did was quite the opposite. I built a website for him. Hes since modified it, but I built a website for him, and then I got a ton of inquiries sent his way. My website was already established and my business [was too]. My interior design business is 10 years old. Im much more established in that realm than Jeff is. So when things started to change -- essentially when the market took a turn, I was already prepared for that because my business was in place, whereas Jeff had to quickly start up his new design business. No, but weve never been anything but forthright with people when they contact our office. Anybody who ever called here and wanted to get a hold of Jeff always did.
I was wondering if when I called someone would answer your phone and say, Hi, this is Jeff Lewiss office!
You know, its kind of funny. Ive said it before, how exactly do you steal business from a celebrity? If you wanted to reach Ellen or Oprah or something like that, dont you think youd know who you were talking to on the phone?
Have you guys been able to move past it now?
Were working on it. On the season, its been hurtful for me to see that Jeff took that whole thing so far. I didnt really realize how much he -- I don't know, I was going to say how much he believed it -- how much energy he gave all that. Weve been such good friends, and weve been so good to each other for so long that when we were filming I didnt really realize that that was that big of a deal. Because other than the one confrontation that we had, he didnt really bring it up to me. So it was very hurtful and surprising for me to see that he was talking about it with Jenny and with his father and just about everyone else, rather than just discussing it with me. And his choosing to believe perfect strangers and his assumptions over me, his friend of 10 years. So its been tough.
Do you think the two of you will ever stop fighting back and forth, or is that just part of your dynamic now?
Well, weve always had our disagreements, but this is a big one. Although Im sure well get past it. I know that well be able to work this out as well. Its just tough when you have to live something like this out on national TV and have people who werent there form opinions. The only two people that were there for those types of things were me and Jeff -- for all of our discussions and all that weve done over the years. He and I are the only ones that know the truth. I like to think that at some point well be able to put it behind us.
Has Jeff ever tried to make you wear the $4 punishment smock?
No, no! The $4 smock -- you would never see me in that. Im not his employee, so thatd be a tough one for him to force on me. [Laughs.]
Now that youre partnered and have a daughter, do you still get hit on?
I dont know -- thats a funny question. I guess I dont even notice it if I do. Its just not on my mind. Ive been off the market for so many years now, its just not something I think about. Dale is amazing, and Im so happy with our life, its just great. Chloe is incredible, and its all about family now. Ive kind of transitioned out of that phase of my life, I guess.
Did you hear about Levi Johnson doing Playgirl?
Yes, I heard something about it.
Any chance youre next?
Wow, I was afraid that was coming. [Laughs.] No, my business is running just fine right now. I think Ill stick to what I know.
Speaking of business, you just opened your own online retail store. Hows that working out?
Its great -- something that Ive been meaning to do for a while. Im so glad that you brought that up because its been so fun. One of my next steps, I think, might be to open an actual retail store here in Los Angeles. I especially love accessories. Theyre a quick and easy way to brighten up your home, as opposed to bigger ticket items like furniture. So what I try to do is select some items that would be affordable and make a big impact in peoples homes, and things, of course, that I love. Although the store is going to keep growing, weve got some really cool stuff up there now.
What tips can you give to the penniless and design-challenged?
This is going to sound maybe a little bit awkward, but I guess if you're really truly penniless, check out what your friends have. We all have stuff that we put away in our closets because it doesnt suit us anymore. See if they have anything theyre not totally vibing with anymore that you might like to see in your house, and do a little accessory swap. That would be a tip for the absolute penniless. There are also a lot of things that you can do -- you know, flowers or things from nature -- that most of us have access to. You can walk down the beach and get some sand and some seashells. Now that its fall, there are branches that dont have any leaves on them. For a table decoration, that would be quick and penniless. So look around for nature to pull into your home.
And on a small budget?
Little things. Like the accessories I mentioned. Little things can go a long way. You can throw pillows on a sofa, or a new comforter, or a new duvet on your bed -- they can transform your room. Those are the quick and easies.
Are there plans for another season of Flipping Out?
Not that I know of right now, but they never announce another season until the [current] season has run. Thats not uncommon, so well all have to wait and see on that.
Is that something you want?
Yeah, I mean, the show has been great. With a few months under our belt, Im sure that Jeff and I will be able to settle things into place. And now the economy is coming back too, so I would imagine the show can get back to what it originally was, which is more house flipping, which I think the viewers like.
Finally, how do you feel about collagen?
I think if people want to do it and makes them feel better, then go for it! But at the same time, its one of those double-edged swords because I do believe that something like that isnt really going to affect your perception of yourself. Thats something that needs to be done from the inside out rather than the outside in. To each their own.
The season finale of Flipping Out airs Tuesday at 10/9c on Bravo. To learn more about Brown Design, visit www.browndesigninc.com.Send a letter to the editor about this article.