There’s always been media that caters to celebrities who want to brag about their homes — and us plebeians who want to snoop around — from the posh faux shine offered by Architectural Digest, to the lower-end displays offered by shows. dating from “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” or “MTV Cribs”. No matter the personal style – austere minimalism, expensive or all over the place – it’s all ostentatious and fascinating and says a lot about how the 1% spend their Wealth. That’s the main draw of “Hollywood Houselift with Jeff Lewis” on Freevee, which features not so much the super-famous as the “merely” recognizable, including Wilmer Valderrama and Mira Sorvino. silver, which is not the case for the vast majority of actors who are members of the Screen Actors Guild. But it’s still telling to realize that you don’t have to be a big name player to have hundreds of thousands of dollars at your disposal to get started on a room remodel.
Lewis is a familiar figure to anyone who listens to his SiriusXM radio show or watches his long-running Bravo reality show “Flipping Out,” a title that was a pun relating to his profession as a house turner, but also his tendency to explode – sometimes with good reason, sometimes not. The show ran for more than 10 seasons before winding down in 2018, when the interpersonal dynamics got almost out of control. Lewis has since split from two people who spent a lot of time in front of the camera on that show: his longtime friend and colleague, Jenni Pulos, as well as his partner of eight years, Gage Edward, with whom he shares a small daughter.
I mean, I should clarify: Lewis parted ways with a plot of people it employs. People magazine has an entire story listing 17 of them, some of whom have since returned to the fold. That’s the thing about Lewis; although he sometimes oversteps his bounds, he is quite honest about his strengths and flaws and he seems willing to mend fences where possible and readjust his relationships so that they work for both parties involved .
Lewis is first and foremost an interior designer – his aesthetic is modern, clean and uncluttered (and also often mundane) – and his home office has now shrunk to a single assistant: Shane Douglas, whose fluid personality blends well with the intensity of his boss. That’s the first thing you notice about “Hollywood Houselift” – it’s less busy and chaotic. Lewis tends to suck oxygen out of every room he walks into, but he’s also smart and self-deprecating and he just wants to make things progress. Anyone who has been through a home renovation will appreciate this. I don’t know, if I had money and I lived in Los Angeles? I would hire him.
Abandoning the nasty interpersonal drama that fueled much of the previous show, “Hollywood Houselift” focuses on one element that has always interested me most: the weirdness of working with high-end clientele. This time around, instead of someone or other non-famous people, we take a look at how celebrities operate in these circumstances – even when they know cameras are there.
These are not minor projects, but they are limit projects: A pool house, a front yard, redoing a bathroom or a kitchen or a bedroom. Presumably, the celebrities receive some sort of financial compensation in return for appearing on the show, though that’s not said. Even so, many are still reluctant to pay full price for anything.
The thing about LA is that no matter how rich you are, someone else always has more. And in this rarefied bubble, wealth becomes relative. Either way, these are people — and that includes Lewis — entirely out of touch with the financial constraints the vast majority of Americans face right now, and it’s surreal to watch the show’s attendees act as if every price estimate was a personal offense.
Sorvino hires Lewis to redo his pool and deck at his Malibu home, which was damaged by wildfire smoke, and conversations about money are very interesting. If you can pay the property taxes on a Malibu house with an ocean view (the house itself is worth millions), you can afford to pay the contractor what he asks. So it’s uncomfortable to watch her negotiate the price down, eat away at the guy’s profit, just so Sorvino and his family can get a bigger hot tub installed at a fraction of the price. She also needs new outdoor furniture and wonders if she can get it for free if she promotes it on Instagram. Lewis closes this quickly – not, I guess, because he has a personal objection to it, but because Sorvino is not an influencer, despite being an Oscar winner and a seemingly nice person . You can bet other people get these benefits, though. People who can afford to pay but just don’t.
Meanwhile, a significant portion of the population – even those with so-called middle-class incomes – cannot afford to own property. And tenants across the country are seeing prices rise by 40% or more, while wages remain unchanged. This disconnect is like a ghost haunting the show, where well-paid SoCal celebrities complain about the cost of making their luxury accommodations nicer. Want an upgrade? So pay it.
Most Lewis clients enjoy a modicum of privacy around the value of their home. This is not the case with Melissa Rivers, and we do not know why. She and ‘Black-ish’ star Anthony Anderson probably own some of the most expensive real estate featured on the show, but Lewis only gives details about Rivers’ home, noting that it’s located in a very neighborhood. exclusive and which she recently bought for 8 million dollars and also: she is divorced and her son is in college, so she will live there alone. This level of information is not provided to anyone else and I don’t know how to read the subtext. Did Anderson earn his wealth directly, while Rivers may have inherited much of it from his mother, comedian Joan Rivers and so…what could be more worthy of Lewis’ passive-aggressive judgment?
Rivers is spending $150,000 to redo his master bedroom bathroom and we don’t need to be passive-aggressive to judge this, we can just be aggressive-aggressive. It is a brand new house and the existing bathroom is quite large. But it’s not to his specs – so it all has to go. Her tastes are expensive and when Lewis informs her that she needs to increase the budget, she hesitates saying that she has just made a substantial charitable contribution and needs to watch her money. Honestly, this is the first time anyone on the show has hinted that they’re allocating some of their wealth to someone other than themselves, but it’s also a selfish and dishonest moment, because she can clearly afford it. This kind of thrill is what makes the show so fascinating.
Then there’s Valderrama, who stars in “NCIS.” He and his fiancée, Amanda Pacheco, ask Lewis to redo some rooms and Valderrama gets off to a bad start, referring to the house as “my house”. Pacheco reminds him, no, it’s our lodge. But he turns out to be an easygoing customer with eclectic tastes; he doesn’t want the same modern, clean look as everyone else and really gets involved in the whole process of making bold design decisions. That said, the misstep “my house” turns out to be somewhat true, because it is he who leads the aesthetic choices.
I was also charmed by married couple Ashlee Simpson Ross and Evan Ross, who come across as the cutest babes of nepotism you’ve ever met. She is the younger sister of Jessica Simpson, he is the son of Diana Ross. They each have a career, but I wonder if they generate the kind of money that allows them to spend big on a renovation. Maybe! The mystery of it all is quite intriguing. They’re really adorable and have funky, upscale taste: the vibe they want for their bedroom is “Aspen,” which is both descriptive but also a specific socio-economic frame of reference, yes?
As for Lewis, I don’t know if things have calmed down for him personally, or if careful editing means we just don’t see as much conflict on camera. But we still get a glimpse of his world. Now in his 50s, he’s raising a young girl through a shared custody agreement (she’s not on the show, which seems like the right choice) and he’s finally looking for a house to settle in, not just return to. He’s said the same thing before (Lewis is buying and selling the houses he lives in at a rate that would baffle most people) so who knows how serious he is – but he wasn’t a father until now and he clearly wants some stability, and a yard, for his child.
It’s touching to see him wanting to go further, with the intention of adding another child to his family. It’s just a matter of finding a surrogate and hoping the implantation takes.
Nothing about this part of the show feels like staging or juicing for the cameras. Just a single gay dad, hoping to give his daughter a sibling. If the quest seems daunting to take on alone, it has never stopped Lewis before.
“Hollywood Houselift with Jeff Lewis” – 3 stars (out of 4)
Where to watch: Freevee
Nina Metz is a critic at the Tribune
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