Catching up with Jeff Lewis from ‘Flipping Out’ on BRAVO








It’s always a treat when we get the chance to chat with Jeff Lewis from ‘Flipping Out’ on BRAVO. You never know what he’s going to say and where the conversation will go but it is definitely entertaining and anything but dull.

I had a chance to catch up with Jeff and once and for all find out if his long-time house manager Zoila did in fact kill housekeeper Lupe. Find out after the jump…

I have to say, after watching Wednesday’s episode, I have to know, did Zoila in fact kill Lupe and bury her body in the backyard?

Jeff Lewis: Lupe has been missing – Lupe has been missing for about 90 days.  I heard a rumor that she was working for a family in Brentwood.  And this is the funny part, because at the end of the rumor was, “Oh, and they give her Saturdays off.”


Jeff Lewis: So that was kind of an f-u to me, I guess, because I wouldn’t give her Saturdays off.  But I don’t know.  I mean, that is just a rumor.  So she has been missing.  I’ve heard nothing about her whereabouts.  But I am trying to organize a Bravo telethon to raise the funds to continue our search effort.

But you haven’t spoken with her directly, so there’s really no verification at this point that she is in fact still alive.

Jeff Lewis: There’s no verification that she’s still alive.

Tell me, do you have any former – other former employees that suddenly quit and you just never heard from?  I mean, because if she’s missing . . .

Jeff Lewis: Yeah.  Maria quit.

Probably out there.

Jeff Lewis: Maria quit a month ago.

Oh, my gosh.

Jeff Lewis: So now we’re down two housekeepers.  It’s a mess over here.

I don’t even know what to say to that.  But you might want to do a little …

Jeff Lewis: It’s mayhem.

Since you have experience, sort of, with therapy and decorating, Justin Bieber obviously just sold his house.  And I was wondering if you have any advice or tips or ideas on how you would decorate his new house.

Jeff Lewis: Well, what’s interesting is that Khloe Kardashian, as you know, bought his house.  And Khloe Kardashian – it was funny.  They – I got a call from the office to meet – from her office to meet her, and I couldn’t do it.  I was like two weeks . .  .


Jeff Lewis:  . . .I was booked for two weeks.  And so Martyn Lawrence Bullard got the gig.  And – which is probably good because he’s very good at these Mediterranean Moroccan-y kind of homes.  But – and he probably just dropped everything and, like, screeched out of the driveway to get there.  But he got the gig.

But I can only imagine how bad that house is.  Because he bought it from – Bieber bought it from (Nicole Mercy).  And I guess . . .

Oh, right.

Jeff Lewis:  . . . She had pretty good taste.  She’s a friend of mine.  She has very good taste.  So I’m sure he just destroyed it.  But it’ll be interesting what Martyn does to it.  You know, I was worried she was going to hire her mom’s designer.

Yeah.  That would be bad, right?

Jeff Lewis: It’s a little – yeah.

Who is her mom’s designer?

Jeff Lewis: We have a – it’s so funny.  We have a saying around Jeff Lewis Design if, like, something’s a little too flashy, it called Kardash.  So it’s so funny.  Even my clients are now, like, “Ooh, that’s too Kardash.”

Yeah.  That’s perfect.  Who is the mom’s designer?  Do you know?  Or you don’t know?

Jeff Lewis: I don’t remember his name.  I don’t remember.


Jeff Lewis: I think he’s done some good things, in his defense.  But it is just a little over the top. I feel like Kourtney and the mom’s house is a little over the top.

It is.  That’s sort of a nice way of putting it, right?

Jeff Lewis: Yeah.  I’m trying to be politically correct.

That’s nice of you.  And then any advice for Justin Bieber’s new decorator?  Maybe something could be done that would help him in his personal life?

Jeff Lewis: I don’t – honestly, I’d – quit before he starts. That’s another one.  I mean – I did sign that petition to deport him.

Oh, you did?  You’re a little – you’re one of those people.

Jeff Lewis: Oh, yeah.  Absolutely.  Absolutely.

You are so candid on the show about your clients, good or bad.

Jeff Lewis: Yes.

Is it safe to assume these people don’t have cable, or they don’t have time to watch TV?  Does it ever circle back where they finally see the episode air and think, “Oh my God!”

Jeff Lewis: It does circle back.  And I’ve done a lot of damage control afterwards.  But, you know, it’s amazing.  I’m seeing a good 50-50.  Fifty percent are self-aware and they’ll, like, look, they accept responsibility that they misbehaved, and they move forward.

But then there’s the other half that, it’s like – it’s almost as if they weren’t there, but they say – “I don’t under – you, you’ve made me look so bad.”

And I have to say to them, like, “You know, I didn’t make you say that, and I didn’t – you know, this is actually what you said.” Like I was . . .”

This is what you said, right.

Jeff Lewis:  How are you making me responsible for this?”  So, you know, some people, they get it, we move on.  Some people, it – you know, it doesn’t work out so well.  There was – I remember it was (Jackie Zon Catwick).  And she was the one that wasn’t paying her bills.

Now, sweetie, you’re being filmed.  So it’s like, you might want to try to find that money and pay your bills, because it’s going to look real bad for you.  And you know what, she didn’t pay her bills.  And then when . . .


Jeff Lewis:  . . .  when it all went down on TV, she was screaming at me and crying and saying that I’d like ruined her reputation.  I didn’t ruin your reputation.  You did.  And that’s what’s so frustrating.

So the answer to your question is yes.

What ties – what ties this to Deb though, because just like you’re saying with the bill collecting, when you have Deb call to do that hard ball, to try to get the money, I’m thinking there’s a disconnect from – I’m curious.  Are they not watching the show to begin with, to know that Deb doesn’t even exist?  Do they not realize it’s Jenni?

Jeff Lewis: It’s so funny how many new clients do not know that Deb exists. So we still get away with – you know, Deb’s worked with me for a long time, like over 10 years.  So most clients know about Deb.  But, you know, new clients that have come in, that haven’t seen the show yet, we can usually go ahead and punk them.  But – and believe it or not, we still get away with it.

It’s beautiful.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Jeff Lewis: Thank you.

Congratulations on the success of your new paint line.

Jeff Lewis: Thank you.

What have been the most challenging aspects of creating this line for you?  And what have been the most rewarding?

Jeff Lewis: It – I don’t even know if you’re aware, but it’s been like a four or five year process.  And I’ve met with every major paint manufacturer there is.  And it was – I mean, it was a real struggle, but it was a passion of mine.

Ever since I started in this business in my 20’s – actually, I was 18 when I started.  I’ve always loved color, color theory, creating palettes.  It’s always something I wanted to do, even more so than – you know, most designers, they want to do furniture lines, and accessories, and candles, and it – for me, it was always paint.  And that was really my passion.

But, you know, it took a long time to find the right manufacturing partner, the right quality paint, the right colors.  And even before that, the right deal, because, you know, there were companies that just wanted to do a licensing deal that was 12 – you know, a 12-month licensing deal, and then let’s see what happens.  And that’s after I put in all this time and effort and money.  And you know, I wanted ownership and I wanted, you know, control over what was to – what it my business.

So I wasn’t going to surrender it to, you know, some big paint company and then just get lost in the shuffle or, if they get bored with me, they just throw me away.  I mean, this is my company.  It’s my business.  And, you know, I’m in complete control over this.  And that’s really how it needed to be.

That’s fantastic.  And as far as paint, even, what’s the most common mistake that you see in – as far as color or, just, anything?

Jeff Lewis: Well, I think there was a day – I mean, maybe 15 years ago, where we would paint every room a different color and a lot of people didn’t really – it wasn’t necessarily a coordinating palette.  And they didn’t – you know, I personally – one of my pet peeves is when I walk into someone’s room, and then I go into the next room and I feel like I’ve walked into another house completely, and I have to look around, because I feel like, am I still in the same house?

And I feel like, now, with the way that we’re working, with all of these open floor plans, we’re trying to, kind of, limit it to a three- to five-color palette that we can carry through the whole house.

So I think a mistake is when people can’t commit to three to five colors, or to a unified palette, and then they do every single room different.  And there’s no cohesiveness.  There’s no real unity.  And that’s just my pet peeve.

So that’s one of the reasons why I did – you know, my palette is only 32 colors, and it’s all neutrals.  And I think eventually we’ll expand and we’ll do accent colors and I actually want to do – it’s kind of funny, but I want to do front door colors.

So we’ll expand the line.  But initially I just wanted to start with something that works together and also was something that you could paint on your walls and not have to worry about changing it in 14 months when that color goes out of style.

I was wondering, you know, with Jenni getting ready to have her baby on the show which, I believe she already had her child, it kind of opens up an opportunity for you.

I was wondering if she would be bringing the baby to work, because with – you know, over the years, over the seasons, you’ve had issues with hiring the right employees.  This would be an excellent opportunity for you to raise this child to be the ultimate Jeff Lewis employee.

Jeff Lewis: Although that is – would be an incredible gift to give to a child, I – Jenni is – fortunately has married well.  And she married an orthopedic surgeon who brings home a decent income and allows them to afford baby care.  Daycare, baby care, nannies.  So it’s – the Alianna has not been to work.  And I don’t think we’ll need to.

Because in the past, you know, I’ve had employees that had kids, I think, a little too early and didn’t really think it through.  And didn’t really have the money to raise the babies.  And so I allow – like Jett Pink who worked for me, I allowed him several times to bring the baby to work, because they just couldn’t afford – you know, if they had some sort of, you know, baby sitter issues and they couldn’t really afford it.  So I allowed that exception.

But we’re just too busy now to have, you know, Jeff Lewis Design-slash-day care center.

Right.  So, no Jeff Lewis baby line or design products in the future?

Jeff Lewis: Not – we haven’t discussed it.  No, I don’t think in the foreseeable future.  But you never know.

So, now that both Zoila and Vanina have both gone under the knife for a little beauty enhancement, is there any chance of getting Andrew to take a turn?  And do you have any requests for what he would have freshened on him?

Jeff Lewis: Well, Andrew’s a – I’m assuming this is a joke, but he’s saying that he would really like a penis reduction.  I’m guessing that’s a joke.

I would prefer to spend money, maybe, on Andrew’s therapy.  I think that’s where I would prefer to, kind of, channel the money.  I think that he needs probably that more than he would need plastic surgery, in my opinion, but getting plastic surgery and a platelet rich plasma PRP injection is what seems to like.

Right.  Just a bigger bank for your buck.

Jeff Lewis: Yeah.  I think so.

All right.  Well, is there anyone that you haven’t – that you would love to just get in and design – like, tear their entire place apart, start from scratch, and just have it.  If you had your chance to just jump in and do anybody’s home?

Jeff Lewis: It’s funny, because I’m always asked that question about the Real Housewives.  And most of them need renovated.  I mean we could just probably just go through – I mean, pretty much – I guess, all of Jersey, right?

Absolutely.  Absolutely.

Jeff Lewis: Most of Atlanta.  Even – let’s see, let’s go through Beverly Hills.

I’ve seen some Beverly Hills.

Jeff Lewis: There’s some nice homes in Beverly Hills.  Kyle’s house is very pretty.

Yes, I love her house.  Her home is beautiful.

Jeff Lewis: That’s really pretty.  Lisa’s house is pretty also, but I actually – I saw the house before they redid it.  I really liked it before she redid it.  It was a little more modern.  They came in and they personalized it, and they made it more her style.  But I loved the house prior because it was a very, very, like, ultra-contemporary home.

I’m trying to think who other’s home – house I’ve seen.  You know, I haven’t seen Joyce’s but it’s not my favorite.  Carlton’s is not my favorite.

OC, I thought that Heather Dubrow’s house is pretty. Vicki’s I would probably want to redo. This must – let’s just say most of them.  Let’s just say 90 percent of them. Most of them.

That sounds fair.  Would you ever do a show where you, you know, just find an average home and redo it, you know, at no cost to the homeowner?  Just kind of like a pro bono thing where you go in and just completely take over someone’s home, redo it and, just like, surprise the family with a completely new home, new life?

Jeff Lewis: Well, I think that would probably take months to renovate that house.  And it would probably be very, very expensive.

You know, every house that I’ve seen in my neighborhood where they’re – they do the work in six weeks, it’s crap.  And there is – the house around the corner where a spec guy came in and – because I always took my time when I did it.  I mean, you know, yes, there is time constraints.  I mean, you do have carrying costs.

But, you know, you don’t want to rush it where you make some sort of mistakes in the construction because that’s going to come back to bite you.  And you’re going to end up losing money having to go in and, and fix all of these things.

So what’s interesting is there’s a guy that did a house right around the corner from me, and I was just watching it go together so quickly.  And I thought there’s – they’ve got to be overlooking things.  Sure enough, somebody bought it.  They moved in, and now there’s been all sorts of repairs there.

There was a roof leak when we had our rains a few weeks ago, and all of these things that, you know, people rush through.  And now this guy’s having to send, you know, his people back to do all these repairs.  And I’m sure – like, you buy a brand new house that’s done, and then you’re probably second guessing yourself, you know, for the – you’re probably second guessing that purchase when you’ve got a contractor there every other day fixing repairs.

So what would you suggest, like top couple things for someone who – just average person looking to have some work done.  Because it – you know, there are, you know, more financial constraints for most people than the folks that you’re working with.  You know, just – when looking for someone to come in and do some work on their home.

Jeff Lewis: Well, I just did a house on the show for my friend Kelly.  And they had a relatively small budget, and we just did things like – we had to redo the whole master bath because they had an old Jacuzzi tub that was leaking underneath the crawl space.  All of the tile was dated, the cabinetry was falling apart.  So we did go ahead and gut that bathroom and redo it.

But the kitchen – we, you know, pulled off the counter tops.  We gave her new counter tops.  We painted the cabinets.  We did new cabinet hardware.  The kitchen was kind of cramped, so we took off some of the upper cabinets and left the walls bare, so that we – it really kind of visually opened the space.

We are able – she had a couple stainless steel appliances, so we really only – I think we only had to buy a dishwasher.  But we didn’t have the money to (consider) and do a total guy.  We were able to refinish her hardwood floors.  We didn’t have to replace them.

And then, of course, paint.  We painted the whole house, inside and out.  And that made a humongous difference.

Very nice.

Jeff Lewis: So I guess paint, counter tops, cabinets, you know, cabinet hardware, window coverings, you know.  Even small things like rugs and linens.  Pillows.  You know, furniture – you don’t – there’s a lot of reasonably priced decent furniture around.


Jeff Lewis: You don’t necessarily have to go and spend $4,000 or $5,000 on a sofa.  And I don’t anymore.  I mean, I have three – I have three dogs and a cat.  And I did this beautiful custom-made sofa, and within six months the fabric was shot to hell because the dogs sleep on it.  So now I ended up recovering that sofa, and six months later I had to do it again.  I said, this is ridiculous.

I went out and bought a very reasonably priced sofa, to the point where if the dogs and the cats are laying all over it, I don’t stress out anymore.  But you can . . .

I was wondering how you were going to – how you personally handle that, because I know you’re a lover of animals, you have multiples, and your – all of your places, obviously, look immaculate.  But your basics – like how do you keep your pets from destroying everything and still . . .

Jeff Lewis: You don’t.  They do destroy everything.  So what you do is you don’t spend money on really expensive rugs and you don’t spend money – I know where they – I know where they live.  They live on my sofas and they live on my rugs.  So I don’t spend money on rugs and I don’t spend money on sofas anymore.

And my whole life – it’s, like, changed my entire life.  Because I would stress out about these dogs every time I got home and they’re on the sofa.  And  you can’t – you know, that’s what they’re going to do.  And even if they know that when I’m home they’re not to be on the sofa, what do you think they do the second I walk out the door?


Jeff Lewis: They jump on the sofa.  So I don’t do it anymore.  I just will not spend money on sofas and I will not spend money on rugs or any other places, you know, that they will be.  Even, you know, bedroom linens.

You know, a lot of my clients – they spend thousands of dollars on bedding.  That would be insane in my household, because that’s the – that’s their other place.  They spend more time on my bed than they do in their own dog beds.  And, you know, maybe they’re spoiled, untrained dogs, but you know, dogs live, like 10 to 13 years.


Jeff Lewis: You know, let ’em.  Let ’em.


Jeff Lewis: As far as I’m concerned, you know, I don’t care.

So do you think anyone is – are you going – has anyone or will anyone be fired, either from your staff or clients?

Jeff Lewis: This season?


Jeff Lewis: We lose – well as you know, we lost Lupe.  So she – you know, I don’t think anyone got fired, but two people quit.  And then Maria just quit, which was our third person.  So we’ve actually lost three people in the last six months.

And you know what, I don’t – you know, I used to be like, what’s wrong with me, what am I doing wrong?  You know what, it’s not me.  It just isn’t me.  These people, like, you know, I had this girl come in from, right out of college.  She really wasn’t – you know, she never had a job in her life.  It was wealthy parents who I – it was a friend of the family.

I gave her a break.  She came in.  She doesn’t want to put in the hours.  She doesn’t want to put in the work.  So there’s – I can’t help that.

And, you know, it’s the same with Maria.  You know, Maria said to me she doesn’t – you know, the government is taking out so much money in taxes, she doesn’t want to pay taxes.  I said, “Either do I, Maria.”  But her last job, they paid her under the table.  I said, I can’t do that.  It’s illegal.

Yeah.  Absolutely.

Jeff Lewis: That, and she had problems with Zoila also.

Yeah, well, you know, what can you do with Zoila?  I mean, I’m personally a little bit afraid of her but . . . 

Jeff Lewis: At 65, you know, 65 years old, we’re not changing her.

No, you’re not changing her.  That’s . . . 

Jeff Lewis: And, you know, she does have . . .

. . . you love her for it.

Jeff Lewis: She’s earned seniority.  She’s been with me for – she’s so funny.  She’s been with me for about 12 years now.  And she calls it Twelve Years a Slave.

Oh, my God.

Jeff Lewis: I mean, she’s quick. That’s what I love about Zoila.  She makes me laugh every single day.

I love Zoila.  She is one of the best things ever.  She just is.  It’s like, you can’t script someone like Zoila.  You can’t.  I mean, she’s a gem.

Jeff Lewis: They told me that a long time ago.  It’s funny.  Bravo’s like, “If we had conducted a nation-wide search, we could have never found anyone as good as Zoila.”

No.  Not a chance.

Jeff Lewis: She told me last week she needs Good Friday off.  I said, “Why?  Are you going to church?”  And she looked at me and I knew she was lying.  She was like, “Yeah.”  I’m like, “You are such a liar.  You are not going to church at all.”

Oh, my gosh.

Jeff Lewis: She’s like, “Jeff, I’m Catholic.  I need to go.”  And I know she’s full of it.  She’s totally full of it.

Well, did she come back on Ash Wednesday with ash on her forehead?

Jeff Lewis: Yeah.  She goes that far.  She really will go that far.

She burned her own ash in the backyard, put it on her . . .

Jeff Lewis: Exactly.

. . . her forehead.  Yeah, that sounds about right.

Jeff Lewis: With a little bit of Lupe, I guess.

A little bit of Lupe.  That’s where it is.

Jeff Lewis: On that soil.


Jeff Lewis: It’s something – look.  Something went down when I was out of town.  It had to have happened, because she just didn’t come back.  She never called again.  She just didn’t come back.

I personally will never mess with Zoila.  Never.  If I ever meet her, it’s going to be very quick.  You know, Hi.  Pleasure to meet you.  Goodbye.  I would be afraid.

Jeff Lewis: She’s scary.  Not as scary as Grandma, but she’s scary.

Well, yeah, Grandma, I – you know, God bless her.  God bless your grandma.

Jeff Lewis: She’s (tough).

She’s a tough nut.

I was just wondering if the term DIY is essentially a dirty word to you?  And if you ever get crafty or if you’re always, like, the hire-out type of designer?

Jeff Lewis: I feel like the only thing I do myself is hang pictures, because I – when I move into homes, I want everything put together as soon as humanly possible.

I’m one of those people that, I can’t really function unless everything’s in its place.  So when I move, I will just stay home for two solid days to put everything together.  I don’t want to, necessarily, wait for that handyman to come and hang pictures, so I’ll hang pictures, but I don’t do tile, I don’t hang window coverings, I don’t do any of that.  Because I know – being a perfectionist, I’d rather have a guy that does it all day long who can make it perfect.

And I do have a lot of clients, husbands, that will, you know, try to be helpful and say, “Oh, no, don’t worry.  We don’t need to hire anybody to do that.  You know, I can do that.”  And guess what – they never do.

And then I have to say to them, “Are you ever going to get around to that?  Are you going to get around to that?” to the point where, you know, the wife is rolling her eyes at me and then finally, ultimately, we hire someone to do it.

So the DIY thing, like, if somebody’s really good at what they do, I’m open to having, you know, my clients do that.  But none of them – they all do other things, you know.  They’re doctors and lawyers and business owners and as much as they want to be handy, they’re just not.  Which is OK, because they’re making money and my checks are clearing.