Jeff Lewis hasn't always been green, but he's making up for it these days in the homes he designs and at his own house in L.A. "I was kind of late to the party in adopting that attitude," he admits, noting that no person or group pressured him into it. "It came from my own conscience." He used to think nothing of throwing things away, but "now I always try to find homes for old appliances, cabinets. If they're not going to use the cabinets they can use the material. I tell my contractors and subcontractors, 'anything you can use, take it.' I do a lot of donating. I have a couple of organizations on speed dial and we just call them up to collect. It's become very difficult for me to throw things away. I'm slowing becoming the recycling Nazi," he adds. "At my own home I spent a lot of money taking out the huge 75-gallon water heater and putting in two tankless water heaters. We're donating and recycling rather than throwing things away."
Lewis has segued from "Flipping Out" to another Bravo show, "Interior Therapy With Jeff Lewis," in which he endeavors to solve a problem for homeowners through changing the design of their space. But in trying to accomplish that, Lewis had a few problems of his own. "We didn't always have nice people to work with. Some were entitled and ungrateful. They were just as miserable when I left as when I walked in the door. I wanted to walk out the door and go to the neighbor's house and see what I could do there," he confides. "But it was rewarding in the end, we probably reached a good six or seven people out of ten. But three of them are lost causes. I can't help them."
He was also appalled by the conditions in a few of the places. "I didn't want to touch anything. There was one that was so bad it took two of us three hours to clean a small bathroom. It was disgusting. It really affected me to the core."
Lewis, the son of a real estate investor, was always interested in design but studied pre-law in college and tried various careers in film extra casting, collateral financing, music licensing before going into house flipping and ultimately, finding his way back to interior design. "I just followed my passion," he says. "I always said I wanted to be the best at what I did, whatever it was. And I feel very fortunate that I'm able to succeed in something that doesn't feel like work to me."
"Interior Therapy" premieres March 14 on Bravo.