A second season of the hit reality show, Top Design, is back on Bravo with a new group of contestants trying to win $100,000. Eddie Ross, still designing after Episode 7, is one of a handful of gay participants this season and he's showing us some pride with his thrifty, flea market brand of style. It's always fitting to talk dollars when decorating one's living space and Eddie takes on our questions without breaking the bank. Enjoy!
1. If you win, what will you do with the prize money?
Eddie: When I was in school, home economics played such a huge part in my career path. Nowadays, they're not even teaching it anymore, and I think people are struggling as a result. Home Ec gives you the fundamental skills everyone should know in life--things like how to iron a shirt, how to do a load of laundry, how to cook basic items, like a simple hard-boiled egg. They're all skills most of us need to have when we start to live on our own, and it's sad to me to see younger generations not knowing them. When I took Home Ec, I was really interested in the lessons, but to most others, they were boring. If I were to win the prize, I'd start a campaign--something like Bring Back Home Ec--but I'd definitely make it fun for the kids, more like the pop challenges we had on Top Design!
Here's a red wine stain...now, who can get it out? I'd make it a kitchen laboratory, so they feel like they're accomplishing something in a real-world situation, and that's bound to bring them not only better life skills but a lot more confidence too.
2. What is your most significant memory about money?
Eddie: Well, it doesn't grow on trees. And it doesn't make you happy.
3. I read that you believe that good interior design should be comfortable, timeless and beautiful. Can it be affordable?
Eddie: Absolutely! There are a lot of amazing resources out there--IKEA, Ballard Designs, CB2 from Crate & Barrel and all the cutting edge stuff from Target to name a few. All of them pack a lot of punch without breaking the bank. Start there for the big stuff; then, to accessorize and personalize your space, that's when you should get thrifty and hit my favorite spots--flea markets, junk shops and tag sales--like I do on my blog www.eddieross.com. They're all great places to find beautiful, timeless (and affordable!) decorative objects, art, tabletop items and even furniture. It might take a little elbow grease to polish or paint something the way you like it, but the end result is always so much more satisfying!
4. Did Martha teach you anything about making money during your stint at Martha Stewart Living?
Eddie: You have to be smart. You have to make thoughtful, calculated decisions about how you spend your money. And you definitely have to make budgets in order to keep cash the flow...well...flowing. Whenever I'm doing a project, either for myself or for a client, I'm always breaking things down into categories. First, spend the money where it really matters. Give a good chunk of change to seating, especially upholstered pieces you (and your guests) will touch. Then, divide and conquer! If you're renovating, there are so many creative ways of saving money. For example, if you're doing a bathroom, don't go to expensive specialty showrooms for tile and fixtures when places like Home Depot and Loews carry comparable products that are often just as beautiful. And for a kitchen, go to IKEA for cabinets, then splurge on a gorgeous Carrera marble countertop!
5. What are three tips to finding good finds at a flea market?
Eddie: 1. The early bird catches the worm.
2. Look and dig in every nook and cranny. The best finds are often in boxes, bins or under piles of crap.
3. Have an imagination! Look past what it is and think about what it could be. Nevermind that it's a punch bowl. Who really needs one anyway? But a punch bowl isn't just for punch. I use mine to serve salads, chilled soups and to do big beautiful flower arrangements for holiday centerpieces. The best finds are always multi-purpose. Check out my blog www.eddieross.com for lots of inspiration!
6. Do you think gays spend more money on furniture than their straight counter parts?
Eddie: I think that in this economy and the way things are going, everyone--gay and straight--wants to live a comfortable and beautiful life for not a lot of money.
7. Was culinary school worth the money?
Eddie: Every penny! I may not make my livelihood cooking anymore, but culinary school definitely gave me the foundation for the way I approach my work. I'm all about getting a look that's refined and sophisticated for not a lot of work and very little money. When I'm entertaining, for example, I like to serve delicious, quality food that's beautifully presented. Some dishes I'll make from scratch; others I'll pick up from places in the neighborhood. Whether it's my favorite Chinese dumplings or a delicious tiramisu from the Italian bakery around the corner, everything looks better when it's served in a beautiful dish, not to mention a lot less work!
8. If I only had $1000 to spend on decorating, which room should I focus on?
Eddie: That's a hard question to answer. When you're decorating for someone else, you have to know what's most important to them, then spend the money where it counts. Ask yourself, how do you live? Do you want an amazing sofa that's comfortable but sophisticated? Or maybe you want an incredible mattress, luxurious sheets and plush towels. If you're a chef, you might be most happy with a new set of All-Clad pots and pans. You want to spend that $1000 on things that are going to last. And that's why I love the flea market. If a great-looking silverplate serving utensil has already lasted a hundred years, chances are it will last a hundred more. Buy heirloom quality things, and you'll never go wrong.
9. How did your learn the value of a hard earned dollar?
Eddie: I started working when I was 15 as a dishwasher at a catering company in Greenwich. The freedom of making my own money and being able to do what I wanted with it was incredibly empowering. Since then, I've never taken much money from my parents. I think that's why I'm a frugal spender when it comes to decorating and entertaining. And that's why I love the flea market so much. I've learned how to make things beautiful without spending tons of money.
10. If you could buy one thing right now what would it be?
Eddie: I'd buy an old farmhouse for my partner Jaithan and me with out buildings, a greenhouse and a garden pantry. I'd do all white and green plantings and use the house as an entertaining and decorating laboratory. It would be a place to transform and photograph all of my flea market finds--a place to make things and inspire others.
More about Eddie Ross
Eddie: At only 30 years old, Eddie Ross has already established himself in the television, catering and publishing industries. A native of Greenwich, Conn. and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Eddie began his career working in television as a food editor on Martha Stewart Living and later as Associate Design Director for all in-house production at the Food Network.
After a two-year stint running his own catering company, where he continued to refine his skills in decorating and entertaining, Eddie made the move to publishing. As Associate Decorating Editor at House Beautiful, he produced the popular "Weekend Shopper," a monthly article in which he'd travel to flea markets around the country, finding new ways to use old things.
Having returned to Martha Stewart as the Senior Style Editor of Living, Eddie continues to demonstrate a vast and impressive range of talents. From decorating and entertaining to food styling and flowers, he strives to produce consistently elegant stories that relate to a variety of people's tastes and budgets. To him, interior design is just one, albeit crucial, part of a lifestyle that ought to be comfortable, timeless and, above all, beautiful.
Photo credit: Bravo.
When Nina is not interviewing gay celebs, she can be found blogging about money over at Queercents.