Jeff Lewis Isn’t the Only One "Flipping Out"
In Season 5, Lewis reveals a new boyfriend, faces crazy clients and dumps two employees
Reality star and home designer Jeff Lewis won’t be the only one flipping out on the fifth season of Bravo’s hit reality show, “Flipping Out,” which premieres at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, July 6.
In previous seasons, the blatantly obsessive-compulsive designer struggled to get his business, Jeff Lewis Designs, up and running, but this season he may be juggling more work and demanding clients than he can handle.
This season, Lewis’ returning staff includes his reliable executive assistant, Jenni Pulos, his adorable housekeeper, Zoila Chavez, his assistant and sister-in-law, Sarah Berkman, his house assistant, Jett Pink, and his design associate, Trace Lenhoff. These employees help Lewis provide his clients with beautifully renovated and designed homes.
Often called America’s most well-known house flipper, Lewis designed House Beautiful Magazine’s “2010 Kitchen of the Year” and manages clients from all over the nation, from New York to here in San Diego.
“I consulted someone in Rancho Santa Fe and I also had a consult in La Jolla recently,” Lewis said. “I’m actually down in San Diego a lot. It’s really beautiful down there.”
In order to renovate a home in San Diego without spending a fortune, Lewis says to avoid working with designers who mark up products. They have a vested interest in overselling furniture and accessories, cluttering your home with unnecessary junk, he says. The more furniture they sell you, the more money they make. Instead, Lewis recommends working out a flat fee or hourly rate with the designer.
“Look, if you have no budget, that’s easy,” Lewis said. “What’s difficult is taking a $30,000 budget and making three rooms look beautiful. Not just furnishing them, but painting them and putting in molding and putting in floors and wallpaper.”
This season, Lewis really stretches the dollar when working on two huge projects. You wouldn’t believe what he does with $30,000, he says.
This hard work would not be accomplished without the help of Gage Edward, the head of Lewis’ new Business Development team, who is also introduced this season as Lewis’ boyfriend. Lewis had been hesitant to involve his personal life in the “workplace dramady”, especially after the on-screen corruption of his previous relationship, but hiding Edward had become impossible.
“There was really no way we could film around him because he’s such a big part of this business now,” Lewis said. “So it was either give up the show or open this up—open this part of my life up.”
But don’t be expecting any sex scenes, Lewis joked.
“I was dating first and then I brought him into the business,” Lewis said. “I don’t really date employees—until now.”
Edward’s ambitious and serious work ethic helps Lewis realize that some employees are more harm than help. Lewis won’t reveal who, but two employees get fired near the middle of this season, flipping the office upside down. He says one of the employees had it coming for a long time, but the loss of the other employee was completely unexpected.
“Now we’re kind of scrambling over here because we’re still filming and I’m trying to fill their spots,” Lewis said. “And I’m actually still shocked.”
A lesson learned? No more hiring friends … or family, he says.
“These kids that are getting out of college—they want to be VP in three weeks and they don’t know what it takes to be successful,” Lewis said. “These kids that come out of school today—they’re impatient, they’re entitled, they’re not willing to put in the work. And a lot of them are willing to just screw you over in three seconds. And that’s something that’s scary, really, because then who can you trust?”
Unlike these discarded former employees, Lewis’ executive assistant Jenni Pulos has stuck around for 11 years. Lewis says their relationship has lasted for so long because they both understand that nothing comes easy. It takes years and years to achieve what they’re trying to achieve.
Pulos had managed to keep of her personal life relatively hidden from Lewis and the show—until this season. She had always kept her address hidden from Lewis, in fear of him invading her privacy. But one night, Lewis followed Pulos home from the airport at 11 p.m. and discovered where she lived, which she says was totally creepy.
“I’ve already put in my notice,” Pulos joked. “I’m moving, so if anybody knows of a good place, let me know.”
Pulos says the show isn’t about her personal life, especially because her ex-husband no longer works at the office. But if she won’t reveal her personal life, Lewis has no problem doing so.
“She’s dating somebody, and guess what?” Lewis said. “He has a job, which is a real improvement over the last one.”
Few employees, let alone clients, can handle Lewis’ sarcasm like Pulos can. Inevitably, someone always pushes him over the edge. But despite his tantrums, Lewis swears he’s a nice guy at heart.
“I don’t walk into a room and just be a jerk to be a jerk,” Lewis said. “I always start with nice. Unfortunately in my business, nice doesn’t always work. I always ask people nicely repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly. And if I don’t get a response, then that’s when I have to get angry and I have to, unfortunately, enforce boundaries. It’s not something I want to do. It’s not something I like to do. But I have a business to run and a project to do, and not everybody is cooperative.”
Not only will this season be filled with Lewis’ outrageous flip-outs, but the tables will turn on him when he’s faced with his craziest client yet.
“I think this is one of the craziest seasons, not just with employee turnover but with the clients,” Pulos said. “There’s one client this year that’s just by far trumped any client Jeff has ever worked for.”
“I’m a crazy magnet,” Lewis added.
To keep up with Lewis’ latest flip-outs, tune into Bravo.