By Terri Sapienza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Before heading to Los Angeles to be a contestant on the reality show "Top Design," Eddie Ross was told to bring one bag full of things he couldn't live without. He packed a set of hotel silver flatware, a butler's ball, a sterling silver garbage pail and an English toast rack, because, he says, he "wanted something beautiful to keep stationery in."
Ross, 30, is surrounded by beauty and refinement every day at Martha Stewart Living magazine, where he is the senior style editor. Among other things, he scouts locations and picks color palettes for photo shoots, arranges flowers and accessories, sets tables, styles bookshelves and finds the perfect props, from cocktail napkins to fireplace logs.
This fall, Ross launched his own blog, http://www.eddieross.com, which has propelled him to rock-star status among design bloggers across the country. His posts pair great-looking images with cheerfully dispensed advice on collecting, decorating, entertaining, flowers and food, all in line with his personal design mantra: It doesn't have to be expensive to be beautiful. In one recent post, Ross details his preparation for a dinner party and provides tips in the process, such as mixing antique silverware with hemstitched linens from Target and how to best maintain the sheen on a copper pot (use a halved lemon dipped in sea salt).
A flea market, junk shop and thrift store enthusiast, Ross also frequently blogs about fabulous and affordable DIY transformations of the furniture he finds, a feature that recently landed him a deal working with the retail fabric store Calico Corners.
Six weeks into the 10-episode competition on the Bravo Network's "Top Design," Ross has proved himself to be a serious contender for the show's prize of $100,000. He's a smart packer, too. The silver pieces he brought in his suitcase helped him win one of the show's first challenges.
Ross chatted with us by telephone and e-mail from his office in New York about decorating, flea markets and his experience as a reality-show contestant.
How would you describe your design style?
Classic, simple, monochromatic and lived-in. As a magazine editor working with so many different colors and things every day, I love that my apartment is very soothing, calm and put-together. But it's fun, too. I love living with collections of things that are livable and usable.
What paint colors do you use in your apartment?
The entire apartment is painted Brompton Gray from Ralph Lauren, with mixes of different whites from Farrow & Ball and Benjamin Moore. The ceilings are a blue-gray (Pebble from Marston and Langinger). The bathroom is painted Ebony from Ralph Lauren.
How do you decorate for Halloween?
I painted some pumpkins white and left the stems green. They look really beautiful in a huge punch bowl. I love gourds, too; you can drill holes in them and use them as votives. I also love to use the "spider web in a bag." You can do it tastefully by wrapping some web around a mirror or hanging some in a corner in an archway. Another idea is to use Spanish moss in the fireplace with blown eggs placed on top. It's sophisticated and creepy.
I also love monogrammed pumpkins and smoky-green gourds with lavender mums. It's still fall, but it's an unconventional palette. It's a fresh approach to Halloween.
Were you crafty as a child?
Yes! I excelled in all of my art projects. My mother would ask me why I couldn't get the same good grades in history. Home economics was a huge part of my life. Everyone else would be making scrambled eggs, and I would be whipping up a triple-beated-down yeast dough.
What questions should people consider when purchasing something from a flea market?
First, do you really need it? If the answer is no, do what I do: Don't listen. Next, make sure it's going to fit in your car. If it's in good condition and you like the shape but aren't in love with the finish, ask yourself what you can do to update it. Can you strip it? Paint it? Wallpaper it? Mirror it? Etch it? Swap out the hardware? Look past what it is and imagine what it could be. If it's a dresser with dated wood veneer, could it be painted, say, a beautiful buttercup yellow, the drawers lined in felt and then repurposed as a sideboard?
What are your favorite shops to find new things?
When I buy new things, they are things that are timeless. I love CB2's glasses. I'm also a fan of Ikea's white, large charger plates and their red-and-blue-stripe dish towels, which are the best dinner napkins. I splurge on good sheets and good towels, because bedding is so important. T.J. Maxx has the best 1,000-thread-count sheets: $60 for a set, and they only get better when they get washed.
What are some low-cost ways to freshen up a home?
By far the easiest, most bang-for-your-buck way to spruce up your space is paint. And I'm not just talking about walls! In my apartment I painted my kitchen countertop (a hideous faux marble) with white garage floor paint, and I love it. Everyone's thought of painting old furniture, but what about stripes on a lampshade? Target has great low-cost shades. Pick up a can of paint in your favorite color and get creative!
And while you're there, pick up a few throw pillows -- a mix of solid and pattern, perhaps -- to bring new life to an old sofa. Another way of freshening up your place is to rearrange the furniture. The change can be dramatic and doesn't cost a dime.
Finally, buy vintage! Flea markets, tag sales and thrift stores are great places to go for inspiration on the cheap. You know all those piles of onesie antique plates in every secondhand store? Find a few you love, then group them all together on a wall. For an entry on the blog, I even inset them with inexpensive mirrored disks you can get online. It's a quick, easy, low-cost decorator touch anyone can do.
How was your experience on "Top Design"? The people made it fun. But otherwise, it was long hours, no sleep, horrible food and a really bad loft space that was so colorful it made my eyes spin.