Before and After: ‘Queer Eye’ Completely Transformed 4 Rooms in 3 Days and We’re More in Awe Than Ever
Psst! Spoilers ahead for episode 403: Stoner Skates By.
John Stoner, the hero of episode 3, is a single dad who’s living that bachelor life. He has a huge, beautiful old house, but it’s practically coated in sports memorabilia, and there’s no place for his precious 10-year-old daughter Lucy to feel at home.
While thankfully his team didn’t have to do this makeover by iPhone flashlight, Bobby faced some challenges transforming this historic space—including the budget. We talked to Bobby by phone from Philadelphia where the crew is filming season 5. [This interview has been edited and condensed.]
Apartment Therapy: First of all, congrats on your Emmy nominations! Does it feel any different this time around?
Bobby Berk: Thank you! I think we’re all so busy that we don’t even really have time to think about it. We did our car scene in which we do our dossier and we had 10 minutes to watch the announcement and then we had to go right into our ambush. Last year on the announcement day we actually all had the morning off. We got to have fun and celebrate, but this year was work, work, work.
AT: Tell us about John and his space.
BB: The famous John Stoner! He’s super tall. I don’t know if it comes across in the episode. He’s such a big, burly, yet sweet guy. You could tell there was some shyness to him. Then his little girl Lucy was ten going on, like, 42. She comes in and we find out that her parents have split, but they’re still great friends. They actually hang out together and they’re really good co-parents.
His house was this big, beautiful, historic old home, but he lived mostly on the ground level. It was very much a bachelor pad. You walked in and you were like, “I don’t see a ten-year-old girl in the space at all.”
Then she starts talking about how she feels about this house, her day-to-day routine here. She’s like, “Oh, I get up in the morning and I make myself breakfast and then I do this and I do that and then I get my dad up and I get him ready.” We were like, “Wait, what?”
She’s a cool, well rounded little girl but I’m like, “You know what, you really need to find a place for your daughter. This is no place for a very creative talented kid to grow up, this bachelor pad–esque type of setting.” I wanted to take on the whole first level but again, it’s such a big house and we only had three days and we only had a certain amount of money.
AT: So the house was huge. How did you narrow down what to transform?
BB: I focused on spaces in the house that affected Lucy the most. Also, the color choices John had landed on were horrific. He was a huge Kansas City Chiefs fan. Some of the walls were bright red, which is just awful for a wall color.
It had the most beautiful woodwork. I walked into the house I was like, “Oh, my God, I want this house so bad,” because it’s just one of the beautiful brick craftsmans. To restore this home to its original glory would just be a dream. But again, we had three days and $20,000. I focused on a little room up in the front that you can see where the hammock is. That room before, it wasn’t really anything. It was just a catch-all for junk when they walked in the house room.
I wanted the moment she walked in the home to feel like, “Hey, this is my home, I have this pretty space. I have little shelves for my stuff. I have a great little hammock where my dad and I can hang out.” She loves doing crafts, so I made her a little craft table. Then, I repainted the dining room. I got rid of the red and I zhuzhed that up a bit. It was amazing how I didn’t even put the furniture or anything in it. Getting rid of that red color and all the sports memorabilia just turned it instantly from a bachelor’s house to an adult home.
It’s not a bad thing to like sports memorabilia, but when your sports memorabilia turns into the core design choice, that’s a different story. Memorabilia is awesome, but it has its place.
Lucy’s bedroom was very uninspiring. It was very blah, it had no decor. She loved Tiffany blue. I only painted three quarters of the wall, because that color on an entire wall is a bit much. I wanted to give her that color that she loves without making her room feel like a gift box. I had built a headboard of Stikwood panels. Container Store came in and did her closet and it’s just such a cute, pretty little girl’s room. She’s an ice skater, she loves frilly things.
Her bedroom and his bedroom are on the back side of the house, where it was clear that it was an addition that was put onto the house at some point. While the rest of the house had this beautiful woodwork and amazing original detail, those two rooms were just blah.
In John’s room, I did another Stikwood treatment on the wall. Even though it wasn’t the same wood treatment as the rest of the house, it kind of tied in. Then I painted the ceilings and the upper wall a beautiful color. It just made his room look put together.
AT: In the episode, John mentions he’s been suffering from depression. Did that change how you approached his space?
BB: I took him into Orangetheory to try to get him in a morning routine because he works from home most days. Again, his daughter gets him up for work. He didn’t really have a routine so I’m like, “You know what, how about you get a routine even if it’s just like three days a week. This is something that’s getting you up and it’s getting you out.”
Then he ended up telling me that during the Orangetheory that he suffers from major depression and that’s one of the reasons why he had such a hard time getting out of bed. I was like, “Dude, I have been there. I get it, I understand.”
Here is a beautiful thing about decor and design: When you wake up in a room that has clothes all over the floor and there’s nothing inspiring about it, that really just fuels the fire of your depression. But when you wake up in a clean, tidy room, maybe not all of your life is great, but you can go, “Oh, I am starting out my day not feeling defeated. I’m starting out my day not feeling like there was something before I had one more thing I just didn’t get to which was cleaning my room or doing my laundry.” It can have a really amazing effect on helping you on the road to be more happy. I think he got that and I think it shows through in his room.
AT: Amazing. Were there any particular challenges with this makeover?
BB: My biggest challenge for a makeover in a big house is always I want to do it all. I have a really Virgo hard time of being like, “Alright, we can’t.” Like in this house, we couldn’t do the living room. Normally we sort of like zhuzh up a room a little bit if we can do it, but it was just too big of a house. That’s my biggest challenge is not feeling like, “No, why can’t I do it all?”
AT: [laughs] In 72 hours?
BB: I would do that. In season one and two, I would work all the time and then I was like, “Oh, wait, I’m not on the show because I’m working too much.” I’m trying to find a good balance.
AT: Do you have a favorite part of this makeover?
Bobby: I would say Lucy’s Lounge because that is really specifically designed to cultivate quality time between John and his daughter. It feels like he has made room for her and his life and his home.
AT: So you guys have done international makeovers in Australia and Japan. Is there any place you’re hoping “Queer Eye” heads next?
BB: I mean, I know Tan would love to do a UK edition, I would as well. It would take half the time that the Japanese one did because we won’t have to wait for everything to be translated.
It’s funny because when you actually see the Japanese episode that will be coming out soon, it looks like we understand Japanese and they understand English and we’re just responding back and forth to each other but what is edited out is our amazing translator, Lena, translating everything. Unfortunately, it would’ve been too long to keep that in.
Thanks, Bobby! Season 4 of “Queer Eye” is streaming now on Netflix.