“I’ve worked very hard in a very short time to gain Michael and Felice’s trust,” a deadpan Jeff Lewis confides to the camera, less than 24 hours into his five-day, live-in makeover of the Steinbeck family’s Brentwood home. “Unfortunately, that trust gets questioned when water starts leaking out of the ceiling in the hall.” Bring on the busted pipes and twisted family dynamics, because the persnickety house flipper is back with a new show, Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis, which premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on Bravo. The frantic project juggling of Flipping Out (now filming its sixth season) is here replaced with feverish yet focused efforts to identify and solve the problems of homeowners, whose cramped closets or shabby bathroom may be symptoms of deeper conflicts—whether turning a child’s bedroom into a posh closet is the best solution is up to the viewer to decide.
Each episode follows Lewis and trusty assistant Jenni Pulos as they move into someone else’s house and get down to business: finding flaws, discreetly rolling their eyes, chatting with adorable children, and calling in reserves (sassy-but-lovable housekeeper Zoila Chavez, a contractor and his ever-growing crew) to accomplish considerable feats of design within the allotted five days. “On Flipping Out, you don’t always get to see the finished products,” said Lewis on a recent press call. “With Interior Therapy, it’s a true before-and-after reveal, which I like, because I get to see the project all the way through, and then so do the viewers.” Tonight’s premiere episode involves a domineering wife, a wildly ambitious tiling scheme (marble, herringbone), and a shopping trip to the aptly named “Interior Illusions.” When a conflict-soothing headboard gets wedged in the stairwell, the only option is cringe-inducing: “Open the wall!” barks the contractor. And for all of his smirking asides, Lewis’s softer side does emerge—occasionally—on the new show. “These people had problems. It wasn’t just about the design, and I really became a champion for them. I really cared about them,” said Lewis, pausing for a beat. “Some of them, not all of them!”