Opposites attract: 5 decorating tips from the fabulous Beekman Boys
In the 16 years since they met, Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell have, among other things, given up their careers as a doctor and an advertising executive, respectively; moved from a tiny downtown studio to a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan to a sprawling 200-plus-year-old farmhouse in upstate New York; bickered their way like Nick and Nora Charles through two reality shows (“The Fabulous Beekman Boys” and “The Amazing Race,” which they won in 2012); gotten married; and built a thriving business from the ground up, Beekman 1802.
Originally based on cheese and soap products inspired by the farm’s adorable goat herd (147 and counting, which can be viewed on the website’s much-loved goat cam), their empire now extends to furniture, bedding, cookbooks and a food line sourced from small farms (48 new products will hit Target shelves in November).
The Kardashians of the farm set, this entrepreneurial couple’s latest venture, “Beekman 1802 Style: The Attraction of Opposites,” (Rodale, $40) is filled with home design tips — and lots of dreamy photos — on how to blend two seemingly opposite households. “The way this came about is that we’re kind of opposite personalities,” says Brent. “When our relationship started, we combined our things into a small apartment in New York City, and then into a large Georgian Palladium in the country. What we learned is that, literally, opposites attract.”
Or, at least, they can — with some helpful tips from the Beekman Boys:
Where to start: “Most people can’t afford to hire an interior decorator or, like, go to Restoration Hardware and buy a whole fleet of coordinating furniture,” says Brent. “You might have a couch you bought, something you inherited, something you picked up at a garage sale or on the street, and the other person probably has just as many things. So lay out everything you have — taking photos is helpful — so that you can visualize everything you have. I call that ‘taking inventory.’ You can see what looks good together.
Edit: “Walk around your house and really look at everything, then figure out what things you really love,” says Josh. “And don’t pick them just because, you know, they match other pieces or because it was your first big purchase at some point. Do you really love it, does it make you feel good? Also, don’t overdo something. If you have a room filled with one particular style of things you love and collect, then nothing stands out anymore. Find the very best example of a style you love and make that the focal point. I think every room needs one singular sensation.”
Common threads: “When we moved from the city, we had all these midcentury modern pieces and we didn’t think they’d work at the farmhouse,” says Josh. “But it turns out that the clean federal lines of the house match those of the furniture. We have a Sputnik chandelier in the bedroom and a midcentury chest of drawers in one of the hallways.”
Marry the contrary: “My grandparents had an antique business that specialized in ornate restoration of picture frames, and I inherited a lot of them,” says Brent. “But Josh detests Victorian anything, so what we ended up doing is putting very simple line drawings and folk art into the frames — they look amazing and we get compliments about them all the time. The contrast is really what makes it work. So consider taking something and pairing it with the exact opposite.”
Shiny, happy pieces: “We had a cheap, gilded mirror in our first apartment in an old building in the West Village, but when we moved to a white brick high-rise on the Upper East Side, it didn’t fit in,” says Brent. “So we painted it high-gloss white and put stripes on the wall and it looked great.” Adds Josh, “Unless you’re ruining a priceless antique, go ahead and paint it! We painted an ornate mirror frame over our fireplace glossy orange and it really brings out the side chairs and the brick.”
Repurpose, reuse, recycle: “If you have great wrought iron benches or tables made for the garden, go ahead and bring them inside — the style police aren’t going to, like, come and arrest you!” says Josh. “We have two outdoor tables we use as night tables in one of the bedrooms. And don’t be afraid to think up new ways to use something that you might be thinking of tossing. An old bed frame, for example, could go outside and be used as a daybed if you covered it with outdoor fabric and pillows. So what if it falls apart in a couple of years? In the meantime, you get to use it and the weather can actually make it look beautifully worn.”