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Getting his inspiration off the rack

March 29, 2007|Lisa Boone | Times Staff Writer

HE tackled those lovable, design-challenged men on "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." He put his stamp on the W Hotel in Westwood. He even took on J. Lo. Now designer Thom Filicia is embracing a group that he has sidestepped on television: women.

On "Dress My Nest," a reality series that premiered Wednesday night on the Style Network, Filicia ditches the guys for some female fashionistas. Using the women's favorite outfits as inspiration, Filicia and stylist Erika Martin transform drab rooms into spaces that reflect the client's unique fashion sense.

Filicia recently was in Los Angeles to film 10 episodes, the first of which features a 29-year-old dental hygienist obsessed with Hello Kitty. Undaunted by all that pink, Filicia dove into the makeover and made time for a Q&A about fashion, personality and why interior design can seem so scary.

Question: What we wear often conveys how we feel about ourselves: sexy, confident, shy. Are our homes really the same?

Answer: Your interiors should be a reflection of who you are. When you walk into people's home, you should be able to get a sense of their personality or their point of view. Clothing is similar. You can look at people and the way they carry themselves, and you know what makes them tick. The jewelry, the accessories, the shoes, the belt, the color, the lack of color, the pattern, the lack of pattern will tell you if someone is adventurous or fun or relaxed.

You can open up someone's closet and really get a sense of who they are. Are they classic? Are they trendy? Are they modern? Are they easy-breezy? Is it about flip-flops and linen shirts, or formal clothing and lace-up shoes?

What makes you cringe when you walk into someone's home? Clearly not Hello Kitty.

People who don't do anything at all because they are paralyzed by fear of making a mistake. My whole point of view is that there are no rules. People who want their interiors to be different always tell me, "I didn't know what to do," or "I was so afraid to start. I bought the paint but I never put it on the wall." You can put a coat of paint on the wall and live with it. It may not be right, but it's the first step.

About that Hello Kitty room. How did you handle that?

I didn't look at it as just a Hello Kitty product. It was about breaking the outfit down and building it back up again. I asked myself, "What are the colors we're dealing with here?" Her outfit had pink, green, fresh crisp white and denim, so I developed a color palette.

The Hello Kitty episode demonstrates that you can take something that you love -- something that is truly age inappropriate -- and put a twist on it and make it work. It's not about pretending to be someone you're not. It's about figuring out who you are. Make it something that fuels your passion and your inspiration. That ownership and feeling of being connected is what will make you happy, whether it's through your clothing or your home.

You were pretty brutal with some of those guys on "Queer Eye." You called it "tough love." Are you gentler with the women on "Dress My Nest"? You haven't made anyone cry, have you?

It's all about personality. If you meet someone and she's feisty and she wants to have fun, then you have fun with her. If they're a little more reserved or intimidated by the process, then you respond to that. It's like meeting someone at a cocktail party -- you know who you can swear in front of and who you can't.

Why no men on the show?

I had just come off of doing "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" for almost four years. Women were always coming up to me and asking, "When are you going to do a show for women?" I think people started to think of me as just designing for men. It's fun for me to do things that are a little more feminine.

I'm totally open to doing "Dress My Nest" with guys. I'm not discriminating!

Money constraints affect our fashion and interior design choices. Prada and Nakashima are a fantasy for many. How do you make design dreams become a reality when you're on a budget?

There are great solutions at everyone's price point, now more than ever. IKEA is the perfect example of very good design at an affordable price. I think it has wonderful things, and I use them on the show. I mix them with antiques and very expensive things when I have the opportunity.

Good design is good design. There are many inexpensive things that are very good-looking, such as lighting or accent pieces, which are great ways to be adventurous. You can find a lamp at a tag sale and spray paint it white. Or take a great pair of dining chairs that are super traditional for five bucks apiece at a yard sale and spray paint them in pink or green to give them a new twist. Take fabric from a vintage store -- IKEA has great vintage-inspired fabric -- and recover the seat cushions. All of a sudden you have something that was down and drab and traditional, and now it's zippy and fun.

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