David Bromstad Paints for a Cause

By Winston Gieseke

Originally published on Advocate.com July 25 2011 2:05 PM ET

It isn’t enough for David Bromstad to transform rooms from bland to brilliant on HGTV’s Color Splash. The accomplished artist is also appearing on the network’s newest hit, HGTV’d, as well as mentoring the current crop of contestants on Design Star, the show that launched his TV career back in 2006. In addition to being the first HGTV personality to be named to the Out 100, Bromstad was also honored with the prestigious HRC Visibility Award for being out and proud in the public eye.

In September he’ll be lending his talent to the “Know Yourself: Get HIV Tested” initiative by creating a mural to bring to life the importance of HIV testing, which will be unveiled in New York City in recognition of National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

The Advocate: There seems to be this belief that all interior designers are gay. Is there a special gene responsible for that?

David Bromstad: I think that stereotype is completely wrong. Some of the most successful interior designers have been straight men. I just think gay men happen to like to experiment a little bit more than straight men do in their own homes when they’re single.

When you first started out on television, were you at all concerned about being open about your sexuality?
I thought about it for about 3.2 seconds and then the camera started rolling and I said, “I’m a gay man — I don’t care!” [Laughs] After that, I had complete support from HGTV. They continue to support me in ways that I’m blown away by.

When did you come out to your family and friends?

I came out to my friends when I was 22, and shortly thereafter to my family.

How important do you think it is for celebrities to be out and proud?

It’s a completely personal issue. Every celebrity has different obstacles to go through. I’m very fortunate that I get to work with a supportive company like HGTV, but film actors and TV actors don’t have that luxury. If they come out, their work can go away. I would love for every gay actor out there to be open about it, but it’s not my decision.

How has your style evolved from season 1 of Design Star to now?
I went onto Design Star as an artist. I was not an interior designer. I really didn’t know what I was doing. [Laughs] I think my style has evolved a lot. At that time, I liked contemporary, bold art and design, and now that my skills have matured I love eclectic design. I love using styles from all over. That’s how you come up with a really fantastic room.

How did the Color Splash vibe change for you when the show moved from California to Miami?

California was great. I loved being out there. San Francisco is an amazing place. But Miami is my home, and to be able to take it back to Miami was amazing. I just feel like I’m at home in Miami. The vibe feels more fresh and young and sexy, and I like to think I’m still fresh and sexy. Maybe not so young. [Laughs]

Fresh and sexy is still good. What’s unique about the new show, HGTV’d, and how do I get my submission pushed to the top of the pile?
[Laughs] I love HGTV’d. It’s the biggest-budget half-hour show HGTV has ever done, and we’re definitely making design over-the-top and bringing really interesting things to it that we don’t normally get to do on our shows. We’re having a blast. It’s a lot of fun.

Can you give me an example of what you’re doing?
On the first episode I did some crazy columns. But for the final episode [of the season], I partnered up with Ellen DeGeneres and we did a whole house makeover. We did the backyard as well as their living room, kitchen, and bedroom. We really transformed their space.When did you get involved in the fight against AIDS?
I think the fight begins when you get tested the first time. It’s a very scary thing to do, especially when you’re young. I remember back in the day it took two weeks to get your results, and those were the worst two weeks ever. For me, the fight’s been going on ever since.

Tell me about the “Know Yourself: Get HIV Tested” initiative.
I want people to be encouraged and know that getting tested is just something they need to do to maintain their health. It’s like brushing your teeth — not doing it shouldn’t be an option. What’s great about this is that I’ll be able to help get the word out in the way I know best, through creative means.

By creating a mural?
Yes. And I am looking to my fans to give me some advice via Twitter or Facebook about how they think it should look. I’ll be glad to take anyone’s inspiration — I’m an artist and a designer that loves collaboration. All I know for sure is there will be lots of color and the mural will be encouraging and uplifting but also very direct.

What do you see as the epidemic’s biggest hurdle?
I think people are lazy, honestly. I think they’re like, Well, it’s a manageable disease — therefore I don’t have to protect myself. If worst comes to worst, all I have to do is pop that pill. [The medicines do] great things when you have HIV, but do you really want to have that as an option when you can just slap a condom on?

Penny Lane released a line of your original artwork in May. How’s that going?
The response I’ve gotten has been amazing. I’m not sure of exact numbers, but to me it’s a dream regardless. I’m having such a great time creating more pieces, so you’ll see some more art added to that line very soon. Especially now that we’re back in production on Color Splash.

Can we look forward to other David Bromstad products?
Oh, yes! I have a bed and bath collection coming out in the fall, which will be launched during Market Week in New York. I’ve seen some of the mock-ups and I’m really excited. I’m not yet sure where the products will be sold, but they’ll be affordable.

Are you able to make quick trips to Home Depot, or are you always mobbed?
I try, but it usually doesn’t end up being a quick trip.

What happens?
Lots of pictures. Lots of autographs. Lots of advice. “Come and look at these carpet samples.” “How about this tile for my house? Here are photos.” It often turns into that.

Sounds tedious. Do you provide your own wardrobe for Color Splash, or should we thank the network for the tight-fitting T-shirts and tank tops you wear so well?

I think if it was up to the network, I’d be wearing something a little bit looser, but no, I supply my own wardrobe. [Laughs]

When making new friends, what’s more unforgivable: someone who’s constantly late or someone with a bad taste in design?
Someone who’s constantly late. For sure.

You can put up with bad taste?
Absolutely. As long as I don’t have to live there. [Laughs]