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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Thom Filicia on reality television, growing empire
NUNN ON ONE
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2013-05-15

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Thom Filicia shot into the spotlight as the interior designer on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Afterwards he began his writing career with a book from the series and now is out promoting his latest American Beauty.

He has had several successful television shows on the Style Network including Dress My Nest and Tacky House. He is the featured talent on the HGTV Network.

Filicia heads his own company Thom Filicia, Inc in New York City.

Windy City Times grabbed a chance to interview him while at a book-signing in the Merchandise Mart at Kohler.

Windy City Times: It's the Thom and Jerry Show!

Thom Filicia: People always say T-h-o-m is so pretentious. This is the true story. My brother's name is Julius. He is older than me and when he was a little kid we called him "Julie," then later "Jules." We were walking through the mall and I told him not to call me "Tommy" anymore—that I want to be called "Tom." He thought that was lame and boring so he pointed at the Thom McAn Shoe Store and told me to spell it that way.

There is nothing pretentious about my name. Its origins go back to the mall! I think my brother wanted my name to be as equally dysfunctional as his. [Laughs] Afterwards I started signing my name like that in school.

WCT: Well then, tell our readers about your school background.

Thom Filicia: I studied interior design at Syracuse University, where I got my degree in Bachelor of Fine Arts in interior design. I worked for Parish-Hadley, then Robert Metzger, then Bihuber & Associates. I opened my own company in 1998. I have had my company ever since so we are getting up there in years.

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy happened in 2001. I kept my business moving forward while I was filming the show for four years. When Queer Eye moved to Style Network then I was there for another three and a half years. I did a year with HGTV and now we are producing a couple of shows and offshoots that are in conjunction with some of my projects. I am doing books, this is my second book and I am already talking about doing a third, which is exciting. Tina Fey did the intro to this one.

WCT: I saw that.

Thom Filicia: She's awesome and great. I am now doing some residential and townhouses to very modern country houses. We are doing a big initiative with Delta Airlines.

On product, I am doing a furniture line with Vanguard. Kravet has a line of my textiles. I have a window treatment line that I sell through Calico Corners. We have three or four licensed partners that we meeting with while I am in Chicago like bedding and bath. We are finalizing our lighting as well.

WCT: Wow, you are busy.

Thom Filicia: Yes, it is crazy but its good. Then there is also this book tour. We did two big signings in New York, two in Connecticut, three in California. We also went to Seattle, Florida, and Texas. Now we are in Chicago and Minneapolis.

WCT: You are fortunate to go on a book tour because they are a rarity now.

Thom Filicia: Yes. When I did the book I thought it was really important to do a tour because no one does them anymore. I think there is a need for it and people are excited about it.

Kohler was great to work with and we used a lot of their product in the house. It was a great relationship not only using their product but also traveling to do events with them. We are doing another one in Boston in May. It is a wonderful way to cross-pollinate.

WCT: Would you ever open a store in Chicago?

Thom Filicia: I would, actually. We were just talking about it. I am opening a tour de trade store called Sedgwick & Brattle in New York City. I have been thinking that could be a great product for Chicago.

Chicago is beautiful. If you want to see an amazing American city people should go to Chicago. New York is more of an international city. Chicago represents the U.S. in probably the best way.

WCT: Will there be more of Tacky House? I loved that show.

Thom Filicia: I did too, but no. It didn't have a long life because it was very repetitious. We wanted to do one more season but it didn't happen.

WCT: Do you want to do more television projects?

Thom Filicia: Yes, I actually am. We are developing two TV projects right now. So TV will always be there at some level. It has been great to focus on the book and my office. I like having the balance between television and my real job. It felt a little top heavy before when it was off balance. I have been able to do a lot more in the last year and a half since I have pulled back from TV a little bit.

Television is not a lot about design these days but more about real estate. I think it is more dramatic than design driven. Everything goes through cycles. I think people will be interested in design soon. The economy is improving so that will help also.

WCT: Do you watch Million Dollar Decorators on Bravo?

Thom Filicia: You know what is funny? I just talked to Mary McDonald. We were just corresponding since we were friends. I think this might have been their last season.

WCT: I have interview Martyn Lawrence Bullard a few times.

Thom Filicia: Martyn is fun. I also like Kathy Ireland. I have had dinner with her. I have told them before that they make the design world look not so bright. I am joking with them but I think they should watch how they are positioned by the network. They should hold their ground and make it about design.

WCT: I know what you are saying. They drop things…

Thom Filicia: And things are missing. They drink while they are working. On Queer Eye we weren't working when we had a cocktail.

WCT: Do you still talk to the Queer Eye guys?

Thom Filicia: Yes, and it will be the tenth anniversary this summer so things have started to percolate in terms of doing something. So we will see.

For more on Filicia, visit www.thomfilicia.com .


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