Stephen Collins misses America.
The host of Bravo TV’s newest architecture and design show, “Property Envy” — a likely addition to many LGBT viewers’ must-TiVo lists — yearns for the America he discovered as an English lad with a curiosity about art history, languages, craftsmanship and lineage.
In his eyes, the U.S. was the confident country and collective culture that produced and was somewhat shaped by photographer Slim Keith, society and style maven Babe Paley, glamorous icons Rita Hayworth and Gary Cooper, and its “great design” of cars and homes. The America of today, he says, boasts mass production of just about everything and, as a result, has less diversity and lacks the “innate elegance” it once had. He attributes the change in large part to the “Mad Men” era of corporate America.
“I’m very, very pro-America,” says Collins, a new Palm Springs resident. “I don’t agree with everything America does. I think America doesn’t always make the best choices, but you are the best people to be in charge.”
His affinity for the U.S. was not simply born out of romantic notions. It was informed by his vast travel experience. He’s been traveling since age 17 when he arrived in Palm Beach, Fla., from England’s South Coast. That was his first visit to the states.
Since then, he’s traveled and lived abroad in Italy, Mexico, Morocco and France. Collins says for awhile he never lived more than six months in a building and never more than two years in a city.
“I love the multiculturalism of the world,” he says. “My traveling was always about being informed by the street.”
Now back in the states, Collins will soon bring the knowledge and experience he acquired during his travels to TV viewers. That experience includes host of “House Guest” and “House Gift” for ITV in Britain, interior design business owner, hotelier, and property developer.
The new show he hosts, “Property Envy,” is a 30-minute program that takes viewers inside three of the country’s most exquisite homes. It stars design and property aficionados Jeff Lewis and Mary McDonald (both Bravo alums), and Brandie Malay. Each week, the panel will critique each home for design, architecture, lighting, location, position, and landscaping. They also try to determine the homes’ value.
“You’ve got four very informed people,” Collins says about the cast. “But the disagreements are never ferocious.”
The first of 12 episodes airs Tuesday, July 9, and features the stunning Casbah Cove residence in Palm Desert. It’s Collins’ favorite house in the episode. During the season, viewers will see four other Coachella Valley homes, including an Albert Frey design.
Collins, who’s single, has become more familiar with desert design and architecture since moving to the south end of Palm Springs with his dog Hector a year ago. His first order of business was to remodel a home he bought. It’s been a project fraught with delays, miscommunication, and business practices he never encountered before.
“It’s been hard work building a home in the desert,” Collins says. “There are big differences in the way people work. At first, it infuriated me. I found my adaptation to America quite hard. I was quite critical. Here, I felt the work ethic at times very difficult. But there were people who were sensational.”
He attributes the initial challenges to being new and not knowing whose services to employ. Nine months into the remodel, the project began to progress as he identified “great people” to do the work. Collins now counts his plumber, who invited Collins to stay in his home while work was underway, among his friends.
Outside of the remodel project, he’s gotten to know his neighbors and experience a different aspect of the community. “Palm Springs has welcomed me with open arms,” he adds. “I’ve been at the receiving end of more generosity of spirit than anywhere else I’ve lived in my life.”
And if “Property Envy” inspires a loyal following, Collins could become a part of a new American cultural phenomenon.
Watch the show
“Property Envy” premieres at 10 p.m. (Pacific Time) Tuesday, July 9, on Bravo TV. It stars Jeff Lewis, Mary McDonald, and Brandie Malay as panelists, and Stephen Collins as host.