3 min

‘I just feel it’

The heady adventures of self-taught design star Ambrose Price?

CAMPY MAGNETISM. Although he didn't win HGTV's reality show Designer Superstar Challenge, Ambrose Price scored his own spin-off series, The Decorating Adventures of Ambrose Price. Credit: Dean Goodwin, Firvalley Productions

It’s easy to see HGTV star Ambrose Price’s reality-show appeal: at more than six feet in height he’s unapologetically loud, speaks in heavily accented Newfoundland English and is not averse to hamming it up on camera. On television he’s styled as a “fish-out-of-water” interior designer with no formal training; in person he comes off as extremely self-assured.

At age 25 Price has already starred in two home design reality shows. In 2006 he was the lone east-coast contestant to compete on the fourth season of Designer Superstar Challenge. Though he lost, his campy magnetism impressed the producers, who offered him his own reality show: The Decorating Adventures of Ambrose Price.

“I was the personality that drove that TV show,” he says of his Superstar experience. When asked to elaborate, he shrugs. “Because I didn’t give a fuck — I really didn’t. I was there to have a good time. This is purely entertainment, why take it serious?”

Price grew up in Fortune, the small town on Newfoundland’s Burin Peninsula where tourists  go to catch a ferry to the French-owned islands St-Pierre and Miquelon.

“I would consider myself privileged to grow up in such a beautiful little quaint village,” he says. “It’s so close-knit. Everyone knew everyone. I have so much support there, it’s so touching.”

The youngest of six siblings, his father works for the coast guard and his mother passed away five years ago following a short battle with cancer. As a teenager he expressed interest in interior design and home renovations, but chose instead to pursue mathematics at Memorial University in St John’s.

Following his mother’s death Price quit school and got a job at St John’s design firm Beyond Design where he worked on mid-size Victorian home reno projects. During a vacation in New Brunswick in May 2006 he saw a commercial on HGTV calling for contestants to compete on the Designer Superstar Challenge. He sent in a video application, was cast in the show and flew to Toronto for the taping four months later; the season aired later that year.

When Superstar ended Price returned to Newfoundland where he was promptly offered $500 a week from CBC to appear in a five-minute design segment every Thursday on the local news. Reporters also started calling to request interviews. Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the attention and unsure of how to respond to the CBC offer, he emailed a producer from HGTV for advice.

The response came at near lightning speed. “Five minutes later the phone rang and it was the executive director at HGTV Tanya Linton to say, ‘I hear you have a contract from CBC,’” he says. “She said, ‘Don’t sign nothing, we have a show in development. It’s called the Decorating Adventures of Ambrose Price.’ And I was just like, ‘Oh my God.’”

The show’s premise was to mould Price into a home design powerhouse. He envisions himself becoming the Canadian Martha Stewart — a down-home, straight-talking, flamboyantly gay Newfoundlander version of Martha — thoroughly versed in all aspects of entertaining, event planning and home décor. “The only trouble is,” his voiceover explains in the show’s opening sequence, “I’ve had no formal training and I still have a lot to learn.”

Each episode revolves around a different theme. Outdoor design, gift wrapping, floral arrangement, home staging, textiles and window design are all topics Price tackled during the show’s inaugural 13-episode season, which premiered in December.

When the show isn’t in production Price runs a Toronto-based consulting practice. He mostly works in condo spaces including a recent project that saw him revamp a 1,000-square foot loft space at King and Bathurst based on a minimal, blue-and-white colour scheme, incorporating Barcelona chairs and sleek and simple European-designed cabinetry.

Price says his dream design would be an all-white apartment. “I’ve done so many residential properties that it’s actually nice for a change to do a small-scale project,” he says. “I find it more my style. Most condos go with more modern or contemporary feel, so I can relate to it more and I have a better feel for it.”

Like many ambitious young Canadians, Price is not content living in Canada’s biggest city. His sights are set on New York and his dream of working there inched closer to reality in June when a distributor sold The Decorating Adventures of Ambrose Price to the MTV-owned Logo Channel in the United States. Two months later Price found himself standing in MTV’s Times Square headquarters.

The first season will begin airing on Logo (and its website) on Mon, Oct 5. For the second season, which is set to premiere on HGTV in January, the focus will be on home decorating, specifically on how one can incorporate personal style in best create “the perfect bedroom” or “the perfect kitchen.” Price says the production will be split evenly between locations in Toronto and New York.

“First time I went to New York I just said, ‘This is it.’ When I moved to Toronto I said, ‘This is not the end of the road.’ I’m very intuitive and it’s the same thing when it comes to design. I’m just intuitive. I know what looks good — I just feel it.”