Happy Friday! We are SO excited about this week’s FF because we’ve been huge fans of these guys for quite a while now. Maybe you saw their show, maybe you’ve read their books/magazines, or maybe you’ve purchased some of their products, but Brent Ridge & Josh Kilmer-Purcell are much more than their Beekman 1802 empire they’ve built over the last couple of years. Here, they discuss how they met, how they started their business, and what it was like to win The Amazing Race, while sharing pictures of their beautiful house and mercantile.
Where are you from? We both grew up in rural areas, Brent in North Carolina and Josh in Wisconsin.
Where do you live? After living and working in NYC for many years, we escaped. We live on a farm in Sharon Springs, NY, a small agricultural community about 3.5 hours north of NYC.
Instagram handle: @beekman1802boys
On traveling: We’ve been fortunate to travel around the world many times, and have always found that the most meaningful and inspiring experiences are those when we’ve met everyday people doing their everyday things.
Now we organize group trips called Beekman 1802 Trips of a Lifetime that help other travelers satisfy that same level of cultural curiosity.
We’d have to honestly say that our favorite place is always the next place we are going.
On mixing styles: Much like the work you both do, our style is dictated by the location. We most often juxtapose styles so that if the structure is modern, we bring in more vintage pieces. If the structure is old, we often use pieces that are mid-century or newer.
Our farmhouse was built in the year 1802 and has most of its Federal-style molding and ornamentation. Many of the furnishings in the house we’ve designed with the artisans that create product for Beekman 1802 Mercantile, but we are not slaves to one particular aesthetic. (You can purchase their interior design book here!)
“Then we met the really old-fashioned way---in an AOL chat room. (This was almost 20 years ago.) Josh thought he had hit a pot of gold.”
On how they met: Josh had moved to NYC in his early 20s and was a junior advertising executive by day (which paid very little) and a drag queen called Aquadisiac by night.
After a few years of too many late nights and excess, he was looking for change.
Brent moved to NYC to do his medical residency, and having grown up evangelical in the South, had never been on a date with a guy or even had an alcoholic drink!
Then we met the really old-fashioned way---in an AOL chat room. (This was almost 20 years ago.) Josh thought he had hit a pot of gold.
Our first date was at a Chinese restaurant, and we had our first kiss that night and have been together ever since. Now, no matter where we are in the world on our anniversary date, we always seek out a Chinese restaurant to celebrate.
We got married on the farm just 3 days after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage with a huge potluck dinner with 300 of our Neighbors.
On coming out: Josh was 23 and Brent was 25.
Coming out is really not easy, though doing so in a big city certainly made it easier. As difficult as it can be or as afraid as you are to do so, it’s important to realize that the other side of that moment is really when you are going to start living your best life. In fact, you will be amazed by it.
On advice for today’s youth struggling to come out: It’s very important to first analyze what have been the obstacles that have prevented you from coming out and make sure to address those before you do so.
If it’s family issues (financial or personal), make sure you have some sort of support mechanism in place.
And also look for good role models.
This is why we are so proud of your blog and your Instagram feed. It’s a realistic, hopeful, accurate portrayal of gay life. Even though things have drastically changed in the 20 years since we met, there are still surprisingly few examples of this. It’s very important.
“Good communication is the key to any successful couple. There is no room for distrust. You also have to know when you need to cheer some one on and when to provide support. Those are two very different things.”
On making history: When we filmed the Fabulous Beekman Boys for Discovery, it was a very challenging time in our lives (both of us had just lost our big city jobs in the Recession), and we were attempting to “start over”. It was the very first reality show that centered around a gay couple in a long-term relationship, and they really did an admirable job of documenting that period in our lives.
Reality TV has changed a lot since then. As budgets have diminished and competition for eyeballs has increased, the need for heightened drama and sensationalism has risen. Likely there’s not a “place” for our type of show in this environment, so we focus our efforts on our magazine, website, and social media platforms.
On how good communication helped them win “The Amazing Race”: The Amazing Race is really a metaphor for life. You don’t have to be the strongest, the fastest, or the bravest to win. You can win just by not losing. You just have to be able to hang on until the end.
Most of the time the couples that run the Race defeat themselves by arguing or second-guessing one another. By the time we competed, we had already been together for 15 years, so we knew how to communicate with one another and also how to recognize those non-verbal cues that meant we were reaching our limits. Good communication is the key to any successful couple. There is no room for distrust. You also have to know when you need to cheer some one on and when to provide support. Those are two very different things.
On how their business, Beekman 1802, was born: We were living and working in NYC in 2006, Brent was heading the health and wellness division of Martha Stewart Omnimedia and Josh working in advertising. We bought the farm on an autumn apple-picking trip when the lure of the change of season clouded our judgment. In 2008, we both lost our big city jobs in the great Recession, and had to figure out a way for the farm to be more than a just a hobby.
The farm was built by William Beekman in the year 1802, and he was the largest merchant in our area of New York, catering to the wagon trains that were headed out West as part of the expansion of America.
As we reinterpreted what a modern farmhouse would look like, we also re-imagined what the Beekman Mercantile could be—an emporium for exceptional things. Working with over 300 local and regional artisans, that’s how Beekman 1802 was born.
On running a company together: We are literally with each other 24/7. We sleep together, go to work together, eat together, everything. Some days that seems like a blessing and sometimes an albatross. Fortunately we oversee different parts of the company. Because of his medical background, Brent oversees beauty product development and also home décor product design. Josh oversees gourmet food creation and the gardening category. In this way, we don’t step on each other’s toes.
We have something called the 51% rule. With every decision, major or minor, one of us has that extra percent of control, and this is determined at the outset of the project. While the other is welcome to argue their position and vision, if it comes to a standstill the person with the pre-assigned 51% gets to make the call and the other person has to retreat.
On the true meaning of happiness: We always said that the first half of our lives was spent accumulating wealth which disappeared all too easily in the Recession. The second half of our lives we want to make as many people happy as possible. As long as the things we create continue to make people happy, we’ll continue doing exactly what we are doing.