Design duo Roger + Chris are going from strength to strength. The husbands design products for the home – with sturdy sofas and lamps among their best-selling products.
Roger Hazard is a native Texan. He started his own design and renovation business after attending Texas A&M university. This led him to New York, where he broke into TV courtesy of the reality show Sell The House and A&E.
Husband Chris Stout-Hazard heralds originally from Nebraska. He worked as a technology executive in several finance companies, relocating to Austin to partner in a new start-up business.
Meeting and marrying
‘We met on Facebook, crazily enough,’ Chris tells GSN. ‘We started texting back and forth before eventually working up the nerve to talk on the phone.’
At the time the men lived in different cities. Roger was in New York and traveling to film his TV show.
‘We talked for hours and hours over months before even meeting in person, which made that initial meeting simultaneously less stressful and more exciting. We were a fit right away.’
The men married in Iowa in August 2011 surrounded by friends and family. They renovated homes for themselves in Austin, Texas, Sharon Springs, New York, Montclair, New Jersey and Omaha. Their latest renovation is in Nebraska, where they now live.
The launched their own company, simply called Roger + Chris, in 2012, to sell their own home furnishing designs. It’s proved successful that they’ve recently opened their own dedicated factory in North Carolina.
They also do design work/consultations for residential and commercial projects. They both appeared on screen together on the show Roger That, but are currently dedicating themselves fully to their business.
‘Seeing a concept come to life is really exciting’
What part of their work do they enjoy the most?
‘Seeing a concept come to life is really exciting,’ says Roger. ‘We are very fortunate to work with such an amazing team of craftsmen. It takes most furniture brands close to two years to take an idea and see it actually built and available for purchase. We are able to do this in a matter of months. With feedback from our customers we can tweak pieces to fit their needs.
‘I don’t think there’s anyone else in the trade that can do this on the same scale as we do.’
‘It’s challenging and exciting to build something from scratch,’ adds Chris.
‘Establishing what our company stands for, our style, how we function – it’s a million little questions that need to be answered. But in the end it feels like you have a chance to be a part of something unique.’
‘There is more than one “right way” to design a home’
Are people wary of inviting the pair over to their home in case they cast a critical eye over it? Are there any interior design touches that they hate or immediately want to change?
‘We’ve been told that friends are nervous to invite us over to their homes for fear that we’re going to run through critiquing everything, but that isn’t the case!’ says Chris.
‘There are certainly things you see over and over again that might have worn out their welcome. They vary by nation and region – particularly in the US, trends roll their way across the country, so what may already be played out in New York is still going strong in Nebraska. We are still seeing a lot of “Live, Laugh, Love” wall art, for instance.
‘Our take on design is this: If the style and arrangement of your home works for you, then it’s perfect. Too many people get wrapped up in making choices to please others or copy what they see on TV design shows, but that may not be right for your house.
‘There are certainly mistakes out there, but there is more than one “right way” to design a home.’
Home makeover on a budget
The pair are keen to stress that giving your home a fresh look doesn’t necessarily have to cost a lot of money.
‘One of the most high-impact changes you can make to a room is the least expensive – paint,’ says Chris.
‘For less than $100 and a few hours of time, you can totally change the feel of a room by adding a new color. There is a lot you can accomplish with inexpensive tweaks – vintage furniture, homemade drapes, found artwork.
‘It’s tempting to redo an entire house top-to-bottom at once, but that’s simply impossible for most of us.
‘Starting with color and gradually changing out furniture and decor as time and budget allow may not make for a dramatic, instant transformation, but it does allow you time to carefully consider your choices and adjust as you go along.’
Producing in the United States
The Roger + Chris range often pays a nod to the past: classic Chesterfield-style sofas and vintage-inspired lamps are a staple.
Roger says he finds it impossible to choose a favorite product (‘I think all of products are top drawer. It would be easier to say which brand of ice cream is my favorite.’)
Chris highlights Harley: ‘It’s a channel-tufted sofa range that is distinctive and works really well for a lot of our customers. It’s been a hit so far and I think it’ll keep getting more popular with time.’
Both are passionate about producing their items in the US.
‘For us, it’s less about patriotism or boosting American manufacturing – which is important, of course – than maintaining greater control over the content of our products and working more directly with the team building the furniture.’
‘We talk daily and can quickly develop new styles, make durability improvements, and ensure our customers are getting exactly what they need.’
‘As far as overt homophobia, it’s shown up more in business than day-to-day life’
As a high-profile same-sex couple, who work closely together and have a public profile, I wondered if they have ever been on the receiving end of any homophobia – particularly in Texas or Nebraska?
‘We’re really fortunate in that, for the most part, people on a one-on-one basis have been cool about it. While we’re in a more progressive part of Nebraska, it’s still a little old-fashioned,’ says Chris.
‘Some folks may not have a lot of interaction with married gay couples. I don’t know that we’re doing anything particularly courageous, but I suppose any increased visibility can help change attitudes. So we do make a point of referring to each other as “husband” and not playing coy about it.
‘As far as overt homophobia, it’s shown up more in business than day-to-day life, surprisingly. We were previously in partnership with a business owned by a couple of men who clearly underestimated our capabilities, in part because we were a gay couple.
‘You know the type – assuming that because we’re gay, we’re only able to “making things pretty” and that we couldn’t possibly be serious business people. After that relationship ended, we started our own factory. Our partners in our new factory are another gay couple who’ve dealt with the same challenges, so it feels slightly poetic.’
Finally, if they could offer one simple piece of advice to anyone thinking about improving their home, what would it be?
‘Don’t take it too seriously. While home improvements can make for a big project, try to enjoy yourself. Don’t let the stress get to you. Have fun, remember that it’s your home and you’re the one who has to love it, and pace yourself.’