If there were an Academy Award for charm, David Bromstad would take home the Oscar. A gay man of many tattoos, outfits, and laughs, his mix of charisma and prodigious talent has caught the design world’s attention.
Educated at the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida, David’s talents were soon discovered by Disney, which hired him at first as “a private artist on contract.” Eventually, his position improved. Asked “if I knew how to work with wood. I said yes when I had no idea how! I called my dad and he said, ‘son, go get a jigsaw, wood glue, a drill and some wood and you’ll be great.’ So, it was all trial and error, but from that time my jobs kept getting larger and more complex.”
When no one else wanted to build kids’ furniture, Bromstad signed on. He designed and created rooms to look like a movie or cartoon environment. That led to his entry in an HGTV Design Star contest and he won, beating out nine contestants. Despite his worries that he had no traditional interior design training, he’s become a headliner with millions of fans.
Now, he’s in the network’s top tier as the star of “My Lottery Dream Home,” acting as uber-real estate agent and new best friend to the lucky people who’ve won it big. These are American contest winners (there is a UK spinoff show) and the winners most often seem to be looking at houses not far from their hometown. Bromstad’s job entails pointing out the charms of each property,
Whether a glamorous spread on the beach in California, a modest place in New England, or homes either luxurious or humble. He occasionally suggests small improvements that would make the place ”amazing,” a favorite Bromstad adjective. He greets the winner’s final decision with exuberance and enthusiasm, always confirming it as their best and wisest choice. Does he really mean it? “I’m there to celebrate!” he insists.
Enfolding these new friends in big hugs, strangers an hour ago, he says, “Throw me some love!” and he often adds, “And look at you! You look adorable!” This is not just showbiz, as it’s clearly his warm nature and also reveals a man who is loves his job, and his life, although he says, “I’m not painting walls now!” as he once happily did when he briefly worked for a friend as an interior designer.
He considers showing prospective buyers houses as a different kind of creative work, rising to that challenge. He admits the difficult aspect is the constant travel, as he is on the road half the year. Since good sleep in a must, where he goes, so goes his essential memory-foam mattress.
In a serious relationship for eight years, Bromstad is now single, another by-product of his itinerant life. He does take vacations, “I go to Europe every year,” and his favorite destinations are Mykonos, Amsterdam, and Barcelona. “Oh, and I love gay cruises!”
After a few years living in Miami, his homestead these days is a five bedroom, four-bathroom house in Orlando. He considers that city his hometown, “I’m not ever leaving Orlando!” The house is currently being renovated and decorated and the finished product will be revealed on a later show. He has recently hired an assistant designer but, “I’m hard to work for. Everything has to be perfect.”
Bromstad is partial to the Tudor style: “I find it cozy, homey, and relatable” and references the Disney movies which so often feature that castle-like, English, 18th Century manor vibe. Conversely, he loves modern open floor plans and big kitchens. “What’s the point of a small kitchen in a large house? Everyone always gathers in the kitchen.” This fits in with his design work motto, which is to make people happy.
What he doesn’t like to see in interiors are “…plaques that people hang on the walls that have word messages.” No scrolled “Welcome to My Kitchen,” good thought quotes or Bible passages for him, although he was raised in Minnesota in a Christian household.
It was difficult for the young David Bromstad to come out (during the eighties) in that traditional family environment, although he makes it clear he is respectful of his upbringing. His background is Scandinavian-German and he is the youngest of four. He was bullied in school. “Six hundred kids in the cafeteria made obscene gestures targeted at me. Even the junior high principal, who wanted to be cool and probably didn’t realize the meaning of what the kids were doing, joined in the ridicule.”
“I actually came out to myself when I was twenty-two. It was hard in those days and I was not comfortable with myself.”
He came out to the world when on a design-contest show in 2006, a contestant put him on the spot. “Are you gay?” and Bromstad answered “Yes,” which by that time was much more acceptable.
He says, “I came out in confidence in 2006, which means that I finally accepted myself for who I was and loved myself for who I was…it was a struggle for me…as it went against everything I was raised to believe. So it took me ten years to understand that I am an amazing human being no matter what.”
Now he says, “The dork, dweeb, nerd, the unique, those are the people who rule the world!” These days the first thing his fans always want to know is “What’s with all those tattoos?”
Covered with them, his addiction began when he was 23 with his first “tatt,” a dragonfly. “The dragonfly is my spirit animal,” he explains, and while for some of us it is simply an insect with big eyes, in the spiritual realm it is a symbol of change and transformation. For Bromstad it is also a reminder to shed more light and joy in your life, very much his personal holy grail. He designs and draws each of the images and has the tattoo artist transfer it to his skin. A bold rainbow flag surrounds his right calf next to a big LOVE. The date of his birth, 1973, is proudly inked large in the center of his body. The tiger on his neck? He tells me: “Since I’m a Leo I’m a fan of all large cats. They represent bravery, strength, valor and they look really cool.” Is there a tattoo on his butt? “Not yet!” he says.
Bromstad is 6’1 and fit, works out when he can, and doesn’t often eat in restaurants, except, of course, for brunch. In Orlando it’s HÄOS. “It’s the best, owned by a lesbian and filled with high-energy entertainment: comedians in drag, acoustic live music, “Qxeen” comedy, “…it’s not a place for relaxing. It’s a place that brings happiness,” that sentiment is always high on Bromstad’s agenda. Look at his outfits: early shows reveal him in simple white or pastel t-shirts—okay, maybe tees with a pocket—and blue jeans, but lately, no blah in his color choices. His style is the same in dress as in interiors, intense drama head to toe, flamboyance in spades. Here he is in red tights, black V-neck shirt, or maybe a multicolor fake-fur jacket or a wild-side shirt with art school images, or simple white pants and a dramatic orange scarf. Purple, sure. Accessories, yes. Rings on every finger and a necklace or two, or three. He doesn’t spend a lot on clothes, shops online. “I love to shop, shop, shop!” Some of his go to merchants are Rafu and Fashion Nova, and each colorful, distinctive item is worn just once.
He presents as a life-of-the-party type with a quip and laugh every ten seconds, ready to wow his audience, but he wants the world to know the real David Bromstad. Half extrovert, and the other half solitary homebody who needs time alone, space to be quiet, to reflect, the private one no one sees.
Either way, you’d trust him with your heart or your passwords; you’d want him not only to give advice on wall colors, towels, and kitchen counters, but also to move in next door and definitely throw you some love.