& Living

By Smart Designs


By Phenomgirl  /  June 10, 2019

The sibling duo are adepts in their respective crafts. Jazz Smollett-Warwell is an experienced lifestyle expert and a dessert connoisseur.  Jake uses his carpenter tools to carve and build beautiful pieces of furniture for the lucky guests whose homes they redesign...And yes, Jake also knows how to throw down in the kitchen. The Smollettes credit their Mom, Janet for igniting their passion for carpentry and cooking.   The skills passed down from mom to children are executed in #Living By Design, an exciting and popular show on Cleo TV, the brand new sister network of  TV One. Sister and brother team up to bring joy to young working millennials lives by helping them solve home design predicaments.  Most importantly, at the end of each episode, guests get to savor a delicious meal with cocktails prepared for them by Jazz and Jake. Looking for your home space to get rejuvenated? Read on...find out how Jazz and Jake get the job done.  

Jazz & Jake


How did the idea

for the show

"Living By Design" originated?

Jazz:  We were on another show presenting our cookbook last year.  Rochelle Brown, of Powerhouse Productions was consulting on that same show.  She approached, and pitched to us a concept of doing a design and cooking show.  Things just took off from there.  Jake and I have creative input which was important.  The premise of the show is to work with our guests to live their best life by creating a safe haven within their new living space--whatever size it may be. We tailor each design to be a reflection of each individual personality.   This represents a celebration of the next chapter unfolding in their lives. We completed 16 inspiring stories, mostly millennial women of color. There were a couple guys thrown in there. They're out here in LA, doing their thing, and haven't had the time or don't know how to make their dwellings, work and play spaces feel like their own. That's where Jake and I come in--to show them how.

Designing and food.

How do these

two things go together? 

Jake:  After meeting and getting to know our guests, Jazz and I discuss the redesign for the spaces. Jazz gives me ideas of which specific custom piece that I either need to build or refurbish for each episode and place. After building the furniture and decorating, we cook a meal and reveal. It's really a cool method on how we present the makeover.  We mix up cocktails, cook a tasty meal with mouth-watering desserts, and have a party. It's the best of both worlds.


Jazz:  The way that those things go together is that it's all bringing out your creative process and expressing who you are. So we delve into who each person is behind the scenes, so that we can create the design and a meal that relates to their personality. Food is all about celebration and not just about nourishment. It's culturally about celebrating the events occurring in their lives and in a place they've come to call a sanctuary.

What's the casting 

process for the show? 

Jake:  Fans can log onto mycleotv.com for updates.  The show is a lot of fun, we all have a great time. We've heard from past guests that being on the show has had an affect on their lives. They're motivated and have kicked up the pace on their daily grind since their living space redesign.  

What do you think folks who come on the show

are trying to accomplish?

Jazz:  Whether it's a stay-at-home mom, a new job hire, or someone who works from home; time may not have permitted folks to put in the work to decorate.  It's pure enjoyment for them and for us to have their space done in a way that they didn't necessarily think of. Or, they may have had all these ideas and didn't know how to pull it off. 

Is there a budget for the

show and where do you shop?

Jazz:  Millennians starting out in new jobs or moved to a different zip code will have a budget to pay bills, buy food, clothes, etc.  So, the show has a reasonable budget that reflects what the guests are able to afford; in terms of purchasing affordable items which we get from online thrift shops.

Is decorating a smaller

space more challenging? 

Jazz:    In some ways it's simpler because with a tight budget, you're just focused on that space.  But at the same time, it can be more challenging because we really have to make sure that whatever we have in that that space, are things you cannot live without it.   It has to be well thought out – not putting things that don't fit in the space.

What's the best advice

to make a small

space look larger? 

Jazz:  Use mirrors, hang light curtains at the windows and use light paint. Affix art on the walls and breakup the space with colors, such as laying down full size carpets.


Jake:  Jazz gave a good tip on the first episode: You can make your place look more brighter by hanging your curtains rods at the windows a little higher than usual.  Let your curtains "kiss the floor". This method gives a "floor to ceiling windows" dramatic effect which makes the room appears bigger, and the ceilings higher.

Jake, you and mom started

building tables together? 

Jake:  We did. I was the helper. Our mom built all of our tables and beds. Pretty much all the wood furnitures.  Cooking and building furnitures started out as a necessity, because we didn't have money.  I learned from her how to construct things---look at a picture of a table and be able to build it.  My passion for cooking and building spilled over into my adult life.  It's rewarding to be able to showcase the two things I love on the show.  Mom and I  continue to enjoy building furnitures together. 


Jazz:  I was more into decorating tables or organizing parties.  I did a lot of DIYs like sewing, working with fabrics, creating throw pillows, things of that nature. 


How did you find your

way around the kitchen?

Jazz:  I was three years old when I started helping out in the kitchen making turkey for Thanksgiving. My mom loves cooking. Our grandmother was a single mom and was working in other people's kitchens and homes all the time. My mom and her siblings cooked a lot, and my mom just passed that on to her children. 

You both co-authored and published, "The Family Table Cookbook,"

which lists over 100 recipes.

Is there another book coming soon?

Jazz:  It was time-consuming, but I think we would definitely do it again.  It was a labor of love, challenging and I enjoyed working with my family on the book.  We had a long list of recipes which had to be edited and cut down.

Jake:  That one was fun because we did 130 recipes that all had a significant meaning to us growing up. Putting the book together took us down memory lane.  We recalled the meals we prepared for birthdays and holidays; which recipes was our favorite and which ones we didn't like at all.

Being creative with your hands

to cook and build is considered 

some sort of therapy? 

Jake:  There's so much artistic expression:  thinking, building, and designing. It's definitely therapeutic to work with wood using your hands.  I think that creating something out of what was once a tree is just spiritual to me.

Jazz:  It's therapeutic for me too. I love the creative process of making desserts.  It's not just the scientific measurements part.  It's mixing and adding unique flavors when preparing desserts and creating something new.  For instance, using flavors to bake a rosewater pound cake. Presentation is the part that I love!  Plating the food, making it visually appetizing and of course everything tasting delicious!  Designing to me is telling a story. It's a narrative of each individual lives who we're designing for, and it's fun because we get to dig into who they are, so we have to respect their space. It's similar to putting together a story in a theatrical play.

Is there's an interior decorator 

and a master chef in all of us? 

Jazz:  I think that everyone has different strengths, creativity and stripes.  We've done spaces for artists who didn't know what to do with their space, but they're beautiful visual artists. It's a different part of the creative process. I think that anyone can represent a visual artist.  But not everyone can hone the part of interior design or cooking, I do think each person has a particular strength in the creative art. 

After investing your time creating beautiful spaces, 

what's the payoff for both of you in the end when you

see your guests faces light up and they become emotional? 

Jake:  The payoff for me is more than upgrading their space. It's what they say to us off-camera. This is more than an upgrade.  It's tackling something in their lives that they had put on the back-burner. It's really the stories for me.  We've had so many touching stories in 16 episodes.


Jazz:  I loved that part of it too. It's that initial reaction of their excitement. Seeing their faces light up. It's palpable, contagious and so inspiring. When the cameras are off they would express their gratitude even more by saying, "Oh my gosh, how could anyone do this for me", or "This is going to be so much easier for me to come home to", or "This is so inspiring." That really is the payoff, just how happy they are with the new space.

Living By Design with Jake & Jazz air Saturdays at 12/11c on Cleo TV. Check your local listings.


Look out for Season 2 of Living By Design By Jake And Jazz when it debuts in Fall 2019. Log on to mycleotv.com for more info.  

Book:  The Family Table: Recipes and Moments from a Nomadic Life (Harper Collins).




Photos by @Erikumphery


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