As a gay couple with prominent visibility in the media, interior design duo Colin and Justin believe they have a duty to speak up for those who are unable to speak for themselves. From philanthropic partnerships to a focus on elevating the voices of others, it’s a commitment that is evident in all their endeavors.
Ask Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan what’s missing from many homes, and they’ll tell you it’s the ‘fun factor.’ If you’re familiar with the celebrity interior design duo, known collectively as Colin & Justin, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. As style commentators, television hosts, and bestselling authors, it’s part of their job to travel the world, meet new people, and, most importantly, spread positivity.
“We try to be our best selves and let other people benefit from being around our positivity and support,” says McAllister. This cheery outlook is central to all that Colin & Justin do. “It’s important to give back, especially if life has given so much,” he adds.
Born in Scotland and dividing their time between the UK and Canada, you’ll likely recognize Colin & Justin from many television shows that shown around the world. From Colin and Justin’s Cabin Pressure, Game of Homes, Colin and Justin’s Home Heist, and BBC’s The Million Pound Property Experiment, this dynamic duo shows no signs of stopping. They are also regular guests on Canada’s popular lifestyle show, CityLine. As though this doesn’t keep them busy enough, you’ll find the all-round style gurus interviewing A-List celebrities on Hollywood red carpets for Citytv and writing columns for The Toronto Sun and The Huffington Post, among others. They’ve published three bestselling books with another one releasing in 2020.
Despite their hectic work schedules, Colin & Justin are committed to giving back to various communities through philanthropic activities and initiatives. They also recognize the importance of being a gay couple with prominent visibility in the media.
“We try to be our best selves and let other people benefit from being around our positivity and support”
– Colin McAllister
“Equality is a small word for a huge issue,” explains McAllister. “In an ideal world, we’d all have equal rights, an equal voice, and equal opportunities for betterment.” Until that day, the duo is committed to elevating the voices of others, including those in the LGBTQ+ community.
“We think that everyone who has a voice has to speak up for those who can’t,” says Ryan. “We try to help various charities, we provide a platform to share information on behalf of others, and we try and help amplify other peoples’ messages. The more voices you have, the louder the choir!” One organization they work with is Eva’s Initiatives, a Toronto-based charity that supports homeless and at-risk youth through life skills and harm reduction programs.
Colin & Justin genuinely hope that people will hold their individuality close and build a strong sense of self-pride. Although the world isn’t there yet, they see improvements every day.
“People often ask us when we came out, but to be honest, we were never really in the closet. We’re fortunate to find ourselves surrounded by supportive family and friends who’ve never made a big deal out of our sexuality,” says Ryan. Neither McAllister nor Ryan have felt like they had to ask permission to be who they were born to be.
JUSTIN’S SHOES: BOSS CHELSEA
COLIN’S SHOES: TOD’S BOOTS
“Sure, we live as a visible gay couple, but we just get on with our daily lives, and that, for us certainly, is what equality is all about,” says McAllister. “We recognize, of course, that for some people, it’s not that easy. We hope our publicly visible existence helps and encourages others towards their best selves. We want everyone to enjoy equal rights — in pay, work, and attitudes.”
Colin & Justin know they’re positively impacting the world by merely being themselves. Growing up in Glasgow, McAllister was bullied and singled out for being different. “It hurt at the time, but I came to realize that I really must have stood out to have attracted much attention. Who wants to be anonymous?” he says with pride. “I’ve always put my energies into people who promote me, who celebrate me, and, well, people I want to be with.” He adds that as a couple, they’ve always been themselves: “A gay Scottish couple who love each other, our kitties Beamer and Brutus Small, and our family and friends. We both realized, a long time ago, that there’s little point trying to be someone else, so just be you!”
COLIN’S SHOES: BOSS CHELSEA
JUSTIN’S SHOES: HENDERSON SNEAKERS
As a busy couple who have been together for more than 30 years, Colin & Justin know the importance of prioritizing downtime together. “We need to recognize when to put the business side of our existence to bed, so we can properly enjoy the couple side of our relationship. We like eating out and going to the cinema, and we adore every opportunity we get to hang at our cottage to decompress. Seriously: swapping suits for sweats is like taking off our design superhero outfits, right?” jokes Ryan.
To Colin & Justin, interior design is about creating a place that is personal, practical, and beautiful so that the occupants can be their best, their most authentic, and their happiest selves. “Our role is to elevate the home — to personalize it, and put the ‘pleasure factor’ back,” says Ryan. From bit parts in movies, modeling in fashion shows, and gracing the covers of Harlequin romance novels, they have indeed had a varied career. “Blimey, we’ve surprised ourselves along the way!” says Ryan. McAllister says fans would be surprised that he’s a 1970’s disco music aficionado and major sci-fi nerd while Ryan speaks fluent French.
“We think that everyone who has a voice has to speak up for those who can’t,”
– Justin Ryan
So what’s next for Colin & Justin? In short, a lot! Their fourth book, to be released in Fall 2020, is all about escape. “It’ll be crammed full of homes whose occupants have left the city behind, and people who connect with nature, if only on weekends,” says Ryan. “The emphasis will be on achieving that kind of atmosphere wherever you live. So even if you don’t plan on leaving the city (or for that matter the suburbs), our book will help you achieve that elusive atmosphere.”
“We love the ‘city meets the country’ trend,” adds McAllister. “You know, the way that timber and natural elements are merged frequently in metropolitan homes and how concrete, glass, and steel are now finding their way into rural retreats.”
The pair are currently developing new TV shows, one for Canada and one for Britain, and building their product collection further with a dedicated outdoor-inspired home collection. Expect an abundance of plaids, tartans, timber, and stone, all wrapped up in a collection that’s all about new luxury — a luxury that’s rewarding, friendly, and cohesive with the elements of nature.
Part of Colin & Justin’s approach is carefully curating affordable everyday luxuries, allowing well-designed, beautiful items made available to all budgets. This is the backbone of the “Colin+Justin Home Collection,” which is available in Canada in stores such as Homesense, Winners, and Marshalls, in Australia and Britain in TK Maxx, and in America in outlets such as Homegoods.
Photo Credit: George Pimentel