New Life, Old Love is an ambitious project for the lighthearted home-renovation power couple Melissa and Rusty Tripp. Their two previous books, New York Times bestsellers The Tripp Guide to Home Décor and Small Spaces: DIY Projects to Make Any Size Home the Perfectly Sized Home, were exactly what fans of their breakout show, New Spaces, were hoping to get from the pair. But instead of remaining in the arguably safer world of home renovations, their new book, New Life, Old Love (out this week; $24.95), focuses on the couple’s twenty-five-year relationship, with honest and poignant looks at how they met, the sacrifices they made to open their home décor storefront in Jackson, Wyoming, and the various hurdles that endangered their relationship while they were building their careers.
Coming out of these obstacles, the couple writes, they always emerge stronger and with more proverbial tools in their belt. They claim they don’t fight—they negotiate. Their breakneck schedules aren’t new—Melly has always written detailed lists of goals she hopes they both achieve each week. And they don’t need breaks from each other; instead they’ve found that spending time together fuels the creative spark they need to keep their business ideas fresh.
But rather than being a book that only applies to their marriage in their circumstances, New Life, Old Love is a more powerful guide to what it means to be a partner, how to turn differences into complementary strengths, and when to listen rather than push. It’s an optimistic and engrossing read that perfectly ties in their trademark phrase—Be flexible!—with genuine advice for how to accomplish just that.
The Tripps have embarked on a West Coast tour to launch the new book, with their first stop at Barnes & Noble at the Grove. The room was packed with bloggers and VIPs, a few of them wearing Be Flexible! T-shirts and waiting for up to three hours in line to get their books signed. Playfully teasing throughout, the couple truly appeared to practice what they preach: Melissa laughed with loving exasperation at Rusty’s slew of dad jokes. Rusty gazed adoringly at his wife as she fielded questions from the audience. It was everything that megafans of the couple wanted to see, and we were able to cap off the evening with a quick Q&A with the pair.
LAW: For those out there who haven’t read your book yet, how did you get your start?
Melissa Tripp: As a couple, we met at a party during our first week of college. Early on we knew we wanted to work together, in some capacity. So we opened the furniture store in Jackson, Comb+Honey. The name is a play on structure, plus the function inside. The store was set up like a series of rooms—where Rusty built most of the furniture, and I would find amazing pieces to accentuate the design. After we were featured in the local paper, the LA Times did a story on our business in the weekend magazine, HGTV found us, and the rest is history.
LAW: When did you first know you’d done something big?
Rusty Tripp: I remember coming back from lunch one day and seeing a whole slew of news vans parked outside the store. I had to work my way past the crowd all standing in front of the display—I remember it so clearly, it was this living room display with silver accents and a sapphire-blue midcentury-style piece I’d built—I’d had this gorgeous walnut from a guy up in Billings, and never knew what to do with it until—
MT: [laughing] Honey. Stay on target.
RT: See? She keeps this train running. Anyway, the room display was breathtaking. Melly had created a waterfall feature on the wall using some river rocks from our trip to Laramie. The blues all shimmered together in this totally otherworldly way, and the people with cameras around their necks all just stood there, staring. Not even taking pictures, just staring like they’d never seen anything like it before. That was when I knew.
MT: We’d already been featured in the Casper Star-Tribune by that point—
RT: Right, so this was just before everything exploded. After the LA Times feature, everything changed. But that moment was when I knew it would.
LAW: I have to ask: What’s it like working with your spouse?
MT: Honestly? It’s amazing. I can’t imagine another life.
RT: She keeps me grounded, keeps me on task—you’ve already seen that [they laugh], and it’s true: we’re two halves of a whole.
LAW: It’s amazing how many people want to know:
Do you ever argue?
MT: You mean, how often do we negotiate? [laughs] We have disagreements, sure, but they’re the same kind of mild together-all-the-time moments that every couple has. When it comes to our business, we don’t argue. We’re in this together, and stronger when we’re a team.
LAW: So what can we expect next?
RT: Now, that we can’t tell you quite yet. But trust me, later this week y’all are in for a doozy.
Well, Rusty, as a fan of all things Tripp, I can’t wait.
Submitted by staff writer Leilani Tyler
I meet Carey in the hotel lobby at five thirty the next morning, both relieved and a little disappointed that she now seems to be dressing the part on tour. Honestly, I liked the Dolly shirt, especially when she told me about the concert where she got it, and used the phrase three sheets to the wind to explain that she was so drunk, buying the shirt is the only part she remembers. Instead she’s in a pink skirt and a white tank top … which I make an effort to not study too closely.
Pop culture would have us believe that men look at women and immediately imagine them naked. That is not always the case, actually. As far as my job is concerned, I have generally been too busy and frazzled and worried about keeping it to think about Carey as a warm-blooded woman with responsive body parts. This morning is an exception. To be fair, though, the hotel does have the air conditioning on pretty high.
Hotel. Incorrect. We are most definitely staying at a motel—a Motel 6, to be specific, and I realize I ought to be grateful for the four hours of sleep I managed on the hard, creaky mattress. The pillows were roughly as thick and supportive as construction paper; the blankets as soft and warm as rucksacks.
Carey, holding a leather notebook and a steaming Styrofoam cup, seems to correctly interpret the deep blue circles under my eyes. “Don’t blame me,” she says by way of greeting. “This trip has been booked for months. The Ritz was full, and I had, like, two hours to find something else.”
“One might assume something exists in the space between Motel 6 and the Ritz.”
“You’d think so, wouldn’t you?” she says with a sarcastically sweet smile. The sarcasm breaks and she hikes a shoulder skyward, admitting, “I was in denial and then full-fledged panic.”
“It’s Los Angeles,” I remind her. “There are approximately one billion hotel rooms.”
“Jim.” She rubs her eyes with the back of one hand and then takes a sip of coffee. “It’s too early to argue. Add me to your ‘negotiation’ spreadsheet for later.”
I repress the temptation to remind her that the early alarm, too, could have been prevented. We are scheduled to meet the Tripps at the tour bus at six thirty outside their hotel. Carey, who clearly has no sense of Los Angeles geography, booked us at the Motel 6 in Hollywood, which is about eight miles away from the Ritz-Carlton on Olympic. On an average LA weekday, this translates to an hour-long drive.
“You’re acting like we aren’t going to be in a vehicle for seven hours today anyway,” she says.
“No, I’m acting like an additional hour of sleep would be preferable to an hour in a car.”
“Come on. It wasn’t that bad.”
I give her an incredulous lift of one eyebrow.
“Seriously, it was clean and the bed was relatively comfortable, considering the price.” She reaches out to straighten a framed black-and-white print of some iconic Hollywood landmark. “It’s just a little drab and predictable. Nothing some different colors and updated furniture couldn’t fix. They could make the simplicity feel like it’s intentional. Wouldn’t take much money, either.”
She scribbles something down in her notebook before turning her attention to me, studying me in playful exasperation. “Again with the suit.”
“Have you ever heard the phrase ‘Dress for the job you want, not the job you have’?”
“Have you ever heard the word ‘highfalutin’?”
I laugh. “People actually say that?”
Ignoring me, she rolls her dilapidated suitcase toward a wall of vending machines, tucks her notebook away, and starts searching through her purse. “I’m familiar with the phrase,” she answers, finally, “but it seems like something people only say to girls.”
I follow and pick a wayward piece of lint from my sleeve. “My sister says more men should follow the advice women get.”
Whatever she’d planned to say next seems to stall in her mouth. She studies me again, open wallet in hand, but this time her eyes don’t stray from my face. “What does that mean?”
I shift a bit under the press of her attention, inexplicably unnerved. “Probably that women are always being told to behave in a way that makes everything more harmonious, productive, accessible. They’re told how to do everything from how to dress to how to smile. Men are never told to make things easier for people, but maybe they should be.”
She’s still staring. “Who are you?”’
“Who am I?”
“Why are you here?” she asks. “Why do you even have this job? Why didn’t you quit the second Robyn told you we had to go on tour? Actually, why didn’t you quit the first time Rusty asked you to get his coffee or clean his golf balls?”
I wince and press a hand to my stomach. “There’s something about that phrasing that really doesn’t work for me right now.”
She ignores this.
I watch as she carefully coaxes a handful of crinkly dollar bills into one of the vending machines. Her movements are stiff and unnatural, and I’m on the verge of offering to help her when the machine finally takes the cash. I glance away as she presses the button for a granola bar.
“Seriously, though,” she prompts, “why are you here?”