Chris Hyndman of CBC's 'Steven and Chris' has died
Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, August 4, 2015 12:29PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, August 4, 2015 6:04PM EDT
TORONTO -- Design personality Chris Hyndman, an accidental TV star best known for his on-screen and off-screen partnership with fellow decorator and husband Steven Sabados, has died.
CBC announced the news Tuesday and took the duo's daily lifestyle series "Steven and Chris" off the air out of respect for Hyndman's friends and family. Hyndman was 49.
His sudden passing drew condolences from famous colleagues across the industry, including good friend Jeanne Beker who called Hyndman one of her closest friends.
"When my marriage broke up in 1998 Chris scraped me off the floor," an emotional Beker recounted by phone from New York.
"I was so extremely depressed, and he would come over to my house every night after the gym in his little baseball cap and a pizza under his arm and we'd sit there and he'd tell me how I had to go on living for my kids, for my girls who were just eight and 10 at the time. And he was just like my best friend, my closest confidant, certainly my closest guy friend."
CBC reported that Hyndman was found without vital signs late Monday in an alleyway just east of Toronto's downtown core.
A Toronto Police spokeswoman would not confirm the report, citing privacy concerns and the fact there was no ongoing criminal investigation.
Fellow design couple Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan said in an email to The Canadian Press that they were "beyond saddened" and could "hardly comprehend the news."
"Canada, and the design fraternity, has lost an integral part of its community," the Scottish decorators stated.
Designer Sarah Richardson added by email: "I knew him as charming, charismatic and full of life. I'm so sorry for Steven's loss."
Along with Sabados, Hyndman brought everyday style to Canadians in a number of series, including their HGTV shows "Designer Guys" and "Design Rivals" and the makeover program "So Chic with Steven and Chris" on Slice.
The duo played up an odd couple persona that proved to be a winning formula -- Hyndman as the joker, with the more straitlaced Sabados providing a more pragmatic eye.
"Designer Guys" creator and executive producer Mary Darling recalled Hyndman was initially shy to take the spotlight. When Sabados auditioned for the show Hyndman hung back.
"Chris was just there as Steven's business partner, he didn't come to audition for the show and throughout the day we asked, 'Would you audition? We think you'd be great,"' said Darling, reached Tuesday in Fairbanks, Alaska.
"He was so nervous that he wouldn't do it until everybody else left. And then when he auditioned, he would only look at me. And thank goodness Steven had other clothes because he was so nervous he went through the shirts. But he was good, he was just naturally good."
Beker traced her friendship with Hyndman back to the '90s when he was working behind a makeup counter at Hudson's Bay Co. He soon became her makeup artist at CityTV.
"And then he started talking to me about his fabulous boyfriend who was an artist but also wanted to do faux finishes and how could we get him onto 'Cityline,"' she recalls. "And that was Steven."
"Chris was very much the force behind Steven. Steven was more of the shy one initially and Chris was really adamant about pushing Steven's career and especially his TV career. And when they said, 'Hey you guys are great together why don't we put you on together?' Chris was 'Really? Should I? I don't know."'
Suzanne Dimma, Editor-in-Chief of House & Home magazine and host of the defunct design series "The Style Dept.", credited Hyndman and Sabados with making design approachable for average viewers.
"They really had one of the first hit shows that kind of made design seem fun and relatable," said Dimma, who also knew the couple socially.
"It sort of broke through the barriers of the design world which can be intimidating to a lot of people."
"Property Brothers" co-star Drew Scott said he and his brother Jonathan took inspiration from Hyndman and Sabados.
"No one can deny that they definitely set the standards for design with a lot of shows," Drew said by phone from Westchester County, N.Y., adding that Hyndman was "the life of the party.
"They were great at what they do. They both have great design eyes. I think a lot of people when they think of design they think of one of their shows."
Dimma also credited the couple with subtly platforming gay issues by being open about their personal relationship and inviting mainstream Canada to get a glimpse of their life.
Beker says they opened up about their relationship "with great trepidation," noting they weren't so transparent when they first started appearing on television.
"It took a while but it was great to see them blazing those trails," she said.
In 2007, Hyndman and Sabados launched their own line of furniture, textiles, decorative accessories and area rugs. They launched the "Steven and Chris" talk show in January 2008, focusing on home decor, entertaining and fashion.
Marilyn Denis of CTV's "The Marilyn Denis Show" said she was "heartbroken to hear that this lively soul is no longer with us."
"He had big plans and dreams and I was so happy to see them become a reality. His energy and enthusiasm was contagious," Denis said by email.
-- With files from Lauren La Rose