Chris Hyndman’s death is a loss to the national family

He was one half of a pop-culture pair like Nick and Nora or Sonny and Cher—a couple who were as charming off the screen as they were on it

Steven Sabados and Chris Hyndman in Toronto  George Pimentel/IMG/Getty Images

Steven Sabados (left) and Chris Hyndman in Toronto. (George Pimentel/IMG/Getty Images)

This morning’s news that Chris Hyndman had died at age 49 met with a national gasp of shock followed by disbelief and sorrow. Social media tributes poured in for the Ottawa-born, Newfoundland-raised Hyndman, a household name as the irrepressible half of design/lifestyle duo everyone knew as “Steven and Chris.” He’d  joked, mugged and charmed his way into the hearts of millions since the pair burst on the scene as the stylish-yet-friendly Designer Guys, which was also the name of their HGTV makeover show that debuted in 2001.

For the past eight years, the couple had brandished their signature style and chemistry as co-hosts of CBC-TV’s afternoon lifestyle show, Steven and Chris. Like all famous pop-culture couples, from Nick and Nora to Sonny and Cher, they knew their roles: Sabados was the focused, practical, hard-working one, Hyndman, the self-deprecating, avowed scatterbrain who emanated joy and delight with every breath he took.

Chuck Thompson, head of public affairs at CBC English services, announced Hyndman’s death this morning. Few details have been released. Toronto Police confirmed his body was found in a Toronto alley last night. No cause of death has been given; there is no ongoing criminal investigation.

Intensifying the sense of loss is the fact that Hyndman was half of a beloved professional-personal duo, a rare occurrence in Canadian popular culture. The two men had been together since meeting in a Toronto bar in 1988 when both worked for CityTV, Hyndman as a makeup artist. They moved in together three months later. Their design company, the Sabados Group, was founded in 1992. But TV, beginning with appearances on CityTV, was their calling. Designer Guys was followed by Design Rivals and So Chic with Steven and Chris.

I interviewed the pair for a magazine profile a decade ago, a process that involved hanging around with them for a couple of days. They were as charming and entertaining off-screen as they are on. What struck me most, though, was their thoughtfulness and kindness—and the mutual affection and respect they had for one another. It was that, as much as their acumen in selecting ebony flooring and sectionals, that underlied their huge popularity.

That Steven and Chris were gay was a fact, never a billboard; they didn’t come out openly as a couple until 2008, which, in its own way, became a political statement. In a 2013 profile of the two by Xtra, a now defunct Toronto gay newsmagazine, they were called “Canada’s gay-lifestyle-TV guru couple.” In it, Hyndman recalled getting hate mail from the community for not being more open. It hurt him, he said. In the same story, both men discussed being bullied as children. “When I was a little kid living in St John’s, suicide was on my mind a lot, because I had nowhere to go when I was 12, 13, 14, to talk about it,” Hyndman said.

The couple returned yesterday from Barbados, a holiday captured on Instagram. The caption on the couple’s last post, a photograph of their outdoor terrace taken last evening, is lovely and now heartbreaking: “Happy to be home to see the patio in full bloom.”


Chris Hyndman’s death is a loss to the national family

  1. ‘Found in a Toronto alley’, is a unnecessary way to described the scenario. It would have given many people pause. Why could you not have added that he was found in the alley, directly below the balcony of his own condo? To have minimised the details, just to compound the shock to your readers is very poor journalism (imho).
    Chris, if this is something you chose yourself, then I pray you are now free of the awful pain and turmoil you must have been in. Peace and blessings to all your loved ones.

    • I don’t think the journalist’s intentions were to use the details of his death, or to withhold details, as any sort of device. But rather to highlight his life, rather than his passing. It doesn’t matter how he died, not in the context of this article. What matters is how he lived his life, what impact he made and how he made others feeling around him.

  2. the “national family ” what????

  3. Oh please – the national family? Hardly. He was a talk show host and while engaging and probably a very nice person that is ALL it is. It is heartbreaking for his spouse and sad for those fans that were devoted to his shows. It is a loss for CBC (who seems to be losing many of its personalities) but that is all.

    • One wonders about someone who is so mean spirited and negative that you need to make a comment like this. You come off so arrogant as though how could a “mere talk show host” create such an impact. Well go on the internet , go down to the cbc studios and just ask around and you will find out that lots of people were shocked and saddened by Chris’ loss. I’m sure you must have your nose in the economist or some other scholarly journal up there on your pedestal and need to look down at us mere mortals. Then you would realize that many Canadians bonded around the water cooler talking about the Designer Guys episodes or the Steven and Chris show. To many people these guys were in their living room every day and are like “family”. Why you feel a need to tell us all to “just get over it” is a sad comment on your lack of ability to show empathy . No matter how Chris died—it is a great loss and very sad. Did your mother never tell you that if you can’t say something nice about someone, say nothing at all. Mine did but sometimes you just need to put someone in their place and I felt like doing that today.

  4. I often watched Stephen and Chris. He made me laugh, he made me happy. He seemed to genuinely love everybody, and he actually did. I will greatly miss seeing him on my screen.

    I take this opportunity to mention the death of Jon Vickers on July 10 in Toronto, a loss to the national and international families of opera fans which has sadly gone unnoticed at Macleans’. Mr. Vickers was a world famous tenor and powerful actor known for a wide range of roles in German, Italian and French operas. He was a Companion of the Order of Canada, and received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada’s highest honours in the performing arts.

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