Erik Hyman and Max Mutchnick's Tudor-style mansion in Beverly Hills used to belong to Pete Sampras. During his Grand Slam reign, the tennis star prac- ticed on the championship court on the property. "It's tragically underused," Mutchnick admits. "In the shadow of Mr. Sampras, we don't feel worthy." Today, the court serves another athletic purpose, as a tricycle racetrack for the couple's three-year-old twin daughters, Evan and Rose.
Even before Sampras, the estate had celebrity chops. It was built in the 1930s for the son of John Clum, a Federal Indian agent who captured Geronimo and was a close friend of Wyatt Earp. The current homeowners work in L.A.'s most famous business: Hyman is an entertainment lawyer, and Mutchnick is a writer and producer who cocreated the hit TV series Will & Grace. Even their decorator, , has fame in her blood: Her father was one of the Ritz Brothers, a comedy trio that starred in such films as The Goldwyn Follies.
What attracted the pair to the property in the first place was what they call "the backyard." Renovated with the help of landscape designer William Shapiro, the grounds feature huge old-growth trees, an oval pool, and a tropical garden.
The inside of the house was another story. "It didn't function very well," says architectural designer Tim Campbell, who handled the renovation. He removed two staff bedrooms, a staircase, and a corridor to create a family room that's adjacent to a spectacular sunroom—a covered porch that was enclosed by the Samprases and retains its original brick flooring.
Brightening up the place was their main concern. "It was dark and heavy looking," says Hyman. "We wanted a light, crisp, urban home—a little edgy but comfortable." Campbell's solution was simple: He painted the dark walnut paneling white.
When it came to the decor, there was never a question of work- ing with anyone but Ritz. Neither she nor Mutchnick can remember just how many houses they've done together (six or seven). Their first meeting was in 1996, when Ritz interviewed for the position of set decorator on Mutchnick's debut sitcom, Boston Common. Since then, she's worked on almost every TV show he's produced. "Melinda and I understand each other to the point where we don't have to say much. I trust her implicitly," says Mutchnick. "She always gets it right."
Here, though, she also had to take into account Hyman's aesthetic. "Erik is more of a modernist, while I believe that more is more," adds Mutchnick. "I'll notice that a nook is naked. Then, as soon as he goes to bed, I get all the stuff and put it back."
The look Ritz wanted to create was of a tony London social club. There are leather chairs, antiqued oak floors, and a master bath modeled on a barbershop. She was told she could use any color "as long as it's gray, brown, white, or black," she remembers. But she managed to break some rules. The library, for instance, has a red-felt ceiling. She also added some wonderful finds. The Christofle meat server in the dining room was used on the set of Titanic. Hyman brought along a half-dozen striking images by the late Herb Ritts, his former partner.
The couple are avid entertainers, but the most memorable event they ever hosted was their wedding. It was held in the garden just a few days before same-sex marriage was made illegal in California. Mutchnick had to turn off the fountain so everyone could hear the soft-spoken rabbi. They combined the wedding with their children's naming ceremony. "As a result," says Hyman, "there's a lot of significance to the house."
And make sure to see another Will & Grace star's home: Megan Mullally's Hollywood haven