Like many things in life, it all started with one question. Decorator walked into the master bedroom of my old apartment, took one look around, and confronted me: "You are the executive producer of , the most 'Get it done' and 'Make it happen' person I know. Why does this room look like a hellhole?" After years of listening to Oprah tell viewers, "Your home should rise up to meet you," it appeared that my home was, in fact, lying facedown in the gutter.
Working 14 hours a day and being mother to two delightful boys and wife to my fantastic husband meant that "me" time was—and still is—at a premium. I was overwhelmed, stretched as thin as a wafer, and apparently, creating a dream home hadn't made it onto my to-do list.
One thing I had made time for, a few years earlier, was buying a place in a supremely beautiful circa-1927 Beaux Arts building in Chicago listed on the . Our apartment was right on Lincoln Park, with perfect views of Lake Michigan, and was absolutely home sweet home. The building staff is like family (the guys who run the garage even have secret handshakes with our kids). But within a few years we were bursting at the seams. Knowing we needed more space, we halfheartedly made the rounds with a real-estate agent. We looked, but nothing rocked our world.
Then came another life-altering question: my BFF and nextdoor neighbor, decorator , walked into my kitchen and said, "Did you hear that the two apartments upstairs are for sale?" Needless to say, we jumped on it. So long, hellhole; hello, full-floor conversion. After hiring the talented architects , we embarked on what turned out to be a 20-month renovation.
In my career as a television producer, I have overseen hundreds of "voilà" TV makeovers, those magical transformations where you leave your house and come home to a completely redone space. Is that what I wanted for myself? Not a chance. My entire adult life I have been the in-control producer who doesn't know how to let go and turn anything over. My perfect apartment would look like Twiggy, Ralph Lauren, and Babe Paley were roomies, pitching in to save on rent. (A ridiculous notion, yes. Can you imagine? The problem was, I could.) But how do you explain to a decorator: I'm looking for part Hollywood Regency, flea market, midcentury French, modern, granny chic, beachy, and English club? So I turned to the two decorators who had uttered the questions that started this whole ball rolling: Nate Berkus and Anne Coyle.
I wanted the best each had to offer. Anne shares my love of girly-girl crystal, things old and glittery, pretty colors, David Hicks, glam femininity, Venetian mirrors (I'm at capacity with five), Baguès chandeliers and sconces (one or the other is in almost every room), and monograms (towels, bedding, even doorknobs). Nate brought his honed renovating skills and his sophisticated masculinity, which works so well for a house full of boys—clean, classic lines (see kitchen), neutral palettes (see master bath), and an appreciation for vintage (see everywhere). In the living room, especially, my decorating multiple personalities needed design therapy. We found a way for three distinct sofas to coexist: one for Twiggy (groovy, tufted, lavender), one for Mr. Lauren (clubby, black), and one for Ms. Paley (a Directoire-style settee). We even morphed our shared vacations into search-and-acquire missions.
I wanted an apartment not so precious that my boys couldn't live in it without me freaking out, a fireplace in as many rooms as possible (the one in our bedroom is my favorite), and a master bathroom big enough to share with my husband. Conventional wisdom has it that the secret to a good marriage is separate baths. Not for us. Ours is where we get together every morning before the craziness of the day starts. It's extra large (my husband is six foot six, and his only requests were a tall shower and heated floors). We were both obsessed with the panels of marble in the showers at Claridge's hotel in London, so we installed the same pattern in ours, bringing home a happy memory.
Above all, what I didn't want was a place devoid of any trace of my family and me. Now every drawer pull, light fixture, and object has meaning. Wherever I look, there's an evocation of some place, some thing, someone that makes my heart skip. My decorating process was unconventional, but in the end it was perfect. Every day when I come home and see the antique black-marble fireplace chosen by my friend Fernando Bengoechea, the gifted photographer who lost his life in the tsunami in Sri Lanka, it's a reminder of what's important. Away goes my BlackBerry and the 45 phone messages. Time to shoot some hoops with my dear boys. They, too, had their own burning question: "Mom, instead of a guest room, can we have a basketball court?"