Bravo’s Million Dollar Decorators, whose finale is July 19, provides a peek inside the houses of the show’s biggest industry clients, from Ellen Pompeo and David Mamet to incoming NBC entertainment exec Jennifer Nicholson Salke.
The Clients: Christina Aguilera, Cher, Elton John, Ellen Pompeo, Aaron Sorkin
When Ellen Pompeo needed some help decorating her 1920s Spanish-style home, the obvious solution was to turn to her then-neighbor, interior designer Martyn Lawrence-Bullard. During the course of six months, he helped the Grey’s Anatomy star create a laid-back Moroccan oasis at her Hollywood Hills house, complete with massive African wall hangings, vintage dhurrie rugs and a renewed focus on the property’s Moorish-style architectural arches.
“I wanted my first house to really be all about being casual, and I love his design style,” she says. A new mom, the married Pompeo is now moving into bigger hillside digs, but their collaboration continues. “This is a bigger house, so Martyn and I have more room to play,” she adds.
Lawrence-Bullard, who boasts such clients as Cher, Aaron Sorkin, Christina Aguilera and CAA’s Nick Styne, has been seen in season one of the Bravo reality show working with Sharon Osbourne on her L.A. condo and Daisy Fuentes on redoing her living room.
“Nobody else had the access I did,” says the designer, by far the most flamboyant character on the show. (“If I get really wound up, I manage to raise my heavily Botoxed eyebrow and scare everybody,” he quips in one episode.) But even if Lawrence-Bullard, who came to L.A. nearly two decades ago to pursue acting, is all about design bravado and air-kissing, he is also willing to reveal the behind-the-scenes realities of A-list decorating: “They’ll show my housekeeper helping me pack to go to Paris, and then two hours later you see me scrubbing the floors of a client’s house. Ultimately, this is a service industry.”
The Clients: Renee Zellweger, Jennifer Nicholson Salke, Ryan Murphy, Ellen Goldsmith-Vein
Mary McDonald is known for pushing projects into dramatic territory -- like an all-leopard-print room. But she’s versatile enough to give a traditional interior just the right contemporary edge. “She’ll take chances, but I also know it will always be within the parameters of great taste,” says Twentieth TV’s Jennifer Nicholson Salke, who is set to join Bob Greenblatt at NBC. She hired the designer nearly six years ago to redo her Beverly Hills house, where she lives with husband and Fox21 president Bert Salke and their three children. McDonald did the black-shuttered residence, built in 1936, in warm neutrals and chocolates with such flourishes as a real-zebra ottoman. The Brentwood-born McDonald has known many of her clients, Nicholson Salke included, since her teenage years. As for diving into reality TV, the designer, who comes off as alternately imperious and screwball, says: “So far, it’s been a blast.”
The Clients: Adrian Grenier, Ione Skye and Ben Lee, Carol Goll, Amanda Peet
With an inherent sense of laid-back California chic, Nathan Turner is often the go-to decorator for clients seeking a reprieve from high-gloss perfection. “There’s nothing fussy about him,” says actress Ione Skye. “Sometimes the world of interior design can be intimidating, like it’s going to be uptight, but not with Nathan. He creates these spaces that you can actually live in.” That includes her Case Study House in Laurel Canyon, which she shares with her musician husband, Ben Lee, and two daughters. Skye says Turner turned the space into a colorful oasis that’s “kind of English and French country meets California.”
On the show, Turner -- who owns an eponymous West Hollywood antiques shop and is a regular design expert on the channel Planet Green -- has been seen working on what he calls “a total bohemian fantasy house in Laguna Beach.” But unlike most of the other designers, he hasn’t let cameras into his home. Says Turner: “My store is truly an extension of my home, but that’s as far as people are getting.”
Jeffrey Alan Marks
The Clients: Amber Valletta, Gillian Anderson, Paul Reiser, Jack Bender
Former models Jeffrey Alan Marks and Ross Cassidy of Jeffrey Alan Marks Interior Design are partners at home and in the office, which means their onscreen drama involves domestic issues and design questions. “It’s usually me who’s the bad cop at work,” says Cassidy, who in episode one resoundingly rejected a fabric sample made by Lawrence-Bullard with a total flick of the wrist.
TV director Jack Bender (Lost, Alias) hired Marks, the softer-spoken of the pair, more than three years ago to design his country-style Brentwood house that was previously owned by Angela Lansbury. “I’m also a painter and a sculptor, and Jeffrey’s really supportive of my art,” says Bender. “My stuff can be pretty funky, but Jeffrey has this way of working that goes from the extremely elegant to the pretty out-there. He can find the beauty in both.”
On the show, the designers toggle among a Spanish-style La Jolla home, a modern Hollywood Hills house and Santa Monica’s new Hungry Cat restaurant. “I’m pretty calm and relaxed,” says Marks, who opened his firm 15 years ago. “But by the end of the season, I have a complete on-air meltdown.”
The Clients: Steve Martin, David Mamet, Caroline Kennedy, Robert Zemeckis, Julia Louis-Dreyfus
David Mamet experienced Kathryn Ireland’s design sensibility before he hired the England-born decorator to renovate his 3,500-square-foot, four-bedroom Cape Cod-style house in Santa Monica. For two summers, Mamet and his wife, actress Rebecca Pidgeon, stayed with Ireland in her French country home, the interiors of which are documented in her new book Summers in France.
“They loved that house so much that they ended up buying a place down the road from mine and had me work on it,” says Ireland. While she redid the bathrooms and installed Arts-and-Crafts-style cabinets and dark-gray-and-white checkerboard floors in the kitchen, she also incorporated many of the couple’s own furniture pieces into the decor. “It feels like you are going into the country in Connecticut,” says Ireland, who recovered many of the pieces in her own line of boho-chic textiles. Says Mamet: “I love Kathryn’s fabric so much, I want to wrap my wife and children in them.”