Decorating ideas to borrow from the stars

Los Angeles home of E! News anchor Giuliana

Los Angeles home of E! News anchor Giuliana DePandi Rancic and her husband, "Apprentice"-winner Bill Rancic. Rancic really did not like the uncomfortable, modern sofa that was originally in the living room. He was looking for this kind of big, deep, leather, very country-house kind of Chesterfield-y leather sofa," says Thom Filicia, the interior designer.

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There will always be a place for irresistibly indecent excess in celebrity homes. But despite the long history of rooftop helipads and living room shark tanks that we mere mortals have come to expect, there's a growing movement toward a new kind of retreat - a style that's less Hollywood, more home.

Celebrity clients "are looking for spaces that are inviting, thoughtful, personality-driven and will be a reflection of who they are," says Thom Filicia, the interior designer who worked on Jennifer Lopez's Brookville house and the host of the Style Network's "Dress My Nest." "They're not really trying to have these interiors for people to come in and be wowed - they're doing it so they can relax and enjoy their life."

The good news is that this new star style - less exciting, more inviting - is accessible to the average Jane or Joe. The trick is to straddle a fine line between nearly opposing concepts: You have to make it current but not fleeting, glamorous but not glitzy, impressive but not intimidating. It's a tall order.

One way is to use fixtures and furnishings that have their roots in traditional design yet make sense for a modern lifestyle: "It's about mixing bits of midcentury with very classic, timeless pieces and interesting artwork," Filicia says.

It's also fashionable to put a fresh face on permanent features, says Manhasset resident Stephen Fanuka, whose home renovations and custom millwork firm, Fanuka Inc., has worked on projects for Lindsay Lohan, Tony Bennett and Beyoncé Knowles. "If it has to be there, why shouldn't you make it a focal point?" asks Fanuka, who appears regularly on NBC's LX-TV's "Open House."

The new star style may be relaxed and inviting, but don't worry: The requisite touches of drool-worthy glam are still alive and well - you just have to look a little more closely to detect them. Check out how designers brought these looks to life in celebrity homes.


Sleep like Diddy's babies

If your daddy is Diddy, every day has a fairy-tale ending, thanks to a $70,000 budget and the artistic vision of Shalena Smith, celebrity nursery designer and owner of Ga Ga Designs in Los Angeles. Smith decorated this bedroom and the adjacent playroom in music mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs' New Jersey home, as well as a nursery in his house in East Hampton. The architecture and garden views from the room in which Combs' and Kim Porter's twin daughters lay their heads were particularly suited for Smith's fanciful style and signature sky mural: "It had really beautiful high vaulted ceilings and a lot of light, and we did a little garden with fairies in it. . . . I worked with the fact that when you looked out the windows, it was just beautiful landscaping, so I wanted to have that resemblance in the nursery," says Smith, who also owns Shalena Smith Interiors. The cost of the custom mural was about $15,000, says Smith.

Get the look: Choose from a selection of vinyl wall murals for $6.76 a square foot at


Make an entrance, J.Lo-style


Celeb designer Thom Filicia custom-designed this lantern - "a very modern interpretation of a traditional lantern" - for the entrance hall of Jennifer Lopez's Brookville house. "The reason we did that is . . . you have this kind of midcentury furniture mixed with a little bit of glamour, mixed with this kind of modern, but traditionally inspired piece," he says. "What's nice about the lantern is you're getting the freshness and clarity of these modern clean lines, but yet you're getting all the inspiration from very traditional pieces. . . . It feels very warm and welcoming and makes sense for the architecture, and you're creating that perfect balance." The custom fixture is available through Thom Filicia Inc. for about $10,000.

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Get the look: A bronze finish gives this contemporary fixture from Forecast a touch of the Old World. Available at for $538.


Curl up with Candace Bushnell

New York-based interior designer Susan Forristal, who owns a cottage in Amagansett, blended a Baccarat chandelier, French antiques and modern-day reproductions to create a chic yet comfy cocoon for Candace Bushnell, bestselling author of the novel "Sex and the City," on which the hit HBO series was based. "The vibe for Candace's apartment, in her words, would be 'fancy but cozy,' " says Forristal, who also decorated the East Hampton home of "Melrose Place" creator Darren Star. "We used leather - colored poufs - right along with that French furniture. They're like Moroccan leather footstools . . . a very old style from the Middle East. These were in tents in the desert," she says. "Usually they're brown or red, but here, they're pink and lavender, all these beautiful colors. It's a modern twist on a very old, traditional idea."

Get the look: You can have the same leather poufs for $265 from John Derian, in his Manhattan stores and online - that's where Forristal found them. (


The three steps to successful design


Whether you're a pop star or a PTA mom, Thom Filicia, who was on "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," says the method for creating an interior you love is the same three-step process: Look at your surroundings, at your lifestyle and in the mirror.

"Step 1 is, of course, figuring out architecturally what you're dealing with. . . . Where are you? What's your environment? Are you in L.A.? Are you in New York? In the country? In the mountains? Near the ocean?"

This is important for knowing what will and won't work in your space. "Figure out what brought you to this place," says Filicia. Determining what about this particular home called to you will help pinpoint your personal style.

Knowing your taste is only part of the equation - you'll have to balance it against what's practical for you, says Filicia. "The next step is to look at yourself and say, 'How do I want to live in this space? Do I cook, do I entertain, am I very social, am I a hermit, do I stay home and read books, am I throwing a lot of cocktail parties?' . . . Those are all the things people overlook sometimes."

And the last piece of the puzzle will be different for everyone: "It's really about tapping into the person, figuring out who they are and what makes them tick, and using that as a springboard," Filicia says.

Here's how he put it all together in the Los Angeles home of E! News anchor Giuliana DePandi Rancic and her husband, "Apprentice" winner Bill Rancic, now the stars of their own Style Network reality show, "Giuliana & Bill." "When you look at that interior, it's about mixing comfort with sophistication," Filicia says. "Bill Rancic really did not like the uncomfortable, modern sofa that was originally in the living room. He was looking for this kind of big, deep, leather, very country-house kind of Chesterfield-y leather sofa."

Giuliana "loves things that are modern and sophisticated," Filicia says. "I chose a sofa that was incredibly comfortable, but also had clean lines. . . . That was a really good example of how you take both their objectives and come up with that perfect balance. . . . It made sense architecturally, it made sense with the layout, and it also took care of all the things they were both looking for. That then became the foundation for the space, and I was able to build the room from there."


Tips from the 'Contractor to the Stars'


These doors with opaque glass inserts are similar to those in Long Islander Lindsay Lohan's former Manhattan apartment, says Manhasset resident Steve Fanuka, who's been billed by In Touch magazine as the "Contractor to the Stars." He also did Tony Bennett's place in Manhattan, featuring dark-stained moldings and trim like those pictured here.

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