Decades ago, The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous gave viewers exclusive behind-the-scenes access to the sumptuous worlds of society’s upper crust. In the new millennium, the Real Housewives franchise has picked up where Lifestyles left off, serving as a window into the lives and homes of the well-to-do but with an added emphasis on unpacking the salacious drama of the elites’ social circles. The Bravo show, which debuted in 2006, is the brainchild of TV host and media mogul Andy Cohen, who pondered how the intrigue around beloved hit soap operas like Desperate Housewives might translate into the realm of reality television. Nearly 20 years and over 20 spinoff series later, it’s clear that audience demand for an inside scoop on the affluent is enough to establish a slot of appointment viewing every Sunday evening—whether it’s for well-known versions of the program, like the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, or full cast reboots of years-old editions, like the Real Housewives of New York. Below, AD tours the luxe homes of some of the franchise’s biggest stars.
It didn’t take long after its premiere for The Real Housewives of Miami to descend into intrigue and drama—both hallmarks of the popular global television franchise that has amassed millions of fans over the years. But for Nicole Martin—a new addition to the recently revived show on Peacock—a freshly renovated waterfront estate in Coral Gables, Florida, offered a measure of tranquility.
“It was really important that the house felt cozy and homey,” Martin says. She’s a Miami native whose medical career began and continues at the University of Miami, where she is an assistant professor of clinical anesthesiology. “Sometimes when you take on large scale renovations like this, the house could end up feeling cold. We didn’t want that.”
She and her husband, attorney Anthony Lopez, spent just over a year gut-renovating the 9,000-square-foot home, which features a stunning 500 feet of waterfront. The couple employed Manny Angelo Varas, CEO and president of luxury home builder MV Group USA, to work with interior designer Briggs Edward Solomon on the renovation of the 2.2-acre property. Notably, Solomon has designed interiors for a number of boldface names in Miami, including former Major League Baseball player Alex Rodriguez, while Varas has collaborated on luxury projects with global design stars such as Giorgio Armani.
Double-height ceilings inside the property are framed by large picture windows that allow sunlight to pour into the Mediterranean-style home, which is lined with European elk wood flooring throughout. Elsewhere, cream colored walls give the living room a relaxed and comfortable feel. Inside that space, white linen sofas serve as anchoring forces, and leather Pierre Jeanneret lounge chairs, cast bronze side tables, and a midcentury Jean Prouvé daybed make for appealing accents. The furnishings sit atop a textured hemp rug by Woven Accents. —Troy J. McMullen
We already know the stories from the house. As the backdrop to some of the Real Housewives of New York’s most memorable episodes, Dorinda Medley’s home in the Berkshires, Blue Stone Manor, is famously where Luann fumbled an olive branch to Carole; Carole went head-to-head with Bethenny in costume; and Bethenny called Luann, among other things, a liar, a hypocrite, and a snake. Tears have been shed, friendships broken, and fires started. Even Ramona’s dog Coco has lost her cool. All this despite the valiant efforts of their host, who—lest we forget—cooked, decorated, and made it nice!
Few among even us RHONY superfans, however, know the story of the house. “The show is so focused on the girls, it doesn’t ever really show the architecture,” says Medley, speaking via Zoom from the Berkshires, where she has been sheltering in place with her daughter, Hannah, and family friend Greg Calejo. “People always come and say, ‘Wow, your house looks so different in person.’” Built in 1902, the 11,000-square-foot Tudor-style residence harks back to the Gilded Age, when titans of industry commissioned the likes of Peabody & Stearns, Rotch & Tilden, and McKim, Mead & White to design sprawling summer cottages in the mountains of western Massachusetts. Blue Stone Manor captures that same spirit in the form of intricate ironwork, elaborate mantelpieces, and a generously proportioned seven-bedroom layout, which is anchored by side-by-side entry and stair halls.
Growing up just down the road, Medley always had her eye on the house, whose stone walls and foundations had been laid by her grandfather and great-grandfather, both masons. “Even as a kid I had Champagne tastes and caviar dreams,” she jokes. “I would drive by with Dad and say, ‘I’m gonna own this house one day,’ and he would say, ‘Of course you are, princess.’” That wish came true in 2005, when her late husband, Richard, gave her the house as a surprise wedding present. By that point, the property had lost some of its character—the decorative detailing, systems, and gardens all having fallen into states of disrepair. Fortunately, Medley, by turns RHONY’s sympathetic voice of reason and masterful pot stirrer (“Jovani!”), has personality to spare. Collaborating with interior designer Marshall Watson, a longtime friend, she has brought the property back to life not once but twice—first upon moving in with Richard and again after a pipe burst while she was at Andy Cohen’s baby shower, knocking out the heating system and flooding the rooms.
“The house, you have to love it,” says Medley, who has always dived head first into the renovation process, with a sigh—poring over books about Stanford White (to whom she and Watson attribute Blue Stone Manor) and tapping the Berkshires’s expert artisans to revive original light fixtures, escutcheons, pulls, and panelling. “If you’re not in love with this house and you’re not in love with the Berkshires, then it’s a lot.” —Sam Cochran
Holidays with Luann de Lesseps are not the lavish affairs filled with goblets of champagne and heaping bowls of caviar that one might imagine. After all, the Real Housewives of New York star is a former countess who literally wrote a book on upscale entertaining. But when the Connecticut native gathers with her six brothers and sisters for Thanksgiving in her hometown, the lunchtime meal is a decidedly down-to-earth feast. Think fried turkey over filet mignon. “It’s one of my favorite holidays because it’s all about eating, and I’m a foodie,” she says. “I can’t eat enough turkey.”
After nearly a year’s renovation, the 19th-century Greek Revival home is ready to host the refined dinner parties for which the reality star is known. “I found it through a girlfriend of mine, who is a broker,” she explains. “A couple of margaritas later, we go to the house. It was early fall, and I walk onto the property and say: ‘Oh, my God, this is exactly what I've been looking for.’”
Working with RLW4 Builders, she added a master bedroom suite, constructed a dormer for her daughter Victoria’s bedroom, and put up a new roof and cedar siding, among other fixes. “I wanted to conserve the home and improve it at the same time,” she says of the old whaling captain’s house. The result is an inviting yet refined space, filled with objects from de Lesseps’s travels around the world and family heirlooms, including the oil still life painting hung in the dining room. She also has china from the de Lesseps family, including, she says, a plate from Ferdinand de Lesseps, an architect who had a hand in building the Suez Canal. “It was a plate for him by the French government. There’s one with a French quote that says: ‘Never pick a woman by candlelight.’” She also frequents Hamptons mainstays like Hildreth’s Home Goods and English Country Home for decorative touches. “When I found the house, it was a blank, white canvas ready to be painted,” she says. “So I painted it with my life.” Duvets and throws from her bedding line, the Countess Collection, are also splashed throughout the home. —Juliet Izon
“I can hype this house as much as I want. It’s going to live up to that hype. It’s going to exceed that hype,” says Terry Dubrow of the 22,000-square-foot home that he shares with his wife, Heather. Modesty isn’t a strong suit of the plastic surgeon and star of Botched, but there’s a reason for that: Dubrow is known as one of the masters of his trade, which is how he landed on the E! reality program in the first place. His wife, Heather Dubrow, is an equally recognizable face, as a former cast member of The Real Housewives of Orange County (which Terry also appeared on). While on the show, Heather documented the construction of the mansion, which they dubbed Dubrow Chateau.
The finished mansion is indeed as jaw-dropping as Terry says. Located in the tony enclave of Crystal Cove, the 40,000-square-foot property boasts dramatic ocean views and an exterior that Heather likens to famed hotel The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida. And while Terry found the plot of land, it is Heather who is largely responsible for the design and decor of the home. “The last house we built, I had some input,” Terry says. “We had the usual disagreements—‘build a house, lose a spouse’ kind of thing. With this house she said, ‘Here’s the deal. I’m going to build this house, but I don’t want to hear anything from you at all.’ And so that was the rule.” Heather opted to design the interiors herself, instead of relying on a decorator.
The gamble paid off: While Terry had been a tough critic of his interior designers’ work in the past, with Heather behind the decorating, the aesthetic was perfect. “He loves one hundred percent of this house,” she says. Heather opted for a mostly neutral palette, but layered many textures throughout the home, including stone, wood, and leather. “It’s like Kelly Wearstler threw up in the house. I love her. I love her design style,” she says. Heather ensured continuity within the rooms by echoing colors or materials from space to space. “I didn’t repeat fabrics, but I used the same tones or the same fabrics in different colors, in different rooms,” she explains. “There are repeating elements in that respect.” Trees are also a theme within the home, showing up everywhere from an etched glass window to an olive tree that the couple had craned into the central courtyard of the house.
In addition to its sheer size, the house is remarkable for the many customized features (towel-warming drawer, anyone?). The couple, who have four children ranging in ages from 7 to 15, made sure that this wasn’t a home filled with rooms that were off-limits to the youngest inhabitants. On the contrary, the subterranean level is a teenager’s dream, filled with an entire hall of pinball, a 21-seat movie theater, and pocket doors that allow the level to open into one giant space. Upstairs, the bespoke elements are geared more to the adults: There is a Champagne wall in the dining room and a six-foot-long trough cut into one of the kitchen islands that Heather likes to fill with ice, stick caviar, crudités, and Champagne. “Everyone just stands around the island and talks and eats. It’s really conducive to casual entertaining,” she says. And yes, RHOC superfans, there is an actual Champagne button in Heather’s master bedroom closet, which, when pressed, rings a bell in the kitchen. (“Terry goes, ‘Who’s bringing you the Champagne?’ I’m like, ‘You? I don’t know,’” she said in an earlier interview with Bravo TV.) —Juliet Izon
Carole Radziwill is not exactly the sentimental type. “I don’t hoard things and I don’t cling to memories,” says the best-selling author and Real Housewives of New York star. “Everything I need to know I’ve written about, is in my head, or has been captured on camera.” At her two-bedroom SoHo apartment, there is only one picture of her late husband, Anthony Radziwill, and only one overt reference to the Bravo show—a bronze apple that nods to the RHONY opening credits. Her extensive childhood collection of Swarovski animals has been pared down to just a few keepsakes, reminders of her humble all-American upbringing in Suffern, New York. “The first thing I bought when I was 14 and started working was a crystal bear,” she recalls. “I thought it was so glamorous and sparkly.” Even her preferred pet-naming convention offers a study in economy. “They’re all my babies,” she says of her dog, Baby, and two cats, Baby Blue and Baby Bell.
Over the years, special attention has been paid to one item of furniture: the vintage sofa that once belonged to her mother-in-law, tastemaker and sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Lee Radziwill. Custom-made in the late 1960s, with tiger-stripe upholstery of Brunschwig & Fils’s silk velvet, the sofa has appeared in the pages of Vogue and Elle Decor, traveling from her mother-in-law’s Park Avenue penthouse to Anthony’s bachelor pad, which he and Carole shared before moving into their own Park Avenue apartment. When Carole relocated downtown to SoHo after Anthony’s death, the sofa came too—ultimately serving as a recurring character of sorts on RHONY, the status of its exterior woven into the show’s plotlines at times. “I’ve had it in my life for 27 years,” she reflects. “Not only is it a great couch—the most gorgeous, the most comfortable—it has a lot of memories soaked into it.” But as for sentimental? “Well, I don’t so much feel sentimental for the couch as responsible for it,” she shrugs. “It’s a piece of history.”
Time, of course, is no friend to fabric. A decade ago, when the original upholstery began to show serious signs of wear, Carole performed emergency sofa surgery, salvaging the backs of the cushions and the couch’s untouched bottom. “That lasted a good ten more years, but eventually it became painfully obvious that I had to re-cover the whole thing.”
With the help of interior decorator John Bossard, whom she met at a party in Aspen, Colorado, Carole sifted through the hundreds of fabric samples she had gathered. She finally settled on a Lee Jofa velvet in muted French blue. “I didn’t want to do something super glam that would compete with the tiger,” she says. Adds Bossard, “We had to totally rebuild the sofa, taking out the filling and reconstructing its original form.”
They didn’t stop there. “That was the beginning of what snowballed into a total apartment makeover,” recalls Carole, who collaborated with Bossard to replace the living room’s existing gold-and-brown palette with an updated scheme of silvers and blues. Her other sofa—this one curved—received its own fabric facelift, as did a pair of Dunbar club chairs. Walls were refinished or repainted, and new pieces were mixed with old ones Carole felt were worth keeping during the overhaul, including twin brutalist table lamps, a shagreen-top console, and a button-tufted banquette that she modeled after the booths inside New York nightclub Bungalow 8. —Sam Cochran
Anyone who’s gotten to know Kathy Hilton via her breakout turn on season 11 of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills knows she’s the type to go big or go home—and with Christmas, she does both. “I normally start decorating in October,” Hilton tells AD, “then keep adding until December.” The tchotchkes and trees stay up until February, and from Thanksgiving onward there’s nothing but the Holiday Traditions music channel playing throughout the house. Hilton says she thinks about Christmas all year long.
For those uninitiated in the cult of Kathy, the name Hilton may bring visions of sugarplum fairies dispatched from all over Beverly Hills to craft her perfect winter wonderland, but fans of the Bravo darling know better. She does employ some assistance (“I have a wonderful lady that helps me, and she has a young man that comes and helps with all the stuff that’s really high up, because that’s a little scary,” Hilton says), but every touch is purely personal.
Each room in Hilton’s home—which includes seven bedrooms, eight bathrooms, multiple sitting rooms, a butler’s pantry, and an open plan specifically designed for entertaining—has a different feel to it. “My blue-and-white room reminds me of Southampton, New York. My library reminds me of New York City, in a town house or an apartment, with the dark wood…. Then, if you’re standing in the living room, it’s all butter yellow, pale blue, creams, with a little bit of apricot or maybe shrimp or blush.”
The holiday decorations adjust accordingly to the vibe of their milieu. In the wood room, where Hilton and her sister Kyle Richards famously ate off TV trays on RHOBH, those decorations include hundreds of Santa figurines, especially Annalee and Lynn West pieces she’s collected. The entryway has evolved over the years: “I used to do it all in pretty pale aqua and silver and gold, and then I started thinking, I don’t want to just match and have it look like a hotel lobby. So the last few years I’ve been doing what you see”—red, gold, white, and tinsel galore—“and next year it’ll be a whole new thing.” —Carla Sosenko