Famed interior designer Stephen Shadley certainly had a circuitous route to his ultimate career. He has always been interested in art and design, and his early jobs included painting sets at 20th Century Fox and working with the traveling show Disney on Parade. His first decorating job was actually a restaurant: the buzzy hangout Camelback and Central in New York.
But it was his friendship with Diane Keaton (he and the actor have been close since the ’70s) that first set the stage for the artist to fully embrace his calling as an interior designer. Keaton enlisted Shadley’s help to decorate a home in Sneden’s Landing (now known as Palisades), New York; a year later, it was featured in House & Garden, officially launching him as a designer to watch.
Since that first home, Shadley has worked with many high-profile names, but as he is someone who has always been enamored of the film industry, his actor and producer clients have always held a special place in his heart. In October, Rizzoli will release Designing Hollywood Homes: Movie Houses, a compendium of some of Shadley’s most famed projects, from Woody Allen’s Upper East Side of Manhattan home to Jennifer Aniston’s stunning manse in Beverly Hills. “There is something special about show people,” Shadley remarks in the volume’s introduction. “This is…a tribe of people who spend their lives at a dream factory in front of—or behind—a camera and who bring that world into their lives at home.”
And, indeed, all of the homes featured in the book have a bit of a magical quality to them, whether it’s the cheery “Welcome” emblazoned over Diane Keaton’s Bel Air door to Aniston’s stunning, open-air, marble bathtub in her California home. But Shadley is certainly no one-trick pony: The decor styles featured in the book range from classic Americana to Spanish Colonial to Midcentury. “I’ve never defined myself by any style,” Shadley tells AD. “What has been fun for me working with people in the industry is adapting to whatever is going on when I come in to a project: whatever that person’s interests are, or what the house is. It’s almost like working from a new stylistic approach each time. And I’m probably the most inconsistent of any designer because nothing ever looks the same!” he says with a laugh.
While Shadley has designed multiple homes for his good friend Keaton and worked for heavy-hitting producers like Robert Altman and Ryan Murphy, one project does stand out as his favorite of all time. “The best experience was the first home I designed for Jennifer Aniston,” he says. “I got to be in charge of the architecture, the decorating, and the renovation. And it wasn’t driven by a budget; it was driven by a desire to make this really wonderful home. Jen enjoyed the process, got involved, and was just a delight from start to finish.” The final reveal of his work was a particularly memorable night: “Her estate manager Phil—he and I met her at the door and he had a dirty martini waiting for her,” Shadley recalls. “She cried her way through the whole house. She was just overwhelmed with happiness at her new home.”
Shadley finds a different kind of fulfillment in his relationship with Keaton, who has five different homes featured in his book. Far from being a house collector, “she’s a one-house person, usually,” he says. “She just loves the process of [renovating and decorating] so much. I’d always get her moved in and everything would be perfect, and she’d say, ‘You know, I think I’m gonna go look at some more houses.…’ She’s the original house flipper!”
And, as can only happen in Hollywood, Ryan Murphy eventually moved into one of Keaton’s flipped homes. It was there that Murphy asked Shadley to meet, to discuss him working on a renovation project for Murphy’s new home, a 10,000-square-foot mansion in the Pacific Palisades section of L.A. That home not only appeared in this magazine but is the final house featured in Shadley’s book.
But there are certainly more projects to come, as not even a global pandemic could stop Shadley’s creative spirit. “I had three large projects under way in various states of development when COVID hit,” he says. “All three have continued, and they’re all clients whom I really admire and enjoy.”
One can only hope that this means Shadley is already hard at work on volume two of his book.