For someone as busy as Shonda Rhimes, time and space are of the essence. The single mother of three strives to keep up with her children while simultaneously reigning supreme as one of Hollywood’s most successful and inspiring content creators. As the driving force behind television hits like Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder, and, most recently, Bridgerton and Inventing Anna, Rhimes has dreamed up dozens of dynamic, diverse, and multi-dimensional female characters, shifting the narratives of women and their place in the world. Her work tells stories about lives that are complex, complicated, and culture shifting—just like that of their author.
It can be a lot to keep in mind. So, more than anything, what this impresario needs most, quite simply, is time—time to write, create, and continue to build her successful Shondaland media empire—and a beautifully appointed room of her own in which to work. And that’s just what she set out to give herself in her brand-new New York City apartment. “This place is really about my work life,” says Rhimes of the residence on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “But I came into it thinking, If I had no kids, no responsibilities, what kind of a space would I create? Obviously, we did incorporate things that were necessary for the kids—moms never get to think selfishly—but this was really exciting for me.”
Rhimes enlisted AD100 designer Michael S. Smith, who also decorated a previous home for her in Los Angeles (AD, February 2019), to help realize a vision of classical beauty with touches of romance and lots of colorful flights of fancy. “For us, blending ideas of a romantic East Side apartment, authors of the past, and a sense of history was interesting,” Smith explains of the decor, which is rooted in tradition yet enlivened with bursts of energy. Take, for example, the breathtakingly pretty living room. “We wrapped it in this beautiful Chinese-style wallpaper to make it a garden,” the designer says.
Of that lush, arcadian space, Rhimes enthuses, “That pattern allows for things like those incredible yellow curtains and some really bold choices in furniture. There are a lot of gilt-edged pieces in there because the wallpaper can hold all of that. The furniture can be a little bit eclectic. It’s a mix of contemporary pieces and antiques, and they all work together really nicely.”