Before Jennifer Carpenter nabbed her breakout role as the deliciously dysfunctional sister on Showtime's Dexter, before her haunting portrayal of the title character in the 2005 film The Exorcism of Emily Rose, she was just another struggling actress in Hollywood, crashing at a friend's house and sleeping on lawn chair cushions. Next to her—on an air mattress—was Ariel Ashe, a good friend from New York City, where both went to college (Jennifer studied acting at Juilliard; Ariel studied set design at New York University). "Of course," Jennifer recalls of the setup, "Ariel's little sleeping pallet was beautiful. She even bought a mosquito net to hang over it like a princess bed."
A lot has changed in the past decade; what hasn't is the women's relationship. So last year, when Jennifer bought her first home, a 1,000-square-foot bungalow in Los Angeles's Laurel Canyon, one of her first calls was to Ariel—now an interior designer with her own Manhattan firm, Ashe + Leandro—to enlist her friend's help in the makeover. "I basically said, 'Let's go and have some fun,'" Jennifer says. "The job was half work, half catching up with each other," Ariel adds. "We'd start a telephone conversation on paint colors and glassware, and then end on boyfriends."
In one of their first discussions about the place, Ariel asked Jennifer to describe her personal aesthetic, to which Jennifer could only reply, "Um, I like Eames," thinking of the chair her father sat in during her childhood in Louisville, Kentucky. "Suddenly, I realized that I knew nothing about design," Jennifer says. "I had no language to talk about my tastes." But unlike most decorator-client relationships—which, at their outset, might require poring over countless tear sheets and inspiration boards—Ariel was familiar enough with Jennifer's likes and dislikes to more than make up for any difficulty Jennifer had in articulating them. "People ask me what kind of research Ariel did in designing the house," Jennifer says. "And I tell them, 'The past decade that we've known each other.'"
Printed from Oprah.com on Friday, December 6, 2013