How Oprah Found Her Home Decorating Style
Photo: Luca Trovato
Oprah has said yes to a half-dozen trends (sleek and modern? sure! English chintz? why not!) and always dressed her house to impress. The result? Decor that looked picture-perfect—though somewhat impersonal. But recently she received some wise counsel: Where you live should reflect who you really are. Now—finally—she's turning her house into a home that's all her own.I came across an old journal entry the other day—from 1985, back when I was filming The Color Purple. For me, making that movie was life-transforming. I think it was the first time I really understood what love was, what passion was. I'd go to the set each day, whether I had a scene to shoot or not, and watch every single person dedicating themselves to creating something extraordinary. That's what participating in great art does: It connects you to a spirit higher than yourself. Makes you want to be better. But according to what I scribbled in my journal at the time, it also did something else: It made me yearn to live in a space that would inspire and elevate me. I longed for a beautiful home.
What you find beautiful has a lot to do with where you've been and what you've seen and the people you've met along the way. When I was just starting out as a local news reporter in Baltimore, a beautiful home meant two (count 'em, two!) of those wicker throne chairs from Pier 1 Imports and a ficus tree that sent me into sticker shock. After The Color Purple, a beautiful home meant walking into the furniture department of Marshall Field's and, with the help of one of their decorators, scarfing up all things contemporary. My Chicago apartment was done in cool white with an aubergine bedroom that in my fantasy felt sort of womblike but in reality was pretty tomblike, even on sunny days. Still, everything was glossy and chic, slick and sleek—exactly the place I thought a successful TV personality was supposed to have.
After a few years of modern living, I was ready for something different. In the late '80s the trend was cushiony and cozy, with a touch of chintz and more than a few English country antiques, so I bought a farm in Indiana and began to decorate it based on a picture I'd seen in Architectural Digest and tear sheets I'd collected from House & Garden.The only thing missing was a pair of jodhpurs and the cast of Downton Abbey.
Next came a Florida penthouse overlooking the ocean on Fisher Island—I don't know what to tell you about the place, except that we now refer to it as my "Italian commode phase." Suffice it to say that every stick of furniture and tchotchke was included in the sale of that home. I took the silver, grabbed my pajamas, and never looked back!
Next: Oprah on finding her Santa Barbara home