Inside Shonda Rhimes’ Bridgerton-inspired New York City apartment

Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN

Star producer Shonda Rhimes has proven herself to be a master at creating glossy television hits like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal,” and “Bridgerton,” but a look inside her Upper East Side apartment in New York shows she may also have an eye for opulent design.

The abode, which includes a vividly decorated living room and a regal dining room-slash-library, was decorated by Michael S. Smith, with whom she previously collaborated on a Los Angeles home. But this space, Rhimes explained in the April issue of Architectural Digest, primarily functions as a sanctuary for her work life.

“I came into it thinking, If I had no kids, no responsibilities, what kind of a space would I create?” she recalled. “Obviously, we did incorporate the things that were necessary for the kids — moms never get to think selfishly — but this was really exciting for me.”

Shonda Rhimes’ regal New York City outpost was decorated by interior designer Michael S. Smith. Credit: Architectural Digest

The mother of three and head of production company Shondaland mostly recently brought the limited series “Inventing Anna” to Netflix, based on the real story about Anna Delvey, a woman who scammed her way to the top of New York City’s cultural milieu. But when Rhimes bought the apartment she was deep into the production of “Bridgerton,” the steamy London-set period drama now about to enter its second season on Netflix. The influence of the 19th-century society show can be seen in the romantic and regal touches around the space, like the enchanting gilt-wood mirror in her living room paired with a lush garden-themed teal wallpaper and bold yellow curtains.

“I had been immersed in the romanticism of ‘Bridgerton’ for a while, so that had to influence some of the things that I had been thinking about,” Rhimes told Architectural Digest. “Everything sort of spills into everything else. If I’m thinking about these books that we’re turning into a series, then that inevitably spills into how the apartment’s going to look, which inevitably spills into what goes in the scripts—it all sort of spins together.”

"I had been immersed in the romanticism of 'Bridgerton' for a while, so that had to influence some of the things that I had been thinking about," Rhimes said.

“I had been immersed in the romanticism of ‘Bridgerton’ for a while, so that had to influence some of the things that I had been thinking about,” Rhimes said. Credit: Architectural Digest

The light-drenched primary bedroom, meanwhile, is made up of cool gray blues and neutrals — a gentle palette that contrasts with the vivacity of the common areas.

“It was smaller than some of the places that I looked at, but I knew immediately,” she said. “It has this wraparound terrace, and the light coming in was incredible. It felt like a place where even though you’re in the middle of a city, you feel like you’re in your own little refuge.”

All throughout the apartment, Smith and Rhimes have mixed antiques with contemporary furniture, such as a late-18th-century painted Italian chest sitting below a sunburst-like chandelier by R.W. Russell. And as for the art and art books that fill her home, Rhimes collects important works by Black luminaries including Hughie Lee-Smith and Walter Henry Williams Jr.

Rhimes explained that Smith included “wonderful little nooks” and other spaces for her to sit and write, wind down, or observe the world outside of her windows.

Rhimes uses the space to dream up the bold, drama-filled narratives she's known for producing.

Rhimes uses the space to dream up the bold, drama-filled narratives she’s known for producing. Credit: Architectural Digest

“There’s a double-sided desk where I can work, or stare out the window and sort of watch,” she said. “I’m mostly looking at the rooftops or at other people’s balconies wondering what’s going on. That helps when you’re trying to imagine stories in your head. I live with these characters.”

Referring to her creative process, Rhimes said, “I spend a lot of time inside my head—a lot of time imagining, a lot of time where it seems like I might be being quiet and still, but really I’m storytelling,” she said. “So (Smith) knows that it’s important to me to have rooms and spaces to sit and think, to have new places to move to just get my brain going sometimes. I’m building an entire sort of universe in my mind, but I’m also trying to think of a series. It’s not just two hours, it’s not just 30 minutes; sometimes it’s 18 seasons. You really do need time and space to think about it.”