Roses. Chandeliers. Whimsy. Country. This is not a decorating mantra Bart Simpson would chant. Well, not without his trademark smirk.
But for Nancy Cartwright, the Emmy-winning voice actress who puts the sarcasm into the cartoon rascal's mouth, those four girly-girl design elements are not open for discussion.
"These are my themes," a pink-clad Cartwright declares.
On a recent visit to her home in Northridge, Calif., the roses are freshly clipped blooms from her garden, set in a vase in the wildly wallpapered dining room.
"Chandeliers," she announces, standing underneath a gilt and jade-colored glass confection in the kitchen.
Cartwright points out a tiny figurine of Tinkerbell suspended on a beaded swag strung between the arms. "Whimsy," she says.
As for country? That river runs deep, from the whitewashed scalloped trim and shuttered windows outside the 1947 Connecticut-style farmhouse to the beamed ceilings inside. A gambrel-roofed red barn serves as her garage. On the front lawn is a life-size fiberglass cow dubbed Milk Dud.
The 1-acre spread also contains the property's original pine-paneled guest apartment, now done up with Western cabin furnishings found at flea markets, as well as cottages housing a studio and offices for managing Cartwright's speaking engagements, charitable activities, books-on-tape recordings, and bulging roster of animation voice gigs.
At home, she presides over civic functions as the honorary mayor of Northridge and throws fund raisers for a proposed youth recreation center. "I live in a very nice home with great neighbors, but you go a quarter of a mile down the road and there's one of the highest concentrations of gangs in L.A. County. I'm not scared living here, but it's a little bit of an island in the middle of insanity."
Recently, Cartwright and children Lucy, 17, and Jack, 15, jumped in a golf cart and delivered more than 600 invitations for a neighborhood mingle. "I wanted them to know that I am accessible and to get them to volunteer at the youth center."
Hosting large groups required a reevaluation of the house that began in 2002, around the time Cartwright and her husband, Warren Murphy, divorced. Three years later, with her ideas fully formed, the actress sought out interior designer and landscape artist Melinda Brownstone to renovate the house for her role as a single mom and event planner.
"She probably had 50 magazines dog-eared and marked with Post-It notes," Brownstone says. "For the most part, it was her own creative concept.
"She's feminine and likes to surround herself with fun and inspiring things," Brownstone says. "When you have a personality that big, you have to embrace it."
At the front of the house, they built a spacious sun room with French doors crowned by a half-moon window. Filled with bookcases, a folk-art game table and pink- and green-plaid chairs, the addition spills into the formal living room, which has several seating areas.
"We've crammed 70 people in the living room," Cartwright says proudly.
Guests pass a bar built underneath a staircase to reach the grand kitchen, which was blown open to accommodate a computer station and laundry area. Doors lead out to a covered dining area and a series of outdoor spaces created for entertaining.
The most drastic change was in the landscape. An unused tennis court was dismantled and the original pool filled in, allowing for a lawn with Adirondack chairs and additional parking. A new lagoon-style swimming hole was placed at the back edge of the lot, adjacent to an outdoor living room centered on a fireplace made from Arizona flagstone.
If the ground floor was designed for guests, the second-floor suite is decidedly Cartwright's haven. Though she admits to splurges, such as a hand-painted secretary that she says cost in the $10,000 range, Cartwright also hunted for flea-market bargains. The floor plan was redesigned to give her an elaborate walk-in dressing room to accommodate her vintage clothing and furniture.
"It's like a Barbie-doll closet with all her outfits," daughter Lucy says.
Brownstone designed a master bath with sitting room that, Cartwright jokes, is bigger than some New York apartments. "I spoiled myself with it, but it's every girl's dream to have a big tub with a chandelier above it."
It is in the main house, however, where Cartwright turned her rosy, whimsical, chandelier-lighted take on country living into a resoundingly personal statement. The living room didn't have particularly high ceilings, yet Cartwright wanted to incorporate a huge original poster for the Fellini film La Strada, as well as an ornate upright piano and a massive coffee table made from a door.
Finding a balance between large pieces of furniture, bold patterns and vibrant colors without creating claustrophobia required a complementary sense of scale and a lot of custom-sized sofas, chairs and bookcases, Brownstone says. Wherever possible, she used white and black pieces to provide visual structure. In the kitchen, that meant a black soapstone countertop with a rich vein of green that coordinated with a 1940s Wedgewood stove.
The overstuffed furniture in floral prints with ruffles and fringe, as well as the embroidered polka dots on the coral curtains, may look like a page out of Martha Stewart's handbook, but the fabrics are sumptuous silks, not country chintz. The floors are covered in antique Persian and Aubusson carpets.
When the upstairs expansion required a steel support girder through her kitchen counter, Cartwright happily sheathed the beam in pine bark and turned it into a tree lending the enchantment of a storybook forest.
"To me it seems normal, because I've always been around those kind of things," son Jack says. "But if you could live in one of your dreams, this is the exact house you would own."