Brooke Shields has packed more professional accomplishment into her 40-some-odd years than many people twice her age, though it helps that she started modeling as an infant, acting at nine (she was 11 when she played the title role in Louis Malle’s Pretty Baby), and that, at 14, she became the youngest cover girl in Vogue’s history. But just as her beauty seems to deepen without dimming, Shields keeps reinventing herself, as an author, a producer, a product spokeswoman, and a mental-health advocate. Her latest venture is designing jewelry.
When you wear that many hats, you need a big place to hang them. Last July—shortly after Shields joined the Broadway cast of The Addams Family, as Morticia—she moved into a discreetly luxurious four-story Greenwich Village townhouse, where she gets to play the role closest to her heart: passionate homebody.
Shields and her husband of a decade, writer and producer Chris Henchy, have two daughters, ages five and eight, and on a recent morning she had just returned from dropping them at school (by city bus). She settled at her kitchen table with a cup of coffee and embarked on the story of a poignant homecoming.
Shields, a real-estate romantic, toured brownstones all over Manhattan, she says, looking for “the one.” About four years ago she was shown a derelict (though landmarked) four-family brick house built around 1910, with a ramshackle ’60s addition. “It needed a complete gut,” she says, “but after a quick walk-through, I could see our future there. My bathtub in a niche by a window. Our daughters’ playroom on the top floor. A light-flooded, parlor-floor kitchen with a big hearth and a balcony. That kind of instant certainty is rare for me—I’m a Gemini—but for once, I was sure.”
The couple’s search for an architect, unlike their house hunting, was a one-stop, look-no-further encounter with MADE, a Brooklyn design/build firm adept at the innovative reconfiguration of historic buildings (founding partners Ben Bischoff, Oliver Freundlich, and Brian Papa handled the project; the latter two have since moved on). “We loved the way they integrated tradition with modernism and warmth of character in an interior with discipline of form,” Shields says of the partners. “That clarity was especially attractive to someone like me, who grew up surrounded by clutter.”