Carole Radziwill is not exactly the sentimental type. “I don’t hoard things and I don’t cling to memories,” says the best-selling author and Real Housewives of New York star. “Everything I need to know I’ve written about, is in my head, or has been captured on camera.” At her two-bedroom SoHo apartment, there is only one picture of her late husband, Anthony Radziwill, and only one overt reference to the Bravo show—a bronze apple that nods to the RHONY opening credits. Her extensive childhood collection of Swarovski animals has been pared down to just a few keepsakes, reminders of her humble all-American upbringing in Suffern, New York. “The first thing I bought when I was 14 and started working was a crystal bear,” she recalls. “I thought it was so glamorous and sparkly.” Even her preferred pet-naming convention offers a study in economy. “They’re all my babies,” she says of her dog, Baby, and two cats, Baby Blue and Baby Bell.
Over the years, special attention has been paid to one item of furniture: the vintage sofa that once belonged to her mother-in-law, tastemaker and sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Lee Radziwill. Custom-made in the late 1960s, with tiger-stripe upholstery of Brunschwig & Fils’s silk velvet, the sofa has appeared in the pages of Vogue and Elle Decor, traveling from her mother-in-law’s Park Avenue penthouse to Anthony’s bachelor pad, which he and Carole shared before moving into their own Park Avenue apartment. When Carole relocated downtown to SoHo after Anthony’s death, the sofa came too—ultimately serving as a recurring character of sorts on RHONY, the status of its exterior woven into the show’s plotlines at times. “I’ve had it in my life for 27 years,” she reflects. “Not only is it a great couch—the most gorgeous, the most comfortable—it has a lot of memories soaked into it.” But as for sentimental? “Well, I don’t so much feel sentimental for the couch as responsible for it,” she shrugs. “It’s a piece of history.”
Time, of course, is no friend to fabric. A decade ago, when the original upholstery began to show serious signs of wear, Carole performed emergency sofa surgery, salvaging the backs of the cushions and the couch’s untouched bottom. “That lasted a good ten more years, but eventually it became painfully obvious that I had to re-cover the whole thing.”
With the help of interior decorator John Bossard, whom she met at a party in Aspen, Colorado, Carole sifted through the hundreds of fabric samples she had gathered. She finally settled on a Lee Jofa velvet in muted French blue. “I didn’t want to do something super glam that would compete with the tiger,” she says. Adds Bossard, “We had to totally rebuild the sofa, taking out the filling and reconstructing its original form.”
They didn’t stop there. “That was the beginning of what snowballed into a total apartment makeover,” recalls Carole, who collaborated with Bossard to replace the living room’s existing gold-and-brown palette with an updated scheme of silvers and blues. Her other sofa—this one curved—received its own fabric facelift, as did a pair of Dunbar club chairs. Walls were refinished or repainted, and new pieces were mixed with old ones Carole felt were worth keeping during the overhaul, including twin brutalist table lamps, a shagreen-top console, and a button-tufted banquette that she modeled after the booths inside New York nightclub Bungalow 8. —Sam Cochran