When it comes to design, Stephanie Gowdy is a drama queen. She transforms homes from ordinary to extraordinary with a passion for all things plush – and surely a king’s ransom to indulge her extravagance. Her celebrity-studded clientele, from here to the Caribbean, knows where to go for the glam. The sprawling Texas manor of Seattle Seahawk Ken Hamlin sports an indoor waterfall, courtesy of Stephanie’s splashy redesign. Former Atlanta Falcon Ray Buchanan reigns over a Moroccan empire built by the decadent decorator.
ABOVE: Earthy elements ignite a tribal spirit throughout the home, punctuated by such powerful pieces as this Woodrow Nash sculpture (with ceremonial feathers courtesy of Stephanie) and a beautifully carved armoire by Maitland-Smith.
Stephanie’s own place, a townhouse she shares with NFL player-turned-sculptor George Nock, is no exception. Even at a modest 3,000-square-feet, it’s a palatial palace that dazzles with bronze sculptures, bejeweled walls, leopard prints and lush velvets.
“I downsized, but I haven’t sacrificed on luxury,” she said of moving to a house four times smaller than her previous address. “It’s all about selecting character pieces that can travel through time, and from room to room. Like mixing a fabulous Dolce & Gabbana jacket with your favorite black dress or mini-skirt.”
Indeed, after a complete renovation of the 20-year-old dwelling, she has dressed it in high-style, with her own brand of exotic elegance. Many of the fantastic furnishings and fabrics have come from years of globe-trotting as both a designer and former flight attendant. “I travel constantly,” said Stephanie, adding that the couple’s jet-setting schedule necessitated the move to a low-maintenance “lock up and go house.”
RIGHT: Silver-leafed walls are the opulent backdrop for a gallery of treasures in the dramatically-staged entry foyer.
When they are home, it’s a life of luxury from the moment they step through the front door. The entry foyer, shimmering with textured silver-leaf, sets the stage for Stephanie’s opulent showcase. “The Moor,” an imposing bronze sculpture by George, stands guard, as a stately pair of elephants by Maitland-Smith roam atop a custom-designed neoclassical table. Sultry slipper chairs beckon in lush platinum silk. Italian sconces magically illuminate.
Off the entry foyer, the couple’s formal living room reveals a trove of treasures to be ogled from the cushy comforts of a damask silk sofa: a Moroccan chest, a silver metallic leopard and a scene-stealing portrait by international artist Vera Struck. The oil depicts a masked dame in ballroom attire, brazenly relaxing with her gown pulled up thigh-high. “I wanted a painting that reminded me of coming in from a ball and kicking my feet up,” said Stephanie, whose gallery of art features many masked females, “representing layers to uncover to reveal the true soul of a woman.” George’s signature sculpture, “The Diva,” takes a stand on the floor, arms outstretched in victory. He sculpted the piece after meeting musician Nancy Wilson, as a tribute to divas like Wilson, Sarah Vaughn, Dorothy Dandridge and, of course, Stephanie herself.
Merrymaking is a must in the dining salon, all decked out in the grand style of Mardi Gras.
Adjacent to the living room, the dining salon is a captivating place for evening entertainment. Flavored with the flamboyance of Mardi Gras, the festive room is festooned with ostrich feathers, leopard velvet fabric, gilded tableware and whimsical artwork.
Stephanie’s biggest makeover was in the kitchen, gutted and revamped into an Old World galley with an alcove for informal dining. She texturized straw walls by hand with a mix of feed store straw, sheet rock mud and paint – a process she first experimented with in the Country Club of the South home of New York Giant Lance Smith. Two nude torsos by Woodrow Nash are prominently perched atop metallic glazed cabinets. Stephanie’s grown daughters Brandi and Brianna were so impressed with her dramatic treatment of the space, they asked her if she had any intention of starting to cook.
Culinary skills aside, she’s certainly a master at blending metallic glints with her own shade of cosmopolitan chocolate gray. Natural bamboo floors add a neutralizing note to the harmony for a perfect finish. A nearby powder room seduces with dark mystery. Silver and gold masks adorn high-gloss ink black walls. The ceiling casts a moon glow on a glitzy leopard-print treatment. Another painting by Struck beguiles viewers. The bedrooms are swank with New York jazz, French couture and English gardens. “I grew up in multicultural New York, experiencing its fashion and furniture industry,” she says of her inspired imagination.
In the Africa-themed family room, the only casual spot in the house, a primal element prevails amidst the earth-toned furnishings, by way of a Moroccan bridal saddle, an African bust sculpted by Nash and oil paintings of tigers, zebras and other safari animals by Audrey Menefee. The couple is all too happy to snuggle up in an oversized chaise, lounging like lions beneath a Baobab tree.