The scene was set for a celebration on the Higher East Facet condominium that Marlo Thomas shares along with her husband, Phil Donahue. Straightforward-listening instrumental music stuffed the air; easy-sniffing Jo Malone candles perfumed it.
It was midmorning, however the desk was already dressed for dinner. It was mid-January, however the theme was Valentine’s Day. The ten place settings have been anchored by red-and-white plates and red-and-white napkins, a part of the tabletop assortment that Ms. Thomas, 85, the actor, creator, activist and philanthropist, has designed in partnership with Williams-Sonoma.
Vivid pink and crimson roses stuffed an oak-and-stainless-steel wine cooler within the middle of the desk (a part of the Marlo Thomas assortment). White hydrangeas have been massed in a blue-and-white botanical-print porcelain Champagne bucket (additionally a part of the Marlo Thomas assortment) on the sideboard. Pink lilies bent from a blue-and-white hexagonal ceramic jar on an accent desk.
“I’m just about a flower woman. I’m from California, and I used to be raised with flowers all 12 months lengthy,” stated Ms. Thomas, who grew to become a family title within the late Nineteen Sixties because the preternaturally charming, crackly voiced star of the sitcom “That Woman.” “To me, each container is a spot to place them.”
Each floor, too. The Lalique vase on the couch desk held ivory roses; there have been extra pink lilies on the espresso desk and the console. Peace lilies, Peruvian lilies, boxwood, a fan palm and an arboricola — all in blue-and-white ceramic planters and ginger jars — dotted the ground. A dozen floral-print pillows lined the white sectional couch.
Marlo Thomas, 85
Occupation: Actor, creator, activist and philanthropist
New York, New York: “I find it irresistible right here. I like that we dwell close to seven eating places. Phil and I should not planners. We don’t have a reservation; if there’s a desk, we go in. And we don’t want a automotive. Are you able to think about attempting to get a cab in L.A.? You’d be ready for the remainder of your life.”
“I instructed a decorator to ship me an entire bunch of chintz pillows and I’d choose some,” Ms. Thomas stated. “I put them on the ground, and I assumed they seemed so fairly I stated, ‘Let’s do all of them.’”
She added: “In the event you put two totally different materials collectively, they give the impression of being clash-y. However if you happen to do 30, all of them go collectively!”
Ms. Thomas grew to become smitten with Mr. Donahue (and vice versa) in 1977, when she was a visitor on his speak present, then based mostly in Chicago. (Watch the video on YouTube; their connection was instant and evident.)
“Once we have been strolling from the inexperienced room into the studio, Phil stated to me, ‘I’d wish to ask you about your mom throughout the interview. Is that OK?’” Ms. Thomas recalled.
“And I assumed to myself, ‘That is an fascinating man,’ as a result of everyone at all times wished to learn about my father,” she continued, referring to the actor and comic and TV producer Danny Thomas, who based and was a serious benefactor of St. Jude Youngsters’s Analysis Hospital, in Memphis. Ms. Thomas is now its nationwide outreach director.
“Nobody had ever requested about my mom,” she stated. “I used to be so touched.” (Right here’s a little bit of what Mr. Donahue and his viewers discovered: Earlier than marrying Mr. Thomas and having three youngsters — Marlo is the eldest — the previous Rose Marie Cassaniti was a singer and the host of a radio present in Detroit.)
Ms. Thomas and Mr. Donahue, a divorcé with 5 youngsters, had a long-distance courtship; she was based mostly in Los Angeles, he in Winnetka, Sick. Not lengthy earlier than they married in 1980, “Phil instructed me, ‘I can’t dwell in L.A. I don’t wish to spend the remainder of my life interviewing John Wayne. I can dwell in New York or Washington,’” Ms. Thomas stated. “And I instructed him, ‘Effectively, I can dwell in New York or L.A.’ So New York it was.”
For the sake of Mr. Donahue, who had by no means earlier than lived in an condominium, it wanted to be New York with a terrace. For the sake of Ms. Thomas, a human heliotrope, it wanted to be New York with plentiful solar. Assume Malibu overlooking Central Park. The penthouse duplex that ticked all of the containers has been residence since 1987.
The couple’s architect, Charles Gwathmey, satisfied them to knock down many a wall to take full benefit the condominium’s three exposures: north, south and west. The sunshine from the floor-to-ceiling home windows — they have been a headache to put in, Ms. Thomas stated, however eminently value it — brightens the flowing area that includes the eating room, the lounge and the library/TV room.
That lady was very clear with that architect. “I instructed Charles, ‘I don’t desire a home with Louis anyone — no Louis XIV, no Louis XV. I simply need snug furnishings,’” Ms. Thomas stated, urging a customer to check out a high-backed, pale-blue leather-based chair, one in all a pair.
She has two of the identical model in grey. “Once they arrived, Phil known as me and stated, ‘The chairs got here, however there’s been a mistake. They’re not all the identical. There are two blue and two grey,’” Ms. Thomas recalled. “And I stated, ‘Sure, that’s the purpose. In any other case, the room would appear to be an airport lounge.’”
She selected her wicker eating chairs partly as a result of they’d arms, to offer buddies one thing to lean on throughout marathon talkfests across the desk. She had the legs of an outdated pine eating desk shortened as a result of it was the one means she may discover a espresso desk with ample floor area for the multitude of hors d’oeuvres which are commonplace at her events. A bonus: the desk has pullout extensions for visitors to simply attain and relaxation their drinks.
Mr. Gwathmey proposed. Ms. Marlo disposed. He pressed for a marble flooring within the entryway. She went with slate. He lobbied for teak flooring. She selected pine. “Charles thought pine was too comfortable, and he was proper,” Ms. Thomas stated. “There are loads of high-heel marks on it now, however so what? It’s a flooring. I wished to make use of supplies that made this really feel like a house that had been right here for some time.”
By design, it’s a residence whose public areas don’t double as shrines to the self. “We don’t put something skilled in our residing space,” Ms. Thomas stated. “You go to some folks’s homes, and so they have journal covers in the lounge.”
Nonetheless, there are some spectacular sights right here, if you recognize the place to look.
On a wall past the library is a photograph of Ms. Thomas receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama in 2014. “You dream about successful an Oscar, successful an Emmy,” she stated. “You don’t dream about getting the medal of freedom. I didn’t notice how a lot it meant to me till I used to be there.”
Ms. Thomas’s workplace, a cheerful muddle, accommodates her 4 Emmy Awards; a watercolor of her holding the solar, painted by Elaine Could; pictures of Ms. Thomas flanked by Invoice Clinton and Al Gore; pictures of her with first girls Betty Ford, Barbara Bush, Rosalynn Carter, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama (quickly to come back: Ms. Thomas with Jill Biden); pictures of her along with her father; and an image of Ms. Thomas and Mr. Donahue at Disney World, on their first date.
“Aren’t we cute?” Ms. Thomas wished to know.
They’re cute. And now they’re additionally facilitators-in-chief of the podcast “Double Date,” an exploration of putting up with marriage and its challenges, based mostly on their best-selling 2020 ebook, “What Makes a Marriage Final.” A brand new batch of episodes is deliberate for the spring.
Ms. Thomas’s pursuits and commitments typically feed into one another. A couple of years in the past, Laura J. Alber, the chief government of Williams-Sonoma, was among the many visitors at an annual dinner Ms. Thomas offers for St. Jude’s company sponsors. Ms. Alber admired the wood-and-silver serving items and the sq. plates arrayed on the espresso desk, the fruits of journeys to Italy, France and Japan and forays to the Portobello Street Market within the Nineteen Sixties, when Ms. Thomas was starring within the London manufacturing of “Barefoot within the Park.”
“Laura stated, ‘That is probably the most stunning stuff I’ve ever seen. It’s a must to do a group for us,’” Ms. Thomas recalled.
It wasn’t a lot of a stretch. You’ll search lengthy and exhausting to discover a extra enthusiastic host. The cabinets of Ms. Thomas’ china closet pretty groan with glassware and tableware. The massive silver punch bowl that when belonged to her mom will get a frequent exercise as a mini-seafood bar.
“I’m an individual who likes to entertain,” she stated, urgent mini-sandwiches and cupcakes on some guests. (For the file, resistance is futile, and the egg salad is nice.) “And I actually assume it by means of. There’s champagne immediately, and I at all times put place playing cards on the desk, so that you don’t need to stroll in and assume, ‘Wouldn’t it be dangerous if I sat subsequent to the host?’”
“And,” she added, “there’s one thing good about the concept that any individual has deliberate a seat for you.”
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