Longtime Pasadena resident Erika Girardi, breakout star of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, took time out to show us around the home she and husband Tom have made their own.
BY: Cuyler Gibbons
PHOTOS BY: Meeno, Shannon Cottrell and Fernando Cerda
Few TV phenomena are as ubiquitous as the Real Housewives franchise. Begun in 2006 with The Real Housewives of Orange County, the programming juggernaut now boasts nine domestic versions as well as a number of international casts. The biggest revelation across all of last season’s Real Housewives might have been the breakout popularity of Pasadena resident Erika Girardi in her first season on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (the show makes a bit of a geographic allowance.).
Part of the immense appeal of these shows is, of course, the irony inherent in the title. While the women who star are indeed wives and do have houses, they don’t inhabit a reality most of us recognize. That certainly holds true for Erika Girardi, who in addition to being married to über-successful trial lawyer Tom Girardi, is, as Erika Jayne, a successful singer-songwriter in her own right, with nine No. 1 singles on the Billboard U.S. Hot Dance Club play chart. Erika Jayne, the performer, with a “glitz, glamour, and fun” mantra, is often provocatively over the top, whereas Erika Girardi, the housewife, Pasadena POPS patron, vocal LGBT supporter and music label founder, is far more quietly living her life and taking care of business. When she’s not sharing that life with millions of RHOBH viewers, that is.
Although hardly demure—the occasional F-bomb departs her perfectly glossed lips—Girardi explains that “Erika Jayne” is “a part of my personality that I express on stage. As a performer, I don’t think I’m unique in that way. I just happen to really blow mine out!” And that she does. Her latest dance single, “How Many F**ks?”, went to No. 1 in August 2016.
Recently, Girardi met us at the massive door to her home and graciously led us inside for a tour. She is both direct and accessible, the brass and moxie that has endeared her to RHOBH audiences is evident if subdued. She is also clearly proud of her house, a 1920s era structure that she and husband Tom wanted to return to its true 1920s grandeur. “We wanted to give the girl her dignity back,” says Girardi. Originally designed by the Pasadena architectural firm of Hunt and Grey—designers of Henry Huntington’s house, among other Pasadena landmarks—Girardi left the bottom floor largely intact, while completely reworking the upstairs space. “Downstairs was a restoration, upstairs was a remodel,” says Girardi.
Even with the upstairs remodel, it was important to Girardi that she stay faithful to the period in which it was built. “I was inspired by Pasadena and what it was at that time, and I really wanted to keep the feel of the ’20s. I wasn’t going to put some modern twist on it,” she says. To help her in this task, Girardi enlisted designer Joan Behnke, whom Forbes called “The Billionaire Whisperer” due to her well-heeled clientele. Behnke’s designs are known for the quality and uniqueness of their furnishings—furnishings that invariably invoke a story, a narrative that involves the owner and adds to the piece’s ability to enrich the space.
Girardi’s home is a case in point. Erika Girardi herself is fond of religious iconography, and she knowledgably points out the history and provenance of numerous beautiful antique examples that her house contains, culminating in the upstairs chapel. This quiet space, a peacefully private oasis for Girardi, is majestically appointed with a vaulted ceiling fresco and religious statuary and sculptures from around the world.
If it’s the details that ultimately make a home, this ultimate home is no exception. And like Girardi herself, they are both lovely and unapologetic. In addition to the religious art, lithographs by Chagall and Miró share space with ancient Greek tile mosaics, nearly life-sized sequin bedecked portraits of Erika Jayne performing, and curios such a tiny stuffed lamb (which expired of natural causes, Girardi assures us) and a soon-to-come albino octopus in a tank among the library’s books.
Now 10 years following the completion of work that took two years, Girardi says she still wouldn’t change much. “Maybe a few upgrades, I’d like to have a couple pieces reupholstered. But I’m not itching to change anything.” This seems a remarkably satisfied outlook for someone who is constantly pushing boundaries elsewhere in her life. Someone like Erika Jayne. But this is clearly Erika Girardi’s space. “Well, I just love the way this house was built. It’s very dramatic. I’m not going to knock down any walls,” says Erika Girardi, “I would like to get some new drapes, though. They’ve kinda been through it.” Spoken like a real housewife.
The Ultimate Home Tour
“In the entry, we kept the original travertine floors and antique front door, as well as incorporated architectural elements that evoked Myron Hunt’s original aesthetic, including wood paneling on the walls and wrought iron railing at the stairs.”
– Joan Behnke
“The chapel was created as a sanctuary for Erika to find peace and tranquility. We found rare relics in Europe, antique religious elements from Mexico and stone carvings from Italy—and all were incorporated into the architecture of the space, as a serene albeit inspiring place.”
– Joan Behnke
“This is my dining room. Lots of yellows. I wanted it bright and airy. The room is great for a formal dinner, but usually it’s just Tom and I here. We can eat here, (two chairs by the fire) and it’s really kind of intimate and fun. And very personal.”
– Erika Jayne Gerardi
“In the kitchen, we kept everything casual and comfortable, with rustic beams, plastered walls, and reclaimed terra cotta floors. As there was a large structural post that we could not get rid of in the center of the space, we chose instead to embellish it as an old wood cabinet, with frescos painted on canvases on the cabinet panels to evoke a sense of history.”
– Joan Behnke
“In the living room and library, we added coffered ceilings and intricately parqueted floors, all with the intention of bringing the house back to its original character.”
– Joan Behnke
“The grounds were originally designed by the Olmstead brothers (American landscape design pioneers).We went back to Brookline, MA, where the Olmstead brothers’ archives are, and got some of the original plans. Originally, it had a something of a Central Park feel which we wanted to restore. It’s the perfect yard for entertaining.”
– Erika Jayne Girardi
Closet and Glam Room:
“For Erika’s closet, we wanted to evoke an exotic flair in the Old Hollywood sense, with intricate fretwork and pagoda details incorporated into the built-in cabinetry and millwork.”
– Joan Behnke