Mary McDonald Sunburst Madness in Beverly Hills

SELLER: Efrem and Kendra Harkham
LOCATION: Beverly Hills, CA
PRICE: $7,773,077
SIZE: 5,545 square feet, 7 bedrooms, 5 full and 2 half bathrooms

NOTE: We apologize for any delays. We've been cursed some technical difficulties beyond our control that seem to be just about worked out. Onward and forward we go...

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: This week on Bravo's Million Dollar Decorator we got to see Martyn Lawrence Bullard mow through an entire box of gourmet chocolates given him by actress client Ellen Pompeo; We watched Jeffrey Alan Marks and his tough-talking tussle-haired boy-beau Ross Cassidy cope with a stink-faced beehawtcha named Lindsay who seemed–at first–determined to dislike every decorative choice they made in her parents multi-million dollar house in La Jolla; We saw the amazing Kathy Ireland who didn't decorate a damn thing but did drink white wine, talk about bras and be ridiculously charming; Nelly decorator Nathan Turner–and we say that with love, hunnies–drove his big manly man-truck to Laguna Beach or some other place down behind the proverbial Orange Curtain to install a $100,000 terrace space for a tightly-wound friend and client he described as "rich" and "divorced;" Finally we watched the inestimable, intense, snooty and deliciously quirky Mary McDonald chastise a long-time client when she attempted to cut the budget from $100,000 to $50,000 for the design and decoration of a pair of guest houses at her (now former) house in Beverly Hills, CA. Miz McDonald, hunties, does not care to to be reined in by anything as trivial as a budget.

Here's what happened, at least as it went down on the boob-toob: Miz McDonald did up the day-core for a large house in the flats of Beverly Hills, CA owned by garmento turned hotelier Efrem Harkham and his squeaky-voiced wife Kendra. Just when it came time for Miz McDonald and her opinionated team to start in on the Efrem's pair of guest houses, Miz McDonald was informed by the Missus that she and the Mister were getting a divorce. Miz McDonald, bless her well-accessorized and stylish heart, acted quite cavalier about the failure of Missus Efrem's marriage. Perhaps she thrilled inside that one high-paying client just became two high-paying clients. Oh, we tease. Surely Miz McDonald would never be so callous to think such a thing.

The house in question, a symmetrical brick Georgian originally built in 1930, was purchased by Mister and Missus Harkham in December 2004 for $2,950,000. The divorcing Harkam's house was first listed in August of 2010 with a price tag of $9,200,000, reduced 2.5 months later to $8,795,000 and two weeks after that the asking price was hacked to $7,950,000.

That last chop-chop seemed to do the trick because property records show that Mister and ex-Missus Harkham sold their once happy marital mansion in December 2010 to a business entity for the rather complicated asking price of $7,773,077. (Redfin shows the sale price as the slightly different but no less complicated $7,772,755.) According to our informant Lucy Spillerguts, the buyer is an Emmy-nominated producer/director who happens to be the son of a world-famous romance novelist.

Listing information from the time Mister and Missus Harkham had their now-former Mary McDonald decorated digs on the market shows the .56 acre mini-estate includes a main house that measures 5,545 square feet. There are a total of 7 bedrooms and 5 full and 2 half bathrooms spread throughout the main house that contains 4 bedroom suites plus a staff bedroom and bath, a detached garage with guest quarters above and a second detached structure with additional guest quarters on the lower floor and a game room/lounge on the second.

Presumably the Harkhams divvied up their home goods and took them to their respective bachelor and bachelorette pads but during their occupation the elegant but intimately-scaled mansion dripped with classic Mary McDonald decorative derring-do that bends towards courageous but very carefully curated interiors steeped in vintage Hollywood glamor, jet-setter chic and a strong vein of Chinoiserie. Miz McDonald's designs often include an unapologetically expensive high glam quotient with theatrical gestures, high contrast vibrant color punches, lots of shiny things, multi-layered collections and thick table top tableau. Miz McDonald has a thing for graphic patterns and animal prints. In fact, she once did up the sun porch in her own home with wall coverings, curtains, valances, and furniture upholstery all in the exact same leopard fabric.

It has been mentioned publicly before and was dropped as a bit of a bon mot by designer Nathan Turner on Million Dollar Listing, that Miz McDonald was the inspiration for the Karen Walker character on the sitcom Will & Grace. Although there are some similarities–including a willful dislike and total disregard for the cost of something–through one of our showbiz industry connections Your Mama was able to sort this rumor out. Suffice to say Miz McDonald was not the inspiration for Karen Walker.

The generous entry has an graceful curved staircase backed by flower-printed silver wall paper and the hardwood floor was painted with an over-scaled David Hicks-ian pattern of circles, squares and octagons that stretches right on into the Hollywood Regency-infused formal dining room that overlooks the back yard. The adjacent powder pooper goes full glitz with silver leafed walls, an ornate antique mirror and a very contemporary stainless steel vessel sink atop a squat fluted column. We're beyond thrilled that Miz McDonald–or ex-Missus Efrem or whomever–used droopy purple tulips in the powder room instead of one of those cliché orchids that we find in far too many high-end home listings.

A small sitting room off the entry makes for a more cozy conversation setting than the rigorous icy blue formal living room that includes a fireplace and claret-colored accent pillows and lamp shades. If we know Mary McDonald–and we do not actually know Mary McDonald–the pair of ivory upholstered tufted slipper chairs are original Billy Haines numbers that together likely cost more than most people earn in an entire damn year.

More family-oriented areas include a commodious and surprisingly utilitarian kitchen with not one but two large work islands. An adjacent breakfast nook has a built-in banquette slathered in red and white striped upholstery with blue and white accent pillows. On the paneled walls that may or may not be faux bois hang a boat load of mis-matched sunbursts. Sunbursts are a lovely if somewhat overplayed staple of high-end contemporary day-core, one that Miz McDonald took to the nth degree at the Harkham house. In addition to the plain but well-equipped cookery, service areas include a staff room and bath, laundry facilities and mud room.

Miz McDonald leaves no corners undone and to her credit often uses little-loved or easily over-looked spaces as an opportunity make a fearless statement that the home owners' friends and relatives will go on and on and on about. In the case of the Harkham house, the second floor landing, blessed with a tightly curled banister that gives the otherwise boxy space a sexy femininity, has dramatic dark wood floors and two competing but decoratively complimentary wall paper patterns, one the same shimmery silver floral print as in the foyer and the other a gray and silver horizontal stripe. As (melo)dramatic as the wall coverings are as far as Your Mama is concerned the upper landing's pièce de résistance is without question the whimsical and wonderful lighted wall sconce that looks like a porcupine with LED lights at the tip of each of its quills. The porcupine sconce also–yes–resembles a sunburst.

The master suite has chartreuse walls that perfectly speak to the gilded Neoclassical four poster bed behind which hangs a gold sunburst. The room is warmed by fireplace with antique carved marble surround and natural light floods in through the semi-circular bay window into which was built a banquette with deliciously tactile velvet upholstery. We do not care for the puffy balloon valances–in a heavy but monotoned brocade–that always make it look to Your Mama like a bunch of ball gowns someone tacked up above the windows. The attached and master bathroom features a pair of French doors the open inward, painted hardwood floors and double sinks and vanities on opposite walls with a freestanding soaking tub in between. The children will note the wee trash can that may or may not be wrapped in pony skin.

A wide terrace runs along the back of the house where a canopied terrace overlooks the swimming pool. Miz McDonald's penchant for sunbursts strikes again in the outdoor living area. This time its a 1970s-looking black plastic and mirrored apparatus comprised of a central sunburst surrounded by seven round dots that combined make a second sunburst. A sunburst inside a sunburst, if you will.

An boxwood-lined allée joins the main house to the two fully detached back buildings and lends an air of structure, procession and formality to the long and narrow backyard. One of the back houses contains a three car garage with a guest suite above done up by Miz McDonald in a surprisingly simple Armani Casa meets sophisticated country house sort of manner. The other structure has a guest suite on the lower floor–notice the gold sunburst mirror over the bed, hunnies–with a trio of arched French doors, chocolate walls, sisal wall to wall carpeting, a zebra rug and a truck load of pottery, baskets, candlesticks and other expensive objet of one sort of another. Upstairs a game room/lounge was given a "masculine" edge with antlers, Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chairs, comfy couch potato sofa, clean-lined pool table and a silkscreen print of one of Damien Hirst's iconic (and star-bursty) Cathedral Print butterfly paintings that cost–if our interweb research is accurate–between thirty and fifty grand apiece. The children will note the quartet of spin art paintings that flank the tee-vee, which are, in their way, also star bursts.

The Harkham house, in all its sunburst glory, was featured in Miz McDonald's new book Interiors: The Allure of Style.

We don't know to where Mister Harkham decamped–he appears to own several apartment buildings in L.A. as well as a hotel or two where he could be camped out–but property records indicate that in March 2011 ex-Missus Harkham spent $2,400,000 for a more modest if still quite pricey 3,434 square foot Spanish style casa in a perfectly lovely but less exclusive area of the flats in Beverly Hills.

We're not entirely sure where Miz McDonald currently resides but we do know that for a fair number of years she was the intimate lady-friend of L.A.-based high end house flipper and property developer John Bersci who ran into some tight financial times a few years ago but is lately putting his toes back in the real estate waters. Mister Bersci and Miz McDonald used to lived in the famous and fabulous Harvey Mudd Estate in Beverly Hills originally designed in 1922 by architect Elmer Grey, the same architect responsible for the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Rose Bowl Stadium. It was here at the Mudd mansion, puppies, where Miz McDonald transformed a glassed in sun porch into the aforementioned leopard print extravaganza, which–minus the paisley-print pillows and the striped bolsters that match the striped shades–is kind of magnificent in its total disregard for animal print restraint.

Mister Bersci tried to sell the historic Mudd estate in starting in October 2008 when it was listed with an asking price of $11,495,000. But alas, the real estate gods had nothing but eyes of dagger for Mister Bersci at the time and in July 2009, according to property records, the Mudd mansion was foreclosed. By October of 2009 the bank-owned property was back on the market–as "the ultimate fixer"–and sold again in February 2010 for $6,250,000.

listing photos: Swift Pictures for Westside Estate Agency