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Rhapsody in Blue

The Palm Springs retreat of NBC executive Robert Greenblatt exudes a cool new take on midcentury modern.

NEW HUE Shades of blue and cream offer a fresh take on the concept of desert modern in the living room of NBC executive Robert Greenblatt’s Palm Springs getaway.

“I have a background in theater, and my first major in college was set design, so I like design and decor very much,” says L.A.-based Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment, of his Palm Springs vacation home. “The idea of putting a new house together from scratch was appealing; however I’m not so adventurous as to mix lots of eclectic things from different periods.” Enter interior designer and co-owner of Grace Home Furnishings, Michael Ostrow, whose work Greenblatt had seen at a friend’s home. The two met, and the collaboration was soon underway.

“It was really fun,” says Ostrow. “Bob was involved in the whole process, so the house really reflects his style.” The three-bedroom, 5,000-square-foot main house and two-bedroom casita required only a modicum of architectural work (the removal of a divider between the kitchen and the living room to open up for entertaining), so the duo was able to get to work quickly on making key decisions and identifying just the right pieces. “We wanted it to be very neutral but with a little color. We pulled a blue, almost a periwinkle, from the living room rug,” adds Ostrow, noting how the painted fireplace wall with its Curtis Jeré sunburst sculpture sets off the entire space, and in turn, the entire house. “The flow of the great room was really about scale. It’s a tall room, but we wanted it to feel intimate. In fact, what’s so special about the house is the overall flow—each room has its own feel, but it’s part of a whole. Rooms never look cluttered because the pieces blend in, yet they’re important enough to stand out.”

“I wanted the home to have a comfortable feel, but to be very clean and crisp, and since the house is modern, I wanted the furniture to be a lot of vintage midcentury modern,” adds Greenblatt, whose role at NBC includes programming primetime and late-night lineups, and live specials like The Sound of Music Live!, which garnered 19 million viewers. Next up is Hairspray Live! this December. Also under Greenblatt’s purview are three new fall shows, family drama This Is Us; Timeless, a time-travel adventure; and The Good Place, a comedy from the creator of Parks and Recreation. (His accolades go far beyond television too: He’s a Broadway producer and winner of the Tony Award for best musical for his 2014 production of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.) “I know [vintage modern] is a bit of a cliche in Palm Springs, but my other homes are very Arts and Crafts, so for me, this is a real departure.”

The house, which is bright with sunlight and poolside views, boasts such iconic designs as two off-white Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chairs, several Edmond Spence dressers, an Arne Jacobsen Egg chair with its original leather upholstery, several Eero Saarinen enameled tables and stools, and upholstered lounge chairs by Karpen of California. Many of the pieces came from Scandinavia, primarily via 1stdibs. “The Internet gives you the ability to search thousands of shops all over the world, make a transaction easily and then get something shipped to Palm Springs,” continues Greenblatt. “I was excited to bring together two Spence side tables and two Spence dressers, which are identical matches in terms of design and wood finish but were in three different cities.” And being a pianist, there’s also a 1962 Steinway in the home. (Greenblatt also has a 7-foot Bosendorfer at his house in Los Angeles and an 1898 Steinway in his office at NBC.) While he wasn’t specifically looking for a ’60s grand piano for Palm Springs, he was delighted to find one. “Steinway hasn’t changed the design of their grand pianos in a hundred years, so they all look the same, but somehow knowing it’s from 1962 makes it special.” Where the perfect vintage items couldn’t be found, Ostrow created custom pieces, notably the beds, or sourced contemporary designs in keeping with the midcentury aesthetic, like the Julian Chichester dining table.

WEEKEND RETREAT The front casita guest room continues the midcentury spirit of the main house with nightstands by Edmund Spence, Tony Paul brass lamps, and lounge chairs by Karpen of California. The contemporary rug is by Paul Smith for the Rug Company.

When it came to artwork for the home, the generous wall space and high ceilings offered Greenblatt the chance to hang some of his larger vintage posters, like a 9-foot-square example from the 1951 Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift classic, A Place in the Sun. “My collection is eclectic and covers a wide range of movie genres, but they all come from a period between 1935 and 1955,” explains Greenblatt. “All of the movies are American, but many of the posters are from foreign countries. The custom during the golden age of Hollywood was that new posters for each movie were produced in local foreign markets, and often they had different artwork than the American posters, usually by noteworthy local graphic artists.” The executive’s collection includes such cinematic favorites as Some Like It Hot, Dial M for Murder, Vertigo, and Gone With The Wind.

“We’re definitely acknowledging Palm Springs style, but if it’s all modern, it feels like a museum. This house feels comfortable, warm and inviting,” notes Ostrow, who, with partner Roger Stoker, is working on projects in Georgia, Miami and Puerto Rico, as well as L.A and San Francisco. The pair also recently opened a second Grace Home Furnishings showroom in downtown Palm Springs. “The rooms are open and relaxed but still tailored, nothing slouchy. Bob likes things to be in order,” he says.

“I’m a bit of a purist,” adds Greenblatt, explaining that when he made the decision to stick with a classic midcentury scheme, his worry was finding a way to make pieces from all over the world work in harmony. But in the hands of a skilled designer, everything clicked.

“It was a perfect project!” delights Ostrow. “It all came together and just worked. There’s not one thing I’d take away. It’s exactly as it should be.”



Palm Springs

Interior Design
Michael Ostrow, Grace Home Furnishings

Grace Home Furnishings
Custom-designed beds in the master bedroom, guest bedroom and front casita guest bedroom

Kyle Bunting
Custom hide rug in the office

Mansour Modern
Living room, master bedroom, master bathroom and guest bedroom rugs

Michael Berman Limited
Living room sofas

Moore & Giles
Leather on barstools and Eero Saarinen Tulip stools