“I never did see myself doing this,” says actor Dennis Franz of his recent forays into the world of home design and property development — the most recent project being the Santa Barbara Design House and Gardens, a 6,000-sq.-ft. home in Montecito that he and his wife, Joanie, took from sad to stately with the help of some of TV’s biggest home-design stars. It opened to the public Sept. 13.“Joanie and I always loved to watch Martha Stewart, HGTV — all those home improvement shows,” says Franz, who played Det. Andy Sipowicz on ABC’s “NYPD Blue” until it ended its 12-season run in 2005. “We got hooked.” When the series ended Franz found himself with more time on his hands, and the couple took their interest in home design and development into the real world. To transform the house into the elegant estate it is now, they invited some of their favorite Hollywood interior designers to help — including Mary McDonald (see related story this page) of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Decorators,” Ryan Brown of Bravo’s “Flipping Out” and TLC’s “Spouse Vs. House,” and Michelle Workman, who designed homes for Jennifer Lopez and John Travolta. Even with so many designer superstars of varying tastes working on the project, the house ended up having internal consistency. The designers were free to express themselves however they chose, says Franz, as long as continuity was maintained throughout the home. “We’ve been in some design homes where it felt like there was no connecting link from room to room. We and we didn’t want that,” he says. “We wanted the interiors to lend themselves to the total, so there was a cohesive flow, and the interior had the same feel as the exterior of the home. Fortunately, everyone was very accommodating.” The results, Franz says, are a triumph, “a perfect marriage of East Coast style and West Coast living.” The house — which has been featured on season two of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Decorators” and on HGTV special “Selling LA” — is the fourth project of Big Red Properties, the development company Franz runs with his wife. Visitors are greeted by a long tree-lined driveway leading to the Hamptons-style shingle farmhouse, which boasts both mountain and ocean views. It’s situated on 1.62 acres and includes six bedrooms and 6.5 baths. Other improvements include the addition of a pool, entertainment pavilion and outdoor fireplace. A separate two-bedroom cabana home sits under a 250-year-old oak tree. Working with talented designers was, Franz says, a big part of what he enjoyed about the project. He’s not alone in Hollywood. “There’s something about the creative element of putting your home together that’s of interest to entertainers, to anyone who has a creative, artistic side to them,” he adds. “Rather than just handing it off to others, we like to be involved.” The home is available for public viewing through Oct. 7 and will then be placed on the market.
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