Before COVID hit, Howard Bragman had two homes and a spouse. Today, the famed crisis manager, known for cleaning up some of Hollywood’s biggest messes, is single and lives in half the space he once had.
To get an idea of what he’s dealt with, past clients include Sharon Osbourne, Nick Cannon, Wendy Williams, Chris Brown and Monica Lewinsky, which just makes me grateful I don’t call him for a performance.
“After getting divorced, I didn’t have to downsize. I chose to do it,” Bragman told me, when I called to talk about his downsizing process and how he arrived at his magnificent result.
At the start of the pandemic, Bragman occupied a 1,000 square foot apartment in New York and a modern 4,200 square foot, five-bedroom, five-bathroom farmhouse in Valley Village, a suburb of Los Angeles. Once COVID took hold, giving up the apartment made sense, since the TV work he was doing there he could now do remotely.
As for the California home, once he and her husband separated, “the place seemed too big,” said Bragman, 66. “I didn’t want the interview. I wanted to live differently and travel more.
He found a two-story, 2,700-square-foot townhouse in nearby Lake Toluca. Besides needing a makeover, it had what he wanted: two bedrooms, room for an office, room for a gym, generous great room, large outdoor terrace for entertaining and access to a swimming pool and jacuzzi. The bones were good, but the place hadn’t been updated since it was built in 1977.
“That was a plus,” he added. “I hate paying for a bad renovation. I prefer not to pay for any renovation. The place also had no room for his vast collection of art and photography and his 5,200 square foot combined furniture.
Because a true professional knows when to call for help, the Hollywood repairman enlisted his longtime friend, Beverly Hills interior designer Christopher Grubb, to help fix the repairman.
Grubb, who joined our call, met Bragman in the late 1990s and worked on several houses of the PR maven. “We’ve been on a long design journey,” Grubb said. “This house is 180 degrees different from the previous one.”
“When you go through a crisis, you find out who your friends are,” Bragman joked.
Bragman bought the townhouse in May 2020. He sold his farmhouse that summer and moved into an apartment while he, Grubb and architect Kenneth David Lee of KDL Architects went to work on the renovation. Besides the structure’s clean lines and high ceilings, only a few walls remained, the stair railing, a built-in bookcase, an office cabinet, which they repainted, and the garage door.
Using a palette of blues (Dunn Edwards Luna Pier), grays, creams and taupes, they installed new cabinetry, flooring, fixtures and built-ins, including a wall of library covered with a ladder in the master bedroom.
Then they tackled art and furniture. “What do you like and what will be fine?” Grubb said were the defining issues. They started by selecting the large works of art that would stay and decorate around them. Among the keepers were an oil pastel by American artist Rockwell Kent and an iconic color photo Annie Leibovitz took of the late director Billy Wilder on Sunset Boulevard. Wilder and Bragman were friends.
“Art has a funny way of talking to you and telling you where it belongs,” said Bragman, who estimates he has sold or gifted around 35 significant works of art. Some he sold at auction or in private sales; some went to museums and several pieces he gave to friends and relatives. “After choosing what I wanted to keep, Christopher created a stunning gallery wall.”
Because going from 5,200 square feet to 2,700 can feel like an amputation, I asked Bragman and Grubb if they could translate their process into encouraging advice for others facing similar life and housing transitions. :
• Take out your happiness gauge. “When clients are downsizing and we work together to change what goes and what stays, I start by asking them what makes them happiest. Then we look at what fits,” Grubb said.
• Consider your art on loan. “I see it that way,” Bragman said, “I may have paid for the art, but I don’t own it. I’m just the keeper as long as I have it. I appreciate that now someone else will appreciate it.
• Plan to subtract, then add. Although more than half of Bragman’s old furniture was cut, many of the larger pieces were not. “When you move to a smaller space, you actually have to get rid of more furniture than you think,” Grubb said, “to make room for new things that you’ll need to bring the place together. .”
• Call in a professional. A professional designer will help you determine what will work where and what will not. Grubb knew right away that some parts wouldn’t work, but he let Bragman try them anyway. “He was saying, ‘We’ll see,'” Bragman said, “when he really meant, ‘It’s not going to work. “”
• Be realistic about value. “I had a lot of custom furniture made,” Bragman said, “pieces that I really liked but didn’t transfer well to the new home. I learned they weren’t worth much. He sold small amounts and gave away a lot. “New furniture is like a new car, it depreciates the minute you take it off the lot,” Grubb added. of today’s second-hand furniture is awash.
• Discover the benefits of downsizing. “I loved my farm, but that’s more my style,” Bragman said. “He feels good. I feel like I’ve lost weight. I have everything I need and nothing superfluous. When I visit someone who lives in a much bigger and extravagant house , I appreciate it, but I thank God I don’t have it. I wish more people knew that if they cut down on their activity, they could be so much happier. I don’t regret giving up on anything. These are things.
Marni Jameson has written six books on home and lifestyle, including “What to Do with Everything You Own to Leave the Legacy You Want”. Contact her at marnijameson.com.