In Sally Thorner's living room, a sprawling rattan loveseat beckons from a corner. A bit fantastical, it's a closer relative of the porch swing than the sofa in mood and purpose. With its oversized downy cushions, this piece is meant for long, lazy mornings, for losing track of time with one's husband, for unabashed relaxation.
Needless to say, it's new.
As an anchorwoman for 25 years, the omnipresent face of television news in Baltimore, Thorner had little time to herself. But that's all changed since she retired last year.
Since Thorner, who's 55, signed off WJZ in December, she's finally been able to join her globetrotting husband on exotic trips, study Mandarin, blog for the Huffington Post, screen test for bit TV parts, volunteer for causes she cares about, like the Maryland SPCA, and redesign her home and buy a second one in New York City.
"I was barely here before," says Thorner, perched on a kitchen stool in her Baltimore County home, which can be found in a gated community in Brooklandville, tucked in a wooded cul-de-sac. "Home was a place I came to sleep and eat. For 30 years, I was not very good at anything. A half-baked wife. A half-baked mother. A half-baked daughter, friend and niece. I didn't have time for anything that really mattered to me."
But she does now. And she wanted her homes to reflect and support her new town-and-country way of living.
"When we came home," she says, "we wanted to love coming home."
Thorner and her husband, Dr. Brian Rosenfeld, hired designer Christopher Howarth to revamp both their Baltimore home, a 1970s ranch that hadn't been touched since the couple moved in 20 years ago, and their new New York apartment, a one-bedroom overlooking Central Park.
In Baltimore, Howarth's job would be loosening up the feel of the house and making it seem like a retreat, with the easygoing feel of California's wine country or the laid-back cottage vibe of the Pacific Northwest.
Thorner, who has reveled in not touching a mascara wand or pair of pantyhose since she went off-air, wanted to pad around her house barefoot and not worry about where she rested her cans of Diet Coke. She wanted her sweet-tempered corgi pups, Jackson and Willy, to have free rein.
She wanted a house to live in, she told Howarth, not a pristine designer museum.
It didn't take Howarth long to figure out that a key aspect of his design would be warmth. After all, that's what he saw when he looked at the couple and their newlywed-like affection for each other.
"It's obvious that there's a lot of love in that house," he says. "I wanted the color to reflect that."
There's gold for the entryway. Pale blush hues in the living room that subtly change as the sun rises and falls. Peaches in the guest bedroom and, for the master, a playful combination of baby blue and salmon.
By removing what had been heavy paint colors in the living space, Howarth effectively turned the living room into a showcase for the couple's tranquil garden — nature became the focal point.
The fanciful loveseat, which was actually a piece of outdoor furniture that Howarth had reupholstered, reinforces the plan to bring the outside in.
Thorner's favorite room is the master bedroom, a cozy space where Howarth worked to capture the couple's sense of fun. There's flirty bedding, in pink and coral moire silk, satin and linen, but the star of the room might well be a chaise Howarth brought in from the living room and reupholstered in a whimsical pink-and-red animal print.
"Doesn't it feel like a California B&B?" Thorner asks.
As the couple was finishing the redesign of their Baltimore home, they started shopping for a New York apartment — in part because it would allow them to spend more time with their son, Everett, a college student at Yale, a train ride away from Manhattan.
Thorner knew she had the right one when she got goosebumps as soon as she stepped in. The view, from the 17th floor of a high-rise along Central Park West, is breathtaking — offering a sweeping skyline panorama and a bird's-eye perspective of the lush parkland.
Thorner and Rosenfeld wanted the apartment to be a getaway, but one that felt like home.
Unlike in Baltimore, where Howarth diffused the color scheme to draw attention to the wooded back yard, here he brought in rich, toasty colors that warm the space and highlight the decadent windows.
The living space has room for a red sleeper sofa framed by leather chairs on either side and a copper-topped dining table. Hanging behind the sofa is a bold piece with layers of newsprint by Baltimore artist Bill Crowley.
In the kitchen, Thorner added a painting by Sheep Jones that she found at Steven Scott Gallery in Fells Point, a figurine that was a gift from her former co-anchor Kai Jackson and a snapshot of her throwing out the first pitch at an Orioles game.
Bringing Baltimore into the big city through touches like this was important to Thorner, who insisted the place feel like home, not a midtown hotel.
"It's very important for it to be our oasis in the city," she says. "We really feel like we can relax."