“It looked like the Beverly Hillbillies,” Hawn says, adding that to make matters worse, when she opened her car door—chipping its paint on a brick wall alongside the driveway—all three family dogs leapt into the car's leather-clad interior. “I looked at the guy with me and said, ‘Don't worry, I'm buying the car,’” Hawn says, breathless with laughter.
Hudson, understandably, jumped at the chance to move back in. Robinson, though, was reluctant. “I said, ‘Trust me. Please,’” Hudson remembers. “‘You will love this house when I'm done with it.’ And he said, ‘All right, man, you're my wife. I trust you.’”
Hudson found herself flooded with memories, particularly of her maternal grandmother, and of the family's annual Christmas party: As a little girl she was captivated by Warren Beatty, and later she had her first crush, on a bartender named Kevin. Soon after she and Robinson moved in, Hudson walked out by the pool and, feeling the warmth of the brick patio beneath her bare feet, suddenly burst into tears. She explains that she and her brother used to soak up the warmth on those same bricks after swimming.
The house may have been full of memories, but Hudson and Robinson found that they were lacking other essentials—like a place to sit down. “We thought we had a lot more than we did,” groans Hudson. “We took out all our wedding gifts for the first time, and we had a lot of stuff from our New York apartment, and other stuff from storage. And we had nothing! All we had were mementos of our travels. We were sitting in empty rooms on a stool.”
Hudson met her future decorators, Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch, through friends Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor, who had hired the former set designers after they worked on Zoolander. Their firm, dubbed Roman & Williams after the designers' grandfathers, has a style that could be summed up as lived-in eclecticism, with lots of patinated wood surfaces, rich textiles and piled-up books. It's a bohemian look perfectly in sync with Hudson's own taste. At their first design meeting, Hudson showed up with a sheaf of pages torn from old magazines and design books—only to find that Standefer's inspiration board included a number of the exact same images.
Hudson told the decorators she wanted a house that was livable but with a hint of formality—“comfortable but with one uncomfortable piece in the room” is how she puts it—and a touch of Asian influence. Standefer says Hudson was an ideal client, with “huge” patience for comparing fabric swatches and discussing passementerie for the upholstery.
“Kate and Chris realized they needed support,” says Standefer, “but they're creative people. They wanted to be involved. And so it became kind of like an art project. It was inspiring, just to see them there. They're not precious. They really live.”