We already know the stories from the house. As the backdrop to some of the Real Housewives of New York’s most memorable episodes, Dorinda Medley’s home in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, Blue Stone Manor, is famously where Luann fumbled an olive branch to Carole; Carole went head-to-head with Bethenny in costume; and Bethenny called Luann, among other things, a liar, a hypocrite, and a snake. Tears have been shed, friendships broken, and fires started. Even Ramona’s dog Coco has lost her cool. All this despite the valiant efforts of their host, who—lest we forget—cooked, decorated, and made it nice!
Few among even us RHONY superfans, however, know the story of the house. “The show is so focused on the girls, it doesn’t ever really show the architecture,” says Medley, speaking via Zoom from the Berkshires, where she has been sheltering in place with her daughter, Hannah, and family friend Greg Calejo. “People always come and say, ‘Wow, your house looks so different in person.’” Built in 1902, the 11,000-square-foot Tudor-style residence harks back to the Gilded Age, when titans of industry commissioned the likes of Peabody & Stearns, Rotch & Tilden, and McKim, Mead & White to design sprawling summer cottages in the mountains of western Massachusetts. Blue Stone Manor captures that same spirit in the form of intricate ironwork, elaborate mantelpieces, and a generously proportioned seven-bedroom layout, which is anchored by side-by-side entry and stair halls.
Growing up just down the road, Medley always had her eye on the house, whose stone walls and foundations had been laid by her grandfather and great-grandfather, both masons. “Even as a kid I had Champagne tastes and caviar dreams,” she jokes. “I would drive by with dad and say, ‘I’m gonna own this house one day,’ and he would say, ‘Of course you are, princess.’” That wish came true in 2005, when her late husband, Richard, gave her the house as a surprise wedding present. By that point, the property had lost some of its character—the decorative detailing, systems, and gardens all having fallen into states of disrepair. Fortunately, Medley, by turns RHONY’s sympathetic voice of reason and masterful pot stirrer (“Jovani!”), has personality to spare. Collaborating with interior designer Marshall Watson, a longtime friend, she has brought the property back to life not once but twice—first upon moving in with Richard and again this past year after a pipe burst while she was at Andy Cohen’s baby shower, knocking out the heating system and flooding the rooms.
“The house, you have to love it,” says Medley, who has always dived head first into the renovation process, with a sigh—poring over books about Stanford White (to whom she and Watson attribute Blue Stone Manor) and tapping the Berkshires’ expert artisans to revive original light fixtures, escutcheons, pulls, and panelling. “If you’re not in love with this house and you’re not in love with the Berkshires, then it’s a lot.” Architectural interventions stayed true to the traditional spirit of the architecture: The renovated kitchen, expanded from a small servants’ space into what may have once been a garage, pays tribute to Sir Edwin Lutyens, while the library’s coffered ceiling is an homage to Julia Morgan’s masterpiece, Hearst Castle, which Medley visited for inspiration. “Rooms should move with the light, rooms should welcome people, and rooms should have a natural flow,” Medley notes, musing on the makings of a great home. “That was Stanford White.”
When it came time to decorate, however, she and Watson went off script, assembling an eclectic array of fabrics and furnishings. That merry Medley medley (what she calls “Marilyn Monroe meets Frankenstein”) runs the gamut from a pair of hypnotic torchères by Mark Brazier Jones to a Venetian grotto-style tête-à-tête to twin Chesterfields upholstered in bright purple velvet. “I want people to walk through and have an opinion,” says Medley, exclaiming, “‘What’s that? Why is that? Where did that come from? Why do you have it? I love that color! I hate that color!’” Refreshingly, any crowdsourced notions of good and bad taste seem to fly out the French doors that frame spectacular hilltop views. “She doesn’t tiptoe through the tulips,” praises Watson. Or as former castmate Carole Radziwill, who named Blue Stone Manor during season seven, put it: “When Dorinda’s bad, she is so good.”
After spending much of last year repairing damage from a flood—a grueling process that involved reuniting the original team of artisans and contractors—Medley is counting her blessings while isolating in the mountains. “This house is alive, this house talks to you,” she says. “It’s a restorative place.” Days at a social distance start and end with the sun, punctuated by workouts, walks across the pastoral 18-acre grounds, and, for the amusement of her loyal following, Instagram antics. Dinnertime is six on the dot, with each meal joyfully prepared in that Cotswolds-style kitchen. “I didn’t want a delicate kitchen,” says Medley. “I wanted something right out of Beauty and the Beast, someplace you could bring a dead animal and chop it up.” Luann, Ramona, Tinsley, Sonja, Leah—y’all best behave.