Joan Rivers' "Ugliest House in Connecticut"
When Joan Rivers bought the house that would become her longtime country getaway, she introduced it to her close friend and soon-to-be designer, Joseph Cicio, as the “ugliest house in Connecticut” and compared the place to a Benihana Japanese restaurant.
She Stole His Punch Line About It
“She laughed and told me that the architect had apparently been a student of Frank Lloyd Wright’s. ‘Shame he didn’t study more,’ was my retort,” Ciccio writes in his new book, Friends. "She loved that comment and used it for years after when she did her before-and-after tours of the house for guests."
They Almost Split Over a Chandelier
Cicio agreed to the job on the condition that Rivers not buy anything for the house without his permission. "Behind my back Joan purchased a massive crystal chandelier in the shape of a ship to hang over her bathtub," he tells PEOPLE. "At this point the house was virtually done and I suggested she find another designer to finish and take my name off. I guess she respected my conviction; the chandelier ended up in California with her daughter."
It's the Opposite of Her Manhattan Penthouse
Rivers' New York City home was incredibly ornate. "This look was not my preference and the complete opposite of the aesthetic she wanted for her home in Connecticut," he says. "Quality, beauty, detailing, warm earth tones, cozy and curled-up were words describing what Joan wanted. We both shared a love of dogs, which she allowed to jump on everything in the country, so furnishing had to be both attractive and durable."
There's a Tribute to Her Daughter in Her Bedroom
"The master bedroom was her favorite. She wanted it to be very feminine and decorated in pink and white," says the designer and author. "An intimate portrait of Joan and her dear daughter Melissa hung above the mantel. During the renovation, we broke through the ceiling into the large attic space to create a 20' x 50' climate-controlled storage area for her vast wardrobe which included many glamorous costumes from her stand-up act."
She Spent Her Time in the Library
"Joan spent most times in the area between the kitchen and living room, which served as an entry hall, library and makeshift dining room," Cicio explains. "It was perfect for large parties with its welcoming fireplace, ample seating and spectacular view of the pool house."
She Wasn't Opposed to a Splurge
"Joan worked incredibly hard and if she wanted something, she bought it. I honestly cannot remember her ever saying ‘no’ to anything I wanted for her new house," Cicio says of his friend and patron.
Visitors Always Commented on This One Thing
Guests always told Rivers that a stay in one of her guestrooms was the best sleep they ever had. Explains, Cicio, “Every last detail in the guest suites, down to the sumptuous bed linens, was designed to be gracious and comfortable, but never overtly grand. Throughout the house interior walls were insulated to dampen sound. In fact, most rooms were fully upholstered, even the ceilings, with exclusive fabrics from Scalamandré."
It Had an Over-the-Top Opening Night
When the house was complete, Cicio created an ideal evening setup to welcome Rivers home: "Everything outside and inside the house was perfect: lighting, window treatments, music, scented candles, fires glowing in all five fireplaces, the smell of apple pie in the oven, her favorite Cool Whip in the freezer."