How Drew Barrymore Is Designing a New World Based on Being Herself

Better Homes & Gardens presents The Stylemaker Issue: Meet the inspired people crafting a more colorful future in the worlds of design, garden, and food.

After a lifetime spent playing other people, Drew Barrymore has created a new career—and a home line—based on being herself. 

portrait of Drew Barrymore in purple dress

Justin Coit

Drew Barrymore can pinpoint the very moment she became “totally obsessed,” by her own admission, with home design. It was 2001, and she was sitting on the floor of the wood-paneled living room of her Montecito, CA, house, staring at the lone object in the space: a deeply uninspiring metal desk. Earlier that year, she’d lost most of her possessions—which, she says, included a sizable record collection but very little furniture—in a fire at her previous place in Los Angeles. For months, she’d been camping out in her new abode with next to nothing. “It was bare walls, bare floors. I didn’t have a can opener. I didn’t have a bedsheet,” she says. “That day, l looked around my empty living room and thought, OK, this is getting really depressing. I have got to become a homemaker.” 

And boy, has she ever. After spending nearly 20 years wallpapering, painting, and furnishing her West Coast home to eclectically layered perfection, Drew now lives in a sunny, art-filled apartment in Manhattan with her two daughters, Olive, 10, and Frankie, 9—plus four cats, two dogs, and an occasionally free-ranging bearded dragon lizard named Jeremy. The family relocated to be closer to the girls’ grandparents and cousins. Their father, Drew’s ex-husband Will Kopelman, is a native New Yorker.

Rounded shapes are a design signature for her Beautiful line at Walmart, Drew says. “Our rule for the collection was no sharp corners.”

Housed in a gracious prewar building on the Upper East Side, the three-bedroom space feels equally homey and quirky, charming and charismatic—very much like the actress-turned-talk-show host herself. In the foyer, for example, not only were the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves painted white but so were the actual books, which are interspersed with a collection of vintage Greco-Roman-style busts that Drew collected on frequent scrolls through eBay, Chairish, and Etsy. In the living room, where oversize windows overlook a courtyard garden, the fireplace mantel is topped with a dried flower installation highlighted by a giant foraged wasp nest. “It came from a photo shoot, and afterward I was, like, ‘Do not remove that. I’m keeping it!’” she says. And in her bedroom, where the bed is swathed in chic gray fabric and the floor covered in plush, pale carpet, she’s hidden the large television behind a hippie-fabulous macramé wall hanging.

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Drew’s watchwords in designing her home were “disarming and relaxing.” As she makes clear on TikTok—where she posts before-and-after cleaning videos of her apartment in a chaotic, messy state any busy parent of young children can relate to—she has zero interest in broadcasting an aura of perfection. “When people come in here, I want them to feel like they can put their feet up and never leave—no uptightness and no fancy sofas,” she says. Indeed, hers come from an outlet store; she removes the back cushions and piles them with what she calls “big, fluffy, yummy” pillows for a personal look. The rug, meanwhile, is shaggy, white, and Moroccan-style. “The kids will probably ruin it soon,” she says, “but that’s OK because it’s from IKEA.”

Instead of pricey furniture, Drew prefers to devote her budget to art, good lighting (she likes Japanese-style paper globe pendants for their warm glow), and her near-constant home improvement and decorating projects. In recent years, she had her bedroom ceiling covered in star-print wallpaper and her entryway floor painted in a checkerboard pattern. Currently, she’s planning to upgrade the dining room—where the family eats when Olive and Frankie haven’t taken over the table with art projects—by covering the walls and ceiling with bone-white tiles from Clé. “It’s going to be like a bright and shiny cave,” she says. “Things are constantly moving around and changing here. One of my best friends recently told me, ‘I’m not coming to your house anymore for dinner because you’re just going to rearrange the furniture the whole time.’ And he’s totally right. If he comes over, I’m definitely going to ask him to hang pictures.”

portrait of Drew Barrymore with table interior design books

Justin Coit

Home design—the creation of what are, by definition, private spaces—might seem like a strange obsession for an extrovert. An actress who loves people (she’s a big hugger), she’s used to feeding off the energy of audiences, having been in front of cameras since she was in diapers. (Before stealing hearts as Gertie in E.T., she was doing television and commercials.) But for Drew, “home making,” as she calls it, is both an expression of creativity and a means of taking care of herself and her family.

portrait of Drew Barrymore with patterned backgrounds

Justin Coit

After a famously rough childhood—she was legally emancipated from her parents at age 14, then two years later she laid bare her struggles with mental health and substance abuse in her memoir, Little Girl Lost—feathering her nest is about creating her own psychological safe haven and giving her girls the warm, comforting home she never knew. For a while, she even considered making a career out of her self-taught decorating skills. “There was a long period of time when I thought I could go into interior design and that would make me happy,” she says. “I could do all my thrifting and shopping; I could make things unique—I won’t ever be cookie-cutter. I thought I could even do a show around it. And that’s where I was headed when this woman called and was like, ‘Would you ever consider doing a talk show?’”

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The Drew Barrymore Show, starting its fourth season in September, is, like her home, a true reflection of Drew. Rather than stick to the typical daytime chat format, she set out to create a space where viewers “felt invited,” she says. “I didn’t want this, like, bizarre interview dynamic that I’ve been on the other side of my whole life, where you’re just expected to tell anecdotal stories.” Instead, she gets up close and personal with guests (scooting her chair over to hold hands has become a signature move), has conversations with her audience that almost resemble group therapy (so many hugs, occasional tears), and shows off her design chops (along with regular guest designer Mikel Welch). With viewership up 70 percent year-over-year last season, the show has been an unqualified hit.

Despite that success, the TV show is just one aspect of Drew’s postmotherhood career shift and, ultimately, her midlife renaissance. “When I started having kids, I didn’t want to be playing characters and pretending to be different people,” she says of her decision to pause her acting career. “Everything changed for me. I just couldn’t do it.”

Launching new projects is “very stressful,” Drew says. “But it’s also extremely fun. Betting on yourself is a good thing. If you fail, you learn—and then you apply that knowledge to the next endeavor.”

And so she poured herself into projects that rest on the idea of Drew being utterly and uniquely Drew. There’s her magazine, Drew; her cookbook, Rebel Homemaker; her Flower Beauty line of cosmetics and skincare; and Beautiful, her collection of cookware, appliances, and, now, furnishings for Walmart. (The first piece, a white bouclé swivel lounger called the Drew Chair, sold out in 72 hours.) This diverse list of ventures—what does eye shadow, you might ask, have in common with electric kettles and air fryers?—makes sense to Drew. “It just became about a whole world I liked living in,” she says. “If you’re swatching cosmetics, you’re swatching colors, and that’s not too far off from fabrics, and if you live in a home where you’re constantly layering and decorating and collecting, you’re just in that mindset. It all kind of falls into place.”

Drew Barrymore

Designing means creating something from scratch. Decorating means finding things all over the place and putting them together. I do both.

— Drew Barrymore

For Drew, being an entrepreneur is both a creative outlet and serious business. “I don’t relate to artists who don’t accept that you need to think about practical realities, and, at the same time, I’m not interested in being involved with businesses who don’t appreciate and protect and nurture creativity and creative people. I really love wearing both hats.” To feed her creative side, she’s always scanning for inspiration, whether in magazines, on her travels, or walking around her neighborhood. “I will chase someone down the street and ask, ‘Can I please photograph your shoe? It’s the perfect coral,’” she says. “And then once I find inspiration like that, I will search until I find something to apply it to. Otherwise, I will drive myself absolutely bonkers over passion without outlet.”

When it comes to the business side of the equation, however, she’s more focused on what she doesn’t see, an approach credited to her daughters’ grandfather, Arie Kopelman, who had a long career in advertising before becoming president and COO of Chanel. “When I was launching Flower Beauty, I was having the hardest time deciding between two very different color schemes for the packaging,” Drew says. “His advice was, ‘Go out and look at everything. Then ask yourself what you haven’t seen and do that.’ It was such a brilliant lesson from him and just made everything so clear, because designing really is about filling holes in the market and coming up with solutions for how to live. It’s not coming from an ethereal, arty place.”

Drew is on a quest to bring beauty to the home through her latest line for Walmart. She gathers inspiration from swatches, imagery, and social media. “I don’t know where I’d be on this planet without Pinterest,” she says.

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In the months to come, her Beautiful line will be expanding with more home products, including a second iteration of the Drew Chair—this time in green. (She spent months mixing the perfect sage, one that’s a little gray.) The ultimate goal, she says, is to come up with strategies that make “all of the things we’re forced to interact with every day—the clothes hangers, garbage can, items on the kitchen counter—look and feel aesthetically inspiring.”

Her latest fixation: how to camouflage electrical cords. “There’s a reason you never see those things in catalogs and magazines—they’re ugly!” she says. “But in real life they’re everywhere. We can’t get away from them.”

Being a creator—whether of movies, TV content, lipsticks, or slow cookers—is not easy, she admits, but she’s figuring out how to do it her own way. “We get challenged, and we doubt ourselves. I go through that all the time. But the key, I’m finally learning as I’m closing in on 50, is to not let those challenges be an identity crisis. At the end of the day, we all have to be brave enough to be ourselves.”

NOTE: This interview took place prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike activity that began just as this issue was going to press.

Meet the Stylemakers

BHG Trend Report

Shifting from Summer to Fall

Design It Yourself

Tip Sheet

Drew Barrymore cover on greenbackground

Justin Coit


Talent: Drew Barrymore

Text by: Jenny Comita

Produced by: Jessica Thomas

Photography: Justin Coit

Video: Ryan Mitchel, Joan Yeam, Brian Steindl

Wardrobe Stylist: Daniel Edley

Prop Stylist: Erin Swift

Hair Stylist: Daniel Howell

Makeup Stylist: Lauren Lazaro Gulino

Manicurist: Elle Gerstein

Production: Crawford & Co. Productions

Booking: Talent Connect Group

Digital Lead: Lauren Phillips

Photographed on location at Swift Studios in NYC. Wallpaper Wall Shot: Wallpapers by Schumacher | Video Interview/Chair Shots: Round White Boucle Chair and Black Side Table from Beautiful by Drew; Madison Chair by Orior | Shot in the Round Sunken Room: Round Table is Androgyne Round Dining Table by Menu, Olive and Terracotta pillows by Hawkins from Beam Brooklyn; Ivory Correll Velvet Circle Pillow and Cold Picnic Pillow from Coming Soon NY

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