Rhea Perlman and designer meditate on an artful space

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Turns out that actress Rhea Perlman, perhaps best known for her role as venom-tongued barmaid Carla Tortelli on “Cheers” (for which she was nominated for 10 Emmy Awards and won four), is deep into yoga and meditation. When it came to redoing the spacious bedroom in the 1930s Wallace Neff home in Beverly Hills that she shares with her husband, actor Danny DeVito, one of her primary goals was to create a separate space in which to do daily meditation and yoga.

Perlman called in Genevieve Carter of Carter Design West in Los Angeles to refresh the master bedroom suite and create the new space. On the walk-through, the actress showed Carter paintings by the couple’s daughter, artist-yoga teacher Gracie DeVito, and wanted to know if they might use them in some way, Carter said.

The designer’s suggestion: Turn the art into panels and hang them on barn door hardware to divide the master bedroom from the sitting area and create the desired space. Daughter Gracie enthusiastically agreed to the project but wanted to put the artwork — her master’s thesis at CalArts — on something more lasting than the thin luan wood it was mounted on. She ended up creating a trio of more substantial 9-foot-tall wood panels painted with the concentric rings of her thesis artwork.


Today the colorful, contemplative panels, inspired by the meditative dance of the whirling dervish, glide along a floor track and open and close as needed for privacy.

Elsewhere, Carter heeded Perlman’s request to lighten up the room, which she accomplished by replacing heavy drapery with Roman shades and by painting walls, as well as by bleaching floors and other woodwork in the room a clean bone white. “The white floors and walls help bounce the light around the room and make it feel lighter and airier,” the designer says. “They also act as a neutral foil for the artwork.”

Throughout the project, it was important to client and designer that they support local artisans and use sustainable materials when possible. To that end, they selected natural hemp linen, hand-dyed and made into Roman shades, for the windows. New furnishings, including Perlman’s idea for a pair of Lazy Susan night tables, were fashioned out of domestic Douglas fir. Benjamin Moore Natura, a non-VOC, low-emission paint, was used throughout. “Keeping the original doors and flooring also lessened our [environmental] impact,” says Carter, of the modern space that evolved.

But it’s daughter Gracie’s meditative panels that create the Zen focal point for the bedroom of the long-married couple, who reconciled last year after a brief separation. “We have such busy lives,” says Perlman, whose most recent role finds her playing long-suffering assistant and best friend to Kirstie Alley on the new TV Land sitcom “Kirstie.” “My bedroom is so peaceful now. … It’s become a real refuge.”

How they crafted the sliding art panels

Artist Gracie DeVito worked with craftsman Ryan Silverman to fashion a triptych of panels that sections off a space devoted to yoga and meditation in her parents’ bedroom.


Each of the 4-by-9-foot panels is composed of a dozen 4-inch-wide maple boards held together with 1/2-inch dowels that were inserted into holes along the 9-foot length and then secured with nontoxic glue. The 300-pound panels were hung on barn-door hardware and move independently from one another along a metal glide on the floor.

The artist painted a series of colorful concentric rings directly onto the wood based on her thesis artwork, “Upside turning, This yearning.” She later painted the yoga room side of the panels with clouds reminiscent of a Tibetan Buddhist painting. DeVito, a practicing yoga teacher as well as an artist, says, “The artwork was inspired by the whirling dervish’s dance that takes you to a place that is free of conceptual thinking.”


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