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Country charm? Ay caramba!

Bart Simpson might not approve, but Nancy Cartwright, the voice of the cartoon brat, knows what she likes.

September 13, 2007|David A. Keeps | Times Staff Writer

ROSES. Chandeliers. Whimsy. Country. This is not a decorating mantra that Bart Simpson would chant. Well, not without his trademark smirk. But for Nancy Cartwright, the Emmy Award-winning voice actress who puts the sarcasm into the cartoon rascal's mouth, those four girly-girl design elements are not open for discussion.

"These are my themes," the diminutive pink-clad mom declares.

On a recent visit to her Northridge home, the roses are freshly clipped blooms from her garden, set in a vase in the wildly wallpapered dining room. "Chandeliers," she announces, standing underneath a gilt and jade-colored glass confection in the kitchen. Cartwright points out a tiny figurine of Tinker Bell suspended on a beaded swag strung between the arms. "Whimsy," she says.

As for country? That river runs deep, from the whitewashed scalloped trim and shuttered windows outside the 1947 Connecticut-style farmhouse to the beamed ceilings inside. A gambrel-roofed red barn serves as her garage. On the front lawn, Cartwright has placed an appropriate sentinel: a life-size fiberglass cow she named Milk Dud.

The 1-acre spread also contains the property's original pine-paneled guest apartment, now done up with Western cabin furnishings found at flea markets, as well as cottages housing a studio and offices for managing Cartwright's speaking engagements, charitable activities, books on tape recordings and bulging roster of animation voice gigs.


IN addition to portraying Bart and four other "Simpsons" scamps, Cartwright does voices for "The Replacements" and "Betsy's Kindergarten Adventures," produces a Web-based cartoon called "The Kellys" and frequently is called upon to play yet one more role: hostess. At home, she presides over civic functions as the honorary mayor of Northridge, holds get-togethers for the Church of Scientology and her own philanthropic group called Happy House, and throws fundraisers for a proposed youth recreation center nearby.

"I live in a very nice home with great neighbors, but you go a quarter of a mile down the road and there's one of the highest concentrations of gangs in L.A. County," she says. "I'm not scared living here, but it's a little bit of an island in the middle of insanity."

Recently she and children Lucy, 17, and Jack, 15, jumped in a golf cart and delivered more than 600 invitations for a neighborhood "mingle," she says.

"I wanted them to know that I am accessible and to get them to volunteer at the youth center."

Hosting large groups required a re-evaluation of the house that began in 2002, around the time when Cartwright and her husband, Warren Murphy, divorced. Three years later, with her ideas fully formed, the actress sought out interior designer and landscape artist Melinda Brownstone to renovate the house for her role as a single mom and event planner.

"She probably had 50 magazines dog-eared and marked with Post-it notes," Brownstone says. "For the most part, it was her own creative concept."

The designer quickly nicknamed her new client Nancy Fancy Pants.

"She's feminine and likes to surround herself with fun and inspiring things," Brownstone says. "When you have a personality that big, you have to embrace it."

At the front of the house, they built a spacious sun room with French doors crowned by a half-moon window. Filled with bookcases, a folk-art game table and pink- and green-plaid chairs, the addition spills into the formal living room, which has several seating areas.

"We've crammed 70 people in the living room," Cartwright says proudly. "And although there's a TV, it's hidden. I did not want that to be the focal point."

That honor goes to the enormous stone fireplace and the antlered creature above it, a Semi-Normal Green-Lidded Fawn designed by Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss.

Guests pass a bar built underneath a staircase to reach the grand kitchen, which was blown open to accommodate a computer station and laundry area. Doors lead out to a covered dining area and a series of outdoor spaces created for entertaining.

The most drastic change was the reconfiguration of the landscape. An unused tennis court was dismantled and the original pool filled in, allowing for a lawn with Adirondack chairs and additional parking. A new lagoon-style swimming hole was placed at the back edge of the lot, adjacent to an outdoor living room centered on a fireplace made from Arizona flagstone. All-weather wicker chairs in English hunting green and Old World-style outdoor carpets give the spaces an old-time down-homeyness.

If the ground floor was designed for guests, the romantic second-floor suite is decidedly Cartwright's haven. Though she admits to splurges, such as a hand-painted secretary that she says cost in the $10,000 range, Cartwright also hunted for bargains at the Rose Bowl Flea Market. The floor plan was redesigned to give the actress an elaborate walk-in dressing room to accommodate her vintage clothing and furniture.

"It's like a Barbie-doll closet with all her outfits," daughter Lucy says.

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