Life & Home Rod Almighty

InStyle November 2006

Written by James Patrick Herman

Photographed by Henry Bourne

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Look out! Rod Stewart’s in the mood to party. At one time that very idea might have prompted a response like Quick! Hide the furniture! After all, this is guy who has been known to toss TV sets out of hotel windows. But considering that the singer who famously put forth the question “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” is now happily engaged and the father of six children, ages 1 to 27, this is probably not going to be a wild night out on the town. Especially since the town happens to be Palm Beach (not exactly the city that never sleeps), and the big occasion is his daughter Renee’s 14th birthday. “We’re just going out to dinner,” confirms the well-mannered birthday girl, who’s watching television in the Ocean Room and politely ignoring the fact that a camera crew has descended on her special day.

Granted, Stewart hasn’t completely outgrown his wild ways (check out the canary-yellow Ferrari sitting in the driveway). But he has become quite the settled family man - one who has developed a fondness for, of all things, home furnishings. What rocks his world these days? Perhaps a trip to Bed Bath & Beyond. “I love buying plates and napkins,” he says.

A good thing, too: Stewart has 18 rooms to fill in his Palm Beach residence, which the 61-year-old rocker purchased 11 years ago from “the Kentucky Fried Chicken people.” It’s one of five homes that he and fiancee Penny Lancaster, 35 (the mother of their 1-year-old son, Alastair), share around the world. (The other properties are a mansion in Los Angeles, an apartment in London, an English country estate in Epping and a villa in the South of France.) It’s not all that surprising that many rock stars migrate to Miami for the winter, but what is the appeal of Palm Beach, a place that tends to attract socialites and seniors? “I like the quietness of Palm Beach. It’s probably one of the most relaxed places on earth,” says Stewart. “The days go by slowly - beautifully - at seaside, as we call it in England.”

Stewart certainly deserves some R&R; he has just released his 35th album, Still the Same…Great Rock Classics of Our Time. After four chart-topping CDs of standards, this represents a welcome return to rock, in which he covers songs from the likes of Bob Dylan and Van Morrison. “I’ve got a huge tour planned,” he says, adding with a smile: “Got to keep the family in shoes.”

Among other things. This home is filled with a jaw-dropping array of museum-quality pieces, found through Stewart’s keen eye (he says he has been an avid collector since the seventies) as well as the expertise of local design team William R. Eubanks and David Mitchell Brown, who have been collaborating with the couple for the past six years. “They’ve come in here and helped us redecorate - right down to the carpeting on the stairs - to give it all a nice facelift,” says Lancaster. Opulence abounds: “There’s a 19th-century bronze chandelier from France in the master bedroom, sofas upholstered in Bergamo silk and damask in the living room, and a glazed Louis XVI-style commode in one of the bathrooms - in addition to oil paintings and sculptures displayed throughout the house. Stewart’s favorites are unabashedly romantic works from the pre-Raphaelite and Victorian eras. He also has a passion for all things nautical and Napoleonic, as demonstrated by his impressive collection of model ships and busts of the French emperor.”

Surprisingly the most low-key space is the master bedroom. Anyone expecting an overtly sexy touch will be surprised by the tasteful serenity of the room, in which the color scheme has been downplayed in deference to the breathtaking ocean view. The only nod to Stewart’s naughty-rock-star status: a loveseat covered in crocodile-print silk. “This house never takes itself too seriously,” says Brown. “Even the antiques are a playful mix of periods and styles. The look manages to be both elegant and happy.”

Despite such extravagance, Rod and Penny prefer to spend most of their time outdoors, taking long walks on their private beach and riding bicycles to their favorite brunch spot, where they pore over the morning paper while sipping cappuccinos (“a lovely way to start the day,” Lancaster calls it). At night the nanny babysits the kids, and the couple enjoy intimate candlelit dinners. “On occasion we’ll have a glass of wine or two at a restaurant, then come through the front door singing,” Lancaster says with a laugh. “The kids will be hanging over the balcony going, ‘Dad, are you drunk?’” They’re kidding, of course. But rock stars, it would seem, always want to have fun. Thank God for that.