At five months pregnant, Entertainment Tonight co-host Nancy O’Dell and her husband, business executive Keith Zubchevich, set out to find the perfect home before the birth of their daughter. With a short time frame and a long check list, they knew they’d probably have to compromise. Enter a little luck and serendipity. As they described their dream home, their real estate agent realized she knew someone who owned a house exactly like they described. “The moment I walked in, I fell in love with it,” says Nancy of the Mediterranean-style home she now shares with Zubchevich, their daughter Ashby, 5, and her stepsons Carson, 13, and Tyler, 17. “It had everything we’d always wanted. It felt so warm and welcoming, with lots of sunshine coming in through the windows. It was simply perfect.”
Six years later, the sun still shines through those California windows. But now, the home also benefits from Nancy’s joyful spirit, which illuminates everything around her. What I love about Nancy is not merely how smart and funny she is, but how kind she is. To me, kindness is one of the most beautiful traits in a person, and she has it in droves. It’s reflected in the way she treats people no matter who they are, the way she always greets you with joy and the way she listens with such generosity. It’s no wonder she’s landed interviews with not only every major star in Hollywood, but also the likes of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle. Most importantly, that kindness shines through at home with her family and friends. And that makes for a beautiful life.
Reminiscent of an Italian villa, the two-story home is steeped in Mediterranean charm. The main house is built around a generous courtyard centered by a blue-tiled fountain. The layout gives the house a unique open air flow. Add an outdoor bar with a barbecue, a farm-style dinner table and a covered patio with a fireplace and you have the perfect space for entertaining.
The covered patio opens up to a pool flanked by comfortable seating arrangements, including a covered bed where Nancy and Keith love to hang out and read with Ashby. And don’t be surprised to find the girls playing tag on the large lawn with Keith, Tyler and Carson on Sunday afternoons.
The sense of openness carries throughout the interior of the home, with dark wood Mediterranean-style furniture, beautiful Persian rugs, several large fireplaces and sizable windows with custom silk draperies on wrought iron curtain rods. For this family, it’s the perfect place to call home.
Here’s my interview with Nancy, featuring my exclusive photographs of her home and family:
Ulrica: What do you love most about your home?
Nancy: I had a pretty specific list of what I wanted. The house I envisioned was a Mediterranean-style home with an outdoor patio, a swimming pool, a balcony overlooking a main family room, a big backyard with grass on which to play football, a guest house and lots of light. And I wanted a home that would be great for entertaining. This house just had all the characteristics. It felt so warm and sunshine-y. Of course, ironically now with my schedule we never have the time to entertain!
Ulrica: Do you and Keith agree on how to decorate? Or does he let you make all the decisions?
Nancy: He always leaves that department to me, and I think it’s because he knows I’ll win that discussion! [Laugh]. If I weren’t a journalist/broadcaster, I would’ve loved to have been an interior designer. Keith laughs at me because I much rather spend the day in a furniture store than to go clothes shopping. The furniture in his bachelor pad was very modern, so at first I thought, ‘Wow, we have such different taste!’ But once we had to go out and buy things together, we realized we both love Mediterranean-style furniture. So that’s worked out great.
Do you have a piece of furniture in the house that has a special meaning to you?
Nancy: My favorite piece in the house is my grandfather’s chair that I keep by the staircase leading up to the second floor. That chair was in my grandparents’ home when I was growing up. Every day, my grandfather, Popee, would come home from work and put his hat on that chair. So when I see that chair in my own home, I think about all the time I spent at my grandparents’ house as a kid. I also love our outdoor bed by the pool, because it has so many memories tied to Ashby. It’s where we spend a lot of time reading books and it’s where we first taught her how to count.
Ulrica: Ashby is turning six this year. Is she getting opinionated when it comes to her clothes or the way her room looks?
Nancy: If she could have her way, her room would be every color of the rainbow! She loves tons of color right now. She wants pink tops with yellow pants with orange socks with red shoes! The more colorful the better for her. We recently jazzed up her playroom. We did it in pink and lavender and added a Murphy bed so we can also use it as a guest room. We used playful glass knobs in different colors for the wall cabinets and drawers, and colorful lamp shades. It’s playful but not overwhelming, so it works for guests too. She’s discovered stickers and she loves to put them on the walls. They’re the removable kind, so that’s okay! She now has stickers everywhere on the walls that she will not let me take down. She won’t even let me hang any art work of hers on the walls because she has them covered with all her stickers. So that’s her contribution to the decor and I like it because she did it!
Ulrica: You must have one of the most fun jobs in the world. Have you done any interviews lately that you’ve felt extra excited about?
Nancy: Sitting down with President Obama and Michelle was pretty amazing. First of all, you’d think the political shows would only get that interview. President Obama and First Lady Michelle were able to show sides of them they may not have been able to otehrwise. And the one thing on my bucket list was to do something with Oprah, which I got to do [she co-hosted OWN’s Your OWN Show]. That was incredible, because I’ve always admired her so much.
Ulrica: I know Ashby has been begging you to get a dog forever…has she convinced you yet?
Nancy: Not quite but she’s very close! We have the discussion all the time whether we’re going to get a dog or not. I always say the tiniest dog possible because then it’s only tiny poop! But the boys don’t want a dainty, prissy dog, so we can never agree. The problem is, every dog I’ve ever had I’ve never been able to potty train. I’ve tried my best, but I just can’t get them trained. I’m the world’s worst dog trainer, I admit it! So we have Ashby, who is the world’s biggest animal lover, and me, who’s the world’s worst animal trainer. The mix doesn’t exactly go well together. But we’ll see what happens. I have a feeling Ashby will convince me soon!
Nancy O’Dell is the official spokesperson for Creative Memories and Rusk Hair Products. She recently launched the storybook app Little Ashby Star Reporter on iTunes. Please follow Nancy on Twitter and Facebook!
All photographs by Ulrica Wihlborg ©2013.