A Rare Look at Lucille Ball's Life at Home Through Photos
| LAST UPDATE 05/21/2023
Everyone knows her from I Love Lucy, but Lucille Ball led a rather quiet life once the cameras stopped rolling and the director yelled, "Cut." Here's a glimpse at the comedy legend's homes and her life within them.
Before she was one of Hollywood's most recognized names and faces, Lucille Ball was a small-town girl from Jamestown, New York. She didn't have much to her name but always felt she was meant for more.
She moved to New York City to pursue a career in acting. Ball got some work as a chorus girl on Broadway. Meanwhile, she also worked at Carnegie Deli to help pay the bills. Then, everything changed when she got the lead role in the musical Too Many Girls.
The California Dream
On the set of the movie musical Too Many Girls, there was a young guy named Desi Arnaz in the cast. The young Cuban played one of the four bodyguards meant to protect Ball's character. Only six months after they first met, Arnaz and Ball eloped on November 30, 1940.
Their costar in the movie, Eddie Bracken, told People, "You could tell the sparks were flying with Lucy. It happened so fast it seemed it wouldn't last." But they did last, and they bought into the California dream when they purchased a piece of property in the San Fernando Valley right outside Los Angeles, California.
The home they bought was located in this small town called Chatsworth. The five-acre ranch would become the setting for their life and home to many memories. They purchased the property in 1941. They scraped together the money for the down payment to make the purchase.
The ranch was not only the home of Lucy and Desi, but they shared it with their dogs, cats, three roosters, a pig, and 300 chicks. There was also a cow named the Duchess of Devonshire, and as Lucy described her in her memoir, she was a "large, passionate cow."
A Name for the Stars
Like any good establishment or place of entertainment, the young couple decided to give their home a name. But what would it be? Something to do with the scenery? No, it had to do with the people who lived there. They combined their names to come up with "Desilu."
The name would end up becoming iconic for more than just the home of the two entertainers. Ball and Arnaz also used the name Desilu for their production company. At this time, the young couple was still far from being the global stars they would become. They were new homeowners with big dreams...
When Ball and Arnaz scraped together whatever money they had to secure their home, the house was only partially finished. The white ranch house had a white picket fence, and the couple knew they needed to be its first residents. There was still much to be taken care of.
Architect Paul R. Williams built the house. William was a ground-breaking architect who designed the homes of many celebrities over the years, including Frank Sinatra and Lon Chaney. He also designed the Los Angeles Superior Court and a YMCA, among many other buildings around Southern California.
Her Signature Style
Now that she had a finished home, Lucille Ball had to decorate it. From picking out the carpets to deciding what furniture to purchase, there was much to do. She had to create their home, and the comedian would do it the best way she knew how - her way.
Ball mixed her different tastes and interests to create a unique style for the home. She once described her sense of style for the house as a crossroads between "early Victorian" and "bastard American." Her signature frilly style could be seen throughout the home.
Playing in the Dollhouse
The couple would sometimes refer to Desilou as a "dollhouse." Except, there were certainly no dolls living in it. Not only was it the place Lucille got to dress up and decorate, but Desi also had a hand in the home's design. He brought his Cuban flair to Desilu.
Inspired by his childhood in Cuba, Arnaz built multiple small buildings on the property of Desilu. He enjoyed the sprawling ranch-style home. There was a pool, a poolhouse, a game room, and a barbecue pit. Desi also planted groves of lemon and orange trees.
The Life of the Rich & Famous
At one point, a guesthouse was added to the property, so guests could easily stay over for the night, or perhaps more, in their own accommodations separate from the main house. The couple naturally loved to entertain and would host friends and family throughout their years at the ranch home.
However, that was in their later years once they had a hit on television. Before they became Hollywood's most beloved couple, they were two entertainers trying to make it in Hollywood. Arnaz was often away from home, touring with his band, while Lucy got jobs working in radio and films.
While the couple loved each other very much, Ball and Arnaz had a, at times, tumultuous relationship. They would get into legendary fights that were so over the top that it seemed like they were right out of a movie script. In 1944, Ball even filed for divorce, although it was never finalized.
Yet, with the lows also came the highs. The couple was enamored with each other and often produced grand romantic gestures to demonstrate this. For Lucille's 30th birthday, Desi organized a Latin combo to lead 40 of their friends in a serenade of "Happy Birthday!" He also covered the entire pool in white gardenias.
Performers at Heart
The couple was constantly performing, on and off the stage. It was only natural since Desi was a bandleader and Lucy got her start on Broadway. There would always be music playing in Desilu, often coming from the two of them jamming and singing together.
Arnaz had always been captivated by music. After he had finished high school in Miami, he started a band and made a name for himself in the Miami music scene. Eventually, his talents and efforts took him to New York City to make it big. Not only did he segue into acting while in NYC, but he eventually met Lucille Ball.
Runs in the Family
Although Desi Arnaz was credited with introducing the Conga line to America and making a living in music, he was not the only one with harmony pulsing through his body. Lucille was also talented with music. She really enjoyed the arts, an interest that was encouraged and cultivated at a young age.
Her mother, Désirée or more commonly referred to as DeDe, always wanted her daughter to pursue her dreams. She could sense that Lucille wanted to be on the stage and enrolled her in as many acting classes as possible. Her mother even enrolled Lucille in the John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts.
Hobbies at Home
While Lucy's passions were in acting and performing, she also had many other interests and hobbies that she developed over the years. She especially loved to paint, often doing it at Desilu. In addition to the arts, she also possessed a green thumb.
Ball would keep a garden in every home that she had. According to History Collection, she loved her garden so much that she refused to leave one of her homes. Lucille would hang out in the family's pool when she wasn't acting or gardening. In whatever she did, Ball showed true dedication, loyalty, and love.
Housewife Takes Hollywood
There was so much to love about Ball and Arnaz's lifestyle. They were performers doing what they loved for a living, and they would return to a beautiful home in the San Fernando Valley. The couple would sometimes even commute into Culver City together.
However, things were about to change for them in a significant way. In 1948, Lucille got the role of Liz Cooper, a zany housewife, in the radio comedy My Favorite Husband. The program was a hit, and now they wanted to make it into a television show. So, Lucille had an idea.
Making a Family
Lucille wanted to find a way to keep Desi at home with her instead of constantly being away on tour. So, she agreed to make My Favorite Husband into a television show - but she insisted that her real-life husband would also play her on-screen one. The network wasn't convinced.
For Lucille and Desi, this show was more than just a job for them. It was a way to save their marriage and a chance to build a family together. Eventually, the network would agree, and I Love Lucy would be made. While filming the pilot episode, Lucille was pregnant with the couple's first child, Lucie.
I Love Lucy became one of the most-watched television shows and has defined comedy for the ages. It is historic for many firsts. It was the first show to feature an ensemble cast, among other achievements. Lucy was 40 when she got her big break as the eccentric wife of bandleader Ricky Ricardo.
Lucy and Desi were the first interracial couple shown on television. The list could go on forever of how the show impacted the world. From 1951 to 1957, the show won five Emmy Awards during its time on air. Over those years, the world fell in love with Lucy and Desi.
Growing the Gang
Not long after Lucie was born, Lucille gave birth to her second child. Desiderio Alberto Arnaz IV, who would grow up to be known as Desi Junior, was born in 1953. Since she was filming I Love Lucy then, there was no way to hide her pregnancy, so they came up with the next best thing.
Lucille wrote her pregnancy into the show. So, her character gave birth to "Little Ricky" on the same timeline as the couple's son. According to People, "Arnaz even appeared on the cover of the very first issue of TV Guide with the headline 'Lucy's $50,000,000 baby.'"
Stars in the Making
Lucie and Desi Jr. were destined to dabble in show business. Both of the kids had roles on their mother's show. Lucie played Kim Carter on Here's Lucy. In the sitcom, she played her mom's on-screen daughter. She also had her own show that was called The Lucie Arnaz Show. Though, it was not as successful as mom's namesake shows.
Desi Jr. took after his parents, as well. He was a lover of music who played the drums and was part of a band called Dino, Desi & Billy. Desi Jr. also had a part as his mother's on-screen son on Here's Lucy. He continued to appear in films and shows over the years. He even portrayed his father in a movie!
Keeping It Cool
Desi and Lucille loved living at Desilu. They threw big parties for all of their friends at their home. Arnaz became known for the spaghetti he would cook. He would load up the sauce with Spanish herbs and refused to serve it until it was perfect. Lucy would sometimes attach a theme to their parties and dress up for the occasion.
However, when they weren't throwing their lavish parties or filming episodes of I Love Lucy, they managed to keep a relatively low-key lifestyle. They could relax at their pool and be with their kids when they were at Desilu. But things were changing.
A Cross-Country Move?
Philip Morris was one of the sponsors of I Love Lucy. The cigarette company wanted Lucille and Desi to move to New York City. They had pretty good reasons for it, too: Their show was set in the city, and most television shows at that time were broadcasted from NYC.
However, Lucy and Desi were more hesitant. They wanted to stay in Los Angeles and raise their family in Desilu. They didn't want to go cross-country. They would do anything to avoid picking up and moving. But would they be able to convince Philip Morris?
Eventually, Lucille and Desi made a deal with Philip Morris and the network in order to keep their family and the show in LA. They would take a salary cut, and their production company would retain the rights to the show. Plus, they came up with a revolutionary idea to maintain the quality that would change television forever.
They decided to make the show more of a stage play. So, they had three cameras filming at once, which helped to preserve the quality when they had to ship it across the country, and they invited a live studio audience to react in real time to the show. Lucy and Desi came up with the multi-cam sitcom!
The Ultimate Gamble
In 1954, Desi was playing a game of poker with friends. During this game, the stakes continued to get higher and higher until a vacant lot was up for grabs. He famously won the pot, and the couple became the new owners of a lot in Rancho Mirage, California.
They reached out to the same architect who designed and built Desilu for them to make this second home. Paul R. Williams was hired for the project, and a new vacation home to entertain and enjoy was going to be built for the Hollywood starlets.
A Hard Goodbye
The world around them was changing. The suburbs of Los Angeles were being built into major suburban communities, causing a ton of traffic to get into the city. Also, Lucy and Desi had become the most famous couple in the country. Their privacy and home life were being compromised at Desilu.
So, they had to make the hard decision to say goodbye to their beloved home so they could move somewhere with more privacy and less traffic. They sold Desilu to Jane Withers in 1956. Withers had been one of the most prominent child actresses of her time, starring in 38 films before she decided to retire at 21.
It was tough for Ball and Arnaz to part ways with Desilu. Even after moving out, they often drove by to see their old house. There is one story that seems like it could be straight out of an I Love Lucy episode. According to Lucy's former publicist, Lucy realized that after she sold her home to Withers, she still held a key to it.
So, when Lucy was in the neighborhood one day, she drove past the home. She realized that Withers wasn't home. Ball entered the house and was appalled at the changes Withers made to her house. When Withers came home, she told Lucy, "Lucy, you are welcome here any time, but you really should call first. Uh, can I have my keys?"
The couple traded their home in the San Fernando Valley for a home in Beverly Hills - the unofficial capital of the rich and famous. Just like the band Weezer once sang, "Beverly Hills, That's where I want to be!" They moved to 1001 North Roxbury Drive.
In fact, the home they bought was featured in an episode of I Love Lucy before it became theirs. The exterior was used to represent the fictional home of actor Richard Widmark. Years after moving to Beverly Hills, Desilu was eventually demolished to make way for a new development.
When Lucille and Desi bought the Beverly Hills home, they purchased it for $85,000 in 1955. However, they wanted to make some improvements before moving in. So they didn't move in right away. The entire family lived in the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel for six months while they renovated their home.
1955 was a big year for the couple. Not only did they purchase a new house, but they were celebrating a big anniversary. The crew members of the show surprised them with a cake for their 15th anniversary. They also both attended the Emmy Awards together, as I Love Lucy was nominated for multiple awards that year.
Sadly, in 1960, America's favorite couple decided to call it quits. While Lucy and Desi loved each other very much, they filed for a divorce. Lucy said in court, "It got so bad that I thought it would be better for us not to be together." Everyone was devastated by the news.
The now-separated couple remained close friends for the rest of their lives. Desi ended up selling his portion of Desilu Productions to Lucy, making her the first female to run and own a studio. They both found love and happiness in other partners. Their daughter, Lucie, said, "they loved each other until the end."
Lucy & Gary
Lucy found love once more with comedian Gary Morton. He was a stand-up comedian and 13 years younger than Lucille. That did not stop their romance from flourishing, though. They met in 1960 in New York City, only a few months after Lucille had opened the musical Wildcat.
And on November 19, 1961, they were married. He moved into her home on Roxbury Drive and spent 28 years happily married. In love letters found by Closer Weekly, Lucille wrote about her new beau, "He's great, handsome, kind and home-loving." Desi also remarried his neighbor Edith Hirsch.
Penthouse in the Big City
In addition to her lovely home in California, Lucille owned an apartment in New York City. The apartment was located in the New York Hilton hotel and had sweeping views of the city that never sleeps. Similar to her residences in California, the apartment was adorned in Lucy's signature style and had a piano.
While it may not have been California, New York had a certain charm that just could not be beaten. From the yellow taxi cabs honking as they drove down the street to the singing and acting on Broadway, there was always something to do in the city. However, the majority of Ball's time was spent in California.
A Home for Everyone
Lucille's home in Beverly Hills was a place where everyone was welcomed. Morton moved into the Roxbury house with her, and she quickly named him as a key member of her production company, Desilu. There was even a time when Desi Jr. lived in the guesthouse with his fiancée at the time, Liza Minnelli.
Her daughter, Lucie Arnaz, used the home as the backdrop for a very special occasion - her wedding! She married Phil Vandervort Menegaux on July 17, 1971, in the backyard of the home. The whole family, including Desi, was in attendance for the joyous event.
The Legacy Lives On
Lucille lived in the Beverly Hills home until she died due to cardiac arrest in 1989 at the age of 77. The entire world mourned the death of the comedy legend. She had an impact on everyone's lives. From changing the way television is made to her hilarious scenarios in I Love Lucy, she touched many lives.
Upon her death, Morton sold the house per the wishes of Lucille's will. From growing up in Jamestown, New York, to Desilu, to Beverly Hills, Lucille Ball created countless memories throughout her homes and life. While she may no longer be with us, her memory continues to live on in every way...