At home with Helen Reddy (from 1975 & 1978)
The celebrated singer’s California home is filled with music, plants and country charm
Helen Reddy’s dream-come-true home
Halfway around the world from her native land of Australia, Helen Reddy lives, today, in this dream-come-true home — designed for serenity and comfort — with her husband, Jeff Wald, and two children, Traci, 15, and Jordan, five years old.
The breakfast room
1978: The breakfast room just off the kitchen is a mix of antiques and plants. Here Helen and Jeff, who entertain frequently, hold their West-Coast-casual parties. (The dining room takes over for their larger, never-formal dinners.)
The bright living room (1975)
1978: Favorite crystal “objects” and antique furniture they’ve collected over the years, paired with Helen’s own needlepoint — a favorite hobby she works at it everywhere, even between “takes” on her movie — are all part of the Walds’ living room.
Helen Reddy’s vintage kitchen during the ’70s
Big and bright, Helen’s kitchen is filled with hanging greenery that thrives under the ceiling skylight, and is spacious enough to handle big-party preparations, with twin work “islands” and yards of counter space.
On the walls and countertops are lively hand-painted ceramic tiles.
Inside the ‘playhouse’
A small, separate “playhouse” for the whole family (below), across from the pool, is always ready for a round of card games, or the children’s impromptu slumber parties.
Around the party table, personalized director’s chairs. There’s one for “Uncle Peter” too — Jeff’s brother.
Helen Reddy’s home music room
1975: Helen Reddy and guests perform for fun in the combination garden and music room. “Mother always said, ‘When you’ve mastered the piano, you can have a harp.’ Well, I never mastered the piano, but I have my harp, and if there were a fire, the harp is what I would carry out.”
1978: Home for Helen Reddy wouldn’t be complete without a music room. She’s been singing since she was a small child in Australia, has recorded 10 albums since 1971 — and most recently can be heard on the soundtrack album from Walt Disney Productions’ musical Pete’s Dragon.
Hanging out at home with other music industry stars (1974)
Helen Reddy’s master bedroom & bathroom (top 1975, bottom 1978)
Flowers “bloom” in the master bedroom on the antique tester bed and draperies.
The simply-furnished, almost-spare room is a restful retreat for Helen and Jeff, who can take time off here to relax from their busy careers — he’s a personal manager for Helen and other stars.
Helen Reddy sings “I Am Woman” (video from 1971)
Helen Reddy at home (1975)
By Editor Ruth Weil, House Beautiful
Helen Reddy, the “I Am Woman” woman, and her husband, Jeff Wald, knew that the Tudor house in southern California had chosen them the minute they went through the low front door.
“We’re both short people,” Helen explains, “and since it happened that this, our second house, could be a big one, we expected to be dwarfed.”
It might have been an overwhelming house, but they have carved out a house of many parts, each as perfect for Helen and Jeff alone as the total is for their complete existence as husband and wife, father and mother — and as a man and woman wrapped together in an international musical career.
What turned somebody else’s house into their sanctuary is the story of a friendly, productive relationship with Designer Sharon Landa, her associates, Ron Cramer and Lee Thomas, and staff.
They had 60 days to prepare all plans and acquire all the fabrics and furnishings. To Sharon, “The logistics would have been impossible without clients who were able to make quick decisions.”
Part of what made all this possible is Helen’s years of scrimping in order to eat, and now a forthright sensibility about buying purely for quality, appearance and practicality.
Practicality is no empty word here, because parenthood dictated the selection of furnishings that would be as livable for young Jordan and his sister as for the adults.
Excepting the living room, shown on these two pages, Jordan is free to play wherever he pleases, not to mention having a playhouse, seen beyond the swimming pool.
There are also 14 bicycles around and a tennis court. A little breathless, Helen says, “Why do you think we call this place Camp Wald? Living here is an athletic event.”
And then, going on in a more serious vein, she adds, “Do you know, the first night I was ever in the living room, I turned off all the lights and walked around alone. This was something I’d been afraid to do all my life, but in that particular moment, I felt totally invulnerable. That’s what home should be.
“Of course, I could isolate myself here and forget the world, but I will never give up my concert dates. I really do relate to live audiences— and that’s how I keep a perspective.”
For Jeff’s office and the projection room, he wanted the rich textures of wood, stone and nubby fabrics. Nobody had to think twice about wall decor since Helen is in the habit of bringing home gold records.
Helen Reddy’s vintage decor in her old California house
Occupancy brought them two special surprises: One, the Italian ribbon-striped chairs in the projection room, is a private joke between Designer Landa and Jeff. The other involved rainbows seen all through the house on sunny days and finally traced to the cut-crystal ashtrays.
With good humor, Jeff admits that he and Helen were probably the biggest surprise of all to the neighbors, “who thought a rock and roll star was moving in — complete with freaky friends, posters and beanbag chairs.”
The dining room has had a profound influence on Helen and Jeff.
“We’re finally learning to enjoy dining. Jeff’s mother made her meals the time to discipline. I got bad eating habits in boarding school, because whoever finished first got a second helping.”
The dinner plates were Jeff’s grandmother’s, here beautifully complemented by the Stieff flatware, the Wedgwood butter plates and the Franciscan crystal. The dining chair fabric was used wrong side out to work with the wallpaper that was already in the room.
To guard the downstairs, Helen found Sir Henry (center right). “After I became an American citizen, I took away the tatty plume he wore and gave him an Australian flag — just to remind me of my roots.”
The small powder room (far right center) with its natural wood was Helen’s first love in the house.
For the first time in Helen’s life, she has an office where she can close the doors and be alone with her work. The stained glass skylight overhead bears Jeff’s and her initials.
The afghan is a Helen Reddy original. Now she is thinking of knitting some curtains or doing another needlepoint rug, most of which she does sitting in planes. Jordan’s room (left) is all primary colors and cozy comfort for him and his fantasy creature friends.
Helen Reddy, mother and wife
Helen’s voice has a reverent awe as she says, “Our children are growing up happy,” and then adds with pride, “Jordan has shelves for all his toys and he actually keeps them in order himself.
“Me, I had to be taught by Jeff. In my original state, Friday’s outfit would be on top and Monday’s on the bottom of the chair. Now I may come home so exhausted I don’t even remember, but the next morning I find I’ve hung up my clothes. It was a hard lesson — but also an easy way to shed needless frustration.”
Although Helen selected all of the fabrics used in the master bedroom, where she wanted “the feeling of a spring garden,” it is obvious that mostly she had Jeff in mind, the astute businessman who turns poetic when the subject is floral:
“Flowers are very sensual. That’s why the whole house is filled with them. If we ever had to cut down on expenses, they’d be the last to go.”
While today real flowers grow in Helen’s bathroom, she remembers living in a roach-ridden walkup and cutting out pictures of gardens to paste over her kitchen sink.
In Jeff’s words, “You have to have smelled all the musty hotel rooms in the world to understand how we enjoy just breathing the air in this house.”
Helen Reddy says emphatically, “I don’t cook. I’m a guest at my own dinner parties. I’ll tell you why.
“Not long ago, an old friend said to me, ‘I’m so happy you’re a success, because now you can have a cook. The worst meal I ever had was at your house.’ You know something? She was right!”
Helen’s attitude is that housekeeping is work is best done by professionals who should be paid a professional’s salary.
And while the kitchen was designed with this philosophy in mind, it is also a visual turn-on with accessories and equipment both functional and attractive.
Whether guests dine casually in the breakfast room, or more formally in the dining room, Helen never separates couples.
“Oh, I will put interesting people on either side so they have an option, but I’ve known too many moments of terror separated from my husband in a roomful of strangers. I figure that if they don’t want to sit together, they should get divorced.”
Jeff prefers to do business at luncheons beside the pool where he can enjoy the smells of jasmine, gardenias and fresh-cut grass.
“I will never I stop being thrilled that we are in bloom 12 months a year, not to mention the towering old trees and sea breezes. Last night we had one of the best sunsets in the whole world.”
What does Helen see for the future? “As far as this house is concerned, we will uphold the tradition of the previous owners, namely to make it better for the next occupants.
As for my career, I see myself as a very active 75-year-old, gradually moving out of show business and more into politics.
“As a little girl in Melbourne, I watched Father Knows Best I and thought, ‘That’s the way everyone lives in America.’ Funny, but the dream came true.”
Where is Helen Reddy now?
Australian singer Helen Reddy retired from performing in 2002, but has made a few live appearances through the years. In October 2018, NPR reported that the singer had been diagnosed with dementia. She died on September 29, 2020.
Below, Reddy, born in 1941, is seen at an awards ceremony in 2019 — along with her daughter Traci Wald Donat, and her granddaughter Lily Donat.