“I have an endless career because of reruns,” she jokes. “I’m a member of two cults.”
At the Bedford Post Inn, Lowell is a familiar face, too, although for very different reasons. She opened the bucolic outpost in 2009 with her now-estranged husband, Richard Gere, and their partner Russell Hernandez, turning the 19th-century house and barn into a dining destination, luxury inn and yoga hotspot. But this was no celebrity-driven vanity project for Lowell and Gere, who were involved in every aspect of the inn’s development. Lowell, in fact, lovingly co-designed the elegant, eco-friendly interiors, and helped keep tabs on day-to-day operations.
Her familiarity with the place is evident from the second she breezes into the inn’s café one recent spring morning in skinny gray corduroys and a periwinkle-blue, pajama-style top, looking every bit as slim and confident as in her early modeling days. Employee after employee greets Lowell with warm hugs, kind words – and even her favorite gluten-free muffins. There’s an awkward undercurrent to the exchanges, however. Lowell says she hasn’t been around much lately and while she doesn’t acknowledge this directly, it’s fairly clear that her pending divorce from Gere means she’s also splitting from the business.
In March, a press release announced that the Altamarea Group, with chef Michael White, would take over the Bedford Post’s food and beverage program (including the flagship restaurant, the Farmhouse, which has been renamed Campagna), while Gere and Hernandez would continue to own the inn and run its eight upscale suites. Lowell’s name wasn’t anywhere in the release, but at this particular moment, she’s very clear on her status. “I’m still one of the owners – until I’m not anymore,” she says, with a wry smile. “That will remain to be sorted out.”
A revamp of the premises is in the works, though Lowell admits that she’s in the dark about the details. “I’m sure they’ll do a nice job. I hope so,” she says. But during a walk around the property, she can’t help but notice that housekeeping hasn’t vacuumed the staircase leading to the inn’s tiny reception area, the floors of the main dining room haven’t been swept and decorative fountains on the outdoor terraces are still empty despite the warming weather. “I hate to see it like this.”
Still, she adds calmly, “It’s OK. It’s a process. It’s life.”
Life is changing for Lowell in many respects. For instance, the real reason she’s dropped by the inn on this day is because it’s a quiet, familiar place to chat about a new venture – her own line of ceramics and candles. So far, Lowell’s vases, cups and bowls – as well as gently scented candles poured into hand-glazed vessels – have been sold at Barneys New York, SoHo boutique Kirna Zabête and the carefully curated House of Waris shop at The Gritti Palace in Venice.
Sipping an iced tea, Lowell notes, “For me, the practice of working in clay is very spiritual. It can be meditative. It takes you out of your thoughts and puts you in the moment of making an object.”
Yet she’s practical, not precious, about her art. Lowell’s signature items are gazing bowls – gorgeous basins studded inside with tiny, delicate petals that she describes as “a mandala, really, a little world” – and she’s considering a suggestion that she put holes in the bowls’ feet. “So you can hang it on the wall and see it from that angle,” she says. “Otherwise, it just sits on a table.”
Lowell is quick to point out what sets her candles apart in the marketplace – buyers can reuse the lovely porcelain cups once the wax has burned. “You could use it as a cup in your bathroom. You could use it as a pencil holder or a teacup,” she says. “It’s recyclable.”
Lowell molded her first ball of clay while in high school in Colorado, where her family settled when she was 13. (Before that, they lived all over the world – from Long Island to Libya to Holland – because of her father’s job as a petroleum geologist.) She continued as a freshman at the University of Colorado at Boulder, but any time for hobbies diminished after she transferred to New York University and her modeling career took off. Lowell landed campaigns with Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, soon followed by roles in films like 1986’s “Club Paradise.” It wasn’t until she was pregnant with Homer, her 14-year-old son with Gere, that she renewed her interest in pottery.
“I hadn’t been acting and I needed a creative outlet,” she says.
In 2012, she had her first show at the Celadon Gallery in Water Mill, L.I., which provided an entrepreneurial spark. “Up to that point, if anybody came to my studio and liked a piece, I’d just say take it,” she says. “But everything sold at the show, which was really a vote of confidence. That made me realize that maybe I had something to offer.”
Despite taking baby steps with the line, Lowell couldn’t be more excited about its prospects. These days, her wheel and kiln are set up at a new home in Pound Ridge, just 10 minutes away from her former residence with Gere (and which, believe it or not, Lowell found herself online). She gutted the 1960s-era house, where she moved in January, and workers are still in the process of turning a two-car garage into a bright, airy ceramics studio. “I’ve got the electrician there right now,” she says.
Lowell is also slowly stepping back into acting. An eye infection recently forced her to bow out of a guest spot on CBS’ “Blue Bloods” – “it was really disappointing” – but the hope is that other short-term gigs will follow. She explains that she can’t consider another regular series, because she wants to stay available for Homer, at least until he graduates from high school. Such motherly devotion is typical: In 1998, after two seasons on “Law & Order,” she asked to be released from her contract to spend more time with Hannah, her daughter from her second marriage to actor-director Griffin Dunne, who is now in her 20s.
“When you’re working on a series, they own you,” says Lowell. “They tell you when you’re going to be working and they don’t tell you when you’re not going to be working. You can’t make a plan.”
She brushes the bangs of her trademark pixie cut out of her eyes and laughs. “I always say I could do a series if I had a wife.”
Speaking of marriage, Lowell declines to comment much on her separation from Gere, whom she wed in 2002 after dating for years, except to note that the parting is amicable. All the same, she does respond when asked about published reports that have stated that the couple broke up because Gere’s need for solitude clashed with Lowell’s love of the limelight.
“All I can say is that I’m not really socializing with all of the bigwigs that the reports keep saying that I am,” she says.
So does Lowell see this transition as a second act?
“God, it feels more like a fourth act,” she says. “I don’t think of it in terms of acts. I just think of it in terms of life.
“Life has funny things in store,” she continues. “You don’t ever necessarily see it coming, but you’ve got to roll with it.”