Chris Madden Biography

Interior designer, television host, and author

Born Annchristine Casson, June 1, 1948, in Rockville Centre, NY; married Kevin Madden (a publisher), 1974; children: Patrick, Nick. Education: Attended Fashion Institute of Technology.

Addresses: Office —Chris Madden, Inc., 181 Westchester Ave., Ste. 408, Port Chester, NY 10573.


Photo assistant, Sports Illustrated ; public relations employee, Simon and Schuster, Inc.; public relations director, Farrar, Straus & Giroux; launched own public relations firm, 1976; founded of Chris Madden, Inc., 1995; design correspondent for The Oprah Winfrey Show and appeared on Today and Good Morning America , 1990s; host of Interiors by Design , Home and Garden Television, 1995-2003; designer and spokesperson for Bassett, 1998-2004; designer and spokesperson for Mohawk, beginning in 2001; designer and spokesperson for J.C. Penney, 2004—; debuted magazine, At Home with Chris Madden , 2005; author of syndicated newspaper column and numerous cookbooks and books on interior design.


Even though she owns her own self-titled company, designs and licenses her name to house-wares, hosted her own television show, and recently launched a magazine, Chris Madden discourages comparisons with fellow interior designer and media maven Martha Stewart. While Stewart is known for the detailed, labor-intensive projects highlighted on her television show and in her magazine, Madden stresses simplicity. "I have done it my way for three decades, " Madden told the Chicago Tribune 's Pamela Sherrod in 2004. "It's great [Stewart] paved the way for all of us. She made it easier for women's voices to be heard in the design arena. She opened the doors for us to love our homes.… But I do it my way."

The oldest daughter among the eleven children of a corporate executive and a homemaker, Madden was born Annchristine Casson in Rockville Centre, New York, in 1948. Her mother taught Madden and her siblings to sew, and she also cut the children's hair, upholstered furniture, and excelled in the kitchen. "She really was Martha Stewart before Martha Stewart, " Madden told Jura Koncius of the Washington Post. As a child, Madden published a neighborhood newspaper, designed costumes for school plays, and demonstrated an early flair for design. "I used to give Mom advice on what to do with the house. I even picked out a sofa for the living room. It has just always been a passion of mine, " Madden told Elizabeth Hlotyak of the Westchester County Business Journal. She also modeled until the age of 16. Madden's design sense earned her a scholarship to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, although she left before graduating. Her early work experience included a stint as a photography assistant at Sports Illustrated , as well as a public relations position at the publishing house Simon and Schuster, Inc. She went on to become public relations director at publishing company Farrar, Straus & Giroux. She met Kevin Madden, a publisher, during a company softball game in the early 1970s and the pair were married in 1974. They have two sons, Patrick and Nick.

Madden launched her own public relations firm in 1976 and began writing cookbooks as well as books on home decorating and interior design. She came to be recognized as an important voice in the interior design field with the publication of her 1988 book Interior Visions: Great American Designers and the Showcase House. In 1995, Home and Garden Television (HGTV) tapped Madden to become one of the network's four original hosts. Her program, Interiors by Design , ran for eight years. Also in 1995, Madden launched her own company, Chris Madden, Inc. Her husband joined her as chief executive officer. During the 1990s, Madden also became the design correspondent for The Oprah Winfrey Show and appeared on Today and Good Morning America. She designed rooms for Winfrey, talk show host Katie Couric, and author Toni Morrison.

Madden achieved increased visibility with the 1997 publication of A Room of Her Own: Women's Personal Spaces , a look inside the cherished rooms of 38 women, including Winfrey and other celebrities. Madden conceived of the book, which sold 100, 000 copies, after creating her own private space following the death of her younger sister. "I realized that I didn't have a place to mourn her. So I had this little tiny bedroom on the second floor that I decided to make into my personal sanctuary, " she told the Westchester County Business Journal 's Hlotyak.

Madden's commitment to design became even more steadfast after a 1998 near-drowning accident during a whitewater rafting trip with her family in Colorado. "Within seconds of being pulled out of the water my priorities shifted, " she revealed to Ryan Underwood in Inc. "I counted on two fingers what I wanted for my life: to be with my family and follow my vision for design." That same year, Madden leveraged a request to serve as a spokesperson for Bassett Furniture Company into a design partnership. She spent two years perfecting the products, and the 70-item Chris Madden furniture line debuted in 2000. The line made $100 million its first two years. Madden and Bassett parted ways in 2004 when Madden launched a line of housewares and furniture for J.C. Penney called the Chris Madden Home Collection. By the following year, the collection had grown to 2, 000 pieces and was projected to represent 75 percent of all furniture sold by the chain, far exceeding the company's expectations. Also in 2004, Clarkson Potter published Madden's Haven: Finding the Keys to Your Personal Decorating Style. Madden told USA Today 's Olivia Barker the same year that the need to create sanctuary at home was especially necessary in contemporary society. "Now more than ever, people need their homes to be havens, because of everything that's gone on in the world, " she explained.

In May of 2005, Madden debuted At Home with Chris Madden , an interior design magazine published by Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S. Geared toward women, the magazine set out to focus on simple design and the creation of comfortable personal spaces. "Your home should be a nurturing haven for everyone, starting with yourself, " Madden told the Washington Post 's Koncius. "I'm not looking to add any more obligations to women's lives. But I'm trying to help consumers not to be overwhelmed by all the choices out there." Coming on the heels of a jail sentence for competitor Stewart, who was convicted of insider trading, many in the media hailed Madden as Stewart's replacement in the public eye. Madden explained to Koncius, "Martha and I had many similarities: the same book publisher, the TV shows and newspaper columns. Even the fact that we were both blondes. But it made me cranky that the media saw me as an overnight sensation. I've been in the trenches designing, writing, photographing, and speaking." Madden, whose company made $2.5 million in 2004, observed in her interview with Inc. 's Underwood that her range of professional experience has contributed to her success. "Everything I did, from learning how to photograph a Mets game to learning about a piece of fabric, added to the big picture, " she said. Even though she has suffered daily pain since her rafting accident, Madden remains thoroughly involved in her growing company, easing her condition with regular yoga. "[Y]ou have to be a control freak to do this, and I don't think that's a bad thing to say, " she told Fortune 's Julie Rose. "If I have control, I can be creative."

Selected writings

(Co-author) The Compleat Lemon Cookbook , Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1979.

The Summer House Cookbook , illustrated by Jody Newman, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1979.

(With others) The Photographed Cat , Doubleday (New York, NY), 1980.

(With others) Manhattan , Harry Abrams (New York, NY), 1981.

Baby's First Helpings: Super-Healthy Meals for Super-Healthy Kids , Mary Ellen Family Books (Garden City, NY), 1983.

Interior Visions: Great American Designers and the Showcase House , Stewart, Tabori & Chang (New York, NY), 1988.

Rooms with a View: Two Decades of Outstanding American Interior Design from Kips Bay Decorator Show Houses , PBC International (Glen Cove, NY), 1992.

Kitchens , photographs by Michael Mundy and John Vaughan, Clarkson Potter (New York, NY), 1993.

Bathrooms , photographs by John Vaughan, Clarkson Potter (New York, NY), 1996.

A Room of Her Own: Women's Personal Spaces , photographs by Jennifer Levy, Clarkson Potter, 1997.

Chris Madden's Guide to Personalizing Your Home: Simple, Beautiful Ideas for Every Room , Clarkson Potter, 1997.

Getaways: Carefree Retreats for All Seasons , photographs by Jennifer Levy and Nancy Hill, Clark-son Potter, 2000.

Bedrooms: Creating the Stylish, Comfortable Room of Your Dreams , photographs by Nancy E. Hill, Clarkson Potter, 2001.

Chris Casson Madden's New American Living Rooms , Clarkson Potter, 2003.

Haven: Finding the Keys to Your Personal Decorating Style , photographs by Nancy E. Hill, Clarkson Potter, 2004.



Chicago Tribune , June 3, 2004, p. 16.

Fortune , October 28, 2002, p. F192.

Home Accents Today , October 1, 2001.

Inc. , February 1, 2005, p. 54.

USA Today , September 24, 2004. p. D7.

Washington Post , March 3, 2005, p. H1.

Westchester County Business Journal , March 24, 2003, p. 28.


Contemporary Authors Online , Thomson Gale, 2005.

Kristin Palm

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