Occupation: CEO and founder of Chris Madden Inc., a growing domestic-diva fiefdom that's filling the vacuum left by Martha Stewart. Last May, Madden launched her Turning Home Into Haven collection with JCPenney -- a direct result, she says, of a 2002 New York Times article that called her a more "serene" version of Martha. Nearly three decades of hard work may have helped too.
Age and home: 56; Purchase, N.Y.
Annual revenue and employees: $2.5 million; 10.
Tie it all together: Though formally trained at New York City's Fashion Institute of Technology, Madden's career has had some odd turns. She was a photo assistant at Sports Illustrated and head of publicity for a book publisher. "Everything I did, from learning how to photograph a Mets game to learning about a piece of fabric, added to the big picture," she says. In 1988, she published her first significant design book, Interior Visions. After more books, TV appearances, design gigs, and newspaper columns, she founded her firm in 1995.
Moment of clarity: In 1998, on a Colorado rafting trip, Madden was sucked into the rapids. "Within seconds of being pulled out of the water my priorities shifted," she recalls. "I counted on two fingers what I wanted for my life: to be with my family and follow my vision for design."
Little piece of haven: Today, Madden's busier than ever. In addition to her JCPenney line -- 1,700 products from furniture to toothbrush holders -- she's in final talks to start a magazine, develop a TV show, and publish her 17th book. But she still finds time to relax. "For my nightly ritual," she says, "I take a bath in my deep tub with a chandelier over it."
Things I Can't Live Without
Raymond Weil Tango Mini ladies watch, stainless steel and 18-karat gold, $900: "I have watches in every color of the rainbow to match my clothes, but I just got this and I love it. It's dressy and it's blue jeans. It's sort of like a Chanel jacket that way, it goes up or down."
American Airlines Admirals Club membership, from $250 to $450 annually: "I get ticked when they don't have them in all the places I travel to. They're these great quiet places, serene and sane. And they have phones, fax machines, and tea."
Vintage glassware from Indigo Seas in Los Angeles, $65 to $180 each: "This is 19th-century French bistro and barware -- great champagne flutes and absinthe cups. I use them whenever I entertain. They're one of a kind and quite elegant."
...and What I Covet
Icelandic ponies, at least $7,000 per horse: "Someday I plan on breeding them when I -- if I ever -- retire. I'm fascinated by them. They have these fabulous wide rumps and they're just so gentle. We have a place in Vermont -- that's the only place I've ever seen them. It's my dream to raise some."