Fans of The Real Housewives of Atlanta saw star Cynthia Bailey find and fall in love with the stunning and tranquil lakeside home she affectionately named Lake Bailey on season 7 of the hit Bravo reality show. But what they don’t know is that the former supermodel almost never found the property to begin with.
Just off a divorce with husband Peter Thomas and moving out of the townhouse they shared together, Bailey planned to downsize her life — moving her and her 18-year-old daughter Noelle Robinson into an apartment.
“I wanted to go back to the New York City sort of lifestyle,” Bailey tells PEOPLE. “I travel a lot when I’m not here filming so I wanted a nice, luxury doorman building with all the services and conveniences of living downtown.”
Set in her decision and already looking at properties before filming began, Bailey was ready to pack it up. But to help tell her story on air, RHOA producers asked her to film a scene in which she toured a bigger house to document her thought process. “‘We know you’ve decided on an apartment,’ she recalls them telling her. “‘But we’d love to see you figure that out.’ ”
Bailey’s realtor had one in mind. Cameras in toe, she chose to take Bailey to the one property she had not yet seen — the very house that would come to be known as Lake Bailey.
“It’s so crazy,” Bailey says, looking back on it. “I went to film it thinking I wouldn’t like it and would easily be able to write it off. And as soon as I walked out on the deck, I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is my house. I have to have this house!’ ”
Not wanting to act too quickly, Bailey “prayed on it” and decided to take some time with the decision. “I said, ‘If I wake up tomorrow and I’m still thinking about this house, I’m going to put a bid on it,’” Bailey remembered. “And wouldn’t you know, I woke up and I was still thinking about this damn house!”
Buying Lake Bailey wasn’t easy, though. When Bailey went to put a bid on the property, she learned someone else had beat her to the punch.
Luckily, Bailey was able to outbid them and come out the victor. And now she calls the place her “dream home” — moving in last season and showing off the finished furnishings on season 8 (which premiered earlier this month).
It’s easy to see why Bailey’s so in love with the place. With its sprawling windows, wood accents, animal population and private access to the lake, the picturesque property is “like living on vacation every day.”
Plus, the lush greens appear to be a perfect place for a selfie as seen from the photoshoots Bailey often stages.
“It just kind of really was right in-sync to where I was at mentally and spiritually in my life,” Bailey says. “I’m sitting in my bedroom now and my artwork is the view of the lake. It’s incredible and so peaceful.
“Coming out of a divorce, I’m someone who’s on a quest for peace and fun,” she adds. “It was just the perfect kickoff to turning 50 and being fine and fabulous.”
The Real Housewives of Atlanta airs Sundays (8 p.m. ET) on Bravo.