It’s a crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy world at the Brooklyn townhouse of Lily Allen and David Harbour. Dressed in a fearless pasticcio of chintz balloon shades, crystal chandeliers, pink silk, tiger-patterned textiles and Mylar wallpaper, the house delivers a full-throated rebuke to the current vogue for muted good taste wrapped in a straitjacket of beige. With an able assist from AD100 designer Billy Cotton and architect Ben Bischoff of MADE, Allen and Harbor conjured a familial fantasyland of bold beauty and individual gourmet vision. In short, it’s a knockout.
“Lily is the one who really set the tone and ran the show. Every time I tried to calm it down, she kept pushing and pushing for more,” Cotton says of his adventurous, British-born client. Harbor also credits his formidable spouse for the stylistic bravado that propelled the idiosyncratic project. “Lily is someone who lives with color in a deeper way than most. Her taste is bold, silly, fun, eccentric—it’s exciting,” says the strange things actor and star of the recent blood splattered Christmas spectacle Violent night.
The canvas for the couple’s free-wheeling exercise in decorative derring-do is a stately late-19th-century Italianate brownstone in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens neighborhood. “The facade was badly deteriorated, and the interior was … well, let’s say it was very run-in,” Bischoff recalls of the house’s plight. “But after decades of renovations and peeling away a lot of faux wood paneling, we found a surprising amount of original moldings and doors, which gave us a good starting point to rethink the architecture. David and Lily were not interested in formality, especially with Lily’s children in the house. They wanted to preserve the details and character, but they also wanted to live in it in a casual, family-friendly way.”
Cotton launched the design journey by laying out three clear directions for the interiors: traditional English, modern Brooklyn townhouse, and finally layered Italian, “as if they had inherited the house of a mad Italian. nonna with great taste,” says Cotton. It didn’t take long to get on the preferred scheme. “This neighborhood has historically been Italian-American, so the idea of doing something with an Italian flavor wasn’t that far-fetched,” explains Allen. “I’ve always been interested in interiors, and I’ve always done my own houses. But it was a big undertaking, and I needed help. Together, Billy and I tried to reach for something strange and wonderful,” she says.
The eccentricities of the house extend to both the extravagant decor and the atypical layout. Consider the primary bath-cum-sitting room on the second level. With its wall-to-wall floral carpet, Zuber wallpaper and basin stands fashioned from Louis XVI-style commodes of gilded bronze and parquet, the room is a far cry from the modern ablution splendor of sleek book-matched marble walls and sculpture. free standing baths. (In case you’re wondering about the carpet, the toilet and shower are in another room entirely.) From the stairwell, one must traverse the bath to access the windowless primary bedroom, improbably located in a cloistered room between the bath is located. at the front of the house and the changing rooms along the back facade. “Billy would say, ‘You know it’s a little crazy,’ or he brings up resale value. But this is our home, and we want to live in it in a way that works for us,” asserts Allen.