Tour a Boldly Decorated Country Home
April 12, 2021
When a former MTV veejay enlists her childhood friend to decorate her country house, they prove traditional can be fearless.
Text by Erika Ayn Finch Photography by Tria Giovan
Actress, author, and MTV veejay (1991–1996) Karen Duffy Lambros—better known as Duff to MTV fans—and interior designer Gregory Shano have been friends since he was eleven, she was fourteen, and they were both growing up in New Jersey. “I have probably had more fun and laughs with Greg than just about anyone else on Earth,” says Lambros. Three years ago, when the timing felt right to refresh the Litchfield County country home Lambros and her husband, John, inherited from John’s father when he passed away in 2001, she immediately reached out to Shano, who had designed the couple’s colorful Manhattan apartment a few years earlier.
The home, built in 1790 and part of the Lambros family since the 1980s, sits on 200 acres and boasts a working farm with six Belted Galloway cows (“bovine lawn ornaments,” laughs Lambros) and two rescued donkeys. Shano, who has a background in fashion and a passion for quirky farmhouses, says he didn’t want to erase the home’s past—not even the creaky stairs and floorboards. Instead, he embraced the existing collection of antiques and oddly shaped rooms with fabric and wallpaper that honor the history of the house.
The first room to receive an update belongs to the couple’s seventeen-year-old son, Jack. With the goal of making each room in the rambling layout serve at least two purposes, Shano turned Jack’s room into a young gentleman’s retreat that could also be used as a guest room in a pinch. It’s hard to imagine a scenario when Jack would need to give up his space in a house that boasts seven guest rooms, but when your circle of friends includes director Wes Anderson, who showed up in 2009 to record voices with the cast and crew of Fantastic Mr. Fox, needing extra beds isn’t unusual. (Coincidentally, Anderson slept in Jack’s room.)
Inspired by cozy New England inns, Shano sought to turn each guest room into its own story. He made a point of spending the night in each one in order to fully understand the personality of the space. There’s Lambros’s favorite, dubbed the Jungle Room, where Shano used Schumacher’s Les Fougeres fabric on the bed, walls, chair, and Roman shades for a cocoon affect. Lambros admits that’s where she FaceTimes friends these days. (Before it was deemed the Jungle Room, it served as George Clooney’s bedroom when Clooney voiced Mr. Fox in the aforementioned film.) In a closet-sized room that Lambros anticipated would only ever be used for naps, Shano pulled elements of color from Sanderson Design Group’s equestrian-themed Tally Ho wallpaper. He painted the cornice and casings high-gloss black to mimic the riders’ top hats, while the red twin bed echoes their blazers. “For me, there can never be enough pattern in a room,” says Shano. In spite of its size, visiting friends frequently request it.
But the room that just might be the showstopper—for now anyway: the home’s redesign is still in progress—sits on the top floor. The house’s dormers resulted in sharp angles that Shano sought to blur using a busy Brunschwig & Fils red toile pattern. The same pattern appears on the shades that adorn the room’s tiny window, and it also covers an RH chair. A candy-apple-red wool carpet from ABC Carpet & Home ties it all together. “If you’re going to hire someone to do a big job, it’s important to go for it,” says Lambros. “I didn’t want restrained. I wanted fearless.”
Gregory Shano, Gregory Shano Interiors