Inside David Harbour and Lily Allen’s “Weird and Wonderful” Brooklyn Town House

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world at the Brooklyn town house of Lily Allen and David Harbour. Dressed in an intrepid pasticcio of chintz balloon shades, crystal chandeliers, pink silk, tiger-patterned textiles, and Mylar wallpaper, the home issues a full-throated rebuke to the current vogue for hushed 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 Harbour have conjured a familial fantasyland of daring beauty and individual connoisseurial vision. In short, it’s a knockout.

“Lily is the one who really set the tone and drove the program. Every time I tried to make it calmer, she kept pushing and pushing for more,” Cotton says of his adventurous, British-born client. Harbour, too, credits his formidable spouse for the stylistic bravura 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 Stranger Things actor and star of the recent blood-splattered Christmas spectacular Violent Night.

Ginori 1735 Oriente Italiano Potiche Vase

Palm Brass Floor Lamp by Studio Anansi for CB2

OKA Apadana Armless Chair

Chelsea Textiles Pie Crust Table

The canvas for the couple’s freewheeling exercise in decorative derring-do is a stately late-19th-century Italianate brownstone in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens neighborhood. “The façade was badly deteriorated, and the interior was…well, let’s say it was very lived-in,” Bischoff recalls of the house’s precarious condition. “But after we peeled away decades of renovations and lots 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 kids 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 distinct directions for the interiors: traditional English, modern Brooklyn town house, and, finally, layered Italian, “as if they’d inherited the home from a kooky Italian nonna with fabulous taste,” Cotton says. It didn’t take long to alight 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,” Allen explains. “I’ve always been interested in interiors, and I’ve always done my own homes. But this was a big undertaking, and I needed help. Together, Billy and I tried to reach for something weird and wonderful,” she says.

In the kitchen/dining area, Cotton used a laminated plum-colored check fabric by Claremont for the banquette and chair upholstery as well the island skirt.

Daniela Wilde Chandelier by Ralph Lauren Home

Indian Basket Dinner Plate by Herend Porcelain Manufactory

Matilda Goad & Co Ribbed Beeswax Candles, Set of 6

Match 1995 Beaded Round Tureen

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 sink stands crafted from Louis XVI–style commodes of gilt bronze and parquetry, the room is a far cry from the modern ablutionary splendor of sleek book-matched-marble walls and sculptural freestanding tubs. (If you’re wondering about the carpet, the toilet and shower are in a different room altogether.) From the stair hall, one must traverse the bath to gain access to the windowless primary bedroom, improbably nestled in a cloistered chamber between the bath at the front of the house and the dressing rooms along the rear façade. “Billy would say, ‘You know this is a little crazy,’ or he’d bring up resale value. But this is our home, and we want to live in it in a way that works for us,” Allen asserts.

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