“I call it the Cookie Monster sofa,” says Deborah Lloyd, “as it’s got this long turquoise fluffy fur.” She is describing the Flexsteel Thunderbird couch – an original 1960s piece – that stands smack-dab in the middle of the living room of the country house she recently built in Sullivan County, New York, with her entrepreneur husband, Simon Arscott. “Actually, it was Simon who picked out the sofa,” she adds. “I would’ve thought it was far too crazy-flashy for me, but in the size and feeling of that room it looks spectacular, like an exclamation point.” Indeed, its current vibe is less Cookie Monster and more like a chic, elegant Muppet cousin, one who hasn’t touched gluten since fleeing Sesame Street for the calm sophistication of the couple’s lakeside home.
Lloyd has long been a master of the unexpected twist. Nine years into her tenure as chief creative officer at Kate Spade, she has cemented the brand’s identity as elegant, feminine, and full of surprises – the popping champagne cork of women’s labels. Whether it’s a polka-dot lining tucked inside a handbag or a glitter pump heel, the Kate Spade collections always strive to delight. Lloyd, who previously oversaw design at Banana Republic, and, before that, was vice president of women’s design at Burberry, approaches her own life with the same attitude. Or, as she puts it, “There’s always some whimsy, but a little bit of whimsy goes a long way.”
Conveniently, the brand has just expanded into home wares, which means Lloyd was envisioning her first-ever furniture collection at the same time that she and Arscott were constructing their dream house. Early Kate Spade prototypes are sprinkled throughout the rooms – the library’s palette revolves around an emerald-green Worthington chair, the bedroom is anchored by a wide, onyx-topped credenza, and the living room’s aforementioned blue sofa is softened by a blond-wood-grain- print rug, all of Lloyd’s design. “We wanted to bring furniture to life for our girl,” says Lloyd, pulling out photographs of Kate Spade’s plush fuchsia ottoman, a lacquered coffee table in black and gold, and a tufted couch in aqua linen, then lining them up on her desk like a proud parent. “There’s a nice classicism to it all, and a mid-century spirit in its elegance. We used beautiful, noble materials – ebonies, painted glass, brightly coloured velvet. And obviously,” she adds, her eyes twinkling, “a lot of it looks great in our new home.”
Lake views framed by windowpanes of Lloyd's own design
A delicate arrangement of glass and steel perched on a tree-filled hillside, the couple’s weekend escape was finished in September. However, they’ve owned a place in the same town – a more rustic, New England-style property just across the lake – for more than a decade. “Twelve years ago, after we moved to New York, Simon and I knew we wanted to have a bolt-hole,” Lloyd explains. “So we got in the car and drove north. I had a very specific idea of the house I wanted then – an old character farmhouse – and we just followed the road until I said, ‘Stop! That’s it!’” A two-and-a-half-hour drive from their Brooklyn apartment, the spot was everything they’d hoped for – perfect for swimming, feasting on produce from the local farmers’ market, and allowing their two standard schnauzers, Stan and Lulu, to tear around on the grass. But as the area became more popular for other like-minded New Yorkers, the couple began craving more privacy. When they found a plot of land nearby, with broad views of the water and less proximity to the road, they pounced. Deciding what to build there was a more complex process. They initially hired an architect, but after more than a year of back-and-forth, Lloyd decided to take matters into her own hands. “I just sat down and drew it myself,” she says. “I took a big blank piece of paper and started sketching boxes, because I wanted big windows with long, square panes. I’ve always loved the visual of framing what you’re looking at, and I was very specific about their proportion.”
The sleek, open plan is a stark departure from the more traditional layout of their former house, but for Lloyd it’s a welcome change. “As much as I love the shabby-country look of the old place, I also love the modern black-and-white mid-century style of the new one,” she says. “I’m a Gemini, so I can straddle different aesthetics quite happily.” Lloyd’s vision integrated the breathtaking lakefront and surrounding woods into the house’s design. “I wanted to work around the view because it’s so spectacular,” she says,
She’s not exaggerating – she and Arscott decided against keeping honeybees on their new property because of a previous bear incident. “We caught this big bear in the act of smashing up the beehives at our old place, going after the honey, but he didn’t mind us in the slightest,” she says. The new house does have a pool, however. “It’s the first pool I’ve ever had in my life, and it’s fantastic!” exclaims Lloyd. “We’ve been swimming in the lake for years but”– she wrinkles her nose – “in the heat of the summer, it can feel a bit like warm tea.”
Each step of the decorating process was a joint effort between Lloyd and Arscott, at times quite literally. “Simon figured out a way to install the doors so that you can’t see the hinges,” she says. “He put a lot of attention into details that I wouldn’t have necessarily thought about.”
Deborah and her husband Simon Arscott with their vintage cars
The couple met in England in 1999; then working at Burberry, Lloyd was introduced to Arscott while visiting her family in Plymouth, a town on the south coast where she grew up. “My brother and I went out to one of the local bars, which was called Destiny’s. Simon had known my brother for years, because they’d surf together on the Cornish coast, but my brother had never told him he had a sister. So,” she says, laughing, “I can actually say I met Simon at Destiny’s, in Plymouth.” Even with fate on their side, the couple had a few squabbles during the building process. Arscott wanted to leave the house’s cedarwood exterior bare, allowing it to weather naturally with age, but Lloyd put her foot down. “I didn’t want to have to live through it looking sort of a golden colour when it’s new, which I can’t stand,” she says. (They settled on a neutral warm gray.) An avid car collector, Arscott also proposed building a room above the garage that would contain a car lift, “so that the cars could go up and be on display in the house,” Lloyd explains. “But that one got squashed, by me.” Still, she is quick to admit that she’s caught the car bug from her husband. He drives a vintage Aston Martin DB4 in British racing green; she owns a vintage Porsche and a Jaguar E-Type, both in cream, although the finer mechanical aspects still elude her. “I have a few stories of heading off to the farmers’ market in the Porsche and having to hitch a ride home because I couldn’t sort out the car,” she confesses. When it comes to art, however, the couple are very much on the same page – they designed the house’s large white walls to show off their extensive collection of photographs by David Bailey (Arscott gave Lloyd a box set of 36 Bailey pictures as a recent birthday gift) and Peter Beard. “We wanted to arrange them more like an art gallery – not too cluttered. We didn’t need a house with lots of stuff in it. Every piece there has a story about where we found it,” says Lloyd, recounting weekend trips to the Brimfield flea markets in Massachusetts and long hours scouring 1stdibs.com.
Now that they’re mostly moved in, Arscott and Lloyd are looking forward to some more surprises come spring. “I may have gotten overexcited about the garden,” says Lloyd. “I ordered 5,000 bulbs and planted some of them before we quite knew where the flower beds were going to be, so they’re a bit haphazard.” She smiles. “Once they start coming up, we’ll have a real ta-da moment!” – Charlotte Cowles
All Photography by Christopher Sturman
This article first appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Harper’s Bazaar Interiors