It's not surprising that John Truex and Richard Lambertson compare their Sharon, Connecticut, weekend house to one of their sought-after handbags. After all it is the success of the couple's luxury leather-goods company that has made it possible for the designers to have a country place that is as perfectly tailored as the accessories they produce for such fans as Debra Messing and Mary J. Blige.
"Our bags are all about the insides -- the key fobs and the construction," says Truex, he of the shaved head and ready grin. "You are buying one because of how it makes you feel. A bag or a house is like any luxury," he continues. "You have to experience it to appreciate it, and we use every inch of this house, from the roof to the basement."
The pair, who have been together for 14 years and have side-by-side desks in the home office off the kitchen, share the same fine-tuned aesthetic sense. But Lambertson and Truex's individual philosophies about apportioning their time in the country are very different -- though each is a firm believer in Saturday night dinner parties and Sunday morning tennis games. "The two things that sold us on the house were the tennis court and the barn," explains the blond, affable Lambertson, adding that the nine wooded acres are pretty nice too.
"A weekend for me is having a weekend," says Truex, who keeps a horse at a local stable. "I like to ride and hang out over there. I need a couple of days to recharge. Falling asleep in the sunroom while reading a book is absolutely ideal." Lambertson, on the other hand, spends his off time busily juggling multiple hobbies, namely decorating, gardening, cooking, and shopping. And his mellow demeanor belies the fact that he squeezes in work every weekend as well. "I am better when I am doing ten things at once," he notes as he sweeps leaves off the front steps with a handsome broom made in Thailand. That broom is one of the offerings at Privet House, a quirky antiques-and-home-furnishings store in the nearby town of Warren that Lambertson opened in May with his friend Suzanne Cassano -- a venture that gives him another excuse to go antiquing and to create vignettes with beautiful objects.
Lambertson's taste was refined during his years designing for , , and , but his hands-on creative approach can be traced to his first job in New York, where he worked in the visual-display department of . Though his house seems supremely composed to the casual visitor, it is actually a laboratory of sorts. Lambertson is always tweaking tabletop arrangements and shifting furnishings. More than once a purchase has sparked a decorative brainstorm that led him to rearrange an entire room after dinner, often with the assistance of , an antiques dealer and garden designer who is known for his refined eye.
The stone-and-wood house looks imposing with its slate roof and stately English-style brick chimneys -- "It was supposedly designed by Phelps Barnum, an architect who renovated the Round Hill Club in Greenwich," Lambertson says -- although its core is an early-19th-century schoolhouse that has been transformed into a guest room and dining area. The rooms are large yet cozy, and almost every one has a view of the garden. When the men refurbished the kitchen they added a window seat that makes visitors feel like they are sitting amid the plants outside. They also created a vast island with a cooktop, so the designers and their guests often never make it into the dining room. As Lambertson explains, "Everyone sits around the island and eats things right out of the pan as I cook them."
The spot that visitors and owners alike gravitate to most is the library, a formerly low-ceilinged space that has been opened to the rafters. That impressive alteration not only gave the room a breathtaking scale, it necessitated the installation of steel tension cables that stretch from wall to wall to keep everything from collapsing. Someone else might have tried to hide those crucial supports, but "we like the rawness of them," Truex says. "Industrial aspects like those are layered throughout the house."
Almost every single piece of furniture was purchased especially for the home, from a metal bureau that has an 18th-century French air to a table whose base is made from a 19th-century camera stand. "Our previous house was Federal, and nothing we had looked good here," says Lambertson, adding that he did not mind having yet another reason to go shopping while his partner was off riding.
"We're like yin and yang," says Truex, noting that the master bath has a shower (for him) and a large tub (for Lambertson). "Richard does most of the decorating, but I appreciate it. I can just hang out because he has made everything ready to enjoy."
Click here to see the resources.