Designer Homes

Inside the Unforgettable Home of a Powerhouse Design Duo

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When John Dransfield and Geoffrey Ross, designers behind the eponymous home furnishings line, decided to turn in their New York City card for a ticket to “country” living, they stumbled across a small region of New Jersey called Somerset that captured their hearts and imaginations. “It’s all rolling hills, extraordinary landscapes, and the most beautiful homes,” says Dransfield. They bought a 19th-century farmhouse and started renovating it but kept looking. “Geoffrey is addicted to real estate,” laughs Dransfield. When they heard that Cherryfields, a nearby Georgian Revival they’d had their eyes on, was going to hit the market, they set up a morning meeting and were greeted by the eccentric owner, Nancy Pyne, herself.

“Out bounds this woman with a huge mane of white hair dressed in a Chanel suit and Cleopatra-style bib necklace, and it’s only 9 a.m.!” says Dransfield. “’Call me Princess,’ she says. We fell in love with her immediately.” The adoration was mutual, and she agreed to sell them Cherryfields, which she’d had decorated by design legends Sister Parish and Albert Hadley. That is, until after months of searching, she found a smaller place to move into: their farmhouse. So they traded homes. “She’s now our best friend,” adds Dransfield.

Since moving in Dransfield and Ross have filled the stately home with their handcrafted designs and an ever-changing collection of vintage that always feels fresh despite its heritage. “Our home is our design lab, where we’re constantly experimenting,” says Dransfield. “We wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The Living Room

“I’m wild for ancient Greek and Roman art,” says Dransfield. “I love the columns, arches, and colors of antiquity: sandstone and terracotta.” It’s only fitting, then, that Cherryfields’ voluminous living room came with its own set of 1840s columns, salvaged from a manse in Trenton, NJ. To lend intimacy to this grand, echoing space, the designers conjured up five separate seating areas, pairing petite loungers like settees and chaises with side tables, reading lamps, and rugs. Not one but two walls are hung with campaign maps commissioned by Napoleon himself; the maps’ neutral colors and simple but eye-catching black frames act as a one-two punch of visual texture and striking graphic pop.

Dransfield and Ross eschew perfect-perfect bouquets for loosey-goosey arrangements that look just-picked and casually chic.

Dransfield and Ross eschew perfect-perfect bouquets for loosey-goosey arrangements that look just-picked and casually chic.

“We’re total magpies,” laughs Ross. “We collect anything and everything!” Of their many collections, some of his favorites include anything designed by Edward Zajac and Richard Callahan, a crackerjack design duo wildly popular in the ’60s and ’70s. The mirror hanging above the living room mantel is one.

“We’re total magpies,” laughs Ross. “We collect anything and everything!” Of their many collections, some of his favorites include anything designed by Edward Zajac and Richard Callahan, a crackerjack design duo wildly popular in the ’60s and ’70s. The mirror hanging above the living room mantel is one.

Of the living room’s various seating options, this blanket-covered love seat, tucked under a second set of Napoleon’s maps, is the “throne” of their harlequin Great Dane, India. “We keep a lint roller next to it at all times,” says Ross.

Of the living room’s various seating options, this blanket-covered love seat, tucked under a second set of Napoleon’s maps, is the “throne” of their harlequin Great Dane, India. “We keep a lint roller next to it at all times,” says Ross.

The Conservatory

Cherryfields was originally a pair of houses—the chauffeur’s and caretaker’s cottages for the home across the street—until 1929 with the arrival of two sisters. They purchased the dual structures and brought in an architect to connect the 1849 clapboard caretaker’s cottage to the chauffeur’s house, which they ended up completely rebuilding in red brick. This airy conservatory, dotted with pops of green and regal urns atop pedestals, connects the two houses.

The Library

“This is one of the most used rooms in the house,” says Ross. “It’s our place to be cozy. It’s where we entertain close friends. It’s where we hang out and watch TV.” Upping the cozy level is a rug, laid over the original wood floors, that came with the house. “It was a present to the last owner, Nancy ‘Princess’ Pyne, by Malcolm Forbes for attending his 70th birthday party in Morocco,” says Ross. The room, enviably outfitted in gorgeous moldings, also shows off the designers’ penchant for symmetry: Two love seats surround a coffee table. Two red bucket chairs flank a tuxedo sofa. Two armchairs tuck into a Saarinen Tulip table. “When people are in here they add an asymmetrical element,” says Ross. “I love that.”

This corner of the library holds more Zajac and Callahan finds: a pair of lively wood panels on either side of the marble fireplace and a double-stacked coffee table that gives the designers even more surface area for their enviable book collection.

This corner of the library holds more Zajac and Callahan finds: a pair of lively wood panels on either side of the marble fireplace and a double-stacked coffee table that gives the designers even more surface area for their enviable book collection.

We use every room; otherwise they start feeling stale. We’ll assign a purpose to them, then switch it up. We don’t always dine in the dining room, for example; sometimes we eat in the library.

— Geoffrey Ross
In the library, the thick shapes and swoops of a mod Richard Giglio collage break up one wall of books.

In the library, the thick shapes and swoops of a mod Richard Giglio collage break up one wall of books.

The Dining Room

Such consummate entertainers they could start an event-planning company no sweat, Dransfield and Ross’s dining room holds two tables for 10—round tables, so that conversation flows freely. “When we have people over, I cook and John decorates the tables,” says Ross. “We’ve done sit-down dinners for 70 that I’ve prepared!” The gents will spend all day prepping and cooking, then hire somebody to help serve and clean up. Their secrets to a successful party? Assigned seating with place cards. (“So you can get the best mix going.”) A table switch before the dessert course. (“We’ll have half the tables swap to change it up.”) And a set of always-good-company guests, strategically seated. (“We have a couple of great friends who are regular dinner guests because you can place them next to even the most introverted person, and they’ll draw them out of their shell.”)

Hits of burnt orange keep this holiday-ready tablescape cohesive. “Color is one of the most unifying ways to pull disparate elements together,” Dransfield says.

Hits of burnt orange keep this holiday-ready tablescape cohesive. “Color is one of the most unifying ways to pull disparate elements together,” Dransfield says.

On the dining room walls, vintage transferware in a rich blackberry hue provides a circular contrast to the vertical stripes of greige, hand-painted by the couple to give the room a charmingly whimsical feel.

On the dining room walls, vintage transferware in a rich blackberry hue provides a circular contrast to the vertical stripes of greige, hand-painted by the couple to give the room a charmingly whimsical feel.

The Study 

The home’s “hidden” room, tucked behind the staircase in the main entry, is where the designers convene in the morning to sip their coffee and take care of calls and emails. “The morning light in there is amazing,” says Ross. Another Richard Giglio piece nearly fills one wall, its neutral black and cream shades taking a backseat to the bold vintage kilim and ikat fabrics swaddling the table, chairs, and pillows.

Recent postcards and invites frame the mirror-turned-bulletin board in the study. The pairing of a 1930s elephant from France and the bust of a “rather stern” Haitian general demonstrates the duo’s love of mixing time periods and design styles.

Recent postcards and invites frame the mirror-turned-bulletin board in the study. The pairing of a 1930s elephant from France and the bust of a “rather stern” Haitian general demonstrates the duo’s love of mixing time periods and design styles.

We are addicted shoppers—total shopaholics. Vintage shopping is our most favorite thing to do.

— John Dransfield

The Master Bedroom 

Painted in a deep, moody green (Guacamole from Benjamin Moore), the master bedroom holds a constantly revolving mix of the designers’ favorite pieces. “Often what’s on our nightstands is whatever our best finds were from the flea market that day,” says Ross. “But some things stay there a long time.” Adds Dransfield: “I love layering pieces. I love the tiny print on an easel in front of another painting. I love the strength it can give a vignette.”

If you have the space, the designers strongly recommend a bedroom reading nook—whether it’s a single chair or a full-on lounge area—so that you have an escape zone when guests are present.

If you have the space, the designers strongly recommend a bedroom reading nook—whether it’s a single chair or a full-on lounge area—so that you have an escape zone when guests are present.

One of the pair’s design credos is if you use enough of something—no matter what it is—it’s going to look impressive. On their bedroom mantel, Dransfield layered sepia-toned photos of ancient ruins. He’s also been known to buy versions of the same photo in varying sizes and frames.

One of the pair’s design credos is if you use enough of something—no matter what it is—it’s going to look impressive. On their bedroom mantel, Dransfield layered sepia-toned photos of ancient ruins. He’s also been known to buy versions of the same photo in varying sizes and frames.

Folk-art animals made from husks, seeds, and shells by a man from North Fork, NY, march across the top of the duo’s antique secretary.

Folk-art animals made from husks, seeds, and shells by a man from North Fork, NY, march across the top of the duo’s antique secretary.

One of Geoffrey’s best quotes is that every room needs a slap in the face. You need to shake it up somehow with something unexpected. We try to do that in every space we decorate.

— John Dransfield

A Guest Room 

Dransfield and Ross have a good lady friend who regularly stays in this guest room, one of seven in the house. With her in mind, the design skews more feminine, though masculine furnishings balance it out. “I love the design tension between the masculine pieces and the feminine wall color,” says Ross, referencing the iron bed against the lavender Elephant’s Breath by Benjamin Moore. “No matter who the occupants are, there must be a good blend of masculine and feminine energy for the bedroom to feel right. This is more important in bedrooms than in any other room.” Another must for bedrooms? Comfy-as-a-cloud feather beds. “Above everything else, I want my guests to be comfortable,” says Ross. “This means inviting beds with a heavy duvet and a light coverlet so that they have options, big squishy goose-down pillows, and a reading lamp, so they can prop up and read in bed.”

When open the curtains frame a 19th-century gold bull’s-eye mirror; when closed they show their pattern only to the resident of the bed. “I love the element of surprise,” Ross says.

When open the curtains frame a 19th-century gold bull’s-eye mirror; when closed they show their pattern only to the resident of the bed. “I love the element of surprise,” Ross says.

A Guest Room 

There’s something undeniably cozy about this room, which despite its twin bed is the home’s most popular with guests arriving alone. “Everybody says, ‘I want to stay in that little brown bedroom,’” says Ross. “I think it’s because people don’t usually sleep in that kind of bed. It’s like the couchette of a train.” The bed’s gold-leafed wood canopy and those earthy brown walls riff off the cool blue bedspread. Ross spotted the fabric that would become the canopy curtains behind a counter in Mumbai. It was used to display the woodblock prints for sale, corresponding numbers and all.

At the end of the day, for these two it comes down to doing what they love, whether it’s planning an extravaganza, unearthing a stellar find at a favorite flea market, dreaming up a fresh new design, or romping around the yard with their best pal, India.

At the end of the day, for these two it comes down to doing what they love, whether it’s planning an extravaganza, unearthing a stellar find at a favorite flea market, dreaming up a fresh new design, or romping around the yard with their best pal, India.

Related: Step Inside A Picture Perfect Family Home >

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