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Life Unscripted: Lena Dunham

The writer, director, and actor is nesting hard in London with her musician husband, making the couple’s home uniquely their own.

lean dunham home illustration

I’ve always been an Anglophile, so I think it was fated that I’ve ended up in London. Everything from British literature, which I studied in college, to interiors (like the elegance of the Wallace Collection and the vibrant spaces designed by David Hicks) delights me.

I grew up and have primarily lived in New York City for most of my life, with some time also spent in Los Angeles. But I started coming to London regularly for work in early 2019. At the beginning of 2021, I met my husband, Luis Felber, who’s British-Peruvian. He has lived full time in England since the age of seven, and as our relationship flourished, we decided that we were going to stay here.

With the help of my incredible sister-in-law, who is both tasteful and determined, we found a four-story house that was built in the late 1800s. Last February we signed a lease and really started to put down roots. As an American girl coming to London, I was intent on creating an English fantasy of sorts. The home has great bones, including a garden, a beautiful parlor floor, and all the romantic details (like molding and pocket doors) that I salivate over.

My mother is an artist, and she always had amazing touch with whatever home we lived in. She’s made some real architectural stinkers—like a 1980s ranch house with linoleum floors—into gems. She approaches decorating from a place of story. That’s the way I can think about rooms, too, like they are characters. Our guest room is powder blue and we used the leftover wallpaper from our bathroom ceilings to line the open shelving. Our pillows are shaped like exaggerated shells and we have a painting of the sea by Lu’s godfather, Miguel, who died last year. Our bedroom is different shades of pink, my favorite being Rangwali by Farrow & Ball—it’s oddly relaxing for such an out-there color. I can say with confidence that I’ve never painted anything white. I think we counted nine different shades of green in this house.

Our kitchen, dining room, and living room are all open plan in shades of yellows and greens; it’s my attempt at an American Southwest–Georgia O’Keeffe moment. Our kitchen cabinets are a kind of formal Farrow & Ball color called Cooking Apple Green. It’s an ode to subtlety that collapses when you see my stools, which are candy-colored faux fur by an artist named Uzumaki. There’s a real maximalism at play in English design—which is sort of funny considering English people are known for being repressed.

My vision was to create a home that nodded to these big, beautiful, print-on-print English spaces while also incorporating the downtown New York art-world whimsy I’m accustomed to. I’ve been working on a mural between the second and third floors—giving myself permission to paint something childlike and ridiculous is such a joy. I started by painting a cartoonish skyline of Dutch houses, then it led into a desert with all the planets above it, which flows into a sea that takes us to a merman’s bedroom. I work on it every chance I get and even painted a mural for Lu’s goddaughter Jellie in her bedroom outside London using my newly acquired skills.

This is the first home I’ve done everything myself. I love and respect interior designers and recognize that I am not a professional, but I wanted this home to be a living experiment that reflected us exactly where we are. I definitely made some mistakes—I put some things in the wrong corners and ordered some furniture that didn’t fit, and I can’t help but feel I chose the wrong blue upstairs—but it’s also led to some incredibly delightful surprises. For instance, I attached a bunch of turquoise fireproof feathers to my sconces and I love the way it looks.

I’m experimenting in a way that I hadn’t previously allowed myself to because I wanted to appear adult or on trend. I used to be so obsessed with wanting my home to look like a grown-up lived there that I think I was sort of play acting. Now I feel like enough of an adult that I don’t care if my home looks like it belongs to a pair of toddlers. I just want it to make people laugh and smile and feel transported.

decorations on colorful shelves
Lena attached turquoise feathers to sconces and placed the extras in a vase to add some oomph to these shelves.

One of my favorite aspects of making movies has always been production design. I worship production designers and I’ve worked with some of the best women in the business, like Judy Becker and Margaux Rust and Kave Quinn. I love the way that they create worlds. My husband jokes that the way in which I created our world was to just order a bunch of things and tell him, “There, there, there.” I’m sending him up and down the stairs all day long to place objects, and then I’m telling him that he placed them incorrectly. Admittedly, my directorial side comes out. I can’t help but treat everything like we’re building a set; I even did this at our wedding. My bridesmaids had to remind me that I wasn’t directing a scene.

Luis is a very decisive and inventive person, but one of the things I love about him is that he knows to get out of the way when it comes to me and decorating. He’s like, “We could either debate it for days and days or I could just let her paint green stripes on our foyer walls.” He also understood that living in London meant I was going to be away from my family and friends and that I needed to create a space where I felt comfortable, stimulated, and not lonely.

As a child I didn’t have many friends, so my bedroom (where my mother painted each wall a different pastel) was my best friend. That’s this house for me, too. I aspired to create a world where we both could feel creative, free, and safe. I brought in objects from Luis’s childhood in Lima, as well as artwork by his mother and both of my parents. We hung some watercolors I did of my friend Kay. I love the idea that when we look around, we see iterations of our past selves and our closest people.

A Saturday for me used to be lying in bed, recovering from going out, or curling up in a ball watching The Real Housewives. Now it’s going to the DIY store to get more matte paint for my mural and buying a bunch of nails so we can put up the weird new portraits that we got on Etsy. (My godmother, Roberta Smith, is an art critic for the New York Times and I make her approve my purchases of random Etsy art.)

Certain people walk into our home and say, “This is cute,” and I can see in their eyes that what they really mean is, “If I had to sleep here for one night I would lose my mind.” But that’s as it should be—we love having a space that feels so distinctly ours.

“Learning the rules of interior design so you know how and when to break them: I love it! A healthy blend of colors, texture, and DIY projects makes a home feel lived in and cherished.”


By Reveal Editors | Illustration by Katherine Streeter | Lena photograph by Jeff Vespa | Shelf photograph courtesy of subject

This article originally appeared in the Holiday 2022 issue of Drew + Jonathan Reveal, Drew & Jonathan’s home and lifestyle magazine.

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