Good Morning Riverside
A welcoming mix of blue-blood traditional and midcentury mod, GMA anchor Lara Spencer’s 1920s home is the ultimate variety show.
The first thing you notice about Lara Spencer’s house is her yellow front door. Bright, cheerful, and not unlike its charming owner, it winks at you from stately Club Road in the Riverside enclave of Greenwich, inviting you to come on in and stay for a cocktail. “The main color at our wedding was yellow,” recalls Spencer. “To me, it represents a ray of light and happiness. I thought, why can’t a chartreuse front door work on a 1920s Cotswold farmhouse?”
The Good Morning America anchor and her husband, real estate agent David Haffenreffer, purchased their home in 2004, literally a hot second after it hit the market. “It wasn’t the biggest house on the block and it didn’t have the most bells and whistles,” says Spencer, “but we instantly fell in love with it and envisioned our kids running around on the grand front lawn.” While the house needed work, its bones were mercifully left untouched, revealing an elegant blank slate for the couple to create a home that suited their style.
Fittingly, Spencer approaches design much like she does her day job. “Whether it’s television or interiors, I’m telling a story,” she explains. “I always have a game plan and I know what needs to be done first. I start out very linear, then sprinkle in flavor and color.” She also believes that the best stories evolve from going with your gut, and within her four walls, that means searching for pieces that make her happy, rather than rigidly adhering to one genre. “Design isn’t black and white,” says Spencer. “Your home should be a nod to all the things you love, otherwise you have a midcentury modern museum or an antique-heavy space that looks like Grandma’s house.”
It was a career detour to Los Angeles in 2008, living in a 1960s glass jewel box, that fueled her era-mixing momentum. “Being in LA, I learned to stop worrying about how other people think and live the way you want to,” says Spencer. “When we returned to Riverside, I decided to lose some of the traditional pieces and incorporate mid-century furniture from our LA home into our space,” she says. “And you know what? The house looks so much fresher and younger because of it.”
Not that Spencer is averse to items of a certain age—in fact, she’s mildly obsessed. Look around her home and she’ll note that most of her furniture was scored from estate and yard sales, flea markets and eBay. From childhood, Spencer has been an avid treasure hunter, a passion which inspired her new book released this spring, I Brake For Yard Sales (a title inspired by the bumper sticker on her family’s truck). “I have such wonderful memories of my mom showing me how to create beautiful rooms on a limited budget with nothing more than creativity and a little elbow grease,” she says.
Rewind to Spencer’s early twenties working as a reporter on hourly wages, and that thrifty design M.O. gleaned from mom helped her to decorate her small apartment, dazzling all who visited. Before long, she found herself moonlighting as a designer, with friends giving her customized shopping lists and decorating referrals. Spencer’s on- and off-camera roles converged while hosting Antiques Roadshow, an experience that deepened her basis of knowledge and further ignited her thrill for the hunt. “I got to witness firsthand the reality that treasures are out there,” says Spencer. “People would bring in items they bought for two dollars at a thrift shop, and I would watch an appraiser saying it’s worth $20,000. How could it not influence me?”
Thankfully, Spencer’s love of “sale-ing,” as she fondly calls it, isn’t lost on her children. “My favorite way to spend a crisp fall Sunday is getting up at the crack of dawn with my seven-year-old daughter Kate and going to the Elephant’s Trunk flea market in New Milford—our last find was an antique typewriter,” she says. “We’ll hit estate or yard sales along Route 7 and discuss what we found over lunch on the way home.” Even son Duff, 10, appreciates a good get (especially the framed vintage Monopoly cards in his room). Once the kids are tucked into bed, Spencer is all too ready to slip into beat-up jeans and a tee and don her decorating cap. “When I’m home I’m often very quiet,” she reveals. “I love going into my garage workshop at night to reinvent pieces I’ve picked up from sale-ing, or to create a storyboard from tear sheets I’ve ripped from magazines.”
Given the breakneck pace of Spencer’s days, how is it possible that she has an inch of head space in the evening to dream up design schemes laced with Karl Springer lucite tables and Verner Panton flowerpot pendants?
“To me, it’s better than therapy,” she laughs. “It gives me wonderful peace of mind and I never have a better night’s sleep.” Coming from a dynamo who rises at 4:15 a.m. to say good morning to millions of fans, we’ll take her word for it.