What a Carrie on! Britain’s ambassador to US Dame Karen Pierce ‘personally’ asked designer behind No10 refurb to redo official Washington residence… only to backtrack as row erupted in UK

  • Dame Karen Pierce reportedly approached Lulu Lytle to redecorate her home 
  • Ambassador lives in impressive 1920s English-style manor in Washington DC 
  • However, plans allegedly dropped amid furious row over Boris Johnson’s flat 

Britain’s ambassador to the US ‘personally’ asked the interior designer behind a controversial Downing Street renovation to redo her Washington residence.

Dame Karen Pierce approached Lulu Lytle, the co-founder of Soane Britain, to redecorate her impressive home in Washington DC this year, the Times reports. 

However, it has been claimed the proposed revamp was abandoned in April after a furious row emerged over the makeover of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat.

The lavish refurbishment of 11 Downing Street, which featured gold wallpaper by interior designer Lytle, reportedly cost a six-figure sum.  

But insiders say the Prime Minister has had to call in specialist decorators to rehang parts of the £840 per roll ‘hand-crafted’ paper – because it keeps falling down. 

Dame Karen Pierce (above) approached Lulu Lytle, the co-founder of Soane Britain, to redecorate her impressive residence in Washington DC this year, reports claim

However, it has been claimed the proposed revamp was abandoned in April after a furious row emerged over the makeover of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat. Pictured: British Embassy Residence in Washington DC

Mr Johnson’s newly appointed independent adviser on ministers’ interests, Lord Geidt, is carrying out an investigation into the way that the Tories tried to disguise a £58,000 payment for the refit from Conservative Party funds. 

It is understood the proposed revamp of Dame Karen’s home on Embassy Row by Lytle would have cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to complete.

Sources say it was scrapped due to concerns it would be considered a ‘waste of public money.’  

Officials in the Foreign Office asked for the procurement process to be made ‘watertight’ after ministers recently became aware of plans to have Soane Britain refurbish the residence, the Times claims.  

A spokesman said: ‘No contract for interior design works has been signed.’

However, they did not deny Lytle had been approached.

The diplomatic compound, which includes the British Embassy and British Council base, is currently undergoing significant renovations. 

The lavish refurbishment of 11 Downing Street, which featured gold wallpaper by interior designer Lytle, reportedly cost a six-figure sum. Pictured: Mr Johnson and Ms Symonds

Plotting a makeover: Miss Lytle was spotted outside the flat in October

All three buildings are in need of repairs, and it is understood the overhaul of Dame Karen’s home will include a newly installed kitchen, bathrooms, and the replacement of its pavements, roofs and terraces. 

The attic and gym area will also reportedly be converted into flats. 

The Embassy is one of the largest in Washington, employing 210 diplomats and approximately 250 additional staffers. 

Dame Karen, 61, who was appointed in February 2020 after Sir Kim Darroch stepped down, has moved out of the residence for 18 months as the renovations take place.

It comes as it was claimed parts of the ‘hand-crafted’ wallpaper installed in Mr Johnson’s 11 Downing Street flat have repeatedly fallen down.

The latest twist in the ‘Wallpapergate’ affair emerged as a photograph surfaced of upmarket interior designer Lytle visiting Downing Street. 

Meanwhile, some of the fabrics Lytle’s Soane Britain company used in the refit of Mr Johnson and fiancee Carrie Symonds’s 11 Downing Street apartment were revealed.  

A photograph of Miss Symonds with Wilfred – her one-year-old son with Mr Johnson – was released by Downing Street at Christmas 

Dazzling choice of colours: The couple’s sofa is in Soane Britain’s Damascus Stripe

The sofa is upholstered with ruby and emerald material called Damascus Stripe. Miss Lytle says it is ‘based on a 19th century Syrian original pattern woven from cotton and silk’ 

The sofa is upholstered with ruby and emerald material called Damascus Stripe. Miss Lytle says it is ‘based on a 19th century Syrian original pattern woven from cotton and silk’.

The curtains are thought to be Soane Britain’s Tendril Vine pattern, also in emerald. 

Appropriately for passionate eco campaigner Miss Symonds, who oversaw the revamp, the window frames and other parts of the woodwork are painted in a matching pastel green. 

A photograph of Miss Symonds with Wilfred – her one-year-old son with Mr Johnson – was released by Downing Street at Christmas. 

At the time no one realised it had been taken in the No 11 flat – and the dispute over new decor for the apartment and how it was paid for did not erupt until it was revealed by this newspaper in February.  

Mr Johnson’s newly appointed independent adviser on ministers’ interests, Lord Geidt, is carrying out an investigation into the way that the Tories tried to disguise a £58,000 payment for the refit from Conservative Party funds.

Going green: Emerald and white curtains are thought to be the firm’s Tendril Vine

The problem with the wallpaper is thought to derive from the heavyweight paper used by Miss Lytle, who does not employ the production-line methods used for most domestic wallpapers.

Her website proclaims that her wallpapers are ‘made in British mills and workshops, employing traditional methods such as block screen printing’. 

She says it is worth it to ‘create high-quality modern wallpapers that capture the atmosphere of hand-crafted products’. 

Hanging heavy duty wallpaper is much more difficult than cheaper, lighter mass produced versions sold in most high street furnishing stores. 

As the cost of the makeover soared last year, the Prime Minister was heard railing that Miss Symonds was ‘buying gold wallpaper… I can’t afford it’.

As the cost of the makeover soared last year, the Prime Minister was heard railing that Miss Symonds was ‘buying gold wallpaper… I can’t afford it’

Lord Geidt, former private secretary to the Queen, the Prime Minister’s independent adviser on ministerial ethics, plans to release the long overdue register of ministerial interests by the end of this month. 

He has said he expects Mr Johnson’s entry covering the renovation of his No 11 apartment, and his own advice on the issue, would be released as part of it.  

In addition, the Electoral Commission announced three weeks ago that it is carrying out a formal investigation into the matter. 

The watchdog said it was ‘satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence or offences may have occurred’.

The Commission has sweeping powers to demand documents and interview witnesses under caution. Failure to declare donations is an offence under electoral law, punishable by fines of up to £20,000. 

Failure to comply or tell the truth is a criminal offence. The Commission can pass on investigations to the police if it uncovers evidence of criminal offences or believes its efforts are being frustrated.

Downing Street says Mr Johnson is co-operating fully with the inquiry, which could demand to see relevant emails and WhatsApp messages.

MailOnline has contacted Soane Britain for comment. 

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