When Sam Allen was only 19 years old, the late Albert Hadley chose him as one of 12 designers to complete a room in his annual exhibition, the “Rooms With A View” show house. The Connecticut native was the youngest designer to ever participate, and shortly thereafter – Sam’s talent and vehement work ethic earned him the cover of The New York Times Home section. (Quite a strong start, if you ask us!) Of course, anyone who is familiar with Sam’s work knows these accomplishments were merely the beginning. Today, the designer heads up his own firm in Fairfield County, Connecticut, bringing his glamorous aesthetic to a bustling roster of clients. He was kind enough to welcome us into his home, where Sam’s booming personality looms around every corner and color makes a bold statement. (Hello, that bedroom!) We wanted to know more about his approach to design, and in our conversation, discovered a unique definition of success:
First – how is designing for yourself different than when you’re working with clients?
Lets just say it’s MUCH easier to decorate for clients and not yourself!
Ha! What can you tell us about the home?
My apartment is located in Westport, CT, overlooking the Saugatuck River. It is a transitional space, roughly 892 square feet and boasts a nice balcony. The home was brand new; I was the first to live in it.
Lucky you – a perfect blank slate! What were your design requirements as you got started?
To renovate and design a spec apartment, giving it character reflective of my personality. Originally, my inspiration was to create a space that was reminiscent of a European hotel suite. It was my intention for every room and every area to have some sort of strong connection to fine amenities, similar to a hotel with lots of well thought out little moments.
Did you stumble across any challenges along the way?
One of the challenges was this large window in the Living Room. It’s placement made it impossible for the sofa to be centered, which is how I generally like things to be. It’s a pet peeve of mine and drives me insane if it cannot be centered. The room also had doors that went out to a terrace, which was great, but again placed in such a way that made it awkward to place the furniture properly. Because the living room and dining room were in one open space, I decided to go with one rug for the two rooms so that it would feel and look as large as possible.
Another challenge was the office area because it needed to fit everything that had fit in my old office, which was a room unto itself. This new small flat space needed to have enough storage to neatly accommodate all my catalogs, fabrics, books, files, printer etc. as well as my desk and chair. I also needed to fit a TV, (which had to go across from the sofa), and again be spaced in such a way that could feel somewhat proportionately balanced.
Do you have a favorite room?
I would have to say my bedroom! The navy and white headboard and matching wall happened because I wanted to recycle this amazing Ralph Lauren fabric that I had used in my first showhouse room. I loved the look of it and all the possibilities that could be created with it and wanted something crisp to juxtapose the bed linens I had always dreamed of owning. Covering the bed with those linens is like sleeping in a hotel, but a billion times finer. The curtains, custom lamp shades and soft carpet under foot (although not wall to wall) helped achieve that good hotel bedroom feel. Good lamps help too, what can I say, I’m luckier than most that I don’t just get to have good light from lamps, but attractive lamps as well….
Many of our readers comment that bold color and pattern can really be intimidating, and ask how to approach it. What are your top tips to someone who is wanting to incorporate it into their own homes?
The only person who really needs to love it is you. Confidence is contagious. If you feel strongly about using certain colors and patterns, your decisions will be compelling enough that people will not only go along with your decisions but embrace them and envy them.
Let’s talk about your career. When did you first discover your love of design?
I really knew that design and all the things that went along with it was when I was in elementary school. I loved watching and modeling in my mother’s photos shoots for decoration shelter magazines and TV appearances on shows including Martha Stewart, Rachel Ray, and later steady monthly segments on Better Connecticut as their design and lifestyle expert. Although I must admit, I didn’t realize when I was small that so many things were all related.
Started from a very young age… can’t say we’re surprised! How did you get where you are today?
I was only 19 years old when my career took off. The late Albert Hadley chose me as one of twelve designers to take part in his “Rooms With A View” show house; I was the youngest designer ever to participate in his annual exhibition. Soon thereafter, I landed the prestigious cover of The New York Times Home section. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to design for many wonderful clients and continue to expand my business and have a career that truly is my passion.This passion has allowed me to further my career and brand by educating people on a national platform on many talk shows and other media outlets. And I have no plans of slowing down!!
We can’t wait to see what you do next! Finally, what are your “words to live by” when it comes to interior design?
Success has less to do with talent and everything to do with courage.