See Inside Designer Sam Allen's Bold And Beautiful Townhouse

Designer Sam Allen has made a rental townhouse in Westport, Connecticut, his first home on his own. But you’d never know it wasn’t all his by looking at its sophisticated design, including unique paint colors and light fixtures—both things not often seen in average rentals. 

“I wanted something that was visually and architecturally beautiful,” Allen says of choosing this particular property. “I’m so picky, so I didn’t want [just] a rental, I wanted something brand-new [without] wall-to-wall carpeting.”

 

Not only did he take down the light fixtures and store them away to make room for his own selections, Allen also created a fabric-covered wall (that can be removed) in his bedroom and painted the remaining walls of the bedroom and living areas bold colors: a navy that matches the stripes of the fabric in the bedroom and a pea green in the living spaces that was inspired by a sweater worn by fashion designer Tory Burch. 

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“I was truly inspired by the shocking color palette of an old-world David Hicks, Billy Baldwin-type experience, while also adding in my own design trademarks,” Allen says. “I wanted to be dramatic and different, but you don’t ever want something that will be outdated or will expire in five minutes. There was a picture of Tory Burch wearing this split pea soup cashmere sweater in a magazine. I cut it out and took it to the paint store and said, ‘This is the paint color I want,’ and they found something as close as it could be. I use inspiration from fashion, something someone is wearing, nature, art, and jewelry.”

Allen was also smart about storage, as his townhouse is only 850 square feet, including the balcony. In the living space, a folding table from Overstock.com covered with a coral-and-green tablecloth serves multiple purposes. Allen can store boxes, seasonal clothes, and more under the table, but the tabletop is home to some of his favorite items and collections. And, when not being used for storage or decorative purposes, the table can become a place for dinner for two with the addition of chairs.

“I believe it’s very important to have a bench, table, or console [in the entryway],” Allen says. “It’s someplace to put a lamp and some fresh-cut flowers, and there’s something about lamplight that pairs perfectly with entries and foyers. The light they give off creates a coziness that can’t be compared.” 

“I love that the tablecloth is making a comeback,” Allen says. “[A lot] of these old-world design concepts and traditions were lost for a long time, but they are really coming back in style. The tablecloth is so elegant and so rich. I loved the pea soup green with coral, so I looked and looked for the perfect mix of orange and red. I didn’t want to spend a fortune, but the only company that had [the right fabric] was Sandra Jordan Alpaca Collection.”

He used an alcove space in the living area to carve out an office with a wall-mounted TV. The shelving units on both sides of the desk are from Ikea and hold boxes that keep fabric, work supplies, and more out of sight. The Parsons desk from West Elm is an affordable go-to piece for Allen whenever he designs an office space. 

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Allen loves animal prints, patterns, and textures, and he used these elements throughout his home, most evidently in the living area, where he added royal purple velvet curtains, velvet tiger pillows (from Dovecote in Westport), vintage Suzani bolster pillows (available at www.creelandgow.com), and the silk Ikat textile from Istanbul, which he framed in a linen-backed plexiglass box.

When it comes to mixing lots of elements, Allen says you should do whatever feels right. “Sometimes you can have more than you ever thought would look right, and other times a room calls for two patterns and maybe some solids,” he says. “Decorating is a balancing act, but more often than not, you can use more pattern and textures than you would think. It’s the last extra pattern that sometimes is the one that makes everything else fall perfectly into place.”

This small living space must serve multiple purposes, including a workspace, which Allen carved out of a small alcove.

Because everything else in the living space is bright and bold, Allen chose a neutral linen sofa from Restoration Hardware. 

The bedroom, visible from the living space, borrows design cues from the rest of the house for cohesion but also makes a statement when a guest is looking down the hall and through the doors. Allen covered the wall above the bed and the headboard in fabric: a navy-and-white-striped Ralph Lauren silk he used on a project five years earlier. 

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“I completely believe in reusing things that I already own,” Allen says. “I don’t want to go out and frivolously spend money just because [a home] needs to get furnished. It’s about mixing high and low.” 

He had his seamstress sew panels from the fabric, and, using a staple gun, they hung them on one wall. The seamstress made piping to match and hot glued it around the panels’ borders to hide the seams. All Allen had to pay for was labor. 

Allen used leftover fabric from another project to create panels, which he hung on one bedroom wall using a staple gun. His seamstress finished them by attaching piping made from the same fabric. 

To make the wall-mounted headboard stand out from the wall, he added two rows of nailheads and hung a brass sunburst mirror and ledges above it. They mimic the brass elements in the living space. 

He accented the navy and white room with his favorite color, orange. “It has been my favorite color since first grade, and I don’t know what I would do if orange was deleted from the color spectrum,” he says. “It is so happy, and it looks great with navy, purple, chocolate, brown, and white. The only color it doesn’t look good with is black.”

Orange accents continue into the bathroom, which is accessible from the bedroom and living space. And because it is the smallest room in the house, Allen wallpapered the bathroom with Quadrille’s Lyford Trellis paper. “You can really make a splash in a small space with a statement wallpaper like this, and it doesn’t cost much because you don’t have a lot of wall to cover,” he says. 

With all the patterns and bright colors, the townhouse has a bold, layered look, but it’s still well-balanced—which is authentic to Allen and what he stands for. 

“In order for a room to be truly successful and to achieve a rich and sophisticated look, it needs to have a well-layered feel,” he says. “My mom (who was also an interior designer) says it’s all about the sense of patterns, colors, textures, materials, and time periods.”

Allen has definitely done himself and his mom proud with this design. 

Designer Sam Allen’s Top Tips:

Renting should not equal boring.
Even in a space that you are renting, you can find clever ways to infuse design, including changing light fixtures (although you should hang onto the ones that came with the place), customizing area rugs (Allen had natural sea grass rugs cut to fit the rooms throughout his home), and hanging fabric panels on
the wall.

Small does not mean less grand.
Infused with color, some choice pieces, and lots of layers and textures, any space can feel luxurious. 

Mix high and low.
You don’t have to spend a fortune on everything to create a beautiful space. Spend money on timeless pieces or things you love, but mix them with less costly items, like the folding table that Allen bought to go under his custom Sandra Jordan Alpaca Collection tablecloth. 

Gather inspiration everywhere.
If you see a color you love in a favorite sweater, a magazine article, or just driving around, grab it and use it for your home. Just take that item or photo to a local paint store and have it color-matched. 

Glue and staples are your friends.
You can transform a space without doing something permanent. Use a little bit of ingenuity and creativity like Allen did with the fabric-covered wall in his bedroom.  

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