The Young and the Restless

With his first job under his belt, this designer is ready to hit the big city
Young designer Sam Allen - ready to hit the books!

BOY GENIUS | Designer Sam Allen

The old saying “Youth is wasted on the young” does not apply to Sam Allen. At 17 and with one design job already to his credit, he can’t wait for graduation. Recently accepted into the interior design program at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Allen is looking forward to his future with a focus that is rare for someone his age. He can’t wait to start college in NYC, where he'll have a wealth of design resources at his fingertips.

Allen got off to a good start—his mother, formerly an editor for several shelter magazines, is an interior designer who inspired her son’s career choice. Allen describes his mother’s style as “European eclectic meets clean, crisp and cozy.” He also cites Sarah Kaplan, owner of Dovecote, as a major force. He first worked in the store as an intern, which gave him a firsthand look at running a retail business, and later assisted Kaplan in her interior design projects.

For his first solo project, Allen designed a suite of rooms for three sisters who wanted a place to entertain friends, practice music and host sleepovers. The former maid’s quarters above the garage proved to be the perfect space, with three distinct rooms and a full bath. There was a lot of interaction between Allen and the girls—Amanda, 16, Eliza, 15, and Coco, 9—presenting them, and parents Elizabeth and John, with design boards, photos, swatches and spec sheets. “It was such a fun project,” says Allen, “because we mostly saw eye-to-eye on everything. I had a lot of freedom.”

Groovy Grotto (orange-themed bedroom)

GROOVY GROTTO | Bright colors and cool accessories make a bold statement in the sitting room. A Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams love seat covered in white denim opens to a twin sleeper. White leather chairs with Tibetan lamb pillows, as well as a CB2 Lucite coffee table and console, add to the vibe. The PB teen mini-fridge stores snacks

Allen went with three principle colors—a vibrant orange for the sitting room, pink for the bedroom and chocolate brown for the music room. This scheme pulled together easily with his choice of furniture and accessories. Practical solutions like a pull-out sofa in the sitting room and bunk beds provide plenty of room for guests. The result is three rooms that are fun and bright, but also functional for all the girls’ activities.

Designer Philip Gorrivan

DYNAMIC DUO | Interior designer Philip Gorrivan talks design with Allen

NYC-based interior designer and weekend Connecticut resident Philip Gorrivan sat down with Allen to talk design—how they both started out and where they’re both headed.

Philip Gorrivan: Sam, I’m so impressed with your first design project. It’s professionally done and so stylish! Are you really 17 and a senior in high school?

Sam Allen: Thank you. Coming from you that is a real compliment. Yes, I’m 17 and sadly, I’m still in high school but I’m graduating in June.

PG: Kids today are certainly not what they used to be. As the father of two school-aged children, I certainly hope that they’re as enterprising as you when they hit high school. You’re inspiring. That said, my 10-year-old daughter has decided she’ll be an interior designer and run my firm. What’s next for you?

Music and craft room

PUMP UP THE JAM | The music room doubles as a craft room. The white lacquer bookshelf from west elm with Crate & Barrel baskets keep supplies organized. The Moroccan leather sea

SM: I’m currently working on two design projects—a big, beautiful, traditional home and a cool, über-modern home on the beach. I just found out last week that I was accepted to FIT for fall 2010 and I’m so excited.

PG: Congratulations! Lets talk about these rooms you designed. I have a real affinity for color and love how you introduced the oranges and pinks with the brown. These rooms are so happy.

SM: I designed the space for three girls, ages 9 to 16, who have a serious love of classical music and are talented violinists. Believe it or not, they were actually excited about a bright and happy color scheme. These rooms are completely out of keeping with the rest of the house, which was built in 1939.

PG: Those three colors are also very harmonious together, and the brown grounds everything. There are decorators out there with lots more experience than you who would be very challenged working with such a bold palette. How were you inspired?

Pretty in Pink: the sleepover bedroom

PRETTY IN PINK | Chatham bunk beds from Crate & Barrel with bedding from HB Home make guests feel welcome in the sleepover room. Kartell's Louis Ghost chair pairs with a lacquered Parsons table from west elm. The lacquered table lamp is from Lillian August. Union Jack pillows from Jonathan Adler and curtain fabric designed by Vitoria Hagan for Pollack NY work nicely with the pink walls. The stenciled-cowhide rug is from Dovecote.

Tufted PVC cubes in the sitting room

BE SEATED | Tufted PVC cubes in the sitting room.

SM: I actually didn’t find it challenging at all to work with these colors. The Hermés orange is my all-time favorite. I’ve always loved the brown and white striped Henri Bendel logo.

PG: When I was 17, I helped my mother decorate our 1960s ranch-style house. We went to Jordan Marsh to buy sofas and lamps. The other memory I have is painting a Beatles album cover on my bedroom wall. This project takes decorating to a whole new level.

SM: I actually feel like I’ve been decorating since I was in second grade. I used to go to my friends’ homes for play dates and instead of playing with my friends, I ended up redecorating with their moms. My mom always tells a story—I once recommended to my friend’s mother that she move a sofa, get new throw pillows and get a different kind of lamp. She said I changed her life. And that, in a nutshell, is what I think is so great about decorating. Little changes can be transformational.