Decorator Sara Walker boldly mixes color, pattern, vintage items, and personal touches to create a comfortable, vibrant, perfectly imperfect home for her young family.
When Sara Walker, design assistant to local interior decorator Fran Keenan, and her husband, Chris, bought their Edgewood three-bedroom, one-bath home, they had an inspired vision to completely gut the house, rework the floorplan, and claim the idle attic space. And they did it all—creating a master suite on the main floor and adding four bedrooms and two baths upstairs—without adding a single square foot or even a dormer. “I love that we were able to get all the modern amenities within the beautiful old shell of a 1925 brick Tudor—it’s the best of both worlds,” Sara says.
Within the rooms, furnishings are a collection of inherited pieces, inexpensive antiques, thrift store scores, and estate sale finds—all from a spectrum of styles and eras. Sara’s daring palette unites the rooms with a consistent thread of color. But choosing such vibrant, saturated hues wasn’t a casual decision for the design pro. “It was a leap of faith, even for a color-lover like me!” she says.
The Magic Mix
As a close friend and design mentor, Fran Keenan shares and appreciates Sara’s love of color. “She has a rather fearless approach to color—we are like-minded in that,” Fran says. “I love the combination of the greens we selected and how they play off the raspberry red, anchored with black and brown.” Sara balances her savvy color scheme with interiors that stand up to real life. “I have embraced having an honest home that is full of things that are imperfect but all work together in a way that we love.”
ABOVE LEFT Doors: Leafy Bower, Pratt & Lambert ABOVE RIGHT Ceiling: Green Drop, Pratt & Lambert
Comfortable with Color
A Bessarabian kilim from Paige Albright Orientals brings red into the room, which is topped with a vibrant jade green ceiling. “The painted ceiling has this glow about it,” decorator Fran Keenan says. “There’s a warmth you feel in the space.” The plaid blanket on the sofa “adds a fun retro vibe and keeps the seat cushion clean,” Sara says. “Living with color and pattern is super forgiving—these fabrics camouflage the wear and tear.”
White Wall Challenge
“Before we moved in, my husband thought Fran and I were nuts for choosing this bright green color for the ceiling,” Sara says, “but he grew to love it after the rest of the furnishings were placed. It makes the whole room glow.” The color was chosen from a floral Schumacher fabric that adorns the sofa’s throw pillows. Furnishings, including an antique French bergere covered in a geometric Lee Jofa fabric, an open-arm chair found at a local thrift store and covered in a modern malachite fabric, and a red trunk from a local antiques mall, offer a mix of styles and eras.
ABOVE LEFT Walls: Oak Glen, Pratt & Lambert ABOVE RIGHT Ceiling: Greenage, Pratt & Lambert
The master bedroom’s walls and trim are painted mint green. “A white or bright trim next to strong color amps up that color. Instead, we softened the vibrant wall color by using the same color on the trim,” says Fran. “It makes the room feel sophisticated and really stylish.” Sara capitalized on the local trend of moving away from red Orientals and snapped one up for a steal. “I loved going against the trend with this over-dyed red rug. The contrast of the mint and red really makes the room,” Sara says. To complete the space, she added a Parsons bench wrapped in what she calls “a very 80s chintz.”
Sara pairs vintage art with new—like this collage of colorful pieces including some by her sister, local artist Liz Landgren. A trunk used by Sara’s grandfather in World War II is topped by a trophy mount from Chris’s youth. “I subscribe to the philosophy that if you love something enough, it will look good in your home,” says Sara. “It’s all about creating that custom mix that makes it feel distinctly you.”
ABOVE Kitchen & Dining Walls: French Canvas, Benjamin Moore
Setting the Table
Drapes in a Greek key print douse the dining room in pattern, while a garage sale artwork score (a signed original!) adds color to a small expanse of white wall. An overscale Restoration Hardware lantern, painted red for a bold visual, holds court over an antique French farm table from Gabby Home. “Signed Thonet chairs in their original striped vinyl were purchased at a local antiques mall for a song!” Sara says of host chairs by German furniture maker Michael Thonet. A painted-to-unite collection of vintage bentwood bistro chairs are the dining side chairs.
“Stairs are always the hardest part—the floorplan juggernaut,” Fran says of finding a place on the main floor for the stairwell rising to the newly finished second floor. “And then the kitchen was a brain cramp. Sara wanted it to feel gracious enough to support the size of the house.” Eventually, after many sketches, Sara nestled the stairs at one end of the kitchen and tucked counter seating beneath the rise of the stairs. For kitchen lighting, she went a different route than the usual canned lights. “I was inspired by some of interior designer Steven Gambrel’s kitchens where he used flush-mount lighting on a grid. With some very modestly sourced lighting and a can of brassy spray paint, I achieved this look,” Sara says.
Designers: Sara Walker and Fran Keenan frankeenan.com Builder: Cotton Construction cottonconstructioninc.com Windows: Holcombe Doors and Windows holcombedoorandwindow.com Windowpane trim color throughout house: Pratt & Lambert Field Gray prattandlambert.com Hardware and restoration of vintage hardware: Brandino Brass brandinobrass.com Kitchen: cabinets: Cannon Custom Woodwork Inc.: 205.296.3745 Cabinet color: Benjamin Moore Paris Rain benjaminmoore.com Countertops: Triton Stone tritonstone.com Barstools: Serena & Lily serenaandlily.com Dining room: Vintage striped thonet chairs: Hanna Antiques hannaantiques.com Cowhide rug: Paige Albright Orientals paigealbrightorientals.com Living room: club chairs: Hiltz Lauber hiltzlauber.com Red trunk: Hanna Antiques Sofa: custom through MCJ Interiors 205.458.2700 Hemp area rug: Paige Albright Orientals Fabric on open-arm lounge chair: Duralee duralee.com Antique French console: Argent Antiques argentantiques.com Vintage emerald lamp: Urban Suburban Antiques: 205.592.0777 Mid-century buoy lamps: Scott Antique Market scottantiquemarket.com Wall color: Benjamin Moore French Canvas Keeping room: wall color: Benjamin Moore French Canvas Italian chrome folding chair: The Nest thenestbham.com Rug: Paige Albright Orientals Master bedroom: linen bedding: Restoration Hardware and West Elm restorationhardware.com, westelm.com Parsons bench: The Nest Oriental rug: Chelsea Antiques chelseaantiques1.com