Sam Allen , a confident 19-year-old from Weston, Conn. is the youngest of the featured decorators at "Rooms with a View 2011," an annual event held at the Southport Congregational Church, in Southport, Conn. The event was started 17 years ago by legendary designer, Albert Hadley, now the honorary chair. This year's event is titled "The Next Generation."
Each designer selected to participate creates a vignette, or mini-room. Sam has created a pool cabana, complete with hanging swing, crystal chandelier, real grass and monogrammed towels, inspired by a trip to Hollywood. "I love that Parisian, Hollywood glamoresque style," he says.
Growing up in Weston, Conn. Sam loved accompanying his mother, Leslie Allen, an interior designer and friend of Martha Stewart , on shopping trips to the Decorator's & Designer's building in New York. When he was seven, he and his sister appeared on one of Martha's television shows - "I think we were decorating pinecones." Sam says that was the moment he knew what he wanted to do with his life.
In middle school he work at Dovecote , a design store in Westport, with the owner Sarah Kaplan, whom he calls his mentor.
Sam's big break came during his junior year of high school. A woman shopping at his dad's store, Double L Farm Stand , mentioned that she wanted to decorate rooms above her garage for her daughters. Lloyd Allen said his son was a designer. Sam was hired and created a playroom in pink, orange and chocolate brown that wowed the client - and found multiple fans when Sam posted the photos on Facebook . Two new clients signed on immediately and Sam found himself juggling text messages from plumbers and painters during math class.
In his senior year Sam stacked his classes in the mornings so that he could go to work in the afternoons. "I really wanted to graduate," he says. He planned to continue his studies in interior design at the Fashion Institute of Technology .
Sam's first semester in New York was difficult for him, as he discovered he didn't like the city and didn't want to be part of the college party scene. "I had a real decision to make," he says. "I had to grow up fast." He says he might go back to college at some point but for the moment he doesn't have time. "I've been very lucky," Sam says. "I'm so grateful to my clients for giving me a chance."
"Rooms with a View" is open to the public Friday, Saturday and Sunday Nov. 4 to 6. The Southport Congregational Church is at 524 Pequot Avenue, Southport, Conn. In addition to the designer vignettes, there will be a marketplace, special events and a café.
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