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Known for her colorful, livable aesthetic, Sarah Vaile tests it out on her own home. 

Designer Sarah Vaile is a fan of mixing bold color with animal prints. Her family room features drapery in her ultimate favorite fabric, Jim Thompson’s Tiger Tiger, along with a Schumacher leopard print on two stools. The sofa is covered in a Robert Allen velvet, with the red being picked up as an accent color throughout the home.  

The hallway creates a cheery welcome with walls covered in Benjamin Moore’s Wythe Blue (HC-143), Vaile’s favorite green-blue, and a custom ottoman in a Robert Allen velvet. The red chairs are from Jayson Home, the armoire is from Noir and the dramatic light fixture is by Kelly Wearstler for Circa Lighting.  

“We have an embarrassing number of bars in our home, but what can I say? My husband and I like to have a good time!” says Vaile. The gold leaf sconce is from Currey & Company, and the lion art was painted by Vaile’s grandmother. “She is the most talented artist I know,” says Vaile. 

Vaile covered the sunroom in Manuel Canovas’ Tortuga wallpaper in Safran for her home office. The space became a playroom when she discovered she didn’t like to work from home.

Vaile’s son’s nursery was a surprise from her team, who found out she was having a boy and decorated while she was in the hospital. The monogrammed drapery is custom, as is the furniture in Quadrille’s Zig Zag fabric.  

“I love how this room feels as if it could be original to the space,” says Vaile of the completely renovated kitchen with its cement tile floor, soapstone counter and Hamilton lanterns from The Urban Electric Company.  

When you’re an in-demand interior designer like Sarah Vaile, it’s hard to find the time to renovate your own home, much less make major life changes. But Vaile and her husband were ready to start a family, so renovating was a must. Wisely approaching the project as an adjunct to her business, the hardworking designer turned her home into both laboratory and showroom. “My home became my canvas and my training ground, where I just tested out all the fun ideas that I was dying for someone to try,” she says. “My husband has earned a purple heart in patience, as he’s been literally living in an artist’s canvas for the past five years.”

Vaile started with what usually needs to be addressed straightaway when you buy a vintage apartment—the kitchen, which was far too small and needed some serious updating. After bumping it into the maid’s quarters—or what she calls the largest laundry room you’ve ever seen—she was able to create an island in the center, a must-have for the now family of four, complete with a golden retriever and Bernese mountain dog. “The kitchen really is testimony to us enacting modern, livable design,” Vaile says. By “us,” she is referring to her partners at Sarah Vaile Interior Design, Haley O’Hara and Melissa Dragues: the former her star-crossed friend, and the latter her sister.

While Vaile wanted a layout that would work for the way her family actually lives, she also wanted to use materials that felt like they could be native to the 1917-era residence. After being warned against using soapstone, she chose it for her countertops anyway and has been recommending it to her clients ever since. Brass light fixtures lend an air of authenticity, and the floors are terra-cotta cement tiles from Ann Sacks. “A lot of people ask me if the floors are original to the home, which to me is a huge compliment,” she says.

After the kitchen was renovated, Vaile addressed the rest of the home with paint, wallpaper, furnishings—and above all, color. The oversized dining room was transformed into an all-purpose cozy family room by way of a Chinese red chesterfield sofa, a corner banquette with purple-and-green ikat chairs, and a large helping of animal prints. “Clearly, I cannot get enough of animal prints,” she says, laughing. “And I love the idea of pulling in unexpected colors like green and purple to go with the red and the camel. That’s what makes this room work so well, even though it wouldn’t work on a board. I always tell my clients that if it feels like a lot on a board, it’s probably the perfect amount of color and saturation and pattern in a real room.”

While Vaile carried the family room’s Chinese red throughout the apartment in little pops of color here and there, she chose Benjamin Moore’s Wythe Blue, a soft teal blue, to unite the front of the unit. “I refuse to do gray, certainly not as the first color you see when you walk in,” she says emphatically.

Speaking of, the children’s rooms were both planned and preordered secretly by her colleagues, who found out what gender she was having ahead of time (Vaile didn’t want to know) and installed the rooms, washing them in color, while she was still in the hospital. “They knew I was determined not to have a gray nursery,” she says.

In fact, color is central to the young vibe at Sarah Vaile Interior Design, whose vast majority of clientele are either building their first home, building their first vacation home, moving their family to the North Shore or decorating in a big way for the first time. “We feel we really have our finger on the pulse of our generation, and it’s really a fun process,” Vaile says. “We get it—we understand what it feels like to be doing fine design and also having to balance children, dogs and life.”

Case in point: What started out as Vaile’s office has now morphed into a sunroom and playroom after she discovered she doesn’t actually like to work at home. “Now it’s just a lounging room where I can lie on the daybed and watch the kids play,” she says. Decked out in vibrant orange toile, it’s much more sophisticated than your average playroom. But for Vaile, that’s the sweet spot, a place where real life and beautiful design can peacefully coexist.

Vintage Apartment

East Lakeview

Sarah Vaile Interior Design

Cement tile on kitchen floors

Cement tile on kitchen backsplash

Hardware in kitchen

Sconces in living room, chandelier in entry

Fabric for window coverings in kitchen and Manuel Canovas wallpaper in sunroom

Sconces in family room

Jute rug in living room

Chairs in family room

Holly Hunt velvet on living room sofa and Jim Thompson fabrics for pillows on living room sofa

Living room sofa and daybed in sunroom

Fabric on custom headboard, bedskirt, daybed and chairs in nursery

Soapstone countertop in kitchen

Bar cart in family room