As seniors at Weston High, Sam Allen’s friends spent free periods hanging out or driving to Westport.
Sam, meanwhile, met with painters, plumbers, electricians and delivery people.
That’s what you do when you’re a noted interior designer. You’re always on call, always dealing with details and emergencies.
“It was hard,” Sam — who graduated last year from Weston — says. “I’d be sitting in math class, getting emails and texts from clients and vendors.”
Sam always loved furnishings and decor. His mother — Leslie — is an interior designer, so he grew up around photo shoots. On play dates, he “redecorated” rooms.
When Sam walked into Martha Stewart’s TV studio in Norwalk — Leslie and Martha are friends — he remembers being “mesmerized.”
At the ripe age of 12, Sam asked Dovecote owner Sarah Kaplan for a job. Impressed, she hired him to work in the Westport store.
Eventually, Sarah took Sam on buying trips to France. “It was hard work,” he says. “We were out in the cold at the flea markets at 7:30, waiting for them to open. There was a lot of photography, crating — it was tough.”
Sam took the minimum number of courses possible at Weston. He much preferred working — and learning — at Dovecote.
In 2009, a customer at his father’s LL Farm Stand said she was stressed about redoing rooms above her garage. Lloyd Allen replied, “My son does interior design.”
Sam looked at her space, described his vision — and was hired on the spot.
“I got a taste of the real design world,” he says. “I learned how to really deal with clients, painters and electricians.”
The project was a great success. He pitched photos to Connecticut Cottages & Gardens. The editor was skeptical — she gets plenty of requests — but she loved what she saw. The spread was published last April.
Through that — and project photos on Facebook, and word of mouth — Sam got more work.
At one home, Sam expected to decorate a room. Instead, the owner asked him to handle most of her enormous home.
“That one, I was nervous,” Sam admits. “The magnitude was huge.”
Why did all these women trust a high school senior?
“I’m less expensive than other local designers,” he says.
“But I have access to vendors, resources, fabric houses and stores.
“Plus, I’ve been trained by Dovecote and my mother. And I have a good reputation.”
Working 2 summers ago at Martha Stewart Living in New York didn’t hurt. He was their only non-college intern. He learned about paint boards, cabinet lines, crafts, media production and more.
Last fall, Sam started classes at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. Classes ran from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. On the 1st day, an instructor warned students they’d give up most of their lives for the next 4 years.
This winter, Sam decided to take time off. “I know education is important,” he says. “I’ll go back. But right now, I want to concentrate on my clients.”
These days he’s working with women in Westport, Weston, Chelsea and the Upper East Side. He’s also about to sign a deal with what he calls “a very exciting media-related project.”
That’s a lot on one young man’s plate — no matter how decorative it is. But interior design is Sam passion, and he’s pursuing it with gusto.
“I love accumulating different pieces, seeing a room come together,” he says.
“I see a fabric I fall in love with, and the rest follows. I love the relationships I form with my clients — these housewives. And watching construction progress is a great rush.”
It’s a rush Sam Allen relishes. He’s come a long way from the days — a year ago — of sitting in math class, worrying about the real responsibilities of a real interior designer, being paid real money by real clients.
(To contact Sam, call 203-984-5590 or email email@example.com)