From the August/September 2019 Issue  

How This Designer Reinvents Her Home with Color

Writer Marirose Krall  |  Photographer Jane Beiles  |  Designer Sarah Quigley  |  Location Summit, NJ

Neutral armchairs and cabinetry balance the dark tones of the walls and sofa in the family room.

Designer Sarah Quigley continually reinvents her home with strategic pops of color against a neutral base

Sarah Quigley has lived in her late-1920s center-hall colonial-style home in Summit, New Jersey, for 15 years, but the address is the only static thing about this house. In the past decade and a half, Quigley, owner of Q Interiors Design in Green Village, NJ, has made a series of modification—both architectural and aesthetic—to her home. “The more you live somewhere, the more you get restless,” she says. To counteract that feeling, the designer is “always adding. I’m always building upon things. My friends call me a serial redecorator.”

A relocated powder room allowed for an expanded kitchen—with space for a dining table and banquette.

Over the course of several revamps, the look of Quigley’s home has evolved. “My aesthetic has changed a lot as a designer,” she says. In years past, her decorative sense “was more experimental. I was not self-assured as to what my style was.” Nowadays, Quigley is partial to a combination of styles. “I’m more about the mix,” she notes. “I like an edited look with both traditional and transitional elements.” She has also scaled back on design elements. “I’m very pared down. I don’t like a lot of stuff.”

What Quigley does like is a cozy home. “I’m a homebody. I want the atmosphere here to be very homey. I want it to be a nice place where everybody feels comfortable,” she says. The coziness of this house was, in fact, what sold her on it in the first place. “It was winter and there was a fire roaring in the family room fireplace. That was such a draw for us, such a nice environment for us.”

White crockery in glass cabinets is part of the neutral palette and will match whichever colors Quigley decides to accessorize with in the future.

When creating her own cozy environment, Quigley paid special attention to the kitchen. “I’m domestic. I cook, ” she says. Because she knew she’d be spending a lot of time in this room, she wanted to maximize the space. The original kitchen was very narrow, so “we pulled out a wall to make it more of an open floor plan,” she notes. She added an island and repainted the existing cabinets in a linen white for a classic, understated look.

The existing bar was “very ’70s,” Quigley says. “It was bad.” The new bar features crisp cabinetry and an eye-catching brass metal light fixture.

Though the foundations of the kitchen are neutral, the space is not without color. In the new seating area, which was made possible by the removal of the wall, Quigley brought in a navy blue banquette and straight-backed chairs with coordinating blue and gray upholstery.

An area rug and console skirt add color to the foyer. “I like to get in little shots of fun,” designer Sarah Quigley says.

Neutrals form the basis for the decor throughout the house. Wall colors in most of the rooms are soft and understated. “I like neutral upholstery and small doses of pattern,” she says. This strategy involves using vivid colors and patterns on the decorative elements that are easy to switch out when preferences change. “I don’t put pattern on big things [like sofas]. You can always update with the smaller things such as pillows, throws and accessories.”

The soft palette in the living room gets a vibrant boost with colorful art and accessories and a textured carpet.

A prime example of this approach is the living room, which features primarily understated furnishings. Strong hits of color come in small doses —the throw pillows, the artwork, even the books on the coffee table. Past experience has allowed Quigley to refine her tastes regarding the proportion of color in a room. “When I first started out in that living room, I had beautiful floral drapes with a lot of color. It drove me crazy after a while.”

Quigley’s master bedroom is “really feminine.” The desk lamp by Christopher Spitzmiller is a favorite of the designer. “I have a weakness.”

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Still, Quigley chose a floral for the master bedroom. “I think bedrooms can be treated a little bit differently,” she explains. The bed she chose features a flowery pattern in various shades of blue and taupe. “It’s a soft, tranquil floral,” she says, “I couldn’t resist doing it.” Paired with an ikat material (on the lampshades and a desk chair cushion) along with a linen desk skirt, the bed fabric acts as both a coordinating element and a focal point.

In the dining room, a sunburst mirror adds pizzazz combined with the unfussy table and chairs.

Quigley took a slightly bolder tack in the family room. “The grass-cloth wall covering was a bit of a leap for me,” she says. “But I do like it.” She specifically chose fabric for the walls because “I don’t think blue translates as paint. I wanted some texture, and I think it’s a smaller leap than wallpaper.” The deep shade brings warmth to the room. “It’s cozy in there.” Adding to the snug vibe is the forest green velvet sofa. “I think I migrate toward green all the time,” Quigley says. “I fell in love with the fabric and the pillows. I wanted to make a story out of that.” A sisal carpet adds texture, as does the bamboo window treatment.

Soothing settings interspersed with vibrant colors make this home appealing and welcoming. “Now I’m an empty nester. I have to woo my people back,” she says with a laugh.