Learning From A Room

Learning from a Room: Sally Staub’s Tips for Bringing Pattern into the Kitchen

by Amy Azzarito

When you enter designer Sally Staub‘s 19th century farmhouse in Northampton, Massachusetts, the kitchen is the first room that greets you when you enter the home. Sally wanted to create a bright and welcoming feeling and for her, that meant a lot of yellow. She went with a bold wallpaper that makes the entire kitchen feel cheery and warm. Where some people might keep everything else sedated, Sally decided to go big. The wallpaper became the foundation for the entire color palette. She also managed to make this relatively small kitchen functional for her family of six. We asked her a few questions about how she made it all happen. –Amy

(See all the photos of Sally’s Farmhouse right here)

What was the first piece that you picked for the room?

Sally: I started thinking about wallpaper from the beginning of the design process for our house. I knew that I wanted wallpaper only for the bump out wall in the kitchen so it had to be special and spectacular. I think of the wallpaper as a huge piece of art for the room. The geometric pattern of the Kimberly Lewis paper fit that kitchen wall perfectly- and the color matched the turquoise Big Chill fridge that I was coveting!

See Sally’s tips for bringing pattern into a small space after the jump!

What was the biggest challenge you faced in this room?

Sally: Working around old farmhouse cabinets and counters. We decided to wait
on a kitchen renovation, so we focused on new appliances, lighting and colorful details.

Can you tell me about the decision to go bold with the other features in the room (such as the cabinets…) How did you know that it would all work together?
Sally: It was an incremental process; the cabinet knobs followed the wallpaper and refrigerator. Since the turquoise refrigerator and dishwasher picked up the blue of the wallpaper, I wanted to bring in some of the yellow elsewhere. So, the knobs were a clear choice, as their vintage style complemented the farmhouse cabinets while updating them with a pop of color. Similarly, I chose the yellow stools for the color but also to modernize the look of the kitchen.

Can you tell me about how function  featured into your design of the space?
Sally: The kitchen serves as the hub of family activity so I chose appliances and furnishings that were both functional and made a bold statement of style. As an avid baker, I chose a marble table to do double duty – in addition to a place where the whole family gathers for meals, it functions as a surface to work with dough and chocolate. Directly above the table hangs a cherry red barn light. It’s a nod to the farmhouse style with a contemporary flair. I like a surprise or unpredictable element in a room so I chose this red as a spunky contrast to the primary palette.



Your pantry and mudroom seemed very organized for a family of four kids. Can you tell us how you manged that?
I love to organize and maintain organization.  Three of our four children are school-aged, so there always seems to be a surplus of backpacks, lunches, violins, ballet bags, etc AND THEN, there’s a long New England winter to contend with so the mudroom, just off the kitchen, has to be organized.  A tip from FamilyFun magazine, where I spent the last 8 years of my career, is to hang feed buckets on the wall for each child to have a place to deposit their hats, gloves, etc.  They have a flat back so hang flush against the wall. The pantry is another potential hot spot for disorganization.  We cook and bake a lot so I find that keeping the pantry well stocked and organized makes everything easier!  Glass containers that seal well are both attractive on open shelving and practical for keeping large quantities of stock.

Do you have any tips for others who’d like to get the same look?
In the case of our kitchen, the wallpaper was the inspiration for the look.  I think one element that inspires you can serve as the launching point to a great design.  It could be as small as two electrifying colors side-by-side on a pillow or as complex as a room with wallpaper that has a pattern that drives the rest of the design.  For me, color and pattern always serve to enliven a space!

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  • Boom – wish granted – older home with design punch and doable. I have those cupboards and see that painting the hinges white is key. The blue paint instead of a backsplash – again doable and affordable. I love this room – very encouraging. Wish I had that frig….

  • Boom – wish granted – older home with design punch and doable. I have those cupboards and see that painting the hinges white is key. The blue paint instead of a backsplash – again doable and affordable. I love this room – very encouraging. Wish I had that frig….
    Such wonderful use of colour and pattern in this home!

  • Love this kitchen, love those colours and love her decorating philosophy – everything from “I like a surprise or unpredictable element in a room” to “two electrifying colors side-by-side on a pillow”.

  • I really like your ideas. Wallpapers can definitely provide any kitchen unique look and feel and also help create a welcoming and pleasant atmosphere.