Designing with Joy: TLV Checks in with Designer Alison Sheffield

As a designer, the homes she works on are infused with personality and beauty. Layering, bold color choices, pattern and art all play a major role in Alison Sheffield’s sophisticated designs, and yet she makes a point of leaving space for levity and a touch of humor in her projects. A house should be beautiful, and functional of course, but when it is also joyous and fun, it truly becomes a home. Boston based designer Alison Sheffield has been featured in Better Homes & Gardens, Boston Globe Magazine, and her home (of her own design) in Designer Erin Gate’s “Elements of Family Style.”

We checked in with her to find out how to create a lovely and stylish home in a space inhabited by children and pets, what vintage pieces she loves in her own home, and how to design with a sparkling sense of humor.

Today, she is a very much in demand designer with her own namesake firm, and an upcoming Sheffield Interiors home accessory in the works, but her love of design began from a young age. “I’ve always loved interiors and beauty. My godmother was a decorator and she was always my idol. I also grew up in a home beautifully decorated by my mother. Her love of chinoiserie and antiques rubbed off on me.”

With a love of layering, designer Alison Sheffield has honed her ability to mix old and new, humor with elegance and of course, animal print with … well, animal print. “I always love traditional interiors that aren’t fussy. A room needs clean lines and some modern forms mixed in. I love using smart whimsical art to add a bit of humor. An oversized oil painting of marbles, a Push for Champagne button in a home bar, a black and white photograph of a rural roadside shop called The Human Store, a life-sized painted metal pigeon sculpture in the corner of a living room. To me these add so much personality to a home.”

To get a layered look of your own going, she suggests: “I always love using a colorful vintage rug. And some form of an animal print – often more than one. A mix of art, high end and low. Texture in the form of velvet or grasscloth, comfortable seating, lots of pillows, occasional tables that can act as stools as needed. Books, beautiful collected accessories. And something brown! A vintage secretary and a chest of drawers are my go-tos for adding some soulful brown to a space. And I tend to shy away from anything that comes in a set. You want your home to feel collected.”

She brings her love of mixing patterns, bold colors and vintage elements into her own home as well. “My home is overall pretty traditional. It is a century-old bow roof cape in a coastal New England town. It’s white-painted shingles, with black shutters, and a cedar shake roof. The interiors are also inherently traditional, and we’ve kept the rooms intact while imbuing them with color and pattern.  I want to honor the original design while making it ours for our tenure. I never want to take away from a beautiful home’s bones.

One of my favorite pieces is the antique Heriz rug I inherited from my grandmother. It was in the home I grew up in, then in our city condo for 20 years, and now it is in our family room. I can’t picture my home without it!

Another favorite is a vintage table I found for our dining room. I’d dreamt of finding one with Ming legs, and just as I was about to cave and settle for a new one I never would have loved enough, I found the most perfectly-scaled one at a local consignment store. It’s one big piece of wood, and a generous 46” wide, with elegant details, and just formal enough for us. It feels like it was meant to live here!”

And to those looking to add more vintage and antiques into their own homes she offers this advice: “The patina and soul antique and vintage pieces add to a space cannot be underestimated! And it doesn’t have to be a family heirloom. Some of my favorite pieces are finds from estate sales and consignment stores. There are also some great places – like TLV! – that you can shop online for unique pieces for your home.”

Her own home was recently featured in the new and bestselling “Elements of Family Style,” by designer Erin Gate as an example of how to live (well) with children and pets. Her experience has taught her that quality and style go hand in hand when designing for the messier members of the household. “Performance fabrics and vintage rugs – things that wear like iron! But never skimp on beauty. There are such great options these days!”

6 Questions with Designer Alison Sheffield

TLV: Where do you look for inspiration when you feel blocked?

AS: Following my favorite accounts on Instagram gives me a daily dose of inspiration. Cake makers, florists, artists, travelers, other designers, my favorite fabric houses – all inspire me.


TLV: Go-to color combination? Or most beloved pattern?

AS: Blue and white is a forever favorite. And jewel tones. And I adore zebra, toile, faux bois, and chinoiserie.

TLV: Is there an era or a design style that you are particularly inspired by?

AS: There are elements of most styles that I appreciate, but I’m always drawn to the more classic and traditional ones.


TLV: Favorite travel destination for design inspiration?

AS: Anywhere in Italy.

TLV: Ideal way to spend a summer afternoon?

AS: On our patio with a cocktail! I’m a homebody at heart.


TLV: Currently reading / watching?

AS: Reading The Push, a beautifully written but harrowing story about motherhood. Obsessed with The Handmaid’s Tale and Ozark, but also Community and Arrested Development – I need some levity to balance my crime obsession!

Click here to see our Pinterest board collaboration with Alison for inspiration for the season. You will love it!

Images: Stephen Sheffield Photography / Text: Liana Hayles Newton

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