High Impact

When designing homes for her clients, “nothing is more satisfying than the final reveal when they walk in and just stare, wide-eyed and amazed that this is the same space they’ve lived in for years and don’t recognize,” says Main Line interior designer Stephanie Shaw. “I live for those moments.”

So do her clients, which is why she’s often asked to transform ordinary homes into the extraordinary. “I’m a lover of all interior design styles, and I enjoy creating all types of atmospheres,” she says. “Giving clients a space that they love is what drives me.”

Shaw uses her uncanny ability to understand her client’s unique style, preferences and needs, and distill those into highly personalized and luxurious designs. And her satisfied clients keep coming back for more. In fact, Shaw recently teamed up with long-term clients, whom she’s worked with for over fifteen years on numerous projects, including two shore homes and three commercial spaces, to design their new Wayne, PA home. 

“They are the most generous, appreciative and easy people to work with. For this project, they wanted to bring the home up to date, add some modern touches and throw in some color,” recounts Shaw. In fact, her clients’ first request was to make the space bright and cheery, something she expertly executed with careful planning. 

Like many newer homes, this had an open floorpan with views stretching from one room to the next. Attention to detail was required to ensure a cohesive visual flow throughout the home, beginning with a consistent color scheme. 

When it comes to deciding on a color palette, Shaw likes to take her lead from the client. “They both love blue, so all of the rooms have some shade of blue in them, but maybe a different pop of color as an accent,” she explains. 

Shaw built on her fifteen-year relationship with her clients to plan exactly how color and pattern would be used in each room. “I knew this client likes change, so I wanted to make it easy to change the look and feel of a space without changing the whole room.” Walls and windows were used as a neutral backdrop, and color was layered in with art, accessories and pillows. “I like to save the boldest looks for a powder room or an office. Usually these rooms are visually separate from the main flow of the house. Bedrooms are also fun rooms to do something unexpected.”

In the powder room, for example, Shaw went bold with graphic wallpaper and one-of-a-kind orange vanity mirror. Yet, the wallpaper’s neutral colors and greek key print keep the look classic, not tied to a trend.

Shaw also paid special attention to the two-story foyer. “The foyer is usually the separator of all the adjacent rooms,” she explains. Millwork was added to the walls for subtle visual interest and to accentuate the high ceilings, and everything was painted white. “Doing this gives your eye a resting place between the living room, dining room and great room, where I wanted to add more pattern and color.”

Subtle design choices also make a huge impact to the overall feel of each room. Accessories, lighting, art and window treatments work together to add texture and depth to every space. “I’m constantly editing as I go along. If it starts feeling too busy, there’s something inside me that needs to calm it down again. It’s really all about how it make me and my clients feel,” she says. 

A stunning chandelier from Restoration Hardware hangs in the foyer, setting the stage for unexpected, statement lighting used throughout the home. “I love lighting! They’re like a funky necklace with a plain white shirt. Alone the shirt is ordinary, but an unexpected necklace draws your eye, makes a statement and gives it a whole new feeling,” explains Shaw. 

Updating your lighting, Shaw adds, is a great way to update a room when you’re not ready to invest in a complete overhaul. “I love a mix of old and new or antique and modern in a room. For example, I’ve updated dining rooms with antique traditional furniture many times. Changing the chandelier and wall sconces to something more transitional makes quite an impact.”

Similarly, Shaw recommends well-tailored window treatments. “There’s nothing that warms up a room and brings it to the next level like window treatments.” The right ones can served as a focal point in a room or just a layered backdrop. They even can change the acoustics, softening noise and echos. But, just as a good pair of drapes can enhance the look of a room, Shaw cautions that they can bring a room down if they’re not installed properly, use the wrong hardware, or are too long or too short. 

Making an impact with this attention to detail is a specialty of Shaw’s, who believes all of her clients should have a home that makes them feel safe and happy, especially in this stressful world. And client’s couldn’t be happier with her approach. “I’m fortunate that they trust my vision,” she says. “They travel a lot, so I’m often working while they are away. I get the gift of creative freedom, and they get to come home to a new home without any headaches. It’s a win, win.” 


Photography by RACHEL MCGINN

Katie Groves