Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Sally Steponkus Roche’s design aesthetic is classically based but with an updated, personalized approach. Sally sees decorating a client’s home as an exciting challenge, to fit together the eclectic pieces of an artful, comfortable and luxurious puzzle.
Whether the homeowner’s style is contemporary or traditional, Sally’s sharp attention to detail, and highly developed sense of color help her create an artfully designed home with a perfect blend of quotidian functionality.
We had a chance to sit down with Sally to learn more about her unique approach.
1. What are the inspirations behind your signature style, which you’ve described as “updated traditional- classic with a unique twist”?
I have a background in Ancient Greek & Latin, as well as ancient architecture – I’m a Classicist. I lived in Rome during college and the beauty there made me appreciate the history of design, which I think is important to understand in creating interiors for today. I gravitate toward clean, architectural lines of traditional furniture but love keeping things fresh by incorporating surprising colors and special fabrics. Traditional doesn’t have to be old fashioned or ordinary.
2. What’s your favorite phase of a project?
My favorite phase is when I present fabric schemes and the client feels they’ve been heard and their ideas have been translated into reality. Their happiness and excitement gives me a huge rush!
3. How do you decide on a color palette?
Often clients have an idea of favorite colors they’d like to incorporate, but I ask a ton of questions to help narrow down the overall palette. I like to have a color or two that is constant throughout the whole house – I call it “points of color” – and I think of them being dotted throughout a client’s home to create a feeling of continuity.
4. What’s one of your favorite design elements or pieces of furniture in your own home?
I have a really big, gold, vintage faux bamboo mirror that I got on Craig’s List for only $25. It looks fabulous over my sofa and I’ll never part with it. No matter where we move, it’ll always have a place.
5. What element in a room do you usually start with? (artwork, lighting, rug, sofa, etc.)?
On new builds, we normally start with lighting, then move to furniture plans, specific selections on fabric and furniture, then paint colors and artwork. But if a client comes to us with specific artwork they’d like to highlight or pull a color from, that works well too. Obviously each project is very different so we often make selections as the client or the space demands.
6. What mistakes do you most often help clients avoid?
I am extremely decisive and hope that my confidence in decision- making helps clients trust me and let me help guide them. So many people are overwhelmed by the building process and all of the zillions of decisions that come with it and they begin to overthink and not trust themselves. I try to break things down with practical questions and reasoning and stop the “analysis by paralysis” many suffer from. This process can be so much fun, but for many it is incredibly difficult to tackle without someone who has a global view of the project and experience.
7.What are some of your favorite window treatments?
Traditional drapery panels – operational or not – with my specific pleat and often a tape trim on the leading edges, are by far my favorite. They can make ceilings seem higher, windows larger and rooms grander.
I also love a shaped or scalloped valence over a roman shade. I have something similar in my daughter’s room and it’s so charming and special, as well as practical.
8. What is one of your favorite projects and why?
I love working with bachelors! I find they are trusting and open to ideas, but know their own minds as well and don’t belabor decision making. I find creating handsome interiors really refreshing and fun as well. Years ago I had an elderly client for whom we gutted a large apartment. He and I worked on everything together: selected tile and marble for each bath, customized lighting, incorporated his family’s artwork, etc. and it was such a pleasure to collaborate with a true gentleman who had an artistic eye.
9. What are the most often requested features when a client is remodeling?
Most of my clients have young families so I’m often asked to create designs that can handle the wear and tear of daily life with children, pets, etc. Practical spaces can be just as beautiful as any others, it’s just a different way of putting the puzzle together and I enjoy customizing homes that work with their taste sensibilities as well as their everyday needs. The world of indoor/outdoor fabrics and rugs has made a huge difference in our ability to make homes livable and lovely all at once.
10. How important is ageless design for your clients?
It is extremely important to achieve an ageless design. My clients spend a lot of money on a custom, high quality and special homes and it wouldn’t do to have to rework the design every few years if it’s trendy or going out of style. I aim to give my clients personalized decor that will last 10-15+ years. I don’t feel like one’s home should constantly be evolving; I like to identify my client’s tastes and create homes that will be beautiful and practical for many, many years to come. I have been lucky enough to have many repeat clients, as they’ve grown their families and built larger homes, and it’s such a pleasure to reconnect as their needs change from one project to the next.