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Shea’s Technicolor DreamHouse

Photography by Doug Young

Stepping into Shea Keating’s eclectic, color-saturated home in Sag Harbor will stop you in your tracks. As your head swivels up, down and all around, your eyes can’t decide what to explore first. Is it the mirrored disco dance room with vibrant swing? The audacious, red-lipped repeat wallpaper Keating designed — inscribed with “let’s not ruin this with words”? The hand-painted rainbow murals? The glowing neon signs?

(Photo credit: Doug Young)

Keating, with her lavender overalls and striking red hair, clearly doesn’t subscribe to the neutral Hamptons aesthetic of ivories, beiges and grays. Playful color is her religion — and she is devout. 

Keating hasn’t been an interior designer for long. She segued her apparel and painting-based business, Too Shea Designs, into interior design just this past year — but she is growing her eclectic brand in many directions, from designing her own wallpaper to teaching a portfolio development workshop at Pierson High School.

And as her bold, playful and downright joyful work is getting noticed, her trademark crash of colors and pop design ethos may well be the antidote to the ubiquitous — dare we declare it bland? — beachiness of Hamptons décor.

Color her creative 

Having grown up on Long Island, Keating’s family relocated to Sag Harbor from Patchogue when she was 12, and the pocket-sized surroundings of her new school fostered her creativity. 

“Because Pierson was so small, you could be the art kid, the theater kid, the field hockey kid, all at once,” she says. For college, she attended “every art school on the East Coast,” from Rhode Island School of Design to Parsons School of Design, where she studied fashion, to New York’s School of Visual Arts, where she took up fine art and painting. 

Her penchant for color was apparent from the start. Living on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, she amused her roommates when she painted her loft bed’s ladder periwinkle blue and hung bright beads from the ceiling. She later reclaimed the term “farmhouse chic” when she moved into a 1902 Bridgehampton farmhouse with singer-songwriter husband Richard Lamiroult — and painted rainbow stripes on one wall. 

(Photo credit: Doug Young)

“I understand it can be hard for some people to wrap their heads around my aesthetic, but it just brings me joy,” Keating says, adding that her creativity really ran wild during her 11-year stint at Marder’s garden shop in Bridgehampton, where she supported owner Kathleen Marder and retail operations management, plus assisted in buying and sourcing. “The most fun part of my role was dreaming up and executing the shop’s art installations during the holidays. We made fashion out of flowers for over-the-top mannequins and I helped create a line of one-of-a-kind hats — truly millinery by trial!”

While she never formally studied interior design, today Keating draws on her art and fashion background to pull a room together with color and texture, repeating various “just had to have it” items, prints and hues for consistency. 

(Photo credit: Doug Young)

“It all started with a red and pink striped pillow purchased on Etsy in multiples for the living room and my daughter’s room,” she says. “Six years later, that same fabric is now the home-made curtains in the living room and the reupholstery for an old ottoman, to which I added purple trim for good measure.” Similarly, a leopard piano bench adds cohesion to a series of lip paintings on colored leopard backdrops. 

Repeat themes, in fact, keep the colorful home from looking like a hodgepodge. One unifying décor element is the sphere — from the three oversized spherical kitchen chandeliers to the numerous disco globes. Keating’s own paintings in every room also add cohesion, be they of lips (“some are my own lips”), giant goldfish (“my carnival goldfish Goldie and Hawn”) or numerous family portraits. Like that striped pillow, room schemes often emanate from a single item. An entire nursery room was designed around a colorful purple, turquoise and orangey/red Pendleton crib blanket Keating purchased on her honeymoon in Provincetown — long before her three kids were in the picture. “It was a situation where I left the store without buying it, then went back 10 minutes later because I just had to have it.

“If you find something you just love, it’s worth every penny,” she says, pointing to a rosy red Anthropologie chesterfield sofa — her biggest splurge — that anchors the living room and was a deliberate focal point from the get-go. 

Keating also sources items from Etsy and vintage stores (“I want to live in Times Vintage in Greenport!”), as amplified by the contents of her walk-in closet, thick with a thrifter’s dream of sequin-saturated clothing, some from her grandmother. 

A tour of the basement takes you to a subterranean level of playful color. Just walk beneath the light-blue cloud-painted sky mural with floating hot air balloon toys, down the colorfully striped stairs and into a tropical world with jungle bird wallpaper. 

The finished guest room, four bunk beds and full kitchen and bath make it clear that the experience is meant be shared with friends and family, whether they’re visiting long-term or just popping in for an afternoon playdate in the teepee. 

(Photo credit: Doug Young)

The kitchen is a throwback of vintage-style appliances, from a mint-and-chrome coffee maker and toaster oven to a royal blue refrigerator. There’s even a legit diner nook, with booth table and benches purchased from Sag Harbor’s La Superica restaurant when it went out of business. “I just knew I had to have it for my kitchen!” she says.

And while a more timid designer might add pops of color to a neutral palette, Keating flips the script, using neutral black and white to offset her saturated hues. The corridor hallway by the “dance floor” is done up in black-and-white peel-and-stick wallpaper, while the basement features black-and-white Victorian Gibson Girl wallpaper that Keating discovered at age 19 and found again while designing the space. 

Blast from the past 

Despite the whimsical mash-up, Keating’s home is quite sentimental, with many family treasures now living their best, and often reupholstered, life. An 11-foot, 1950s wooden dairy farm table that belonged to her grandmother remains the focal point of the kitchen, despite the hot pink chairs and navy-blue zebra wallpaper vying for attention. 

“It’s important to have things with meaning,” she says. “We designed the whole kitchen around this table, opening the wall into the living room to make it fit.”

Keating also adds her Too Shea touch to sentimental items, like painting her white childhood crib turquoise for her daughter or reupholstering her childhood piano bench in leopard print. That plush armchair now covered with zebras and chartreuse pom-poms? It was also her grandmother’s. “I put that near the Gibson Girls wallpaper because they remind me of her,” she says. A striking yet sweet sight is the life-size photo cardboard cut-out of her late father in a tuxedo. 

Keating also has the original architectural plans of her house, onto which she pasted rugs and couches, long before software helped her build digital mood boards. “I really loved the experience of cutting and pasting right on the plans,” she says. “It was my first time space-blocking for an entire house and it helped me envision how the rooms and décor would flow and feel together. It’s a great memory of this beginning, which is why it hangs framed in our house.”

Interspersed with her eclectic décor are oil portraits by artist and friend Ben Fenske (who shows at Grenning Gallery in Sag Harbor) or ones Keating painted herself of family and friends. “If I could paint anything all day, it would be people. I love trying to get the essence of somebody in a quick, energetic capture. Maybe that’s what plays into my décor. I’m trying to capture the essence of me.” 

Keating also loves that her work holds sentimental value for others. “I painted an underwater mural scene for a children’s room once, and when the kids grew older and the parents redid the room, the father cut part of the mural out of the sheetrock and kept it,” she says. “Maybe the family will hang onto it for the grandkids.”

Romper rooms 

If Keating’s spirit makes her seem like a kid at heart, it could be because she’ often surrounded — and inspired — by them. Her trio of offspring includes two girls, ages 8 and 5, and a 1-year-old boy, and she also teaches weekly kids’ art classes at her home. “They give me an excuse to keep the house colorful, funky and fun,” she says of her children. “They are the biggest supporters of my wild paint choices, dance floor disco lights and hand-drawn eyeballs on the walls.” 

(Photo credit: Doug Young)

Of course, it can be a bit of shock to moms who come from their beautiful all-white homes and drop their kids off here for the first time, laughs Keating. “The moms are like, ‘Whoa!’ But the kids all go running right to the swing,” she says.

If her own children don’t grow up loving color, sparkle and shine, it won’t be for lack of trying. Baby photos feature her children in rainbow legwarmers, while silver glitter wallpaper adorns the bedroom walls. And, of course, there are Friday Family Dance Parties under the mirrored disco balls and lights.

Looking back, being stuck in this eclectic funhouse during the pandemic might seem like a dream (or at least a pretty good distraction), but Keating was climbing the walls. Literally. 

“I was going crazy at home, so I pulled out my ladder and started painting giant murals on walls and ceilings,” she says. And when that swirly black, white and gray bedroom ceiling mural felt too monochromatic, she drew a giant circle in the middle with a protractor, painted it yellow and accessorized it with a dangly crystal chandelier that was an earlier engagement gift from her dad, purchased at Barntique Village in Moriches.

In fact, the house is full of funky accessories, like the pink-fringed lamp that accents the yellow vintage fireplace and pink/orange/yellow mural, or the giant flowered “hug” pillow featuring two arms with braceleted hands. “Every single kid, without exception, takes the bracelets off the hands and puts them on their head,” she says.

Despite the kooky boldness, Keating finds all that color highly grounding. “Surrounding yourself with meaningful pieces in a mix of intentional color and pattern is the equation that will always work,” she says. “Sort of like music, color is powerful, and it can shift a mood or outlook. It can transport you, wrap you up and remind you how beautiful life is.”

Arty incubator 

Keating is growing her interior design business, notably designing two children’s bathrooms for the Connecticut-based Unoriginal Bathroom Company, a new enterprise that sells spec bathrooms as kits. “There’s so much you can do with tile and color, and I’m so excited to plan someone else’s bathroom,” she says. 

Too Shea Designs will also be bringing Keating’s aesthetic to Satori and Friends, her friend’s clothing store in Bridgehampton. “I’ll be curating furniture pieces and home décor with things you can’t find out here,” she says. “Maybe I’ll even break out some Too Shea clothing and accessories that I screenprinted and painted. They’re vintage now!”

Of course, not everyone is keen to view the world entirely through rainbow-colored glasses, but Keating enjoys pushing clients to experiment. “You’re the one who has to live in your house, and I totally get that,” she says. “But if you’re hiring me, you know what you’re getting.”

Recognizing that paint or décor isn’t permanent also makes trying new things easier. Keating’s home is a perpetual DIY work in progress, always changing as new moods and ideas strike. One project that’s currently percolating is covering a vaulted wall with a giant bookshelf, “complete with one of those ceiling-high, horizontal sliding ladders.” Naturally, she adds, books would be arranged chromatically, not alphabetically or thematically.

It’s a world that’s dazzling and dizzying, bold and bright. Maybe even sometimes requiring sunglasses to take it all in. But too much? Well, that just depends on your outlook. As someone who truly embodies the “more is more” philosophy, could Keating ever really be “too Shea”? As long as there are colors in the rainbow, it’s unlikely. Touché.