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Sarah Barnard: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”

Design trends are so pervasive in this age of social media that it’s easy to lose sight of our individual tastes. Your kitchen remodel shouldn’t be a carbon copy of an image you saw on Pinterest; it should be a representation of you and all the things that bring you joy. Found items with a […]

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Design trends are so pervasive in this age of social media that it’s easy to lose sight of our individual tastes. Your kitchen remodel shouldn’t be a carbon copy of an image you saw on Pinterest; it should be a representation of you and all the things that bring you joy. Found items with a history behind them will always be more interesting than mass-produced decor from big-box stores. To inject authenticity and personalization into a home, I make it a point to highlight each client’s valued mementos and personal collections, whether they be books, photographs, fine art, or mineral specimens.


As part of my series on the “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Barnard.

Sarah Barnard is a WELL and LEED accredited designer and creator of environments that support mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. She creates highly personalized, restorative spaces that are deeply connected to art and the preservation of the environment. An advocate for consciousness, inclusivity, and compassion in the creative process, Sarah’s work has been recognized by Architectural Digest, Elle Décor, Real Simple, HGTV and many other publications. In 2017 Sarah was recognized as a “Ones to Watch” Scholar by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).


Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

In my youth, I lived in historic homes throughout Los Angeles that were often in the midst of restoration. I have always appreciated the solitude of the outdoors and spent much of my time observing plant life and birds building their nests. My upbringing sparked an interest in all things aged and beautiful, as well as an inherent love for nature. This influenced me to earn my Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) credential in 2007, and eleven years later, my WELL Accredited Professional credential. The knowledge I’ve gained from these complementary programs has thoroughly shaped my sustainability, technology, and wellness approach.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

One of the most interesting facets of my job is collaborating with local artists on custom works for the home. Interior design is an artistic process, and these collaborations push the line between incorporating art into the home and interpreting the home as art. I recently worked alongside a trusted woodworker to craft a pair of oceanic-inspired wall sconces carved from American Walnut. I presented my ideas through sketches and sculptural models, which the woodworker was then able to reference throughout the fabrication process.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Many moons ago, I nabbed a roll of this luxurious, peacock blue mohair fabric from my family’s garage to complete a patchwork quilt I was sewing. Unbeknownst to me, it was intended to be used as the upholstery for a 1949 Chevrolet in the midst of restoration. I was ultimately allowed to keep the quilt, which weighed close to 20 pounds! This awkward mishap introduced me to the weighted blanket’s calming effects — I now create custom versions for my clients using high-quality, heavyweight fabrics.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

As we spend more time at home, our clients have been turning to us for creative solutions to their work-from-home, remote learning, and other organizational challenges. Prioritizing wellness has never been more critical, and some of our latest projects have included meditation spaces, sensory well-being rooms, and seamless indoor/outdoor connections. It’s been rewarding to design multi-functional and high performing living spaces for our clients during these uncertain times.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” is one of my favorite quotes by William Morris, a renowned 19th-century British designer. My work centers on promoting health and happiness, and this ‘form follows function’ mentality drives me to design personalized spaces for my clients that enhance their lifestyles.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

In 2017 I was recognized as a ‘Ones to Watch’ Scholar by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). The two-year leadership development training program gave me the opportunity to confer with a national network of interior design scholars to share research and feedback. The experience was hugely inspirational, and I still keep in touch with many of the women in the program. I was one of the keynote speakers at this year’s ASID Virtual Conference, alongside my fellow inaugural scholar Angie Scott. I spoke about the power of design to inspire healing through restorative spaces.

Thank you for that. Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Surround yourself with houseplants

Incorporate plants wherever possible to promote health and wellness, and add beauty to your home. Plants are often considered finishing touches, but I firmly believe in planning for greenery. Choose plants based on the room’s light, temperature, and moisture conditions, and don’t be afraid to get creative with your vessels. I collect unique, handmade vases to display cut flowers and branches from my garden, in addition to a variety of ferns, tillandsias, dracaenas, and violets that I position near windows and in hanging baskets.

2. Take a personalized approach to design

Design trends are so pervasive in this age of social media that it’s easy to lose sight of our individual tastes. Your kitchen remodel shouldn’t be a carbon copy of an image you saw on Pinterest; it should be a representation of you and all the things that bring you joy. Found items with a history behind them will always be more interesting than mass-produced decor from big-box stores. To inject authenticity and personalization into a home, I make it a point to highlight each client’s valued mementos and personal collections, whether they be books, photographs, fine art, or mineral specimens.

3. Embrace your connectedness with nature

Spaces that incorporate natural elements are inherently soothing and offer myriad health benefits. Open up windows to showcase natural views and ensure proper ventilation. If you work from home, place your desk in front of a window to boost productivity, reduce fatigue, and lower stress levels. Forge visual connections to nature through houseplants, organic materials, and nature-inspired motifs like floral print textiles or landscape oil paintings.

4. Fill your space with meaningful art

A study out of University College London found that viewing artwork lights up the brain’s pleasure centers, eliciting a neurological response that’s akin to falling in love. Source artwork or objects that lift your mood every time you walk into the room. It’s essential to consider the function of a space before settling on a particular piece of artwork. A common area such as a living room should feature bold, energetic works of art, like an abstract or narrative piece that encourages conversation.

5. Design for everyday life, not an idealized version of it

Be honest about the way you live. Don’t design your cooking and dining areas around entertaining if you only host twice a year. I encourage my clients to be completely transparent with me about their lifestyles — if they prefer a big screen TV over a commissioned piece of artwork, I embrace it. You’ll be happier in your space if it functions properly.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

It would be the sweeping adoption of universal design principles in interior design and architecture. Universal design aims to create comfortable, functional spaces for equitable use. Accessible living can be beautiful and barrier-free; it just takes some innovative thinking, which designers are trained to do. Empathy is at the heart of my practice, and I strive to take all of my clients’ mental, physical, and emotional needs into consideration when designing for them.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

I admire Natalie Portman for playing an active role in the Time’s Up movement against sexual harassment and spreading awareness about the implications of factory farming. Portman has followed a plant-based diet since 2011, and I would love to help her design a healthy, cruelty-free home that aligns perfectly with her values.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers can discover more photos of my work and follow my blog at sarahbarnard.com. @kaletreeshop on Instagram is a collection of for-sale, artisan-made goods that I’ve designed.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

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