Wife, mama of two, and LA-based designer, Sarah Sherman Samuel, sets herself apart in the design world with her clean and modern style that always includes a touch of something unique or unexpected. You may have seen her design work on Pinterest or while scrolling through inspirational interior pics on IG. Sarah previously worked as a creative director in surface and product design at an LA-based paper product company, but in 2013 decided it was time to break off and share her individual design perspective through her blog and creating products. Over the past five years, her style and aesthetic have really taken a hold in the design community. I love reading Sarah’s blog and scrolling endlessly through her Instagram feed for cool design inspo. She seems to gravitate toward simple clean colors and lines with pops of bright colors that are effortlessly placed in just the right spots. We recently caught up with Sarah, after she and Semihandmade launched the first-ever cabinet collection with IKEA, and she graciously agreed to chat with us. Below she gives us a sneak peek into her cozy and stylish California life, offers a little design advice, catches us up to speed on the exclusive and exciting projects she’s been working on, and lends insight into how to balance the day-to-day challenges of motherhood and entrepreneurship. Catch our interview with Sarah below!
Have you always wanted to be a designer? Tell us a little more about how you got to where you are today.
I always knew I wanted to do something creative but I wasn’t sure what avenue until after college. Even while in college I changed majors two years in from a BFA in painting to one in graphic design. After graduating I got my first job at an ad agency and moved across the country to Miami for it. I worked as a studio designer creating and editing brochures for high-end real estate. One of the clients I worked on was the viceroy which was designed by Kelly Wearstler. While staring at gorgeous photos of her work I realized I was way more interested in 3 dimensional and spatial design over print design and left that job to work at a designer furniture showroom. There I was able to set up and merchandise vignettes in the store and eventually did some space planning for customers that needed help which was my foray into interiors. I loved that job but wanted to continue to grow so I decided to move again across the country to Los Angeles in search of a new job that had more room to advance. I finally landed at a startup, a fashion paper product company that had just gotten its first product into Target. At the beginning, it was just me and the husband and wife team owners. We eventually grew the company to have a whole collection, exclusive to Target, and I became Creative Director. I was still designing the patterns and product types but also managing other designers and illustrators and working closely with Target to create new products each season. I was there for five years and during my last year there I started my blog to document a cabin renovation we were tackling in my home state of Michigan. The blog quickly grew and I was simultaneously honing my own personal aesthetic which gave me the confidence to break out on my own creating products, designing and blogging full time.
You probably wear a lot of hats, what is a typical workday like for you?
The best thing about having such a creative project based job and wearing so many hats is that no two days are the same. That said, I usually get in the office (which is in my backyard) around 9. I have two part-time employees so whoever is in the office that day, I check in with them and give them a list of to do’s. From there if it isn’t a shoot day, install day, or a site check day (things that take me out of the office) I’ll sit down to answer emails, get right to designing (homes, furniture, textiles whatever the task is that day) or work on the next blog post. I usually make my son’s lunch at 11:30 and grab a bite myself then back to work until our childcare leaves at 5. Then we have dinner as a family and more often than not, once my son is in bed, I’ll be back to work until late. Now that we just added our second child things look a bit different and I’ve been taking a bit off to enjoy this time that flies by so fast. I have yet to find the new normal. Right now I just bring her in with me in the am to get my assistant started and work from my laptop or phone whenever I get the chance.
Describe your design style and aesthetic.
I’d say it’s modern, relaxed but edited, clean but still warm, and I always strive for something a little unexpected.
What fun projects have you been working on lately?
Right now I’m wrapping up what was a yearlong renovation project at Mandy Moore’s house. She purchased a midcentury modern home that someone renovated with clashing style in the 90s so we’ve been taking it back to its modern roots and adding some more fashion-forward style into the space as well. The construction is nearly finished and I can’t wait for the final soft furnishings to get their install day.
I just launched my cabinet door line with Semihandmade. Which are made to fit basic IKEA cabinets for endless upgrades and IKEA hacking possibilities.
I also recently came out with a wallpaper line with Lulu and Georgia which was a dream come true. I created custom wallpapers for a few of my projects and Lulu and Georgia ended up producing my designs for the masses.
Tell us more about the launch of your new collaboration with Semihandmade. How did this first-ever cabinet collection come about and what can we expect to see included in this new line?
After working with Semihandmade first on my own kitchen, I fell in love with the product and the innovation behind it. We had just bought a house and were doing extensive renovations, adding square footage as well as a bathroom so we were stretching our budget pretty thin. By taking on the kitchen renovations ourselves (including demo, cabinets, etc) we were able to get the kitchen of our dreams without compromising and Semihandmade was a big part of making that possible. By utilizing the IKEA kitchen cabinets we were able to assemble them ourselves and still get the high-quality doors we wanted from SemiHandmade, as well as all the extra trim and filler pieces that you can’t get from IKEA to make it look like a completely custom kitchen.
From there, I also realized it worked perfectly for a lot of my clients as well, even if they are not into the DIY aspect that I was. They are able to choose one of their pre-finished styles and coordinate an installer at still a fraction of the price of a fully custom kitchen.
It was when I was designing a kitchen for a client that wanted to use Semihandmade in their kitchen that I came up with the idea of designing my own front and proposed the idea to John with some drawings and a rendering. That was about a year ago now. I proposed the modern take on the classic beadboard and John and his team produced it exactly as I imagined.
In the line is my signature door in eight different colors. I carefully chose the palette based on colors I find myself using the most, dark green has been a favorite of mine for as long as I can remember, the color of nature, and of course, there’s white and black, a really great neutral green/grey and I had to include a blush pink.
What is the design inspiration behind your cabinet partnership with Semihandmade?
I was inspired by the classic beadboard pattern but wanted to do a modern take on it. By streamlining the pattern and creating wider negative space it’s more versatile and can work in modern and traditional kitchens.
What are your favorite Instagram accounts to follow for design inspo?
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned since starting your own business?
Take small steps each day towards your goal(s). It may not seem like you are accomplishing much at first but by slowly chipping away before you know it you’ll get where you are going or create what you’ve wanted.
What inspires you in design and in your daily life?
Usually, I get inspired by getting outside in nature or traveling, roaming around the city, visiting shops etc. but lately, with a newborn, I’ve had to find inspiration at home which isn’t always easy. I find it in books, movies, new Instagram accounts, or in simple things like how the light and shadows play or a color palette made accidentally from clothes in my closet.
What design project or accomplishment are you most proud of?
Right now I’m really proud of my cabinet door line with Semihandmade and the hardware collection I created with park studio to go with it. Seeing a product go to market that I designed is always incredible fulfilling and both brands have incredible people behind them that I feel lucky to work with.
Do you have a favorite quote or life mantra?
I don’t know about a favorite but I really like this one. “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” -Walt Disney
How do you balance motherhood with your busy career?
We have a nanny three days a week at the moment. the other four days I’m with my kids but work during naps or while they are sleeping. I feel lucky to be able to work from my backyard office so I don’t miss out on my littles while they are so young. I feel like I do a pretty good job at balancing work and motherhood but it’s my social life that really suffers. Like, I don’t have one. A New Year’s resolution is to find a balance between the three.
Where are your favorite places to shop for textiles and art for the home?
What are your favorite shops to visit in LA?
Piece collective, General store, Midland, Gallerie Sommerlath, Consort, Lawson fanning.
How do you like to unwind after a long day?
Hmm I guess a hot shower, that’s the extent of my self-care at the moment.
What styles and looks are you loving in the interior design world right now?
I’m really glad that terrazzo has been having its own renaissance moment and I love geometric/sculptural furniture… you can find some good pieces from the 80s or French 50s and 60s.
What do you think the next big style trend will be?
If I have anything to say about it, it will be including more sculptural furniture. Pieces that look like works of art but are functional as well.
Where do you see your brand heading in the future, do you have any big plans or dreams?
Oh, I’ve got a long list of things I’d like to accomplish… I’ve been working on my own furniture line which I’d love to see come to fruition in the near future, designing a boutique hotel would be a dream, maybe opening a brick and mortar store, I’ve got a site update in the works… so many fun goals to work towards.
Images courtesy of Sarah Sherman Samuel.
BY Stefani Hodzic // W&D Editorial Director - February 13, 2018
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.
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