How Empathy Creates Extraordinary Experiences: Leaders in Wellness Design Explore Designing for Human Experience


7:30 - 8:00 check-in and breakfast

8:00 - 9:00 presentations and conversation

Why Should You Attend?

Empathy can uncover the deep needs of consumers, students, employees, caregivers. The design world is ideally situated to leverage these profound understandings to build better and healthier products, spaces, solutions. This session will address:

  • How do we think about empathy not only as a practice of being but as a practice of doing?

  • How do we design products that reflect a broader understanding of human experience in the workplace, healthcare spaces, educational facilities, and more?

  • What is empathetic product design and how does it fit with empathetic space design?

  • What are some examples of empathy at play in product and space design?

  • What are the implications of empathetic design for the future?







The Design Center is located in the center left of the map below, in the atrium surrounded by the green numbers 11-15. Free parking is available to the right, at the circled P.


The Power of Wellness Design

Interior Design: Sarah Barnard, Artwork: Renae Barnard + Ruben Vincent, Photo: Steven Dewall

Interior Design: Sarah Barnard, Artwork: Renae Barnard + Ruben Vincent, Photo: Steven Dewall

Wellness is not a buzzy topic, but is sure seems like it this year. Forbes declared 2019 the year of the wellness revolution, Vogue called it the new luxury status symbol, and Fast Company highlighted the industry’s $4.2 trillion valuation.

Earlier this summer, Sarah Barnard Design attended a panel discussion on Design x Wellness at the Helms Bakery District. The event was held in conjunction with the LA Design Festival and was moderated by California Interiors Editor-in-Chief Kelly Phillips Badal.

Three panelists, all from various design backgrounds, contributed to the lively back-and-forth, which centered around “achieving a healthy and organized life.” There were a number of takeaways to be gleaned from the discussion, including how organizational systems can combat stress and how proper lighting can improve sleep quality.

The panelists had only 45 minutes to discuss the topic, but a lot more could be said about the wellness movement as it relates to interior design. A holistic approach to wellness design goes much deeper than organizing and lighting. There are a multitude of things to consider — the paint on the walls, the upholstery of a chair, the artwork on display. “It’s the interconnectivity between all the different elements that makes the space healthy and well,” offers Principal Designer, Sarah Barnard.

Interior Design: Sarah Barnard, Artwork: Karrie Ross, Brian Johnson, Renae Barnard, Photo: Chas Metivier

Interior Design: Sarah Barnard, Artwork: Karrie Ross, Brian Johnson, Renae Barnard, Photo: Chas Metivier

Skilled interior designers leverage their knowledge of sustainable, non-toxic materials and finishes to craft healthy, personalized spaces for their clients. “For chemically sensitive clients and clients who value organic interiors, most often furnishings and artworks are handmade for them,” says Barnard.

A recent project for a highly-educated, well-traveled client featured the use of bespoke antique reproductions. “It gives us control over the materials, natural finishes, the scale, and it allows us to support the local economy,” says Barnard. Every detail was carefully considered, from the organic linen draperies to the custom designed floor sofa and the handmade, FSC-certified walnut dining table. “These are things a client would never find on their own because they are not sold in stores, and they just can’t be had otherwise.”

Interior Design: Sarah Barnard, Artwork: Milly Ristvedt, Renae Barnard, Abby Sin, Photos: Steven Dewall

Interior Design: Sarah Barnard, Artwork: Milly Ristvedt, Renae Barnard, Abby Sin, Photos: Steven Dewall

For the owners of an oceanfront penthouse, Barnard customized not only the furnishings, but all of the materials and finishes. “In this home, everything is healthy, natural and unadulterated,” notes Barnard. “We used natural waxes instead of stains and sealers, natural latex foams, organic cotton batting, and organic wool batting that was spun from sheep that are only shorn in summer.”

The clients selected the colors of the natural fibers artist Renae Barnard used to create a hand-woven sculpture for their home office. Crafted from wire, sash cord, cotton clothesline, wool, yarn, fleece and linen, it’s a truly one-of-a-kind piece that doesn’t compromise the chemical-free integrity of the home. “It’s very much of them, for them,” says Barnard.

Art, in particular, contributes to our overall sense of well-being. “It stimulates your mind in the same way as the natural world,” adds Barnard. One study from the University of London found that viewing art produces the same effect in the brain as falling in love, causing a rush of dopamine, a.k.a. the “feel-good hormone.” Another from Drexel University revealed that making and viewing art can lower cortisol levels, the hormone linked to the body's stress response. “When we can provide views of nature, that’s the first choice. But in any instance where we have a blank wall and not a window, then the next best thing to have is art. It makes us happier,” explains Barnard.

Wellness is often touted as a trend by lifestyle magazines and social media influencers, but for Barnard, it’s the ethos of her interior design practice. “Our clients know better and they choose healthy,” she says. Organic textiles, sustainable materials, non-toxic finishes, inspiring artwork, bespoke furniture made by local craftspeople — all of these elements support our mental and physical well-being. And designers with robust knowledge of healthy home design have the power to change lives for the better.

Sarah Barnard, WELL AP + LEED AP designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art. The ideas most essential to her practice and design process are wellness, historic preservation, and the infinite ways in which design can enhance life.

Barnard has been featured in publications internationally and was named a “Ones to Watch Scholar” by the American Society of Interior Designers. In 2018 Locale Magazine named Barnard “Los Angeles’ Favorite Interior Designer”. Barnard holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Claremont Graduate University as well as undergraduate degrees in Art and Interior Architectural Design.

For more information about Sarah Barnard visit


Beverly Hills Bibliophile: Luxury High Rise Home Design


Nestled in a chic high-rise building, this colorful Beverly Hills suite features the owner’s impressive collection of books, art, custom furniture, installations, complete with natural and luxurious materials.

An expansive art collection lines the entryway and halls. Paintings, drawings, mixed media art, and the owner’s embroidery cover the deep blue walls. The thoughtfully curated collection includes contemporary artworks from across the globe with a focus on feminist portraiture and fiber art.


Floor to ceiling windows on two sides of the living room reveal unobstructed views of the city outside and are framed by a dracaena specimen and a large sculpture by Renae Barnard. Custom furniture commissioned for the homeowner, who needed the seat height of her chairs and sofa to have a custom raised seat height to enhance its ease of use. Tillandsia, low-maintenance “air” plants, dot the space throughout and are reminiscent of the environment outside.

The dining area features custom wall to wall shelving, displaying the owner’s beloved collection of books, plants, and sculptures. Bright blues and purples make the airy and light space feel both grounded and vibrant. Around the dining room table, a variety of vintage office chairs and a bench seat were upholstered with the same teal linen textile, allowing guests to experience their favorite seat comfortably.

An agate-inspired grasscloth wallpaper adds a natural and organic element to the plush, achromatic office. A custom desk made in a black powder-coated steel was designed to fit the owner’s specific needs perfectly. A custom bookshelf was also chosen to keep her books close at hand while seamlessly blending with the modern desk. Pillows embroidered with Picasso illustrations add sophisticated interest to the sleek dark sofa while a fiddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) adds life and color to the elegant workspace.


The master bedroom features a luxurious, award-winning, American black walnut bed frame by Autoban. The handcrafted headboard is lined with purple velvet, blending the natural texture with dark, feminine styling. A 300 thread count Egyptian cotton reversible duvet in custom color scheme adorns this California king bed (featuring an organic coconut mattress). Above, custom neon artwork reading “phantasmagoria” adds an ethereal glow. Plush black carpeting feels soft and comforting underfoot, and curtains allow the owner to sleep in total darkness. The two-tone purple walls were specially designed to draw attention to the art and to fulfill the owner’s request to have the bedroom “feel like a hug.”

by Kelsey Betancourt

Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit

How To Stay in Your Home Forever

For many, a home is a place of comfort. It acts as a sanctuary, where people can escape the busyness and hectic atmosphere of life. The benefits of making a home a place of comfort, luxury, and accessibility will not only be beneficial for immediate satisfaction but will also allow people to stay in their homes for as long as possible. By utilizing the resources that are available such as hi-tech designs, strategies that benefit everyone in your home, and spaces that focus on the emotional value, homeowners can enjoy being in the comfort of their own home for many years and will benefit from its results in their daily lives.


Homes designed for everyday ease-of-use can benefit everyone from toddlers through grandparents. By utilizing available technology, everyone will be more comfortable in his or her living environments. One current emerging design in the industry that has benefitted its users is the addition of motion sensor lighting to rooms. Not only are these developments benefitting people practically, but it also helps the environment by saving electricity. Another developing design that benefits its users is smart appliances. Appliances that offer sensor operating systems also can positively impact day-to-day living by making food preparation and kitchen storage simple and easy to use.


Redesigning a home can seem like a daunting process; however, the results will ultimately make a home more luxurious, safe, and accessible to its users. Living in a comfortable environment should not decrease the aesthetic value of a home. Interior designers can be used as helpful tools in this area to create and organize a unified living environment that meets all the needs of its users, while still being a beautiful space. By integrating designs with features such as walk-in showers, sensor faucets, under-counter appliances, and larger pantries, homeowners will see the immediate results that can improve their day-to-day living.  Spaces that are open and barrier-free can create an inviting and spacious feel to the bedroom and living room areas while being safe and functional spaces for everyone. This consideration not only can improve the lives of many but also help homeowners through every stage of life from having young children and the elderly in their homes. These small changes will enhance the quality of living that everyone deserves.


A sanctuary can come in many forms, but people should be able to call their own home a safe place of comfort especially. Everyone should experience a living environment that is comfortable, easily accessible, and a beautiful place to be. There are benefits of integrating designs and technology that will benefit a homeowner’s life currently, and for many years after. The rewards experienced when investing in making a home the best possible place to live are priceless. It is vital that people have a connection to their living environment, and it all starts with making that first step. Simple upgrades that are available now will have long-term benefits that will impact everyday living. Making improvements will create a better overall living environment, and will cause homeowners to be satisfied with their home now and in the future.

By Melinda Cardenas

Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit

Ocean Avenue Penthouse: Contemporary Kitchen Style

Maple cabinets and natural granite pair with stainless steel hardware in this Ocean Avenue penthouse kitchen. The light maple cabinetry maintains a spacious, airy feeling in the petite modern kitchen. Matching barstools turn a kitchen cut-out into the perfect breakfast nook. The adjacent custom built-in desk provides a tidy corner for paying bills or reading recipes on the web.

Natural wood, rattan and stone accessories make this modern kitchen lively and fun. Cable system track lighting illuminates the natural stone counters and floors. The architectural cut-out around the stove beautifully integrates the kitchen with the rest of the space allowing for more natural light.

The kitchen seamlessly flows into the adjacent dining area where a custom table of chrome and maple sets against a wall of mirrors. Tillandsia plants make a perfect centerpiece for beachfront dining. This modern kitchen design fully utilizes the compact space while preserving an open and integrated feeling with the rest of the penthouse.

Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit

Photos by Brad Nicol



Above: White fabric poufs provide extra seating for guests and are low enough to preserve the ocean view (Photo by Brad Nicol); Below: LA based interior designer Sarah Barnard (Photo by Erik Hyler)


The Queen of Space


Incredible space requires the knowledge and capabilities of an incredible interior designer. But in the creative and innovative hub that is Los Angeles, there is no shortage of gifted specialists.

Starting in December, we set out on a mission: Uncover an interior design professional that is on the forefront of the industry, yet capable of producing the elements of superiority, class, and professionalism required by our readers.

Enter eco-chic interior designer Sarah Barnard. Recognized by the International Institute for Bau-Biologie & Ecology as a Building Biology Practitioner and by the United States Green Building Council as a LEED Accredited Professional, to name a few, Sarah brings a great degree of eco-friendly cognizance to each of her projects.


Above: Cotton velvet draperies in a saturated burgundy tone connect with the tiny berries in the woodland wall upholstery; Below: Better Times Peonies brighten a display of the homeowner's favorite things (Photos by Steven Dewall)


Q: How would you describe your design style?

SB: Each of my design projects is as unique as each of my clients. The foundation of a successful project is getting to know my clients well, including their personal interests and lifestyle choices as well as what colors and styles most appeal to them.

I take a contemporary approach to create a timeless look, keeping it fresh and sophisticated. I prefer details that have a personal meaning for the client: a motif that reflects a favorite place; an antique with family history; a special collection; or a child’s artwork.

One area I specialize in is healthy, sustainable design. I have exceptional resources that offer appealing natural furnishings and fabrics, energy-efficient fixtures, and organic and non-toxic materials to support a healthy lifestyle. 

Another area I specialize in is historic preservation.

I enjoy giving classic styles a fresh face while preserving their vintage charm.

Overall, designing a home for a client is deeply personal. It requires establishing an essential level of trust, which I ensure through ongoing and open communications.

Q: Your mantra is: “Where smart design, sustainable choices and healthy living converge.” What do you mean by “smart design”?

SB: Smart design is design that’s healthy, beautiful, functional and enduring. I design homes to my client’s desires, lifestyle, and special needs.

Q: What are some options that homeowners have when considering sustainable choices?

SB: Stunning tiles, counter tops and even beautiful textiles are being designed out of creatively re-purposed materials. There are more energy-efficient light fixtures and avenues that bring more natural light into a home than ever before. Using local artisans to manufacture custom-made cabinetry and furniture is a responsible choice that homeowners can trust to deliver unique items of exceptional quality.


Q: Is there a favorite room you have designed or project you have completed?

SB: I am always up for a challenge and love it when clients bring me unusual requests; whether it’s designing a display room for a special mineral collection or crafting a custom kitchen into the perfect functional space. I also love designing for children and pets!

A passion of mine is designing both historic properties and modern architectural spaces. I always strive to bring harmony, balance and a connection to nature to the space.

Q: What design trends are you most excited about in 2017?

SB: There are three major themes and trends that I am excited about: Handmade furnishing items from natural materials, made by artists, not factories. Collecting! There has never been a better time to support the arts and start or expand a collection of paintings, sculptures and/or pottery. Customizable textiles printed by local artisans - personalization has never been easier!

Q: What do you recommend as first steps to those who may be unfamiliar with smart design and sustainable choices?

SB: Start small. Sometimes just a few simple changes can have an enormous impact on the health of your home or work environment. If you aren’t ready to redesign your entire home, I often recommend starting with the master bedroom since this is where we spend a good portion of our time. This room above all others needs to feel restorative and calming.

Also, consult only with experienced designers. Professionals like myself can recommend smart, sustainable choices and create a wonderful experience you will never forget! ◆


Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit

Artistic Spaces: California Interior Design Style


The earliest and most prominent role for art was the decoration of spaces and is still an everyday use for art. This is because its character and appearance profoundly influence our perception of a room. Very few of us would enjoy living and working in spaces devoid of decoration, no matter how nice the architecture. But despite the ubiquity of art in the areas that we inhabit, we are not always aware of its presence even as we are affected by it.

Some think, “To create a point of interest, merely hanging some wall art”. But frequently, the layout of a space is more comprehensive than we can immediately appreciate and can feature strategies other than simple ornamentation. The array of methods to integrate art into space is more diverse than a viewer likely realizes, and extends well beyond a well placed potted plant. The design of the room can be the art itself.

The Ocean Avenue Penthouse features artwork by Susan Hannon. In this room, a pair of handcrafted paper wings adorns the light sandy walls. They were designed to integrate in a precise way. Although similar in color, the wings emerge from the wall by their texture and the shadows that fall from their form. At a distance, this type of interruption on an otherwise smooth surface can be reminiscent of the impressionable shores of a beach, while the shape itself alludes to the lightness of flight and open spaces. This design approach is specific to the unit, a top floor penthouse with unobstructed views of the beach. Deeper connotations remain appropriate to the context. The wings, made of antique bible pages, allude to the story of Icarus and provide a clear parallel to the manufactured ascent afforded by the top floor in a modern building. It transforms the air in the space into a theme of the room. Even though these elements are not at once apparent, the careful coordination of artwork to an area can produce a powerful effect.


The artwork featured in the living room space of the Cosmopolitan Craftsman relates to the space more subtle ways. In the far right corner hangs a piece that is sourced directly from nature. It is a petrified fish slab, and its addition to the room acts as both an object of interest and an emphasis of the room’s color palette and cozy earthen aesthetic. Unlike the wings of the Penthouse, its presence does not directly influence the room but reinforces the design and feel of the space. The fireplace design is a less apparent artistic piece because it also serves a functional purpose. But beneath the umbrella of interior design, all elements in a space are united to convey a single theme or effect, and all objects in the room considered to be art. Interior design exists as a combination and balance of functionality and beauty. Like a painting or sculpture, a well-coordinated space can evoke from its viewer specific emotions and moods.


While the Ocean Avenue Penthouse and the Cosmopolitan Craftsman utilize artwork to emphasize certain elements of design, the Landmark Bungalow dining room is utilized as a display for an eclectic collection of artwork. The large wooden cabinet serves as a showcase for various art pieces collected by the owner in his travels. The bust by Deborah Cansler Waters overlooks the vintage dining table. These elements were arranged to support the room's primary function as an area for people to gather, eat, and converse. The artwork provides context and stories for guests as it brings them and the space together in harmony. The vibrant blue painting on the far right by Lori Dorn compliments the effect.

It’s exciting to realize the rooms themselves can be art. Objects and spaces can serve a dual purpose, at once functional, and yet organized under ideas that are artistic rather than practical. An appreciation of the work of the interior designer leads to the satisfaction of the spaces we navigate daily, areas that constitute our context and contribute to our emotional state. Understanding that the feelings we have in a room are not accidental will lead to a greater appreciation of intelligent interior design.

Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit