Judgement-Free Interior Design: Let's Get Weird!


Home is a self-portrait of sorts. It’s a collection of who we are, where we’ve been and all the people for which we care. For most of us, our home is a safe space to reveal our style, family history, beliefs, and state of mind and can and should represent who you are in a healthy, useful and enduring way. For many, this is a daunting task. Even creative people find it challenging to craft a beautiful, functional and healthy home that adequately reflects their uniqueness.


The first step is finding a designer who you are comfortable with, who you can feel safe sharing your needs and aesthetic. It can be hard to let someone into your home to sort through the details of how you live, mainly if your style or needs are not like the cookie-cutter examples in home magazines, but ultimately, allowing an interior designer to know who you are will enable them to enhance your life and lifestyle. It also means that you’re free from the burden of planning the minute details of your own space.

When asked how to begin, interior designer Sarah Barnard explained, “The first step in my design process is always learning about the people with whom I’m working. So, start by being honest. Tell your interior designer the truth about your habits, desires, future hopes and dreams.” Barnard, a Los Angeles based interior designer with a passion for fresh and unique design, is no stranger to special requests. She has designed homes for people who have physical limitations or challenges, pet menageries, tree houses, art and antique collections, vegan kitchens, and with children with special needs, not to mention the occasional adaptive re-use projects, which repurposes an old building for a different function, like a church into a home.


Regardless of your comfort level letting a designer take the reins, it is crucial to bring your situation–including all your challenges, whether that means your grandmother’s China with a questionable aesthetic or a mobility issue that requires a re-design. Asked her about finding and building a feeling of trust with your design team, Barnard said, “In my experience, people often have anxiety about how their home, hobbies or lifestyle might be perceived. Our team is made up of diverse individuals, and we pride ourselves on meeting people where they are. An authentic home has the potential to be truly restorative and inspiring.”


When asked for her favorite unusual design challenge, Barnard laughed and said, “Oh, I’ve heard them all by now. My favorite requests are often incredibly personal ones. We’ve had several clients recently who practiced co-sleeping, for example, the co-mingling of parent’s and children’s bedrooms”. One couple’s oldest child did not have his own bedroom and slept on a separate bed in the homeowners’ master bedroom. Integrating this request required the melding of different needs and maintaining an elegant adult aesthetic, as well as adequate kid-friendly spaces.

Another client is expecting her first child and desired ultra-healthy materials and furniture that would be safe for her expected family. “She wanted materials safe enough her child could eat them. My team supplied her family with the healthiest and most pure materials available, even giving attention to the dye ingredients in fabrics and the finishes on wood. Ultimately she had a home that was beautiful and that she felt safe in.”


Worry of being perceived as messy can also hold a person back from contacting a designer. It often comes down to a lack of storage options, but for some, it can be a cathartic process to let go of the excess clutter. A significant step as the design process begins is to take stock of what items are most important: what things are no longer useful to you, and what items bring you joy? Getting rid of excess items and furniture can be an enjoyable process and will make room for you to figure out what is precious and meaningful.

For many, part of embracing their unique identity may mean collecting, restoring or displaying treasured items. That should be no surprise–there’s an entire art-form dedicated to this idea: kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with 24 karat gold. The idea is that instead of throwing away something broken, it can be made whole again, and its scars are proof of its history. It’s past and age are reminders that there’s beauty in experience and what is finite.


Items with some wear and tear show their history, their usefulness, and your love for them as a badge of honor. Allowing them to retain their imperfections is a way of embracing your own. It can be especially meaningful to hold onto the items that you found while traveling or that you were gifted.

Embracing an appreciation for flawed beauty allows you to hone in on the crucial items and create a natural, healthy space. Removing clutter yet holding onto and restoring imperfect, meaningful pieces is a delicate line to walk, but it can bring authenticity and personality to your home.


There are so many unique situations that can be improved by custom, robust design. In some cases that situation may be health or physical limitations, in which case ergonomics may be a reason to ask a designer for help. They can apply universal design principles to ensure your home is comfortable for you and your family. “I’ve had several clients with special requests. One client, aside from being over six feet tall, had multiple knee surgeries that made it difficult to get in and out of chairs. My team researched and commissioned furniture with custom seat heights and dimensions to make it easier for him to get up and down.”

“It’s not all unusual requests. Sometimes the client needs something super personal that they feel unsure how to handle themselves.” Barnard described a pair of clients who were married and in their late 60s, living with one of their mothers, in her late 80s. “They wanted her close by so they could look after her, but then she also wanted her independence. The solution was creating a separate wing in their home; we essentially created a suite inside their home that included a master bedroom, sitting room, and bathroom, but it was all closed off by a door from the rest of the house.”


When asked how involved one needs to be in the design process Barnard said, “Every designer is different, but I let my clients be involved if they choose. Many prefer to live their lives and allow my team to handle things, but sometimes people prefer to have a more active part in the process. There’s no wrong way.” A designer who will listen to your needs and create a custom, personal space that fits your particular point of view is best.

Asked for unique requests, or something fitting the free and uninhibited side of Los Angeles, Barnard recalled, “One client who was a pilot wanted us to design a space resembling the interior of a plane. More than one client has asked us to make their home resemble the set of their favorite shows: The Crown, Game of Thrones, and Mad Men to name a few.”

Barnard added, “newlyweds are always fun to work with. They are just starting together, and they haven’t figured out how to merge their styles and possessions yet.” Couples just starting or moving to a new city can benefit from the direction of an interior designer, particularly if the couple has very different styles or collections to merge.


An enduring aesthetic and lasting materials are an indicator of a good interior designer. Barnard explained, “Lately I’ve encountered clients asking for ‘bulletproof’ furniture and finishes. I think this comes from a few places. There are so many furniture lines available to the general public now who make (basically) disposable furniture, and so often clients expect that furniture isn’t made to last. Furthermore, people don’t want to sacrifice luxury just because they have children or pets. I find it worthwhile to take the time to explain that pieces with quality materials and craftsmanship will last virtually forever with proper care.” Learning proper adequate care is a perk of working with a qualified designer. Even a carefree man cave can integrate coasters with a favorite sports team to protect finishes on furniture.


It’s important to remember that homes featured in books and magazines are chosen for their mass appeal. Your home can be a testament to your unique hobbies, interests, and passions. Your home should enhance your lifestyle and express your uniqueness. “Form truly follows function. My work is centered on health and happiness. If there is anything we can do to help our clients live better, we will do it.”

No matter who you are—collector, vegan, expectant mother, newlywed, artist, a person with special needs, pet owner—your lifestyle can be enhanced by good design. An interior designer can help you choose the essential pieces you own to feature, plan for your growing family, art collection or future health, and design the perfect enduring and custom space for your unique style and situation.

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 www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Abigail Siniscal, Brad Nicol, Steven Dewall, Chas Metivier

California Minimalism: Scandifornian Style in Santa Monica, CA


When a government executive from the east coast decided to retire, she knew it was time to finally make her home in Santa Monica into the perfect restorative retreat. From a lifetime of travel, she collected an eclectic and beautiful array of art and antique furniture that needed to proper placement in the home she bought in the 1990s with her now late husband. She enlisted the help of Sarah Barnard Design to redesign the home, entrusting her with the task of blending the unique and personal pieces of the collection with a healthy, natural and minimalist style. Inspired by the light, bright and natural aesthetic of Scandinavian design, combined with the casual, collected aesthetic of Santa Monica, California.


Sarah Barnard set out to create a home that was not only beautiful, but that would allow the owner to be comfortable indefinitely.  To achieve form and function in the kitchen, reordering the space to fit the clients’ lifestyle best proved to be the solution. An open-plan design was chosen to allow the owner to quickly cook, as well as to allow for easy entertaining of guests.

Sarah chose pale grey flat panel cabinetry to help the small space feel lighter and brighter. Matte white glass tiles were selected to add a quiet elegance to the minimal space. Once the project was complete, the homeowner gushed, “Entertaining here is much more pleasurable, as is cooking for one in my new kitchen.”


The natural French oak flooring seamlessly connects the kitchen to the dining area, enlarging the sense of space in both rooms. Open shelving just outside the kitchen keeps cookbooks close and adds a sophisticated pop of color while stainless steel appliances were selected to pair with polished chrome cabinet hardware subtly. The simplicity of the color palette, the clean, natural materials, and the streamlined design created simplicity and new ease of use.

Sarah knew that repurposing the owner's treasured pieces would be essential in the home's re-design, so the owner's antique chairs and matching rosewood table from Thailand are placed prominently, bringing warmth and history to the contemporary dining space. The Italian chandelier above it contrasts the classic style and is made of laser cut metal and glass.


In the living room, the original design included a sizeable diagonal bench that connected to the fireplace. The redesign eliminated this and other cumbersome architectural elements to create more floor space and a modern aesthetic. Sarah conceived a more straightforward hearth to feature art and items her client painstakingly collected. A serene white plaster fireplace with a Qortstone marble hearth now anchors the living room in a place where a traditional wood and stone mantle once sat.


“I had not originally contemplated changing the living room fireplace wall, but I am delighted with the sleek new look Sarah achieved,” said the owner, who was also happy to have the perfect place for her paintings finally. “This oil painting, ‘Raspberry,’ previously hung in the stairwell between the second and third floors where its exuberant shapes and brush strokes could not be fully appreciated.” The painting, by Wendy Edwards, now hangs neatly above the fireplace.


A pair of dark stained wood coffee tables, also from the owner’s collection, were carefully chosen to make entertaining easy, while the vintage rug anchors all the white space with vibrant color. The result is sophisticated minimalism throughout the living room.


Upstairs, the owner requested an expansive shower, so the master bathroom became a "wet room." Sarah planned for every eventuality in the owner's future, including her long term health and well-being using universal design principles. The result was a space free of any barriers like steps or glass shower walls.


Sarah designed the space to feel light and boundless by selecting custom cabinetry, also adding storage and architectural interest to this modern master bathroom. Plumbing fixtures by California Faucets were chosen for their pure beauty, while the countertop slabs contain small pieces of natural shell, echoing the nearby ocean. Sarah finds that an element of nature adds a touch of calmness. Above the counter, diffuse split disc wall sconces were chosen to add a soft light to the room.


Both beauty and safety are prominent in Sarah’s Scandifornian design. Beautiful and sleek hand-glazed wall tiles inspired by sterling silver accompany durable and slip-resistant porcelain mosaic tile flooring that create a functioning and timeless atmosphere. Finally, an antique Victorian chair and a giclée print by artist D.J. Hall personalizes the fresh and crisp master bathroom.


While continuing the elegant, sparse aesthetic from the first floor, the master bedroom suite fills the entire second floor of this beautiful minimal townhouse, so special attention was paid to make it simple and calm. As the owner explained, “I travel frequently, and the serenity of the space makes coming home very comforting.”


The homeowner cares about her health and her environment; she practices self-care through activities like yoga and Pilates. It was essential to her that her home be filled with natural materials. Sarah was careful as always to find organic and lasting materials that would contribute to her health and wellness. The master bedroom suite now highlights the beauty of natural objects and materials while planning for maximum comfort and use. The space features a vintage leather headboard by Duxiana, and the artwork is a framed print of a painting by Marc Chagall (c. 1957). Glass orbs were chosen to provide soft bedside light that keeps the nightstands free for books and other objects.


A second fireplace in a corner was made over in sterling silver-toned ceramic tiles, adding visual warmth. The marigold club chair beside it was made more personal with the addition of a handmade honey bee pillow embroidered by the homeowner.

Plants and flowers dot the suite, as Sarah adds plants whenever possible to create a healthy and natural environment. The unique collection mixed with healthy materials in the design of this townhouse allowed a meaningful and sophisticated style to emerge. After the completion of this redesign, the owner explained that what she loves best about her new home is “[the] serenity of the color palette and surfaces, the bold, visually arresting scale of the principal lighting fixtures, and the way the new surroundings accommodate favorite furniture pieces and decorative items.”  The newly finished home is a testament to the idea that less is more, and that health and natural design are the solutions to luxury.

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 www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Steven Dewall.

Biophilia: Nature & Design


You may have seen the terms "biophilia" or "biophilic design" brandished around the internet lately, posted between beautiful images of sprawling interior design and architecture filled with plants and nature-inspired sculpture installations. Biophilia isn't new–but it is a growing discipline in interior design. If you are interested in healthy living or are a  building owner, it's a subject worth learning.

Biophilia is our innate desire to be close to nature–and biophilic design aims to make healthy and comfortable interiors by meaningfully incorporating natural elements into our home and work environments. Los Angeles-based interior designer Sarah Barnard sat down with me to explain how she uses biophilic principles to create healthful, smart spaces for her clients. "It's intuitive when you think about it. Biophilia exists because we are comforted by nature, and we all understand that on some level. Nobody wants to live in a little grey box–we want to live in open spaces connected with the environment, plant-life, and the seasons."


Biophilic design puts a few simple principles to use to create spaces that are both visually beautiful and spiritually healthful. As more and more of us make our careers our focus, calmness, serenity and healthy living can be challenging to achieve without the help of nature and smart design. There are years of study to support what we already know in our bones: spaces that have nature incorporated are more appealing to us, and they have marked health benefits.

Terrapin Bright Green is a consulting firm specializing in sustainability to create a healthy, prosperous, and regenerative future for all. They produce workshops, research, planning, guidelines, and product development. They have researched biophilia and organized their findings into 14 principles of biophilic design and have studied the effects of biophilia on our health and wellness. For the most part, many of the principles are simple and intuitive, such as ‘Visual Connection with Nature,’ which is just what it sounds like: adding natural elements or a view to nature into your space.However if you’d like to read an in-depth, thorough explanation of all 14 principles, you can see the results of Terrapin’s research here: https://www.terrapinbrightgreen.com/reports/14-patterns/ . For today, we need only to talk about the three subcategories of the design principles: Nature in the Space, Natural Analogies, and Nature of the Space.


Nature in the space refers to the presence of natural elements in an interior. For example, that could mean having plants, shells, or water features. But it could also mean more abstract features, like natural light or light that changes throughout the day, air circulation, and a view to the outdoors. “What you exclude is as just important as what you include,” said Barnard. “I choose art made with natural materials or vintage art that has off-gassed to avoid putting noxious smells or chemicals into a space. Indoor air quality accounts for part of how we feel about our homes and how comfortable we are.” All of her designs include live plants, too, which contributes to air quality, a non-visual connection with nature.

Natural analogies refers to art and forms inspired by nature: a light fixture that looks like a plant or a sculpture that looks like an animal, for example. A good designer will find natural forms and art for you to choose from so you can have art that imitates nature. Barnard walked me through a project she made custom light fixtures for. “The home was beside the ocean, and I wanted to make something inspired by the beautiful surroundings of that space. I started by sketching forms inspired by coral reefs, and I made miniatures in clay by hand. When they were ready, I had them fabricated by a local craftsman. Having forms that imitated the shape and texture of coral and having light cast in beautiful organic patterns made the space feel natural and serene.”


Nature of the space means making the space itself seem like nature. Having a large open space through which you can see an expanse of space, as well as an enclosed room that feels safe fulfills this need. When asked for an example of how Nature of the Space might be used, Barnard said “I finished a project recently where the space had floor-to-ceiling windows with a view to the ocean. I selected low profile furniture to preserve the open space of the room and the sightline to the sea.”


Terrapin also explains that there are three basic types of “nature-health” relationships: cognitive functionality and performance, psychological health and well-being, and physiological health and well-being. Cognitive functionality and performance is our mental acuity and focus. Psychological health and well-being refers to our mood, perception, and emotional state. Physiological health and well-being is our bodily health and performance.

All three areas of well-being see improvement when the 14 principles of biophilic design are applied in a space. The benefits have been thoroughly studied: each principle has been individually tested and shown improvements such as concentration, stress hormone levels, overall happiness, and numerous other positive effects.


In fact, research by other sources has yielded similar results. The Human Spaces Global Report also found greater levels of well being in subjects with a view of natural elements rather than urban settings, according to a recent article by Steelcase’s magazine 360.

Steelcase, the largest furniture manufacturer in the world, is dedicated to sustainability, innovation, and wellness. They too have invested into researching biophilia in order to produce furniture for healthy, sustainable spaces. They describe the human experience with nature in four categories:

Sensory richness: mixing colors, textures, sizes and shapes. Varied elements in a space mimics nature and puts us at ease.

Natural rhythms and signals: anything that reminds us of natural processes can help restore us. Natural lighting that allows real sunlight, or artificial light that changes to mimic natural light.


Challenges in nature: the idea is that our challenging environment is what pushed humanity to grow into what we are today, so there should be encouragement towards effort.

Local distinctiveness: having a feature that does not repeat anywhere else in the building can help large offices from becoming soulless or bleak. Reserving a certain material or color for one room can make it and the surrounding space more special and pleasant.

These four principles are a useful way to understand how we are affected by nature, and offer another way to begin tackling the design challenges you may be facing in your home or workspace. Whether you use these four facets or the 14 principles of biophilic design as a jumping off point to improve your space, a deeper connection with nature is healthy and beneficial.

“When you strip it down to basics, using biophilic design means including pieces of nature in the design, elements inspired by nature, and mimicking natural environments with layout, architecture and planning,” Barnard said. Homeowners and building owners especially might consider taking these premises into account in order to make their home or office a place that promotes their mental and physical wellbeing. Getting started can be as simple as purchasing a few plants. If you aren’t sure where to go from there, a designer can help you put all the principles into practice. Ideally, your space incorporates nature, smart design and healthy living.

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 www.SarahBarnard.com.


Browning, W., Ryan, C., Clancy, J., 14 PATTERNS OF BIOPHILIC DESIGN. Retrieved from https://www.terrapinbrightgreen.com/reports/14-patterns/

Steelcase Corporation, Restoration Office. Retrieved from https://www.steelcase.com/research/articles/topics/wellbeing/restoration-office/

Photos by Chas Metivier, Steven Dewall

Beachy Bachelor: Masculine Interior Design, Santa Monica Style


For this Beachy Bachelor, Sarah Barnard introduced a mid-century vintage character with a beautiful collection of modern pottery, driftwood, and vintage ceramic vases. This Santa Monica townhouse embodies the coastal California luxury lifestyle, effortlessly combining opulent materials with a relaxed beach-side setting.

A custom calacatta gold marble bar expands the living rooms entertaining space, while the natural wool rug anchors the conversation area. The floating American walnut console keeps the masculine space light. A reclaimed Elm wood side table rests atop the home's original Oak floors. Crisp, white walls accentuate the natural wood finishes throughout while allowing the minimalist stair-railing to float in space.

The masculine dining room and adjacent patio make the most of their indoor-outdoor connection with a versatile area rug specially selected to withstand the bright light and high traffic. A sculptured glass and steel chandelier reflects the natural light of the surrounding space.

Handmade roman shades attach to a custom wood enclosure for privacy and shade on the patio. A natural teak root ball fashioned into a rugged side table pairs with a weathered teak armchair and lightweight concrete pottery. Acacia wood deck tiles add a warm angular base to the cool blue patio space. Found in Georgia by Sarah, the vintage mid-century modern whale ashtray is brass and a perfect complement to the cool tones.


The master retreat features a handmade bed of tweed by Domonique Keiffer from Venice, Italy is covered in Belgian linens and shaded by wool draperies. A bold, abstract painting by Jonathan Elder hangs above the bed. Surf-inspired artifacts and unique vintage pieces complete the look.

A vintage leather chair with its original leather patina, designed by Percival Lafer, manufactured in Brazil in 1958. Sarah worked with her longtime collaborator, artist Reid Winfrey, placing several of his surf-inspired paintings in the beachside home.

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

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Vegan Interior Design

“You can still have everything you want, even if you are vegan,” Sarah Barnard explained. For those vegans who want to surround themselves with luxurious vegan linens, more natural, beautiful and durable vegan materials are available than ever. If you are the type of vegan who loves the look of animal products, more and more perfect options are available for you as well. Los Angeles designer and recent ASID award-winner Sarah Barnard took time to go over the growing vegan interior design market and her experience with clients who care about animals. “Happily, the days of sacrificing comfort for principles are over. There are plenty of luxury options for vegans, too.”

Of course, vegan and vegetarian mean different things to different people. It helps to clarify your preferences ahead of time. A knowledgeable designer can help you sort through what is desirable to bring into your home and what isn’t, and can help with any additional design considerations that frequently go hand-in-hand with a love of animals, like the desire for an eco-friendly home. DIY strategies are abundant on sites like Pinterest or Etsy, but some subtle animal materials may slip past you if you aren’t sure what to avoid, or less perfect materials may get selected by default.


“If vegan living is important to you, find an interior designer to help you. It’s the best way to make sure you feel good about your design decisions,” Barnard explained. “Ideally, you would work with a designer who has experience and vegan resources prepared.” One must vet each component of every item. There are the obvious things: fabrics, leather, and fur. But plenty of materials that you wouldn’t expect to use animal byproducts, too. Paint, glue, and lacquer are less obvious and slip by unnoticed most of the time. Old master painting or collectible paintings, for example, can potentially have small amounts of animal byproducts: nevermind that canvas was sometimes made of animal hide, but eggs were used to make tempera paint, and some pigments were derived from animal skin or hair as well. “Essentially, every part of every item could potentially bring animal products into your home.” Barnard cautioned. When asked how she avoids this, she answered, “I work closely with local artists and manufacturers that work with vegan materials. The artists care deeply about animals and the environment and make careful choices in the selection of materials.”

Some things that may be marketed as a cruelty-free product need to be verified also. For example, some silk manufacturers claim they wait until the silkworms have died to harvest their cocoons, but less reputable manufacturers have been caught lying about their processes.


While it can be exhausting searching for an alternative, don’t settle for just any synthetic material. A designer has access to samples and access to a myriad of information on the manufacturers’ technical specifications on art, furniture, and building materials.

Consider your health when designing or decorating with synthetic materials. Humanmade options could mean introducing elements that off-gas chemicals into your home. Vinyl and PVC for example, have been known to release chemicals for at least two weeks after installation. There are plenty of safe synthetic materials made by responsible manufacturers.

If you were on the fence about making your home vegan, consider that for a family member or guest with allergies, making your home vegan can be an excellent way to make sure there are no allergens that cause discomfort. Artificial down, for example, can be better than it’s feathery counterpart because alternatives are often water-resistant in addition to being hypoallergenic.


For a family member on the autistic spectrum, the smell of animal leathers and the rough textures of some wools and skins may be bothersome. Ideally, a space designed for them has carefully considered and created the materials, lighting, and flow.

When asked about her favorite part of designing a vegan home, Barnard said, “Vegan interiors often end up being automatically eco-friendly.” It turns out vegan homes can have a smaller carbon footprint, simply because any process involving cultivating materials from animals means using resources to care for the animal to grow, and the carbon dioxide they exhale during their cultivation contributes to a large carbon footprint. Wood should be researched as well and sourced from responsible, sustainable sources, or reclaimed from previous projects and buildings.

Whatever your reason for choosing a vegan home, it should be relevant to the designer who helps you create your perfect home, too. You don’t have to sacrifice style or comfort; more than ever, it is possible to luxurious, durable, cruelty-free, materials.

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 www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Chas Metivier and Steven Dewall.

Interior Design for Pets


"It's important to start with the needs of the entire family," says Los-Angeles-based interior designer and recent ASID award-winner, Sarah Barnard. "Your pets should be included in the design process from day one, because they are family members, too." Barnard is currently a mother to two furry friends, a rescue cat with half a tail and a dog that isn't happy unless she's sitting in your lap. She explained her process when she works with clients who have both standard and exotic pets.

"When I start designing a home, my goal is to make an environment that is natural, enduring, and high-functioning—for my clients, their guests, and their pets." The goal is a design that is mutually perfect for pets and humans alike. When it is planned this way from the beginning, it is more comfortable for everyone, including you.

The interactive design doesn't mean the same thing for everyone; every family has different needs. Consulting a designer can help you figure out how much extra planning is required and where to get started. Consider that where you spend your time, so does your pet. They want to be near you, so a dedicated dog room, for example, may be a lost cause.


Next, consider your lifestyle. If you take your dog hiking, having space for to rinse and towel off before venturing further inside your house is a smart choice. Most animals, mainly if they live exclusively indoors, enjoy a perch next to a window. Aquariums or terrariums can be entertaining for them as well. If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, a custom pet bed or feeding area might be a great fit in your kitchen island.

More exotic pets might require more customization. Large animals like pigs may need an indoor and outdoor space. Reptiles or birds sometimes need a large aquarium or terrarium designed into the architecture of your home. That's when it's necessary to have a designer's help. She or he will plan it out and make sure you seamlessly integrate your pet's home with yours. More importantly, a designer can help you figure out the scope of your project.

When asked about materials, Barnard said the goal is "to create high-functioning, natural and non-toxic environments that endure over time." It's best to make your home safe for everyone. Try to source organic materials as much as possible, such as untreated fabrics and furniture. Vintage pieces that are at least 20 years old have finished off-gassing, so they don't pollute the air and are safer for you and your pets.

As far as specific materials and finishes, nothing is strictly off-limits, but some require more upkeep or need to be replaced every few years. Barnard shared some insights on balancing which materials are most attractive with those that create less work for you:

It's still possible to have wallpaper, but a more durable option would be wood wainscoting.

For flooring, the best choice is often a hard surface option whenever possible. It's easier to keep clean than rugs or carpet and doesn't hold onto fur or odors. Porcelain tiles are a great option. They are elegant and easy to maintain, plus they aren't likely to stain or get scratched. Porcelain tiles are also the same color all the way through, so dents and marks will be less noticeable.

Carefully consider your fabric choices, too. Solution-dyed acrylic textiles are an excellent place to start looking because they are relatively invulnerable. They're typically resistant to stains, germs, and odors.

Some fabrics are more durable than others, but how they are used matters, too. Any materials with uneven surfaces will be more challenging to clean. Delicate fabrics are best saved for window treatments rather than upholstery. Choose shorter drapes that won't be chewed or rubbed against; long curtains may collect hair or inadvertently become a hazard. Remove fabric from reach by choosing chairs and sofas with exposed legs, which won't hold onto furs like slipcovers or upholstered legs.


"Above all, make sure you find a designer who has a history with animals. One who has an animal family member is even better," Barnard suggested. Designers who live with pets will have a more intuitive way of designing a home that includes them. They know more about how pets act and behave then designers without them.

Barnard shared a favorite experience working with a client with pets. "She had close to 12 cats, and wanted a dedicated area where her cats could sun themselves, but was concerned about coyotes in the area. We decided to build a custom screened porch to make a safe space for them. We had cat doors installed, too, so they could come and go as they pleased."

Sometimes making an appropriate environment for a large group of animals is the solution, sometimes the answer is cat-ifying or dog-ifying the whole house. Every home is different, but with the right help, you don't have to sacrifice beauty to live with your beloved pets. When all is said and done, our animal friends are worth a little extra planning.

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 www.SarahBarnard.com.


Photos by Steven Dewall, Chas Metivier, and Brad Nicol

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 www.SarahBarnard.com.

Contemporary Luxe: Children's Rooms


A pair of contemporary luxe children's rooms fit for a Manhattan Beach family home. A boy's bedroom is transformed into a 'little man's' room with the warmth of traditional design elements and cutting edge details to create a youthful, contemporary space. 

With a focus on personality and creativity, Sarah Barnard incorporated custom artwork based on conversations she had with each child. The boy's bedroom features a mural of a vintage Aston Martin inspired by the classic James Bond film 'Goldfinger.'


A little girl's bedroom is full of warmth and whimsy. The smocked pink drapery and antique painted beds are a traditional foundation while the light fixture, custom polka-dot chairs, and bubble murals create a playful harmony.


Above each girl's bed, a custom mural made from recycled art glass features imagery inspired by their favorite things. The hand-painted lettering adds a unique element of personalization distinguishing each girl's space.


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

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Charlie Daniels

Contemporary Luxe: Indoor Outdoor Family Room


This contemporary luxe Manhattan Beach family home has a cozy patio pairing luxurious outdoor textiles with Chinese artisan pottery to create a quiet retreat. The modern luxury of this patio level family room reflects the individuality and youth of the homeowners.


With a focus on the homeowner's art collection, Sarah Barnard's design allows for plenty of display space featuring one of a kind pieces: an antique brass lamp, a vintage Japanese sculpture by Kent Artware and a hand carved mahogany conch shell from Negril.


An innovative guest room features a custom bed with a metallic leather headboard and a claw foot base. Luxurious silk bedding and warming brass accents adorn this contemporary retro bedroom.


A second guest bedroom hosts twin beds with matching leather bolsters. The painstakingly veneered custom headboard features a floating desk drawer and a vintage 1930's office chair that melds Hollywood Glamour with Industrial Chic.


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

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Charlie Daniels

Historic West Hollywood Bungalow: Dining Room


A historic 1918 Craftsman Bungalow features a beautifully remodeled dining room with contemporary updates by Sarah Barnard Design. By utilizing and restoring pieces original to the property, Sarah preserves the home's traditional aesthetic while introducing modern elements to create something personalized and unique. The fresh blue wall color modernizes the otherwise traditional dining room complementing the deep redwoods of the vintage furniture. 

An original built-in cabinet, a collection of art objects, a vintage dining table, and a contemporary chandelier sing together in harmony. A ceramic bust by artist Deborah Cansler rests atop an original antique cabinet with plenty of display space for the homeowner's eclectic treasures. An arrangement of wild blue thistles in a ceramic vessel made by artist Nashua Alfaro creates the perfect centerpiece.

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

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Chas Metivier

Historic West Hollywood Bungalow: Heineken Green Kitchen


This bright West Hollywood bungalow features a custom remodeled kitchen with a collection of handmade elements reflecting the homeowners love of nature and commitment to sustainable materials. Locally made cabinets, countertops made with recycled Heineken bottles, handmade ceramic backsplash tile, and cardboard pendant lamps make for a truly unique space.

This cook's kitchen has a place for everything and everything in its place! Built-in wall shelving provides extra space for storage and creates a cheerful display of dishware and other kitchen utilities.

A hard-working home office tucked away in the corner of the kitchen. Custom designed to fit the compact space perfectly, this corner nook gets plenty of natural light. A countertop made from recycled bowling alley lumber makes the utilitarian space special! Framed artwork by Gwen Samuels adds unique handmade detail atop the desk.


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

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Chas Metivier

Historic West Hollywood Bungalow: Caribbean Blue Bathroom


This historic West Hollywood bungalow is all about color! The newly remodeled bathroom features a custom tile design by Sarah Barnard. The rich browns and vibrant teal blue's inspire thoughts of the Caribbean Sea. The spacious walk-in shower features a limestone seat providing the perfect complement to the saturated chocolate wall tiles.

Subtle details and accessories counterbalance the bathroom's bold colors. Handmade art tile and a beautiful handmade vessel make this masculine space special. A rustic mirror frame made of recycled barn wood helps to keep the new space fun and funky.


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

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Chas Metivier

Historic West Hollywood Bungalow: Orange Dreamsicle Bathroom


Orange dreamsicle! Formerly a coat closet, this jewel box of a bathroom is made more functional by re-distributing the unused space. Sarah Barnard was able to add a walk-in shower to the previously compact guest bathroom.

This particular shade of orange inspires positivity and energy. By installing ceramic tile in a vertical pattern, they elongate the tiny space. Pebble tiles on the shower floor create an indoor/outdoor feeling. The small corner mounted sink makes the most of the limited floor space.

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

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Chas Metivier

Harbor-Side Loft: Master Bedroom


This harbor-side loft in Marina Del Rey features a masculine master bedroom with a contemporary nautical design. The master bedroom breathes with calming deep blue walls and dark walnut furniture. The artwork by Sara Pae and rich, dark furniture complement the blue tones of the room. The wall behind the bed is papered in a hand-blocked geometric pattern and paired with drapes made of wool in a warm winter white.

Vintage and brass elements add visual interest to the contemporary maritime theme. Tom Dixon pendants frame the headboard adding a pop of gold over each nightstand. A collection of coral, driftwood, and tillandsia enliven the matching bedside tables. Strategically placed houseplants in the bedroom contribute to clean indoor air and add to the calming seaside atmosphere.

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

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Chas Metivier

Harbor-Side Loft: Living Room


A high-rise apartment building in Marina Del Rey, California seemed the perfect fit for a beach-loving New Yorker and his beloved golden retriever. While he valued the location and the bones of the place, the homeowner wasn’t sure how best to make this house feel like his home. Interior designer Sarah Barnard introduced natural materials, saturated colors, modern fixtures, and a textured palette elegant enough for entertaining and durable for everyday life.

The apartment’s open floor plan allows for a pleasant flow between the kitchen, dining and living areas. The dining area features a muted neutral palette accented by the oversized chandelier. This modern circular design brings rustic brightness to the dining room. Artwork by Sara Pae, Evan Conway, and Rebekah Waites adds a playful contemporary element to the otherwise traditional spaces.


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

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Chas Metivier

Park View Pied-à-Terre: Living Room & Dining Area


Perched high above Virginia Avenue Park in Santa Monica, a contemporary townhouse waited patiently for the right buyer to come along and commission a design overhaul. When Renimah Al-Mattar purchased the property as a secondary residence, she hired interior designer and LEED AP, Sarah Barnard to help her plan a comprehensive remodel that would salvage much of the existing architecture and materials while reworking the space with natural, handmade and local materials. 

Salvaged barn wood, vintage light fixtures, and area rugs, antiques and locally made reproductions exist among contemporary artwork and a custom sofa with organic materials in this living room.


While merging traditional and contemporary aesthetics, the renovated spaces honor Renimah's environmental concerns, while balancing French Country stylings with both rustic and minimalist tendencies- a design approach that represents the complexities of Renimah's tastes and interests.

Both comfortable and contemporary, this living room is perfect for entertaining and features pieces from Renimah's collection of art. A solid bronze sculpture is perched on a coffee table specially selected to support its massive weight.  With plenty of seating for guests, the vintage-inspired sofa was made locally of natural and sustainable materials. A pair of vintage French lamps (c.1970) flank the abstract painting by artist Emily Van Horn.


The apartment’s open floor plan allows for a pleasant flow between the kitchen, dining and living areas. This dining set was custom designed to fit perfectly within this area. Custom walnut chairs are made by hand and outfitted with white leather for a fresh and timeless aesthetic. A solid walnut dining table was custom made from a single fallen tree. The contemporary recycled rock crystal chandelier adds functional beauty to the dining area.

After the completion of the project, Renimah said, “I have always believed that your home must be your zen temple and my home gives me a feeling of peace. I love coming home to this creation and am very grateful.”


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

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Chas Metivier

Park View Pied-à-Terre: Kitchen


A Park View Pied-à-Terre features an elegantly modern kitchen with ample counter space. The counter's tiered design creates additional bar top space for kitchen-side dining. A dramatic chandelier made of recycled rock crystal adds sparkle to the sustainable kitchen design.

Dark wood cabinets compliment the natural stone countertops and glossy backsplash tile. The extra-deep single bowl sink in an under mount, stainless steel design is both high functioning and lovely. The sleek design and minimalist elements of the kitchen work correctly with the home's integrated layout.


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

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Chas Metivier

Park View Pied-à-Terre: Guest Bathrooms


This Park View Pied-à-terre features two petite guest bathrooms that make a bold statement. Mid-century Modern meets rustic farmhouse chic in this elegant guest bathroom design. Wall mounted mirrors were custom made from salvaged barn wood to perfectly fit the compact spaces. The black and white modernist furniture provides a bold, contemporary contrast to the vintage light fixtures and rustic details.

Each guest bathroom creates a unique statement it's own featuring custom sink and fixtures. A grey river rock vessel sink pairs with honed stone counters and crackled ceramic backsplash tiles. Incorporating organic elements, such as natural stones, woods and ceramics emphasizes the environmental focus of this French contemporary renovation.


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

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Chas Metivier

Park View Pied-à-Terre: Attic Guest Bedroom


This Park View Pied-à-terre is perfect for entertaining guests in the city. Formerly an unused space within the home, the tiny attic was converted into a cozy and comfortable guest suite. This eco-friendly space utilizes the existing architecture and was designed by salvaging and restoring much of the home's original materials, such as the natural wood flooring. A built in walnut platform bed and bespoke floor sofa are low profile and maximize the space. An antique iron doorstop rests on the carved mango wood coffee table. Artwork by Karrie Ross and an adjustable swing arm wall sconce frame the sleeping nook.

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

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Chas Metivier

Park View Pied-à-terre: Master Bedroom


This master bedroom is perched high above Virginia Avenue Park in Santa Monica. Inspired by antique furnishings, most of the furniture in this home was custom made of sustainable materials by local craftsmen. Pairing contemporary elements, such as the geometric inlaid headboard with antique furnishings and fixtures creates a design both modern classic. Solid bronze drawer pulls made by French artisans compliment the locally made antique reproductions. The vintage Austrian wall sconces (c.1960) add a subtle warmth to the crisp white space.

The French Country stylings are balanced with both rustic and minimalist tendencies giving this master bedroom a cozy and contemporary feeling. A portrait painted by artist Brian Johnson sits atop a custom desk made in petite proportions. A Himalayan rock salt lamp adds warming illumination to the compact workspace. Elemental accents and organic materials are the basis for this environmentally conscious master bedroom renovation.

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

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Chas Metivier