Selected as a House Beautiful 2021 NEXT WAVE Designer, Sarah Hillery specializes in creating beautiful and functional spaces with a focus on honoring each client’s personal history. Her firm excels at updating and transforming interior spaces both architecturally and decoratively, making previously acquired and antique pieces more relevant and practical. While Sara draws inspiration from her travels to Europe, India, and Japan, her style invariably reflects her Southern heritage and familial roots in Virginia, Texas, and New Orleans. A mother of three, Sara’s mission is to make design family friendly while still remaining creative, elegant and timeless. Her work has been featured in House Beautiful, Southern Home, Veranda, and The Wall Street Journal. Today, The Glam Pad is delighted to feature Sara’s work, and get to know more about her through a Q&A… Welcome, Sara!
Q: When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in interior design, and what did your career path look like?
A: During college, I interned for an interior designer, and my job was to organize their library of fabric. That meant checking the price of each brand and every piece of fabric, and, since this was before the internet, calling every brand to do so. After three months of doing this everyday on repeat, I still wanted to be an interior designer, which felt like a sign!
I was an art major in college, and I loved how interior design takes art to the 3D level. You are creating an environment using all your senses. For me, it felt like a natural growth and expansion from the two dimensional page. I worked for an interiors company as an assistant after college and continued working there through grad school in Richmond. After I got married, I moved to Houston and worked for Lucas Eilers before venturing out and starting my own company.
Q: How do you define your style?
A: A fresh take on traditional with a clean and modern eye. My design tends to be cheerful with bold colors and not a lot of clutter. My work has elements that are both minimalist and traditional.
Q: Who are your favorite designers (past and present)?
A: Darryl Carter–His designs are refreshing, visually clean, and restful. He uses old lines, minimally paired, and his designs aren’t stuffy.
Dorothy Draper—Her use of color and color pairings were wacky and thought-provoking. They worked even when it feels like they shouldn’t!
Susan Kastler—She epitomizes classic, understated design.
Q: What is the first thing you do when embarking upon a new project?
A: I like to immerse myself in learning as much as I can about the client and their needs. I do a lot of fact-finding and information-gathering: the more I know about the client, the more tailored the design can be for them in both an aesthetic and functional way. We want the design to work for them!
Q: Over the last two years, how has interior design changed and also the way your clients are living? Are they requesting fewer open concepts, and more home offices, gyms, etc?
A: Clients are at home more, even with many being thrilled with the idea that we can finally start going back out into the world. My clients are still focusing on how they can make their house their center, their home base for their life, and so they want it to fit their needs and be uplifting and comfortable. It’s the “home as staycation” mentality that many adopted during the pandemic. We are seeing more requests for home gyms and home offices. For the latter, this may not be an entire room; it could be a nook that can be a flexible office space if necessary. Outdoor spaces continue to be really important for entertaining family and friends and catering to groups that may have different levels of comfort regarding gathering during the pandemic.
Q: What are 5 every day luxuries you could not live without?
Q: Where do you find inspiration?
A: I am always inspired by nature: the colors in gardens, the way that nature makes color combinations on its own. I’m a voracious tracker of images, whether from magazines on the internet, and I love paging through design books. There’s something about turning the page of a book that stays with me much longer than something I see on a screen. And I love getting new ideas and perspectives from travel.
Q: What is your favorite movie house of all time?
A: I don’t know if I have a favorite, but I do love the house from the Durrells in Corfu. The house isn’t necessarily in the best shape, but it has an earthly quality to it, and it just has the necessities so it’s not overly stuffed. The house is on a bluff, so the views are amazing!
Q: When you aren’t busy designing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
A: I love digging in the dirt and playing in the yard, trying not to kill the things growing there! And, even though this is still technically designing, I really enjoy drawing floor plans for houses that either exist or I imagine.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: I love this business, and I have met so many wonderful people doing my job. I also love a transformation and being a creator and an inventor of new spaces and environments. It’s really rewarding to feel like you’ve helped someone. Design feels like solving a puzzle in a colorful, creative way. I started out as a single person and now I have a family. I’ve learned so much in my own life, and I enjoy applying that knowledge to the design. I’m continuing to hone the ability to see not just what the clients’ needs are now but also to project how their interiors will serve them in the future.
Thank you, Sara, for joining us today! What a beautiful portfolio! To learn more about Sara, please visit Sara Hillery Interior Design and follow @sarahilleryinteriordesign on Instagram for ongoing inspiration.