From starting her career working in the entertainment industry with the one and only Ellen DeGeneres (yes, you read that right) to now fast forwarding 10 years later, what started as a weekend hobby helping her friends design their homes sparked a prolonged passion to take the leap to make a switch in her career. As an Austin native herself, Sara made the move back to her roots, where she is now the vision and owner behind BANDD Design.
Sara’s signature design style includes finding vintage accessories to compliment different aspects of her home in a one-of-a-kind way, and today, we take a step inside one of the homes remodeled by the BANDD Design team. The home is full of those rich blue tones, bold wallpaper designs, and texture all throughout the home. We have the inside scoop here as we chatted with Sara on how to channel your personal style, the steps it takes to design a home and how to do it all on a budget.
From working in the entertainment industry to now interior design, what inspired you to take that leap?
I’ve always had a passion for interior design, and while I was working in the entertainment industry I decided to do interior design for my friends as a weekend hobby. Within just a few weeks I had so many clients wanting to work with me that I had to leave my full-time job.
How did living in Los Angeles influence your interior design style?
It introduced me to the ‘California Casual’ style, which is what a majority of BANDD’s projects are themed.
In recent years, you have launched an online home-decor shop, The Founders Collection. Tell us a bit about the lead up to and launch of the line.
Selfishly, I’m a vintage accessory hoarder and wanted to find a way to justify buying more vintage finds and share the happiness with people by letting them shop for them.
Where did you get the inspiration to name your company, The Founders Collection?
Since a good majority of our home collection is vintage, I wanted to tie that in with the name so I chose “founder” to emphasize that these pieces are found from throughout history.
Where do you see your business going in the next few years?
I see our business expanding over time as it already has. We’re taking on more projects than ever before and it’s exciting to know that we will have more opportunities to help people turn their spaces into beautiful, long-lasting masterpieces.
Where do you find design inspiration? Are there any magazines, blogs, or sites you look through often?
Traveling is one of my key sources of inspiration—particularly Sonoma County and Napa Valley wine vineyard kind of vibes. I also find a lot of inspiration by visiting new hotels and restaurants around Austin.
How do you help your clients branch out and find their individual, personal style?
I start off by getting to know the client by asking them questions—what their family is like, their hobbies and interests, and what aesthetic they are attracted to most. Throughout our design process, we propose several options for each room to the client and get insight on what they like and dislike. From there, I try to incorporate elements into their design that feel authentic to them.
When looking for a home yourself, what are your must-haves?
A big shower, high ceilings, lots of natural light, and lots of potential.
Are there any specific pieces of furniture or home accessory staples you believe are good to invest in?
Furniture that is in high-traffic areas of the home and that are frequently used should be an investment, as should things such as a living room sofa, dining chairs and counter stools, and a bed frame. When it comes to accessories, I think that drapery and rugs are very important because you want them to be both durable and stylish. These are all elements that can bring a room together.
Take us through your process, where do you usually like to start when designing a home?
I always like to start by taking a deep dive into the client’s design preferences–we call this the design discovery phase. A client could come to me and say “I like modern.” and I could say, “Me too! I like modern,” but we could be speaking entirely different design languages. I use tons of visual tools to make sure we get on the same page.
Your recent project, Castle Ridge, has quite a few blue statements throughout the home. How did you decide on that specific color? Talk us through the decision-making process for some of these choices.
Our client wanted a modern farmhouse with a lot of neutral elements and colors, but we wanted to bring in a pop of color to lighten up the space. The color blue seemed subtle enough for our client and reasoned with them more than other color options, which complimented the neutral tones perfectly.
Wallpaper is now becoming more frequently used in homes, including this Castle Ridge home. Do you have any favorite patterns or favorite vendors you like to use?
I love to use Schumacher, Hygge & West, and Flat Vernacular for wallpaper because they always have unique, bold prints that bring a modern yet timeless feel. A particular favorite is the Schumacher Queen of Spain wallpaper in warm silver, which is used in the powder bathroom in this project.
You gave the fireplace a makeover by adding the beautiful stone from top to bottom. What do you recommend others can do to achieve the same look with a tight budget?
I would recommend researching different paint techniques and stone washes that they could use over their existing fireplace in order to achieve a similar look on a budget.
I am obsessing over all the textures throughout the home—from the leather couch to the wood dining table to the shiplap ceilings in the kitchen. How do you keep it from looking too modern without losing the “home” aspect of it?
Incorporating natural, organic elements, such as the wood and stone used in the living room and the live edge dining table, helps bring that relaxed feel to tone down the modern features. Also, bringing in details that highlight the family’s personality, like the shelf decor in the living room and the playful wallpapers used throughout the house, give a more “homey” aspect.
What sorts of challenges did you face while working on the project?
For the most part, the project went very smooth and we only had minor issues with materials sizing and builders. However, we had one huge challenge with the live edge dining table. The vendor who was custom designing the dining table told us that it would take four months to make it. The day before it reached the four month mark, he told us that he wouldn’t be able to build it, and on top of that the client was hosting an Easter party that week so we had to tell her the unfortunate news and custom order the table from a different vendor.
Each section in the home has its own personality and feel to it. Which room was your favorite to design?
My personal favorite was the dining room because of all of the different patterns, textures, and elements. I feel like that room really illustrated the client’s personality and felt unique and custom to them as a family.
How do you stick to a budget for furniture and decor? Do you have any tips?
I recommend investing the most in bigger pieces that are going to be used on a day-to-day basis, such as a living room sofa, bed frame, dining chairs, and dining table. You can get away with spending less on items like side tables, accent chairs, and decor, especially since these are easy items to swap out as trends and personal preferences shift.
What is your favorite thing about living in Austin?
I love how it’s a big city with a small-town feel—the amenities of the city are great, but it still feels like a community. Also the mild winters are a plus!
What do you believe makes a house a home?
A home should be a combination of style, comfort, and personality. It should also appear polished while also being approachable and purposeful.
What is the day in the life of Sara Malek Barney like?
Each day can vary so much since this is such a fast-paced, quick-on-your-feet kind of industry. Some days can be spent entirely in the office, getting caught up on emails and working on project proposals, while other days can be spent hopping around to different client’s homes and showrooms.
What has been your proudest accomplishment yet?
Having two amazing children that are caring and full of personality.
What advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
You don’t know everything that you think you know, but the only way for you to learn is through experiences.
Sara Malek Barney is The Everygirl…
Guilty Pleasure? Watching Teen Mom and going to hip hop dance classes—even though I’m not really guilty about either of those, I own it!
Ideal Friday Night? Happy hour with some friends that ends up going until dawn, then getting to sleep in
Spring or Summer? Summer
Go-to Coffee Order? Regular coffee with a splash of almond milk and little bit of Splenda
Favorite design trend? Mixed metals
Last home decor item you bought? Vintage Moroccan lamp
Item you can’t leave the house without? Lipstick
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why? Dead: Amelia Earhart because she is a feminist queen and was so fierce! Living: Jennifer Anniston so I can find out how she stays looking so young, or Vince Vaughn’s wife so I can swoop in and steal him (only joking).