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Inside The World of Interior Design With Sara Barney

Today I am lucky to be able to talk with the talented designer Sara Malek Barney of BANDD DESIGN! As the owner of renowned Austin-based interior design studio, Sara is a busy entrepreneur, mother, and wife, who left her former executive roles in the sports and entertainment industries to pursue her passion for design.

Sara and her team at BANDD DESIGN are famous for their artistic interiors that capture the eclectic styles of their clients. They infuse their interiors with unique accents, keeping homes intriguing with personalized touches that exudes sophistication.

So, without further ado, please welcome Sara Malek Barney!


Q: Welcome, Sara! I’m excited to get to know you more and your design processes. I recently wrote a blog on your refreshing Austin interiors and couldn't be happier to now have the chance to speak with you one-on-one! But, before we get to interior design, first things first: you have an intriguing career journey that included South By Southwest, Ellen Degeneres, & Creative Arts Agency. What were some life changes or triggers that encouraged you to change career paths?

Sara: I am a Gemini and therefore need constant change in life. I am a homebody who loves to be everywhere at once. An introvert who is the life of the party. Basically I am all over the place! Because of that need to keep things fresh, I never ever wanted to settle in a career. I felt if I were too stressed or not happy, then I needed to move on. Regardless if that meant leaving behind a huge opportunity that others would have relished or a great salary that covers the mortgage.

I think the natural triggers in life change my career along the way. I wanted a house and kids, so I left LA. I wanted career freedom, so I left SXSW. Every change has been triggered by a need not being met in my career. BUT, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I needed all of those steps to get to where I am now.

Q: That makes sense. Your previous work experience paired with an impressive academic history seem to pull it all together. Aside from your interior design degree, you have also accomplished a degree in Corporate Communication with a focus in Business and Music -- how do these varying degrees come together in your interior design career, and are there any subjects you haven’t studied yet but want to?

Sara: Its funny. I always thought I wanted to work in the Music Business and then realized really quickly that that wasn’t the right fit for me. I made sure to get a degree in a skill that was highly transferable. I recommend that to anyone. I would’ve been doing myself a huge disservice if I started out with an Interior Design degree prior to my business/communication studies. Because I wasn’t really totally sure which career field I’d land in, I needed that foundation to be able to use across whichever line of work I ended up in.

I feel like you can never stop studying and learning, but in terms of formal education? Well, I think I am good for now. Ha! Although if someone could explain social marketing or how to code to me, that would be great. If the task is basic, I turn to google or youtube these days to teach it to myself. If it is more advanced, well, I’m old enough to have learned that it is always better to pay for a pro versus trying to do it yourself.

home-renovation-living-room-BANDD-DESIGNImage Source : Sara Barney of BANDD DESIGN

Q: Speaking of professionals, what are your top tips for homeowners keeping their newly designed homes looking current even as they age?

Sara: You can keep a home current and fresh by changing out accessories and finishes. There is nothing easier than changing out your throw pillows and decor, but also think about changing out light fixtures, door handles, cabinet hardware. Those things are little but make a big difference! Don’t be afraid to think outside the box with the finishes throughout your house. They are so easy to change.

Q: And, can you tell us a bit about your online decor shop? It seems as though these are one-of-a-kind gems; does your shop work with local artists/creators?

Sara: My online shop has a lot of vintage, one-of-a-kind pieces that I have found through my hours of vintage shopping. I love picking out unique accessories you can’t find in everyone’s home. To me, special pieces are what sets your space apart from being just any old space.
I especially love working with local artists and vendors; there is something so amazing about being able to work alongside another creator. The creative process moves much more smoothly when you can be next to that person, collaborating with them. I also, being a small business myself, love supporting local, small businesses. If I find a piece I think could be re-created or designed by a local vendor, then I will almost always defer to the local craftsman.

bar-dining-table-interior-design Image Source : Sara Barney of BANDD DESIGN

Q: I totally agree! For some pieces, it just makes more sense going local -- especially if you’re working towards a truly personalized space. What would you say is your go-to design element right now? Such as indoor/outdoor textiles, mixing metals, etc.

Sara: I never try to stick to one style or element as a regular go-to element, but I do love exploring new trends all of the time. I don’t think there are hard and fast rules when it comes to design. It is so subjective, so just play with what feels right. If that means mixing metals, then do it! Everything doesn’t haven’t be matchy-matchy. With all of that in mind, I do like to make sure there is balance to every space. I prefer making sure there is a soft textile where there is also a rough one. If there are many wood elements, a metal or ceramic piece can provide harmony.

Q: Great advice on how to mix & match soft with rough and rustic with industrial! If you tend to utilize a mixture of design elements, how would you describe your personal interior design style? And since you work alongside your husband, do you two share the same style?

Sara: Oh gosh, I get that question all the time and it’s so hard to fully describe! I mostly closely relate to classic style with eclectic bits mixed in. I love for every space to have a story and feel unique, and not like it popped out of a magazine catalogue. This means mixing high-end with low-end and new with vintage. I especially enjoy finding old, vintage pieces that can find life in a new room. Those pieces always have a story to tell and are an instant spark for conversation in a room.

My husband, Dana, and I have pretty complimentary taste. He usually will follow my lead and give me final say in design, but he will also steer me away if I am heading the wrong direction. It is really great to have another set of eyes to play ideas off of and to gauge interest.

master-bedroom-design-BANDD-DESIGN Image Source : Sara Barney of BANDD DESIGN

Q: Sounds like a perfect team -- and you gave us some great ideas on how to bring a space together harmoniously. My last question is geared towards those looking for an interior designer (preferably in the Austin area!). I find that clients are always curious about how pricing works in the interior design industry. How do you establish your design fees so that expectations are clear from the beginning?

Sara: Interior design is a surprisingly complex business model and hard to fully explain. Most interior designers charge an hourly rate for their services, but I feel much more comfortable working on a flat fee basis. This allows me to really focus on the design, rather than the clock and everyone is happier in the end with this type of structure. Also, as a designer, I am able to buy most furniture at wholesale pricing, so sometimes, hiring an interior designer can actually save you money in the end.

home-remodeling-in-austin Image Source : Sara Barney of BANDD DESIGN

Very cool! Sounds like a win-win for both you and your clients. Thanks so much for joining me today, Sara! I will put your links down below so everyone can enjoy your interior designs as much as I do! Have a wonderful day and a successful 2018!