Sam Sacks of Sam Sacks Design talks her favorite design tactics to create that California interior design style
Sam is the founder and lead designer at Sam Sacks Design. She has been living and breathing design since she was a little girl. Decorating her bedroom with garbage picked finds and paper mache dreams to create her eclectic with a 70’s vibe mixed with California interior design style.
There’s no joy or inspiration for me in copying something we’ve all seen a thousand times — and it’s the joy and inspiration that brings life to any creative work.
Her California interior design style reflects her personality — slightly wacky yet deeply grounded. She has a firm respect for the fundamental tenets of great design — symmetry, scale and proportion — but her bohemian bent is always evident.
You were at House & Home before starting your own interior design firm. How did your experience working for House & Home inspire you to open your own firm?
I had a number of different roles at House & Home but when I left, I was Features Editor and one of my favorite parts of the job was interviewing all my design Gods. It was incredible — I had the chance to ask people like Vincent Wolf, Bunny Williams and Christine Ralphs what they did right, what they’d done wrong, and what lessons they’d learned over their incredible careers. And I banked all that design gold and then applied it to my own work. The connection I found between all of my design idols is that they’re artists at heart.
How do you listen to your creative voice?
My greatest compass has always been my gut instinct. When I feel overwhelmed or something isn’t working in a space, I sit back, close my eyes (always very weird with a client in the room!) and try to visualize the elements in a bid to figure out what’s singing and what’s not. It requires silence and the complete elimination of all the visual and aural clutter. Then when I think I have the right answer, I hold my breath, and go for it!
Can you give an example of a project that you were working on where your gut was right?
Periodically, I present a kitchen or bathroom layout to a client who wants to rework it. I always go through the exercise of re-jigging the layout — partly because I want the client to know I’m listening to them, and partly because I need to make sure I haven’t missed something. Nine out of ten times, we revert back to the original plan. For me, flow and function are intuitive and there is always one best way to achieve them.
How would you describe your designs?
Eclectic with a 70’s vibe and a layered California interior design style. Maybe Venice Beach meets downtown TO . Most of my clients have young kids so I try and create a very family friendly, eat in the living room kind of feeling. Casual with a bit of sophistication where adults can be adults but still comfortably hang with their kids — no roped off formal living rooms for me!
What are some key points of influence for your designs right now?
What’s the best hint you can give to designers looking to get their work featured in a magazine?
Taking risks is what gets you there. There’s nothing wrong with tried and true solid design, but editors are looking for something stand-out. You know when you flip your friend an image and say, “OMG, you have to see this”? Well that’s because you’ve seen something insanely out of the box and that’s what editors are after.
But few clients actually want to take risks, so how does a designer convince a client to take a risk?
I tell my clients that while I will never give them a space they’re uncomfortable with, I will push them past their comfort zone. That’s why they’ve hired me.
The giant furry pendant in the image below paired with the elephant stool had my clients thinking I was nuts. Once it was in, they were in love.
My contractor laughed when I asked him to install these doors in my old dining room, but they were such a hit that when we sold the house, the buyers insisted on keeping them.
What trends do you see in furniture design these days?
I try to steer clear of trends — anything gimmicky doesn’t have the longevity to withstand your investment. I’m a big fan of natural materials and playing with tension in texture and scale (think shiny vs, matte, an over-sized pendant over low furniture)
What are some naturals that you use in your projects?
Oiled wood floors, natural stone like onyx and marble, raffia, sisal, grass cloth, linen, wool — these are all materials that impart warmth. They have a humanity — they’re tactile, you want to touch them.