April 11, 2021

BML-25

Whatever it takes

What It’s Like to Spend an Hour with Designer Sarah Sherman Samuel via The Expert

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Courtesy of Sarah Sherman Samuel

If you’re reading this, there’s a very good chance that you have sat on your floor in front of nine shades of white paint wishing you had an interior designer on speed dial to swoop in and save the day. And now you do: The Expert. Founded by Los Angeles–based designer Jake Arnold and tech entrepreneur Leo Seigal, the service connects the biggest names in home decor with the design curious, anywhere in the world. 

As someone with a box of revolving linen swatches under my desk (and no cushion on my window seat), the chance to spend 55 minutes with a designer like Leanne Ford or Brigette Romanek, who would otherwise be much too occupied to answer my “beige or cream” level questions, gave me a prayers-have-been-answered sort of feeling. With a deep love for her mix of high-low price points and sculptural shapes, I booked an hour with former Domino cover star and pro renovator Sarah Sherman Samuel, who has worked with the likes of Garance Doré and Mandy Moore. Here’s what I learned. 

Do Some Prep in Advance

Time flies when you’re having a fun conversation full of inspiration and ideas. For this reason an hour might not be enough to design a room from the ground up, but it is plenty for gleaning sound advice from experienced professionals so you feel comfortable taking the next steps on your own. 

To stay on track and get the most out of your minutes, do as much prep work as possible ahead of time. At the very least, jot down your specific questions and take snapshots of the spaces that you would like to discuss. My list was a mix of technical asks, from “What size rug works best in this room?” to subjective opinions such as “Is this chair amazing or hideous?” To truly maximize the meeting, create a PDF to share with images of your space, any swatches, furniture, or decor elements that you’re considering so you can get answers on the spot. 

Let Them Take a Good Look Around

Much like having an interior designer over for a walk-through, giving them a virtual tour of your home gives them the opportunity to get a sense of your style beyond your Zoom look of the day and might inspire new questions, better answers, and easy solutions. At the start of our session, I took Samuel through my living room, apologizing for a pair of quirky vintage chairs that need to be reupholstered and a bright yellow couch that’s not going anywhere simply because it’s too heavy to move. She had a quick fix for my space. 

“Why not just put one in front of the bookshelf in the corner by the door,” she suggested in that easy, effortless, this-is-why-she’s-an-expert way. The result? Perfection. Proving sometimes you just have to move your furniture around. 

Start Heading in the Right Direction

While a single session might not be enough time to make all of your design dreams come true, it will bring you closer to your goals. I had been set on the idea that I needed completely new chairs and exhausted the Internet looking for them, but Samuel suggested I try two mushroom-shaped stools (who knew they were a thing?) and a single statement chair instead. 

It freed me to think about the space in a whole new way. For the novice, you could walk away with the clarity of knowing exactly what needs to be done. For the aspiring expert, your shopping list could be completely sorted. Everyone will leave inspired to get moving on their projects, big or small. 

Our Winter Renovation issue is here! Subscribe now to step inside Leanne Ford’s latest project—her own historic Pennsylvania home. Plus discover our new rules of reno.