Designers We Love | Sarah Hayes


Sarah Hayes is truly a jack of all traits. She is a classically-trained and fully licensed architect with an eye for creating beautiful and liveable spaces. She began her career in architecture after graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a Bachelor of Architecture and an emphasis in furniture design. So, its no surprise that today it is her interests in classical architecture, nature, fabrics and textures that influence her design work. Sarah currently lives in Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and 4 kids where she practices residential and interior design. She sat down with us to talk everything from her business, latest project endeavors, design inspiration and even shared some of her guilty pleasures. 


1. How did you get started in interior design or when did you know this was what you wanted to do for a living?

I'm actually a classically-trained and fully licensed Architect! I studied furniture design, as well, and have designed and built furniture pieces. And of course I love all things patterned and textured.

But to answer your question, I come from a family of creatives. My father and brother are both hobbyist woodworkers with furniture & drift boat building among their talents, and my mother is a wonder at the sewing machine. My sister is a musician and photographer in Portland, Oregon ... I've got several Aunts who are artists... an Uncle who is an Architect... the list goes on. It's an eclectic background that influences me. I am constantly inspired by the memory of my grandparents, who worked together in their backyard studio. She, painting, and he, matting and building frames for her art. To me, design is not just a profession, it's history being woven and passed along. I considered other careers early on but when I stepped into my first Architecture class at Notre Dame I knew I was in the right place.

2. What inspires you or where do you seek inspiration?

I never know where I will be inspired. I tend to marinate on a design problem for a while before I start to tackle it. My children will attest that I will drive the long way home as I weave through neighborhoods to look at precedents for massing, trim details, color schemes... whatever I am focused on at the moment. I'm always inspired by classical architecture, nature, fabrics, and texture, too. One of my favorite indulgences is to park down at the National Mall and jog along the monuments, popping in and out of the galleries. There is something really liberating about it and I always come away ready to tackle a new project.

3. What's been your favorite project to date? What made it so special?

I'm actually working on my favorite project to date right now! We are building a summer cottage in Annapolis, and I was lucky enough to draw up the plans and implement my design. My husband has been an awesome 'client'! He has some great ideas. We focused on creating a very open space, with a large screened porch that we will literally live on all summer long. We didn't even include a dining table indoors, as we intend to eat every meal al fresco!



4. What would you say is the most common decorating mistake that you see clients make?

Oh! That's tough! Mistakes are going to happen in decorating and design if you are taking risks - and the only way to surprise yourself is to take a risk. Things are not always going to turn out like you had envisioned. However, there are some "safe" places to take chances. Do it in a small space with big impact, like the powder room! Go for that fun wallpaper! Ephemeral items such as seasonal accessories & pillows are also a perfect place to take a risk, as you can change them with your mood. You'll learn so much about your personal design aesthetic along the way.

5. What is a trend you are loving right now?

Well, given that we are building our Annapolis cottage, I have been sketching lots of shiplap and rustic/ cottage details, which converge naturally. And I'll argue that shiplap, when used in the correct context, is anything but trendy. It's timeless. Trim and paneling such as shiplap can absolutely transform a space.


6. Describe your style using 3 words?

Livable, thoughtful, fresh.

7. We saw that you were originally from the West Coast. How long did you live there and how has living there and in Maryland influenced your design aesthetic?

Yes, I was born in California, and we moved when my parents purchased a small lakeside resort in the mountains of Oregon. I was lucky enough to live in three amazingly unique places while I was in Oregon - Crescent Lake, Bend and Eugene. I think this contributes to my ability to adapt/ consider different design styles and has made me somewhat eclectic. Spending a year in Rome while in studying Architecture, and then moving to Washington, DC and practicing at Hartman-Cox and ZNA architects really anchored my natural affinity for symmetry and classical proportions.  

8. You are married with four kids. How has this changed your aesthetic or design for your own home? What design advice do you give to clients with young children?

I am a person who doesn't love clutter or chaos, and I pretty much fluff our living room pillows daily! The family knows that there are certain rooms that I prefer to remain tidy, but we have also given them their own space to play, create, and be kids. Using family-friendly fabrics, carpets that are comfortable to scoot around on, and leaving lots of wood floors for now (less carpet to clean) are definitely some things that I have implemented along the way.  I suppose having children has also made me more eager to use fun and whimsical fabrics & objects. They will only be small for a blink - I love surrounding them with patterns and fun colors. As for a bit of advice... I had my sofa. chairs, and carpet all treated for stain resistance, and I have a wonderful technician who I call for the inevitable spills and accidents. It's totally worth it!

Rapid Fire Questions:

1. Favorite room to design in a home and why?

It's a tie! Kitchens and powder rooms.

Kitchens are the hub of the modern home, and here there is opportunity to use so many great natural materials/ marble/ tiles/ metals etc...

Powder rooms are instant punch! I love that someone can pack tons of personality into the smallest room in the house.

2. Favorite way to spend a Saturday?

Trail-running with my dog, paddle boarding with my husband and boating with the kids makes for an ideal summertime Saturday.

3. Dream design job?

Well, I think our current cottage new build has to be it for now!

4. Fill in the blank. People don't know that I can ___.

Haha! Will you believe me if I tell you I can drive a forklift or a front loader?! I can also hop a fence in two seconds flat.

5. Favorite design set from a movie?

I love the interiors that James Radin created in Something's Gotta Give, and the living room was actually one of the inspirations for my own living room space. I think he created a timelessly classic and comfortable space.  

6. Favorite way to add impact to a room?

In interior spaces, I find that often one amazing fabric or wallpaper will lead my decisions. But I prefer to keep a neutral backdrop, with pops of color from pillows, draperies, etc.

7. Favorite color to use in a design?

Blue! Always blue!


8. Whose brain would you like to pick over coffee (past or present)

I think I'd go back in time, sip a cappuccino and simply watch Michelangelo in action in Rome or Florence.

9. Country you would like to visit?

I'd love to go back to Italy with my family. But bucket list is to get to Australia/ New Zealand someday.

10. What album or artist is currently on repeat?

I'm embarrassingly eclectic when it comes to music. Today it's been Coldplay, U2, Chris Stapleton and the Pickin' on Series Bluegrass Pandora station! Later the kids and I will probably play some Bruno Mars in the kitchen while I make dinner.

11. Guilty pleasure?

Chai Lattes from Ceremony coffee. And of course a glass of Cabernet to end the day.  

12. Favorite motto or mantra?

I don't know that I have a motto, but I just try to remember each day how lucky & blessed we are, and I want to raise children who aware of that, and of the hard work it takes to get there.

13. Go to place when you are in a slump?

For a run. Anywhere, but preferably on a trail in the woods.

14. What's something you've always wanted to learn?

I can paint with watercolor and sketch with colored pencils, but I would love to branch out and start painting with acrylics or oil.

15. Favorite coffee table book?

Anything with impressionist art.

Business Questions:

1. Starting any business can be tough. What advice would you give to someone starting a design business?

Have confidence in yourself and your design decisions!

2. What's the best part about owning your own business?

Definitely that I can make time for my family and the things that bring me joy daily. I can set my own schedule and only take on as many projects as I can handle at that time.  

3. What's the hardest part about owning your own business?

Having confidence in my design decisions! I am lucky to have several colleagues/ architecture classmates that I can call upon when I am stumped or doubting a decision I am about to make.

4. What's the biggest lesson you've learned so far from having your own design business?

Well, my brain prefers to think about spaces, places, and patterns... not billing! I am working on getting more organized with the financial side of having a design business.

5. Social media is a beast in today's world. How do you manage social media? Any tips that you have found helpful?

I have cut back on Facebook (I don't have the app on my phone so I occasionally check in on my laptop) and I'm not even on twitter but I do love Instagram for sharing events with family and friends. And I have recently discovered how useful Instagram can be as a marketing tool.  

6. Do you have a favorite social media platform? Why that one?

See above!

7. Have you found a system that works well for you in terms of how you charge?

I'm still working that out. Architectural projects are a bit of different animal than interiors. For now I am charging hourly for interiors and smaller architectural projects.

8. What's something you find yourself spending too much time on?

Spinning my wheels looking at alternative after alternative when I have already made a design decision. Again, it comes back to having confidence to just go with it!


9. Being a mom of 4 kids, do you have any tips you can share about how to achieve a great work/life balance?

Well, I went from working full-time at a big firm to working part-time at a boutique firm to not working for a number of years. I chose to put my career on the back burner while my kids were very small. I really wanted to be a part of each day for them. I am recently carving out more time for work and getting my own business going, which my kids are really excited about. They hover over my shoulder and ask what I'm working on when they get home from school! I think I'm still trying to work out the balance, myself. But the key for me, so far, has been to only take on what I can handle and makes me happy.

10. What's your best advice for setting boundaries with your clients?

I'm personally working on being up front about how I will be billing, etc before I start on a new project. I am not good at asking people for money. I think that setting expectations early makes everyone happier during the process.


To see more of Sarah's designs view her Scout & Nimble profile here

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