Step into the world of interior designer Sari A. Will of Uptown Interiors. Based in Kingston NY and working throughout the Hudson Valley, Sari creates interior design from upholstery and color consulting, to custom furniture design, home styling, exquisite kitchen and bath design to personal transformational design and exterior curb appeal. With the belief that design is about ones personal style...Sari's mission is to bring the best of her client's style to life.
Lisa Halter: Tell us how you got started with interior design and what a typical day looks like.
Sari: I started interior design when I was about 7 and began asking my mother if I could rearrange my room, paint it a different color, change the color and fabric of my bedspread, and put different art on the walls. The compulsion to do this is still with me. I’m lucky that I have no typical days! My best days are when I get to meet with a client and talk about what they’re looking for in a designer. I used to teach design (and color theory), so I am pretty good at asking questions that will help a client describe what, for many, is difficult to describe—design esthetics, sentiments design goals. My favorite clients are both those with a strong design sense and ones who claim to have no design sense at all. Both types of clients allow me to draw upon my teaching background to get at what a client wants in design.
Lisa Halter: How did you get started and what was your very first project?
Sari: In my early 30’s I started designing window displays for an upscale women’s apparel and gift store in California, just north of San Francisco. One of my window designs won a top honors award by the Mill Valley Film Festival for a design where I created dresses out of rolls of film with lights underneath the film. Using unconventional materials in unconventional applications is just one of the ways interior design can become art. My first interior design job was for my boss at the apparel store. He had just moved into a new condo after his divorce and had no furnishings at all. He gave me a $50 budget and told me to do the best I could with that to get him started. I went to a lumber yard, got two long boards, then went to a thrift store and bought a couple of pieces of inexpensive art, including a piece of Marimekko fabric that had been stretched onto a 40”x 60” frame; red cotton placemats; a set of 4 1960’s gold rimmed bowl glasses; a set of 4 gold rimmed plate; silverware; two pillows and two tall, white, cylindrical plastic waste bins. I used the waste bins and the longer wood board to create a bench. Then I got two large rocks and used them under the shorter board to make a coffee table. The placemats I used for pops of color to coordinate with the art and provide some warmth and texture. When he came home I had a cocktails and take-out food waiting for him. We sat and ate and drank, and talked about a budget to fully design his condo.
Lisa Halter: What inspires you and how do you go about designing a house?
Sari: I’m inspired by almost everything. One of the most interesting parts of my work is that I can key off of anything—a view, a line, a favorite piece of furniture...designing can be like a puzzle where one element calls for a counterpoint which leads naturally to the next element and eventually it all falls into place. I often find that using a favorite piece of art is a great way to drive other design elements. I had a client who loved a painting her daughter had created. That painting had very bold colors and graphic shapes, so we used a few of the colors of the painting as accent colors on square, rectangular and round pillows, and in a wide stripe in her draperies. Her new living room and her beloved painting reflected each other, making each more alive.
Lisa Halter: When designing a room, what is the most important factor for you?
Sari: Well, the use or uses of the room are fundamental, but I’m mindful of how to connect spaces to each other and to the views outside, and how and where to create varying levels of privacy.
Lisa Halter: Where does an interior designer fit into the process for building or renovating a house?
Sari: Good designers make optimal use of the space to serve various functions. Great interior designers use design principles like rhythm and contrast and proportion and elements like form, line, color and texture to create an environment that feels authentic and that honors the space and the people (and animals) using it. For me, interior design is an opportunity to create 4 dimensional art: the 4th dimension is how the designed spaces make you feel—when the spaces I’ve designed with clients make them feel at “home” or relaxed or serene, or whatever sentiment we worked to achieve, then I’ve done my job well.
Lisa Halter: What are your favorite design magazines or websites for inspiration?
Sari: Easy: Houzz.com, Pinterest, Etsy.com, Interior Design, Veranda, Landscape Architecture, Metropolis, Upstate House, This Old House, Dwell...I really could go on and on.
Lisa Halter: What are this year’s trends and which do you dislike or favor most?
Sari: I’ve been seeing a lot of Ikat fabrics...when it’s subtle, I think it can be a great texture. If it’s too bold, I think it will see its day come and go.
Grey interiors—grey is a very sophisticated “color” but I’ve seen too much of it. I’m happy when I see that people are willing to use actual color to achieve a sophisticated look.
Floral upholstery and wall coverings -I’m dubious of anything as semi- permanent as upholstered pieces and walls that have a very specific and loud motif. I find it limiting and overbearing.
Lisa Halter: What is the most memorable career advice someone gave you?
Sari: My first interior design instructor, on our very first day of class, made an unequivocal statement that ANY design look can be achieved with just about ANY budget. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t remember that...it allows me to work with clients who might not otherwise think they can afford a designer.
Lisa Halter: What would be your dream job?
Sari: Every job I do is a dream job. I love what I do and I’m grateful for every opportunity to do it.
Lisa Halter: What is the most frustrating aspect of your job as a designer? And the most rewarding one?
Sari: The most frustrating thing I find all too often is that no matter how diligent I may be in specifying a finish or color or size, the product may arrive late and/or inconsistent with the order I placed. One of the most important aspects of working with any client is that they have confidence in you as their designer. When mistakes are made, it can impact that confidence. The most rewarding part of my job is the relationships that I build with my clients and my vendors. Life is too short not to have good relationships.
Lisa Halter: What do you love most about living and working in The Hudson Valley?
Sari: For one thing, there’s SO MUCH to LOVE! The soft rolling Catskills are a soothing contrast to the rugged mountains of the west coast where I lived for 23 years. Having four distinct and beautiful seasons is a constant reminder that we’re revolving in circles of time. The history here is palpable. The richness of the architecture never ceases to inspire me. That said, I think what I love the most are the people here—there’s so much creativity and visioning and people making their dreams come true—I find it magical.
Lisa Halter: What are your favorite places to shop for special “finds”?
Sari: I just bought a beautiful blanket at Outdated Café. Milne Antiques is a wonderful place to shop; Rebekah has great taste and is a great furniture designer. Zaborski’s is like a candy store for me.
Lisa Halter: It’s 5:00 on a Friday - where will we find you?
Sari: ...at my studio, squeezing in the last vendor call of the week. Then I’ll probably spend the next few hours doing actual designing.
Thank you Sari!
More About Sari. A Will
Sari A. Will, ASID is the principal Interior Designer of Uptown Interiors with a CIDA accredited BFA in Interior Architecture and Design from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Upon graduating in 2009, Sari began teaching Color and Design, which included teaching Color Theory and Design Principles and Elements, to applied arts majors at the Academy of Art University. Sari A. Will is also the interior designer for Ashokan Architecture and Planning, PLLC; you can see more of her work at Houzz.com and AshokanArchitecture.com.
Halter Associates Realty