Sarah Blank: The world of Kitchen Design
On this episode of The Lounge, Nick chats with Sarah Blank. Sarah shares her passion for being a kitchen and bath designer, how she started her own business, and what she loves about the industry.
Getting to know Sarah
Sarah is calling in from Stamford, CT, where she is working from home. Sarah enjoys Dwell for modern architecture and Period Home Magazine from a Classicist perspective – each at opposite ends of the spectrum. Sarah also enjoys a good handbag, red wine, and spending time at her Vermont vacation home.
How did Sarah get into design?
Sarah was working for her high school history teacher’s brother, Richard, for a summer. Richard was in charge of Bloomingdale’s windows. He told Sarah she needed to enroll at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She transferred and the rest is history!
After graduating, Sarah obtained a position working in kitchen design and has never left the industry. In 1994, she met Richard Sammons, a classical architect. Through him, she became involved with the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art. Sarah said that Classicism isn’t a style, but rather a language that you design by, rules and principles that are all about proportion.
Sarah loves what she does and believes in collaboration. Within her first year, Bunny Williams asked to do a job with her. Sarah loved working with her. Bunny is so good at what she does and is so down to earth. Bunny included Sarah in meetings with clients to see how she worked.
Sarah works mostly on kitchens, butler’s pantries, and master baths. Some homes have numerous kitchens with different sets of criteria. Kitchens need to be accessible not only for homeowners but also chefs and caterers. Kitchen designers have to blend all needs to be universal and usable.
What does the business look like today?
Today, Sarah’s company is small, which she likes. Kristin and Andrew are her designers, and Chip is her right-hand assistant. Her husband’s company does local construction and contracting and she works with a small group of architects and vendors she loves – mill shops, steel fabricators, etc. She mentions that you need to have vendors and people to make your designs happen.
Sarah’s husband also handles the business side and Andrea helps with social media.
How did Sarah start her own firm?
Sarah says she just knew she was ready to go on her own. She was with her previous company for 17 years and even gave them a years notice. Her first job on her own came from a referral. Sarah recalled how in the beginning, the team could focus on one project at a time, but now they are constantly juggling jobs to keep things in motion.
Sarah started her business in the basement, but then built an addition on her home. Soon, she built a studio, which was a learning experience with the classical language. The space was so beautiful and well designed that a plastic surgeon made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. She ended up selling the studio and now works out of a studio in Greenwich, CT.
Sarah says that execution is exciting for her and takes the most time. She can almost see into the future with her experience and being able to plan. Sarah recommends that you make sure you have contracts in order, understand the law, and do your job well. She has learned this from experience as well, from being involved in a lawsuit. Sarah loves what she does because of what she has been through.
Why kitchen and bath design?
Sarah loves classical architectural and says that you don’t need to be an architect to practice Classicism. If she could do it all over, Sarah wouldn’t change a thing. She uses her talent and ability to put together a home as a whole. What she does cannot be purchased online. Sarah tells us that homeowners want kitchen and bath designers that are detail oriented.
Sarah designs from the ceiling down. She doesn’t just put boxes on a wall, but rather integrates the kitchen into the architecture. It all has to flow. She focuses on the fundamentals of the room and brings a design point of view through her own experience. On the other hand, Sarah finds it tough when clients want things that won’t work or they don’t do what you recommend. She has had to walk away from customers knowing that it is the best decision for both parties in the long term.
Learn more on Sarah’s website feel free to reach out to her directly. She would love to help you in the industry and educate you on how to find success with kitchen and bath design
If you would like to hear more episodes, please visit us on iTunes or on our website at TheChaiseLoungePodcast.com. Lastly, find The Chaise Lounge on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter or post a review on iTunes, you may even hear your review read live on our next podcast. With that said keep dreaming big, and keep designing a great design business. See ya!