Coffee With: Sarah Sandeman of Gioia Interiors

Sarah Sandeman of Gioia Interiors in kitchen

Q&A With Sarah Sandeman

Casaza: How did you get your start?
Sarah Sandeman:
Surprisingly, I didn’t start out with a passion for interior design. No one in my family ever watched design shows or had the additional funds to invest in our home. When I was approached with the daunting question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I knew it had to involve helping people and using my creative abilities. With a little bit of research, I stumbled upon the job description of an interior designer and the rest was history! I jumped right into design school and then straight to my first job as a junior designer.

At the back of my mind I always wanted to be a mother, so running my own business from home was the ultimate goal! After spending a handful of years hustling in the industry, I stepped out on my own and started riding the best roller coaster ride of my life! I get to serve people every day while creating beautiful spaces. #dreamlife

C: How would you describe your style?
I haven’t figured out one word to summarize my style but if you step into my home, you’ll experience texture, layers, natural colours, warmth, crisp whites, contrasting woods with metals, and natural light! These are all key ingredients I incorporate into my interiors, no matter the style of my clients. This is the perfect formula for creating interiors that have depth, personality, and interest.

C: Where do you get new ideas and inspiration?
My brain is always absorbing my surroundings. You can’t take me anywhere without hearing my thoughts on the lighting selections or how they installed the tile. I make all of these mental notes from my surrounding of what I like and don’t like and learn to apply them to my work. I am also drawn to natural elements so something like a bouquet of flowers can easily get me excited, especially if it involves creamy whites and sage greens.

C: Favourite room in the house?
The easy answer would be the kitchen. I have a love of cookbooks and discovering new flavours and recipes, so I have a great appreciation for functional but inspiring kitchen design to help make cooking that much easier! With further thought, the dining room holds a place in my heart. I absolutely love gathering around a table with loved ones, getting lost in good conversation and great food! Dining rooms have so much potential in regard to aesthetic design as there isn’t a huge need for function in this space. Install a beautiful chandelier, some wall moulding, and gorgeous wallpaper and you’ve created the perfect backdrop for many beautiful gatherings.

C: Design rule you don’t subscribe to?
I’m not one to follow rules! During design school, I developed a “gut feeling” which lets me know if I am heading in the right direction with a design or not. Call me crazy but I won’t stop looking at tile or working on a kitchen layout until I get this feeling… And it has yet to fail me! I do believe in sticking to the design principle and elements of balance, scale, and contrast but I like to push the creative boundaries whenever a client lets me.

C: Recent project that inspired you?
It all comes down to the clients! Currently, I am working with a client who is putting their full trust in my abilities and letting me take the lead on the design. When a client is open and trusting then I am determined to not disappoint. With this particular project, I get to incorporate wallpaper, patterned tile, ceiling details, black cabinetry, and wall molding —a designer’s dream! It will be 2 storeys of pure creativity.

Bedroom and living room designed by Sarah Sandeman of Gioia Interiors
Design by Gioia Interiors

C: Favourite texture/pattern/colour?
I thought you’d never ask! Instead of using pattern, which I am secretly afraid of if it’s not a classic pinstripe, I rely on layering textures to create interest. Currently, I am in love with the texture of rattan furniture. It is so subtle which makes the perfect accent without overwhelming a space, it contrasts upholstered pieces so well, and it adds a warm natural element. You cannot go wrong.

If you asked anyone who knows me what my favourite colour is, they’d all say white! It is my favourite colour to incorporate into a space to provide some visual relief.

C: What is good design to you?
Good design is mixing low- and high-end elements to create a space that doesn’t break the bank. I’m not a high-end designer, nor am I a low-end designer. I believe in investing in a few key pieces, such as a sofa or dining table, and then pairing them with budget friendly options like thrifted dining chairs! This creates a very practical space you can raise a family in, host a large group of loved ones, or curl up with a good bowl of mac and cheese without fearing messes and stains.

C: Pack your bag! You’re moving into a famous home. Who’s is it?
Hands down, Whitney Port. Her renovated ranch house in California is to die for. If you haven’t seen it yet, you are missing out! Whitney’s house is far from trendy and harnesses all of the key ingredients I love. My favourite room in her house would be the kitchen due to the use of natural stone, light woods, and making terra cotta tile work! The piece de resistance is having access to the outdoors from every room.

Whitney Port's dining room and kitchen
Whitney Port’s home | Courtesy of Julie Soefer for AD

C: What’s your rule when entertaining?
If time allows, always serve homecooked food! It doesn’t have to be anything fancy but there’s nothing better than serving something you are proud of to those you love. On top of that, always have candles lit and fresh florals placed throughout the entertaining space.

C: Best advice for DIYers?
Research and a positive (and sometimes forgiving) mindset will help with every DIY project. Start with a vision but make sure you spend the time researching the steps and tools you will need to be successful. My husband and I often dream about DIY projects around our house and have attempted multiple projects with little success, due to a lack of planning. We now ask ourselves if it’s worth hiring someone for the sake of our time or if it’s something we’d be willing to research and learn how to do.

C: Best advice for those hiring a pro?
Interview multiple pros and go with the one who’s personality complements yours, even if they aren’t the cheapest. This also means finding someone who is open to hearing your ideas and approaches the project with a collaborative mindset. Renovations can be a very intimate experience that can last for months, so entering into a renovation as a strong team sets you up for success and a positive experience. It’s worth every extra penny!

C: What is one design trend you are most excited about this season?
Handmade or character pieces, especially tile! I am excited that more people are finding the value in sourcing items with a story or that has been made by hand. You’ll see a lot of designers incorporating sentimental pieces, antique furniture, or handmade tiles into their interiors. Want a subway tile for the bathroom? Go for one that has a handmade look with organic edges. Want to break up a matching dining furniture set? Head to your local antique store and find two head chairs with character. Not only do these pieces add interest but they provide a custom one-of-a-kind approach to design and stories to tell your guests.

C: How do you take your coffee?
In bed, made by my husband with a splash of half-and-half. Extra brownie points if the coffee is from Costa Rica!

Home office and bathroom designed by Sarah Sandeman of Gioia Interiors
Design by Gioia Interiors