Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mid Point Recap: Sarah 101

The new TV series, Sarah 101, from Sarah Richardson and side-kick Tommy Smythe has come to its midpoint, with 6 more transformations to anticipiate, I thought it's about time to recap some of the highlights and great tips I've learnt so far. 

Here is an introductory clip from Sarah herself:

Episode 1: Vibrant Living Room

Love how the two small rooms are tied together with furnishings, fabrics, and drapes.  The furniture placement allows for maximum seating and ideal for entertaining!

Tip 1Money Saver

Choose a mid-toned colour for your floors for a timeless look. Anything too dark or too light will look dated at some point.  Tight on budget but want a wow factor?  Use expensive mosaics as accent with tiles! 

Tip 2: Bold Fabric in Small Doses

Put a bold fabric on a smaller piece of furniture. That graphic floral on the large sofa would have overwhelmed the space.  Also, think about piping: the reupholstered sofa is a lot more interesting with the contrasting piping.

Tip 3Daybed

daybed is a great for helping define the living room area.  It doesn't block sightlines and offers extra seating.  Also try painting the inside of your door to co-ordinate with your decor.  Who says the door = charcoal grey?

Episode 2: Sophisto-Nursery

Ingenious ideas of applying the wallpaper on the ceiling, totally created the instant starry sky and using men's clothing fabrics for baby's beding.

Tip 1: Storage, Comfort, and More Storage

Baby comes with lots of stuff (toys, diapers, towels, clothes) and they all need to be neatly tucked away. This storage unit from Ikea not only provides the needed storage, it also doubles as a bench! And bye bye gliders and hello retro hip! This chair offers Mom the perfect head and arm rests for those late nights and it also swivels!

Tip 2: Buy Once

Buying well-made vintage pieces to avoid paying premium on "baby" furniture and create instant artwork simply by framing any objects you desire.  

In this case, the 2nd hand dresser and change table fit the bill.  A trip to the sprayer and they are good as new!  If it's true that baby only sees black and white, then these animal cards from Indigo may just be the doctor's order.  They are fun, playful, and cost next to nothing!    

Episode 3:  Big Box Kitchen

One of Sarah's strong points without a doubt is her ability to turn awkward layouts into functional, efficient spaces.  In this case, we started with a totally disfunctional kitchen. 

Tip 1: Revamp the Layout 

     Before:                                                                After:

Tip 2: Custom Look at Big Box Price

Love how Sarah once again did her magic to turn basic Ikea cabinetry into something more high-end with fraction of the cost.  The trick is to find the right balance between open displays and close storage, and to customize basic white doors with your color.  Who doesn't love a 3' x 5' peninsula in the kitchen: totally functional and boosted some serious preparation space!

Tip 3: Unite the Rooms

Tie a colour in two adjoining rooms by using accent pillows and paints. Further unite the spaces with the same flooring material. 

In this case, the use of green and silver is carried into the family lounge.  Love how Sarah used affordable furnishing from Ikea here again and even created an office space with storage!    

Episode 4: Industrial Soul Bedroom

May not be my personal favourite of this series but I praise that Sarah had gone outside of her usual color palette and gave the homeowner an eclectic space mixed with traditional and industrial pieces.

Tip 1: Warm-up the Loft
Window treatment is not only practical but also adds warm to a cold space (i.e. raw loft with concrete floor and painted brick walls). When applying window treatment in a room, drapes should all be in the same fabric.  Don't like drapery panels all the way? Change up the application! In this case, Sarah mixed roman blinds and drapery panels.

Use a rug to add human scale to a large space.  Also run the rug perpendicular to your bed, so you will always have comfort under foot when getting out of bed in those cold mornings in the Winter.

Tip 2: Play-up the Patterns

Who says manly spaces and bold floral fabrics can't co-exist? Sarah showed us how by picking a bold dragon fabric and only used it as the head and foot boards and a pillow.  This fabric is tempered by the masculine fabrics on the bedings and the plaid pillows.

When using a bold fabric, consider adding a contrasting piping to emphasize the shape of the furniture and support the "heaviness" of the fabric.

Episode 5: Jewel-like Dining

This room started with no visual interest or architectual details.  With some helps from trims, wallpaper, and fun fabrics, this dining room will sure take you and your guests through the evening.

Tip 1: Keep the Pattern

Repeat your motifs to create a cohesive look. In this case, Sarah repeated a Greek key motif on the painted floor treatment, mirror, chair fabric, the step profile of the crown molding on the wall panelling and chair rail, and even the door.

Tip 2: Instant History

Wants to add instant charm and a sense of history to your space?  Shop vintage!  Here the home owner invested some good money into the dining table and the side board.  These are investment pieces and if shopped good, they may even increase in value over time!

Tip 3: Keep it Simple

I've always had trouble dressing the sideboard in my dining room: it either has too much going on or too bare.  Here is how Sarah dresses hers: simple silverware for impromptu tea party and some fresh flowers on the side.  The trick is to use a tray to hold the grouping together.

Episode 6: Boho Chic Girls' Rooms

I don't have any kids of my own at this point, so these rooms are not as appealling to me as some of other Sarah's creations.  However, I quite enjoy how Sarah repurposed/modified some of the pieces creatively in this episode.

Tip 1: No More Bunk Beds

Bunk bed was an invention in the 50s (lack of space due to the baby boom?).  We're now in the 21st century and Sarah has ingeniusly unevolutionalized the creation of bunk beds and showed us how to sleep two little girls (or boys) comfortably in 1 space:

Put two single beds end to end and tie them together with similar finishes, bed skirts, and decorative pillows!

Tip 2:  Storage and Display

All kids come with stuff and not all are pretty enough to display.  Bedroom tables with drawers and open shelves above the beds are the perfect solutions to acheive an uncluttered and functional space.

Tip 3: Think Outside the Box

Look beyond what the stores sell you.  A tea towel can live large as toy storage and a vintage light fixture may just need some TLCs before becoming the showstopper! 

The chain on the light is too long? Cut it down, or eliminate it, and have the fixture rewired to attach directly to the ceiling.

Tip 4:  Shop Smart

Buy vintage furniture, since they are often well-made and are less expensive than new quality pieces.  Update your treasures with new handles / knobs or a trip to the sprayer, and enjoy them for many years to come.

Don't be afraid of fabrics.  So long you have a well balanced mix of solids and patterns, you can have 12 to 15 fabrics in a room and not spinning your head.

Episode 7: Comtemporary Living

This is hands down my favourite room of this season so far for obvious reasons.  I love mid-century modern pieces and love to mix them with some traditional elements and new contemporary pieces, then pair them all with interesting fabrics and artworks.  And who's kidding who, I love the yellow and grey combo!

Tip 1: 2nd Chance

I know this is the repeating tips but here is the twist: use contemporary fabrics on vintage pieces!  I will do that when my vintage Womb Chair is ready for a facelift. 

Tip 2: Live a Little

Don't shy away from wallpaper and pairing pieces from different era. 

Wallpapers are now easy to apply and remove.  It's an easy fix if you have a change of heart a few years down the road. 

Pieces from different era can live happily ever after if they share a similar design aesthetics.  Here the pieces are both cleanlined with the intention to let the materials to shine.

Tip 3: Stitch Them Up

How many times have we fell in love with a rug only that's not the right size for our rooms?  How about getting two of them and have them stitched together for the room!!  A lot cheaper than custom and just look at this supersized safari rug!

Tip 4: Max It Out

This dining room is only 8'5" wide and how does Sarah ensure a comfortable dining experience? A L-shaped banquette, a round table, and a few occasional chairs were called into order.  You may not be able to dine 8 in this tiny room but certainly can seat 8 for some cakes and teas.

An elaborated chandelier would have been too much for this space.  How to create drama and cascade light (and shadows on the walls)?  An absolutely gorgeous Egyptian brass pendant!  I loved it at IDS 2011 and you can get it from snob.

That's it for this round of recap on Sarah 101.  Join me in a few weeks for 6 more exciting episodes!


  1. What a great recap. Thank you! Unfortunately I'm not able to watch Sarah 101 because I'm in the U.S., but your insight into the first episodes tides me over.

  2. I'm happy she identified they are going with more vintage furniture this year/season. This is what both the interior design world and the antique/vintage dealer world need to see - a mutually beneficial socio-economic meeting of the minds. Not thrilled by the reupholstery that strays from vintage roots and authenticity, however.

  3. Hey Tim,

    Great recap!! I look forward to watching Sarah and Tommy every Tuesday - it's one of my weekly highlights. We MUST get together for coffee soon, but I've no idea how to contact you other than through your blog. You can send me an email directly through the Email Me link on my blog. Let's get together!!