Designer Sarah Barnard discusses sustainable living trends for 2021

By Sara Edwards

Sarah Barnard is a Santa Monica-based interior designer who works with homeowners on sustainable, bespoke home creation.
Photo credit: Ace Misiunas

Many people will find themselves continuing to work from home in 2021 and homebuyers are going to look for places with this in mind. According to Sarah Barnard, a leading designer in sustainable decorating, homes that address global uncertainty will outperform in the homebuying industry.

The Santa Monica-based interior designer said there will be an expansion in 2021 of how one’s home becomes more supportive of mental and emotional wellness. One way is by including more spatial diversity within the home and increasing biophilic design, or a connection to the environment with natural elements such as houseplants and wall coverings.

“We’re at a point where a significant percentage of employees will work either full- or part-time from home permanently,” she said. “This means that homes will continue to evolve as multi-hyphenate spaces where we live, work, learn, exercise, recharge and more.”

Barnard started her design business in 2003. While growing up, she lived in historic homes throughout Los Angeles that were often in the process of being restored or remodeled. She also loved to observe the peacefulness of the outdoors by caring for plants and watching birds build their nests.

“My upbringing sparked an interest in all things aged and beautiful, as well as an inherent love for nature,” Barnard said.

These influences inspired Barnard to earn her Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) credential in 2007 and her WELL Accredited Professional credential in 2018. She has been featured in many media outlets for her sustainable home designs with a concept known as cosmopolitical design thinking or a philosophy that focuses on harnessing a connection between nature and home by cohabitation with the natural world.

“Manifestations of cosmopolitical design can range from homes built with the local climate in mind, for example, placing windows for optimal warmth or cooling of interior spaces to pollinator-friendly gardens teeming with plants indigenous to their region.” Barnard said. “Right now, we’re designing a home that not only supports the local bird and insect population, but also features wildlife feeding and breeding zones – right here in LA.”

Barnard said that the home office will transform from a general work-dedicated space to more of a personalized work area, depending on what kind of work is performed. Because life has started to revolve more around one’s home, there’s a need for stimulus and variety in the rooms and spaces.

People create homes that encourage pause, reflection and contemplation within a space’s design and working from home creates this danger of being “always on” so that people don’t get that relaxing break they need.

With this in mind, homebuyers are starting to look for homes where some kind of sensory wellness hub can be created. Barnard said that a sensory wellness hub is a place where people can go recharge, replenish and ground themselves. They can be different for everyone – some prefer a dark cave-like space that promotes rest through touch and temperature, while others prefer a brighter spa-like space that provides a sense of luxury and privacy.

“The common thread is an environment that promotes a feeling of wellness, calm and connection to one’s self,” Barnard said. “A lot of times people are told by designers that homes need consistency to work. That means a repetition of materials, colors and textures. But if one room reminds you of all the others, you do not get the incredible mental and emotional boost that comes from a new and unique experience within each space.”

Barnard said people create homes that encourage reflection and contemplation in the designs, and that integrating a moment to pause or breathe can help people regulate themselves. People can create this “pause moment” in their own homes by dedicating an area or room to only yoga or putting fresh flowers next to something in the home that is meaningful.

“Flowers – or simple foliage – not only connect us to nature and inspire pause with their beauty, but the act of replenishing them encourages us to pause, contemplate life’s cycle and take a moment to turn inward,” Barnard said.

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