Podcast, Ep. 162: designer Sara Barney

Sara Barney of Bandd Design in Austin, Texas

This week we were pleased to speak with Sara Barney—founder and principal designer of the Austin-based firm BANDD DESIGN.  Sara is an Austin native who spent the first 10 years of her career in California in the sports and entertainment industries.  Now back on her home turf, she’s taking the design world by storm.  Sara was named one of Austin Monthly‘s Women to Watch, and is a member of the American Society of Interior Designers and the Female Founder Collective.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode:

  • Much of Sara’s style draws from her varied professional background and from living in California.
  • Sara decided shortly after having her 2 daughters that she wanted to switch careers and try her hand at design.  She took a 1 year online program and her business was booming before she even finished.
  • We talk about Sara’s approach to styling shelves and her love/hate relationship with floating shelves.
  • Solids work well for large elements and Sara ties in textures, layers and patterns with smaller pieces.
  • Sara loves taking risks with wallpaper and shares some of her favorite sources.
  • The all-white kitchen is a big trend, but Sara prefers playing with colors in the kitchen.
  • Sara works a lot with young families and gives tips on where she recommends investing in more sturdy, stain-resistant pieces.
  • 3D printed houses are here; and Sara explains how it works and how she got to design one.
  • What are two of the things everyone is asking Sara for?  (matte black fixtures and modern farmhouse)
  • With people spending more time at home due to COVID, Sara talks about how design requests have been influenced.
  • Sara talks about best home office solutions and how to make the space not look so “corporate”.
  • We talk about Sara’s love of and use of deep teal and integrating functional items to fit within the design.
Living room in Austin, Texas designed by Sara Barney and Bandd Design

Photo: Molly Culver

Decorating Dilemma

Hello Ladies,

I am a huge fan of your podcast! My 1.5 year old son and I listen to it all the time, especially while gardening in the backyard.

I have a design dilemma I’d love your help with. My small family (husband, son and self) just moved into our first and hopefully “forever” home in a small historic town outside of Princeton, NJ. The home was built in 1973 but looks and feels much older than that because the builder and original owner had the foresight to utilize a lot of beautiful historical architectural details .

Our family room (pictured in the attached document) has a lot of wonderful things going for it- white french doors, dark wooden beams, a wood burning fireplace and a view of our tree-filled backyard. But we do not like the very 1973-feeling asymmetrical brick surrounding the fireplace and don’t know how to fix it.

Ultimately, we want this room to be where we spend the vast majority of our time. This is where we will watch TV (ideally mounted above the fireplace), lounge on a couch and comfy chairs, kick our feet up on a coffee table/ leather ottoman, enjoy a glass of wine in front of a crackling fire and play with our son and all of his many toys. Our style is very East Coast traditional (we love Bunny Williams and John Rosselli’s Connecticut home, for example.)

What do you recommend we do with the fireplace and how do we decorate around it? Should we paint all the brick white, lower the mantle and extend the white cupboard to the left so the amount of brick surrounding the fireplace is equidistant on both sides? Should we remove the brick (or cover with sheetrock) and, in its place, install an antique wooden, limestone or marble fireplace from the 1800s ? And then, once we figure out the fireplace, how do we decorate around it to achieve our desired effect? There’s a red and blue persian rug that belongs to my family that I’d love to use in the design, but that’s all we have.

Many thanks for all of your help. Your podcasts truly bring me such joy.


Sara says,I don’t mind the asymmetry, but if you really wanted to break up the brick wall fireplace you could do a wood cutout over the brick.  To me, the mantle is the biggest visual issue, so I recommend taking it down altogether.  Then you could plaster the whole wall in a concrete grey and add some sconces to the wall.  I would also add two chairs so you can cozy up!”

So this may not be in your style wheelhouse, but you could try painting the brick and the mantle a dark color, similar to the color of the hearth, so it camouflages the asymmetry.  It could be an inexpensive weekend project.  Styling on the mantle with sculptures and art can also pull the focus away; don’t be afraid to go nontraditional and asymmetrical with styling.  If you take the mantle off, you can hang your Christmas stockings on a bookshelf and get some holiday accents from Ballard!  Also, check out some of Bunny Williams’ books to see how she works around rooms that are off-centered and “don’t make sense”.  There’s plenty of room for a table and storage so you can enjoy family activities while you cozy up to the fire.  We can’t wait to see what you do…please send us some after photos!

Mentioned In This Episode:

Please send in your questions so we can answer them on our next episode! And of course, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes so you never miss an episode. You can always check back here to see new episodes, but if you subscribe, it’ll automatically download to your phone.

Happy Decorating!

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Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.


  1. Reply


    October 17, 2020

    I love the podcast, but I’m not loving your new intro—it’s very “my pillow dot com” cheesy. I’m sorry, but I prefer your voices to begin the podcast.

    • Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      October 19, 2020

      Oh no, Carrie! We will take another listen. We thought it was very Masterpiece Theater! We appreciate your feedback though and will take another listen 🙂