As interior designers, we operate from an awareness that because we create the built spaces that our clients inhabit, we exercise tremendous influence on their lived experiences and the ability to make a tangible difference in our clients’ mental, physical, and emotional health. (1) While it is easy to accept this as a given in more passive terms, there is an increasing necessity around the active, rather than incidental, cultivation of safe and healing built spaces. For us, this means exploring how we can bring an inclusive and trauma-informed approach to interior design that directly addresses this existing and growing need.

A grey sofa with teal pillows sitting on a grey rug.
A grey sofa with teal pillows sitting on a grey rug.

Between 1995 and 1997 Kaiser Permanente conducted a study looking at the health effects resulting from the trauma of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). (2) The parameters around this study were narrow, focusing primarily on abuse, neglect, and domestic strife, without including factors such as trauma due to racism, deportation, illness, or war. The study’s participants were also far from a broadly representative group, with nearly 75% being white. Even within these very limited boundaries, the findings were stark — approximately 66% of the study’s participants reported ACEs in their personal histories.


A bright yellow and orange bird taking a bird bath on a concrete fountain surrounded by green foliage.
A bright yellow and orange bird taking a bird bath on a concrete fountain surrounded by green foliage.
Western Tanager

There are many proven health benefits to being in nature daily. For example, walking in the woods, also known as the Japanese custom “forest bathing,” or “shinrin-yoku,” lowers stress levels and boosts overall well-being.


A kitchen countertop displaying two potted flowering plants and one potted indoor tree-like plant. There is a wooden tray with citrus and a pitcher of lemonade. There are windows letting in sunlight.
A kitchen countertop displaying two potted flowering plants and one potted indoor tree-like plant. There is a wooden tray with citrus and a pitcher of lemonade. There are windows letting in sunlight.

As we collectively navigate this new way of living, I am thinking of you and your family and wishing wellness and security. With so many unknowns, I am grateful for the sureness of a community that uplifts with compassion, resilience, and ingenuity, and offers inspiration to forge forward.

During a time when our world feels new and uncertain, our studio is drawing on the core foundational beliefs and principles behind our approach to design. We create spaces that support health, emotional security, and wellness, that is the bedrock of our work. These ideals go beyond our creative process and into…


Photo of a large white porcelain bathtub with a side table displaying a potted green leaf, stacked folded hand towels, and a soap dispenser. To the left of the bathtub is a large window with pull-down bamboo blinds, and featured in the background is Kale Tree’s Abutilon wallpaper in Midnight Forest. Wallpaper has a dark green background with large pastel pink Abutilon flowers with cool grey leaves.
Photo of a large white porcelain bathtub with a side table displaying a potted green leaf, stacked folded hand towels, and a soap dispenser. To the left of the bathtub is a large window with pull-down bamboo blinds, and featured in the background is Kale Tree’s Abutilon wallpaper in Midnight Forest. Wallpaper has a dark green background with large pastel pink Abutilon flowers with cool grey leaves.
Abutilon Wallpaper in Midnight Forest. Image courtesy of Sarah Barnard Design.

Kale Tree Founder Sarah Barnard is an advocate of all things nature. “Being in nature brings me great pleasure, and is the source of inspiration for much of my work,” says Barnard. “Setting aside time to enjoy and plant in my garden helps me decompress, and fully engage mentally and physically outside of my design practice. After gardening, I feel re-energized, focused, and ready to return to work.” One of Sarah’s favorite plants is Abutilon. She has three different varieties that she tends to in her garden.


A closeup of a peacock.
A closeup of a peacock.

One of the most rewarding aspects of birding is finding new and unexpected spots to point your binoculars. Bird enthusiasts in Los Angeles have an abundance of options when it comes to the sheer diversity of bird species and places to observe them in the local region, but the hunt for new places to explore is always part of the fun, and the more unlikely the better.


A blue bird ornament on a decorated fir tree.
A blue bird ornament on a decorated fir tree.

2020 is already coming to a close, so that means the holidays are just around the corner! This year has been a challenging one, so let’s spread some holiday cheer by following some simple, yet meaningful decoration ideas to brighten up the holidays.


Design’s Impact on People, Places and the Planet

Woman with long brown hair and black framed glasses standing in front of greenery. Text reads: “Sarah Barnard. WELL AP, LEED AP, ASID Ones To Watch Scholar. ASID Virtual Conference.”
Woman with long brown hair and black framed glasses standing in front of greenery. Text reads: “Sarah Barnard. WELL AP, LEED AP, ASID Ones To Watch Scholar. ASID Virtual Conference.”

Leading wellness designer, Sarah Barnard, WELL AP + LEED AP speaks as part of the 2020 American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Virtual Conference.

Transcript: Hi, I’m Sarah Barnard, WELL AP, LEED AP and ASID Ones to Watch Scholar. Design has the power to profoundly impact healing. As we collectively navigate this new way of living many of us face challenges maintaining our wellbeing amid trauma and chronic ambiguous loss. When we embrace empathy as the foundation of our design process we help to increase agency and reduce adversity. Together, we can make all built environments supportive, restorative spaces.


Landscape view of a beach with palm trees, buildings and the ocean.
Landscape view of a beach with palm trees, buildings and the ocean.

With global society and climate in flux, mapping out new ways to live and create in the world has become an essential project. Amid the competing approaches to this transformation, the philosophical school of cosmopolitics, as its name suggests, addresses this challenge in a uniquely holistic way and presents an entirely new perspective on the human relationship with the world.

Albena Yaneva, in her introduction to What is Cosmopolitical Design?: Design, Nature, and the Built Environment, explains that “Cosmopolitical thinkers…see nature as no longer being unified enough to provide a stabilizing pattern for the experience of humans; it is not…


Close up of a kitchen designed with white walls, light grey cabinets and stainless steel appliances. There are blue pots on the stove, and a book, plant, and bowls of fruit on the countertop.
Close up of a kitchen designed with white walls, light grey cabinets and stainless steel appliances. There are blue pots on the stove, and a book, plant, and bowls of fruit on the countertop.

Join Sarah Barnard at the 2021 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show to discover how design professionals can expand their practice into the rapidly evolving field of universal design.

Empathetic Expansion of Universal Design Strategies: Creating Inclusive Environments will explore how universal design can impact physical, mental and emotional well-being, the intersections of sensory sensitivities and cognitive overload, and how design professionals can develop a mindful, inclusive approach to creating public and private spaces.

Sarah Barnard will speak at the 2021 KBIS Voices From the Industry Conference, which will have both in-person and virtual components.

Both WELL + LEED accredited, Sarah…

Sarah Barnard Design

Sarah Barnard is a WELL and LEED accredited designer and creator of environments that support mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.

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