Interior designer Sarah Mailer: My Colourful World

Sarah Mailer is the brains behind the brilliant Girl About House blog as well as being a much sought-after interior designer and ‘Best Newcomer’ at the Amara Interior Blog Awards 2017.

She is also THE undisputed queen of walking and talking stories on Instagram (and always in heels). Here, she tells The Colour File about what colour means to her, including her love for turquoise…


Martha: Can you describe your first colour memory?
Sarah: My first childhood bedroom really sticks in my mind, despite moving on from there when I was just three. Perhaps I’m ‘remembering’ through photographs but the vivid hues live on! My mum had selected strong Mondrian-esque primary colours, layered together and combined with white. It comprised a mass of blue carpet, yellow chair, pillar box red via painted beading which framed the wardrobe doors and a whole host of ‘80s duvet covers which playfully combined this paint-box palette.

Martha: Do you have a favourite colour and has this changed over the years?
I wouldn’t actually call it out as my ‘official’ favourite colour but I have a strong connection with turquoise. It reminds me of sparkling waters, exotic summer nights and feels vibrant yet soothing. It always draws me in! It works beautifully with oxblood or maroon (another preferred hue of mine) and with bronzes or natural timber. For years, I owned a set of turquoise bangles which I stacked high on my arm and wore to death, so perhaps this nostalgia has played a part!

Sarah loves working with shades of turquoise
Sarah loves working with shades of turquoise © Sarah Mailer

Martha: What is your favourite colourful object/objects and why?
I’m very keen on blue and white Chinoiserie-inspired porcelain and ceramics, which are timeless and work beautifully in almost any setting. I have a number of plates, vases and accessories which can be styled into a number of schemes. This colour combination is just so effortlessly effective!

I am also obsessed with coloured glassware. The transparency allows for light to alter the shade quite dramatically as it diffuses through the glass, casting a glow on the surrounding spaces. For me, this is a slightly more subtle way to introduce strong hues into a space.

Blue & White LOW RES
Tea time: Chinoiserie-inspired blue and white flat-lay perfection ©Sarah Mailer


Martha: How does colour make you feel and to what extent do you use it in your work or personal life to influence your moods or those of your clients and readers?
I love colour – it has such a strong ability to alter mood and impact our lives. As I have a Fine Art background, I appreciate both the theory behind colour alongside the emotional effects in can have on us. And, whilst I am a huge neutrals advocate, I do like to combine these understated shades with stronger hues for a punchy and contemporary look and feel.

Whilst I do incorporate colour into both my interior schemes and wardrobe, there is also a significant amount of black/white/oatmeal/cream/grey in my life. I suppose these are my go-to basics and everything builds on that. The colours I am most drawn to in terms of my wardrobe are khakis, denim blues, burgundy and red and in my interiors I use a lot of teals, ochres and greens for accents.

Sarah Mailer living room
In her living room, Sarah has combined neutrals with pops of contemporary copper © Sarah Mailer

Martha: Do you have a colour you could happily do without?
Whilst I have my preferences, there is no particular colour that I really dislike. Ultimately, for me, it’s about how colours are combined that is the deciding factor. That being said – and further to my first colour memory – I am not a fan of combining Mondrian-brights. For me, those strong yellows, blues and reds together is too much and feels quite naiive.

Sarah styling one of her interiors projects © Sarah Mailer

Martha: How does colour get involved in your day-to-day life? Does it permeate it from the moment you wake to the moment you go to sleep?
Absolutely! I am obsessed with natural light and believe I am quite sensitive to the seasonal changes and how it alters across the day. When I’m driving along, I often marvel at the way the evening light floods colour across the landscape. Moments like this regularly ignite my enthusiasm for design and offer inspiration to develop new palettes for an interior scheme. I am also quite picky when pulling clothes or accessories for a shoot, considering how each shade will alter and effect the other.

Yellow Accessories
‘How do the shades alter and affect each other?’ © Sarah Mailer

Martha: How do you choose colours for your collections and where does your colour inspiration come from?
I am extremely inspired by nature. That probably sounds desperately cliched but it’s entirely true. When I’m travelling, I try to articulate the look and feel of a place through defining the palette. Sometimes, I create physical mood-boards in response to experiences or places visited. I recently visited a stone mason and the colours in the large natural slabs were just breath-taking. I also love how the weathering process can alter colours. For example, how a bronze sculpture will develop that wonderful turquoise patina over time. (The Henry Moore Sculpture garden is a fantastic place to marvel over this)!

Orange Coffee Tables
Sarah’s style is a nod to traditional but with a playful contemporary twist

Martha: Do you think there are rules about colour? Or are rules made to be broken?
I think knowing the colour wheel is useful and understanding how one colour affects another is interesting. However, I also agree that it’s exciting and liberating to ‘mix-things-up’. The phrase ‘blue and green should never be seen’ has stuck with me for as long as I remember, largely because I totally disagree. For me, this is a winning combination. I also love soft pinks with red and navy with black so I suppose it’s largely down to personal preference alongside the desired look and feel you wish to create.

Sarah collecting her 2017 Amara award – yay!!!

Martha: Do you have a colour story or anecdote?
There was one year in the mid-90’s where I remember the trend was green and/or orange. Both strong, acid shades which were best pared with a ribbed white skirt and Spice Girls patent wedges. These colours will forever be ‘Mark One and Tammy Girl’ hues. If you were really cool, you would mix the two in an adventurous colour-blocking move but I only ever chose one at a time and combined with black and white. Give it time, these colours will be back with a vengeance!

Martha: Do you have any colour ‘secrets’?
I think I’m viewed as pretty safe in my colour choices – both as an interior designer and in my sartorial edit – but I actually love colour! I’m not sure if it is common knowledge but I am a Fine Artist first and foremost and still paint large abstract canvases which celebrate colour. I have also designed a fair few colourful surface pattern designs in my time where busy prints meet interesting colourways. I love that colour offers us unlimited experimentation potential and there are always new combinations to uncover and explore.

Yellow Accents Sarah Mailer Design Interior
Sarah says colour ‘offers us unlimited experimentation potential’ © Sarah Mailer

Martha: If you could give people advice about using colour, what would it be?
Try to avoid being too trend-led and focus on what you are drawn to and love. This is much easier said than done, especially as some trends are so penetrative and difficult to escape. Ultimately, we all have different preferences and ways that we wish to live so it needs to work on a personal level.

Martha: If you had a colour named in your honour, what colour would it be & why?
To the Maroon and B(l)ack .



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