How This Interior Graduate Landed A Dream Job With Stylist Simone Haag

Jan 15, 2020

While studying interior design at Collarts in 2015, Sarah Shinners saw that Simone Haag was doing a talk at Modern Times. She went along and knew immediately that she wanted to be a part of Simone’s world. Fast forward three years and Sarah is kicking career goals as Simone Haag’s Design Manager. Sarah says her success is due to hard work, passion, and always saying "yes".

Interior design has always been a passion of mine…
When I got to high school and it was time to make a decision as to what I was going to do, creative courses weren’t encouraged and I was swayed towards studying a health degree. After four years studying and six years working as an orthodontist at The Alfred, I knew that I needed to break out into a job I was truly passionate about. I studied at Collarts while working part time at the hospital and loved every minute of it.

Sarah Shinners smiling in front of painting(Image: Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files)

I met a lot of great people during my time at Collarts…
Those relationships have been pivotal in supporting me throughout my career so far. It’s great to have a group of like-minded people to bounce ideas off of, learn from and hang out with as friends.

I soon learned the value of saying "yes" to opportunities…
When I first heard Simone talk, I knew immediately that I wanted to do exactly what she did, like furniture, art, object and styling for high end residential properties. I also loved her 'can do’ attitude towards life and work. I cold called Simone and was booked in to help on a photo shoot. After that, I kept saying "yes" to every job she had going and eventually started doing more serious work for her like putting together concept presentations or schedules for clients. I was eventually offered the job of Design Assistant and have now grown into the Design Manager role. I’m the main point of contact for our clients and spend my time researching pieces for projects, collaborating on concept presentations as well as documenting, scheduling and coordinating ordering and logistics.

Sarah Shinners typing on laptop(Image: Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files)

There are so many things I love about my role…
I love the creative freedom I’m trusted with. Working for a small business means you get to do so much more. Sure, that comes with added responsibilities but the experiences are more vast than if I was working for a large company. I’ve progressed so far in such a short time and this has only been possible because Simone allows me to express my creativity and supports my ideas. I love seeing something we’ve imagined come to life. That install day where all the furniture arrives and we style up a storm, it’s like the wedding you’ve been planning for years and the big day finally arrives. When your client comes home and their face lights up when they see the transformation of their home, that’s pretty special.

At the moment we’re working on some really exciting projects including…
A beautifully renovated home in East Melbourne with a client who loves unique sculptural furniture interspersed with a worldly flair. Then there’s a new architectural build in Toorak for a growing family of six who love Italian sensibility mixed with fun functionality. We’re also layering a couple’s dream home in Fitzroy North to give it a warm, lived-in yet curated feel that they can continue to build on throughout their lives.

Sarah Shinners working with Simone HaagSimone Haag with Sarah Shinners. (Image: Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files)

I think being a great interior designer is about being a chameleon of sorts…
I don’t like the idea of being pigeon-holed into one particular style. I think your style adjusts depending on the client’s home. One day I’ll be loving the clean minimalist look of Vincent Van Duysen and then next I’m feeling full blown Kelly Wearstler pattern-on-pattern. The idea is not to push your own style on clients but to develop an understanding of your client’s style and elevate it.

My advice for up-and-coming interior designers would be…
Don’t be afraid to put what you want out into the universe, if you don’t ask you won’t get. And just say ‘yes’! It might be stressful at the time when you’re studying and you’ve got assignments due, but always think about the bigger picture – is what you’re doing today getting you where you want to be tomorrow? If the answer is ‘no’, do something to change that.

This interview was originally written by Jacqui McCallum for the Mercer Interior Design Blog and has been edited for clarity by Jennifer Park.

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