Today we’d like to introduce you to Sarah Jacobson.
Hi Sarah, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I’m the founder and Principal Designer of DS2 Studios a boutique commercial and residential interior design firm in Los Angeles. My design and business journey hasn’t always been the easiest nor the most conventional. I found my passion for interiors when I was around ten or eleven years old and the SIMS computer game became my obsession. I would get so wrapped up in the designing of the homes and spaces that I’d find myself up until 3 o’clock in the morning on a school night. During high school, my mom recommended I look into to the field of interior design. I had no idea that people actually made money designing homes and spaces. One night, while frustrated with my local community college classes, I came across one of the infamous ads for The Art Institute of Los Angeles. As a career college, it offered a four-year degree program for Interior Design. Until then, I had only ever seen Associates programs and my pride wouldn’t let me settle for an AA (I am the first in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree.) Like so many people, I thought interior design was just about choosing furniture, decorations, and paint colors but design school was nothing like that.
From hand drafting and sketching to building codes and architectural requirements, I never realized drawing would be the hardest part of my education. I spent years playing make-believe designer on the computer and college was nothing like it! During my junior year, I was so overwhelmed that I considered dropping out. I even had a teacher tell me that I wasn’t cut out to be a designer because I was too lazy and didn’t have an eye for design. LOL! I look back now and thank her for the harsh feedback. Her criticism fueled me to push myself harder and I started taking school more seriously. I would not have become the designer I am today without her comments. After graduating with honors, I felt designing homes was no longer for me, as I had fallen in love with commercial design. Designing spaces that everyone and anyone could enjoy was the greatest feeling in the world! Straight out of college, I had big aspirations and started taking on my own clients. One month out of school, I landed three freelance gigs! I designed a luxury nail salon on Melrose, a fast-casual dining restaurant in East LA and redesigned a condo complex in Westwood. I’ll never forget those projects that launched my career and inspired me to start my own design firm.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Entrepreneurship is never a straight road, it is sure to have its ups and downs and my road is no different. Six months after graduating, I launched Design Studio Squared with my best friend from college. We were super successful in our first year, designing twenty-five projects. However, we both suffered major creative burn-out which put a huge strain on our friendship, and a year and a half later we decided to close the business and go our separate ways. I eventually took sole ownership and re-opened Design Studio Squared. Even after I had reopened it, I still had to take a part-time job working for a local architect to pay my bills. This actually turned out to be the best paid education I ever got. I learned about the structural aspects of building design and how to design spaces more affordably by working with existing architectural elements. One year after I re-opened the business, two young women approached me for a summer interior design internship. This seemed silly at the time, considering I literally had one client and still worked part-time at the architect’s office, but I told them, “Sure. I’ll teach you whatever you want to know and share my professional expertise with you.” I swear mentoring these girls was like magic.
Within four weeks of us all working together, I signed nine new clients. I immediately gave my notice and left the part-time job. It became crazy and we, many times, had to meet up at coffee shops and restaurants, with super inconsistent Wifi access. My design process was a little chaotic and I couldn’t handle the constant battle at Starbucks for a table near an outlet any longer, so I designed a small studio in the back of my mom’s house. The new studio gave us access to stable internet and more than enough space to grow our team. At the end of summer, I hired one of the girls as my first ever design assistant and began looking for a second, by the next summer I had a team of five women working with me! Business was booming and jobs were flooding in! I even got invited to be a contestant on a design challenge show for TLC “Training Spaces.” I honestly saw no end to the success in sight, but as life would have it, only two years later, I was burning out. I started resenting the business and design itself. I became exhausted working day in and day out, constantly chasing the next project. The business was running my life and I couldn’t handle it anymore. I decided to let everyone go, regroup, and find my soul’s passion for design again. After a long break and many personal creative ventures, DS2 Studios was born. This new brand is the brain child of Design Studio Squared and DS2 Living a full service design and interior consulting firm.
As you know, we’re big fans of DS2 Studios. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
DS2 Studios is a boutique commercial and residential interior design firm, we focus on creating spaces that truly speak to our clients’ lifestyles and brands. Our style could be described as laid-back modern with an emphasis on natural inspirations. We believe great design is achieved by combining function and beauty. Anyone can choose beautiful art or finishes, but the real craft is creating a design that serves the clients’ needs, helps make their lives and businesses easier, and inspires all who enter.
Who else deserves credit in your story?
I have had many mentors and cheerleaders throughout my career but, my mom has always been my biggest cheerleader. Since day one she told me, “I can’t wait to say, I knew you when. You will create a successful design business and be famous for your work.” I love that woman, believing in me even when I couldn’t believe in myself. My biggest professional mentor who shaped my design approach and business model is Robert Matola at RM Designs, the Architect I used to work for. He continuously encouraged me, even when I was facing creative burn-out, telling me that our work is full of ebbs and flows, and to keep moving forward. I couldn’t be more grateful for their support and the encouragement of my tribe.
- $300 an hour for design services
Jill Weller Photography Anthony Barcelo