From Family Legacy to Modern Marvels: Sarah Sham’s Artistic Odyssey in Interior Design at Essajees Atelier

In the captivating realm of interior design, there exists a luminary whose transformative journey has not only defied convention but has also woven a rich tapestry of rebellion, serendipity, and a profound commitment to legacy. Sarah Sham, the visionary mind behind Essajees Atelier, emerges as a trailblazer who has seamlessly navigated the delicate balance between tradition and innovation. From the echoes of familial expectations to the unconventional path that led her to redefine the family legacy, Sarah’s story is a testament to the power of rebellion and the intricate dance between creativity and business acumen. As we step into the corridors of Essajees Atelier, we embark on an exploration of Sarah’s profound journey, unravelling the complexities that have shaped her unique approach to interior design.


Sarah Sham’s journey with Essajees Atelier redefines the boundaries of tradition and innovation in interior design. Step into her world and witness the transformative power of creativity


Foyer (F): Sarah, let’s dive into the depths of your remarkable transformation from a rebel within the confines of family business to a visionary in the domain of interior design. Can you unravel the complexities of this transition, shedding light on the internal conflicts and personal considerations that shaped this profound shift?

Sarah Sham (SS): The trajectory of my journey was far from premeditated. The echoes of my father’s encouragement to pursue architecture as a more conventional path always reverberated in my ears. Yet, I found solace in rebellion, a defiance without cause or reason. Looking back now, with the perspective of age and the responsibilities of parenthood, I am compelled to question my younger self’s choices. I took the scenic route when a direct, uncomplicated path was readily available. My advice to others is simple: if an easy option presents itself, embrace it without resistance.

The shift towards interior design unfolded gradually. Following my undergraduate studies in art history, I found myself entangled in the intricate dynamics of a family business spanning four generations. The weight of expectations, established systems, and a desire to carve my identity pushed me to seek a different path. Serendipity intervened when a chance encounter with a client, during my days of selling furniture with my father, altered the course of my professional narrative. What started as a transactional exchange evolved into an unexpected invitation to design her home. It was a leap of faith, a transition that took eight years to actualize, stepping out of the shadow of the family legacy.


F: Fascinating. Now, delving into your educational background in art history, the pivot to formal interior design education is intriguing. How has the tapestry of your academic pursuits been woven into the fabric of your design aesthetics? Could you illuminate how the marriage of art history and formal design education manifests in your projects?

SS: My foray into art history was an unplanned affair, a result of mandated college requirements. Initially perplexed by its inclusion, I discovered a profound love for dissecting the contextual tapestry of art. The ability to scrutinise a painting and unravel the artist’s thoughts and intentions honed my analytical approach. When transitioning to interior design, this analytical mindset seamlessly translated into deconstructing spaces. Each project becomes a canvas where I contemplate the context—the financial landscape, socio-economic factors, political climates, and prevailing design trends. My art history background serves as a blueprint, allowing me to structure my approach to projects, transforming spaces into narratives.


Essajees Atelier isn’t just a design studio—it’s a testament to Sarah Sham’s rebellion against convention and her commitment to redefining tradition. Join me as we delve into the complexities of her journey


F:  Delving into the Essajees legacy, a century-old heritage steeped in antiques and furniture, Essajees Atelier has taken a departure into contemporary interiors. How has this storied legacy influenced the design philosophy and unique identity of Essajees Atelier? Particularly, how do you navigate the delicate balance between preserving tradition and embracing the avant-garde?

SS: The Essajees legacy is a testament to the importance of reputation, a fragile entity that takes years to build and seconds to shatter. While antiques defined the family’s heritage, I embarked on a journey to carve a distinct identity for Essajees Atelier in the realm of contemporary interiors. The burden of reputation compelled me to infuse an ethical dimension into the business, evident in our commitment to a zero-commission system. The goal is not merely the creation of opulent homes for the affluent but also establishing a lasting legacy of openness, knowledge-sharing, and collaboration.


F: Shifting gears to the strategic dimensions of Essajees Atelier, as the head of the business, what strategic decisions have you implemented to diversify the portfolio? How do you balance the creative aspects of design with the pragmatic demands of running a successful business?

SS: Operating at the intersection of creativity and business necessitates a strategic mindset. Drawing insights from my entrepreneurial spirit and incorporating feedback from my husband, who brings a corporate perspective, Essajees Atelier underwent a transformative process. The introduction of robust systems and processes in project management, team structure, and overall business operations consumed a significant phase. While this period shifted the focus momentarily from design to operations, the dividends are evident today. Creativity and profitability coexist, and the emphasis on structure has paved the way for a renewed enjoyment of the design process.


Step into the world of Sarah Sham, where tradition is redefined, and innovation thrives. Essajees Atelier is more than a design studio—it’s a testament to the boundless possibilities of creativity


F: Now, when it comes to client relationships, you’ve emphasized the paramount importance of cultivating strong connections. How do you maintain a client-centric approach within your business operations while upholding the high design standards Essajees Atelier is renowned for? Could you share an instance where this delicate balance was put to the test?

SS: Client relationships are the lifeblood of our business. Identifying mutually beneficial matches and prioritising positive post-project relations is a cornerstone. While design decisions may vary, my unwavering commitment is to conclude each project with a client on the best terms. Possessiveness over design choices takes a back seat; the client’s satisfaction is paramount. The key lies in understanding diverse lifestyles, habits, and needs. Our projects are an everyday process of accommodating and weaving the client’s essence into the fabric of their living space.


F: Now, delving into your unique approach to HR policies and project management, you’ve implemented unconventional practices. How have these innovations contributed to Essajees Atelier’s success, and what three cultural pillars define the work environment within your studio?

SS: The implementation of comprehensive HR policies and dedicated project management positions may seem unconventional in the realm of interior design. Yet, they are pivotal in ensuring the smooth execution of projects. Beyond the conventional, the three pillars shaping our work environment are enthusiasm, a predilection for smiles, and a commitment to kindness. Collaborative teamwork is our ethos, and these cultural pillars define our workspace.


Experience the fusion of tradition and avant-garde vision with Sarah Sham’s leadership at Essajees Atelier. Join me as we uncover the unique identity and timeless elegance of her designs


F: Navigating the delicate balance between design, operations, and profitability is often challenging. How do you strike this equilibrium, and what specific challenges have you encountered in maintaining this balance?

SS: Striking a balance between design, operations, and profitability is an ongoing endeavour. Construction sites, especially in residential projects, present unique challenges. While operations remain a work in progress, profitability emerges as a focal point. My unapologetic focus on profitability stems from a simple truth – sustainable success necessitates financial stability. Projects that align with this principle become the focus, ensuring a balance between creative endeavours and the financial health of the business.


F: Moving to collaborations, an integral aspect of your design process, how do you select partners to enhance your creative vision? Could you share instances where collaborations with the team and clients brought a fresh perspective to your work?

SS: Collaborations breathe life into our projects. Whether it’s working with an artist to create installations or partnering with clients to understand their unique lifestyles, each collaboration enriches our creative process. Selecting partners aligning with our ethos is crucial. A notable collaboration involved collaborating with a client’s daughter, an aspiring artist. Incorporating her artworks into the design added a personalised touch, fostering a deeper connection between the space and its inhabitants.


Experience the harmonious blend of tradition and contemporary flair with Sarah Sham’s designs at Essajees Atelier


F: Reflecting on the changing landscape of interior design, how do you foresee the industry evolving in the coming years? What trends or shifts do you anticipate, and how does Essajees Atelier position itself to navigate these changes?

SS: The evolution of interior design is inevitable. The industry will witness a paradigm shift towards sustainability, both in materials and design philosophies. At Essajees Atelier, we are primed to embrace this change, focusing on eco-friendly practices and sourcing sustainable materials. Additionally, technology will play a pivotal role, not merely as a tool but as an integral part of the design process. As the industry embraces these shifts, we position ourselves at the forefront, ensuring our design philosophy remains adaptable and forward-looking.


F:  As we draw our conversation to a close, could you share your vision for the future of Essajees Atelier? What aspirations and milestones guide your path, and how do you envision leaving a lasting impact on the world of interior design?

SS: The vision for Essajees Atelier is rooted in legacy and innovation. Beyond the confines of individual projects, the aspiration is to foster a community of like-minded individuals, transcending geographical boundaries. Legacy lies not merely in the structures we create but in the knowledge we impart, the collaborations we forge, and the relationships we nurture. As we navigate the future, the goal is to position Essajees Atelier as a beacon of creativity, sustainability, and timeless design, leaving an indelible mark on the world of interior design.


With a commitment to timeless elegance and sophisticated creativity, her legacy inspires us to redefine boundaries, embrace authenticity, and leave an indelible mark on the world around us


In the expansive universe of interior design, where creativity meets pragmatism, and tradition dances with innovation, Sarah Sham stands as a beacon of inspiration. Her journey from the rebellious corridors of familial expectations to the avant-garde landscapes of contemporary interiors is not merely a personal narrative but a testament to the transformative power of forging one’s identity. As the visionary head of Essajees Atelier, Sarah has carved a distinct identity for herself and redefined the legacy of a century-old heritage. The delicate balance between tradition and the avant-garde, the marriage of art history and formal design education, and the strategic decisions that have shaped SRGS Atelier’s success all bear witness to Sarah’s multifaceted approach. A commitment to client-centricity, innovative HR practices, and collaborative partnerships further illustrate the ethos that permeates the studio’s work environment.

Looking to the future, Sarah envisions Essajees Atelier not just as a design studio but as a community of like-minded individuals transcending boundaries. With a focus on sustainability, adaptability, and timeless design, she aspires to leave an indelible mark on the world of interior design. Through this enlightening journey, we find not only a reflection of Essajees Atelier’s accomplishments but also an invitation for others to embrace rebellion, carve their identities, and leave enduring legacies in the realms they choose to explore. Sarah Sham’s narrative is a celebration of the transformative power within each unique journey and a testament to the lasting impact that can be achieved when creativity, vision, and a touch of rebellion come together.


Image Credits: Sarah Sham

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