Here at The Everygirl, there’s nothing we love more than women supporting women (it’s kind of our thing). So we were thrilled to hear about lifestyle expert Sarah Adler and stellar interior designer Jessica Nelson teaming up to totally refresh Sarah’s kitchen — and the result is exactly the jaw-dropping, dream kitchen you’d expect from such a duo. With genuine joy for both of their careers — healthy cooking for Sarah, design for Jessica — such an overlap produced a great friendship and, of course, a gorgeous kitchen. Read on for their design tips, lifestyle must-haves, and what client-designer collaboration really looks like:
Name: Sarah Adler, Owner of Simply Real Health
Square Footage: 2,500
Rent or Own: Own
City/State: Seattle, WA
When did you discover your passion for healthy living and why did you decide to pursue it as a career?
Sarah: It’s the weirdest thing, but I have actually been obsessed with healthy food ever since I can remember. At age seven, I loved going to the grocery store to pick out my healthy snacks, and by age 10 I was at the gym doing workouts, out of pure joy. But, I always thought it would be something I would do on the side, since back then the only career options around it were being a dietician and working in a hospital (forcing people who didn’t want to eat healthily to eat healthily), or becoming a naturopath doctor. Neither sounded that appealing to me.
It wasn’t until later in college, after 4 years straight of thinking I wanted to go into broadcast TV, that I realized I would never be truly happy if I didn’t give healthy living a try as some kind of job. Long story short, I had a trip to Italy that forever changed my perspective on food and came back home with the realization that everything I thought I knew about healthy eating was actually very backward and wrong. I made the switch from “healthy food” (aka, diet food), to real food, and that’s where all the magic began.
I started cooking, documenting this new discovery I had made — that butter wasn’t bad for you and that eating real ice cream was way better for you than frozen yogurt. I started my blog (eight years ago!), and after a year and a half, the blog turned into a full-blown healthy lifestyle business. It’s where it all began.
How did you start Simply Real Health, a company with a mission to educate, teach, and inspire happier and healthier living, and what makes your brand unique?
S: I started Simply Real Health because I began to notice how confusing the world of healthy eating was getting. There were so many different diets, plans, and theories, and they all conflicted and contradicted each other. Plant-based vs. vegetarian? Paleo vs. high fiber? It was dizzying.
I started Simply Real Health to cut through all the clutter and noise, and show people a truly SIMPLE way to think about their food that would never change based on fads or trends.
I wanted to simplify people’s philosophy on food but also simplify how they interacted with it in real life. All my recipes were written to follow — all with five ingredients or fewer, 10-15 minutes or fewer, and delicious and beautiful. I wanted to show people you could have and do it all (and feel so much better) — they just needed a mindset shift and ways to put it into action in their real lives. That’s where the seasonal meal plans, Food Academy, The Simply Real Life Program, and my one-on-one coaching were born.
Everything I do makes living a healthy lifestyle more sustainable, do-able, and joyful in real and busy life.
Tell us your philosophy for a better and healthier lifestyle and why you believe it works.
S: My philosophy is to eat real food and clear the clutter. It works because it clears the overwhelming noise around food and allows more joy and enjoyment to seep in. It also works because our bodies are designed to digest real food – so the act of making this shift alone to eating mostly real food can change so much for people physically (better energy, better moods, more patience, better digestion, etc). My philosophy is really around living a #antidiet life — with good food, a good relationship to it, and more time back to spend where it really matters in our lives.
With the majority of your time spent in your kitchen, you worked with Jessica Nelson, an interior designer, to give it a makeover. What were the benefits of hiring help for this renovation project?
S: Jessica was so helpful to me, especially on the creative side — dreaming up ideas and finding lots of perfectly priced options for the looks I wanted. Sourcing was huge — as a full-time entrepreneur, I didn’t always have time to search for hours to find what I wanted, and she always had great suggestions for whatever I needed, which saved me so much time. Because the kitchen for me is business related and personal, I had a lot of opinions and love that I put into this project, and Jessica was great as a sounding board for all of my questions and getting a second opinion I knew I could trust. In any remodel, there are so many decisions, so having someone to encourage you to take some fun risks, while not going overboard, was so so helpful.
Did you have any specific features in mind for your new kitchen? If so, how does the end result compare to your original idea?
S: Yes, because this kitchen is the center of my business, there were so many requirements that it had to have, for it to work how I needed it to. First — it had to be white, and to feel light, bright, and airy, to match my brand. While I would have loved to have done some darker cabinets below and fun funky tiles on the bar, at the end of the day, because I shoot food so much, I had to be careful of color reflections, etc, and create something that was a more timeless backdrop.
So, we kept it simple. I knew that I wanted gold hardware, for a little something special. And I knew I wanted longer, matte subway tiles to go all the way around. I knew I wanted to move the sink closer to the window, and knock down the three walls that were originally closing the room in, so we could open up the kitchen to the entire house. I knew I wanted open shelving and big farmhouse style sink. The way it turned out was exactly what I wanted.
What was the collaboration process like for a room that’s so special to you?
S: Ha. I was probably the worst client! I had so many opinions, and I just knew what I wanted and needed from the space. But Jessica was so helpful in making sure that what I was picking for the kitchen could also flow well into the rest of the open floor plan so that it all felt cohesive. Ninja skills, in my book.
What lessons design-wise did you learn from Jessica through this kitchen makeover?
S: To pick what you like and what you’re immediately drawn to — like the gold pulls for me in the kitchen. I worried for a minute that they would go out of style. But I’m so happy I chose them — let’s be honest. Gold is always a good idea.
What’s your favorite part of the kitchen and what makes it meaningful?
S: My favorite part of the kitchen is how it’s the actual epicenter of our house. People have space to gather and hang out around the bar, as I prep food, and Kyle (my husband) shakes up cocktails. I love standing at the sink and watching all the dog walkers and kids run and bike by, on their way to the park down the street. And I love, love our little butler’s pantry, that I call the bevvie-closet. It’s full of my favorite healthy powders, potions, the blender, matchas, teas, etc. It’s my happy place.
Jessica, why did you decide to become an interior designer, and what advice do you have for people who are trying to tap into their creative sides?
Jessica: I have always loved design, all areas from fashion to interiors to textiles. I grew up creating things; it is a constant for me. I think I knew I would become a designer when I was three years old. As soon as I could have input on my room as a child, I was all in. I changed my decor seasonally and as often as my parents would let me! My advice to people who want to tap into their creative sides is to just start. And then from there give it time, be a sponge, research, and learn as much as you can. Immerse yourself in the design world! The more you are living and breathing your passion, the better designer you will become.
As the interior designer of your company, Jessica Nelson Design, how do you make projects personal for every client while also staying true to your brand?
J: Designing for clients with different styles is one of the best things about being a designer! I love so many different styles, and this way I get to work with many of them. It is a fine line that you walk to stay under the overall umbrella of your aesthetic while tailoring the spaces to fit your clients’ needs. It really stretches you as a designer. There are obviously going to be some jobs that just don’t fit within that framework, but I am one that thinks many different styles can work together.
In the competitive world of interior design, what’s the key to marketing yourself in order to stand out and land clients?
J: I would say it is staying true to your vision. I always want to make sure that the message I am sending to the world is one that is on brand and in line with my personal aesthetic. I am also very picky about the images I put out on social media channels. Take time to curate what you want as a reflection of you and your brand and stick with it. Good images and beautiful, consistent work will speak for itself and set you apart!
How would you describe your design style?
J: My personal design style is eclectic, warm, and fun. I love to incorporate lots of texture, mix old and new, and play on a few special elements in each room. I find this helps the space feel custom and curated.
When it comes to Sarah’s kitchen makeover, how did you create a design plan and what were the first steps?
J: First, we do an on-site consultation and talk through allllll the details, things she wanted to incorporate and the general function and feeling she was going for in her home. From there I take measurements and photos, and start the design process. I pull inspiration images and start putting together an overall vision for the project. Once we nail that down, we jump into specifics: what goes where, creating the cabinet design and kitchen layout, as well as pulling options for everything from lighting to hardware and tile. I give my clients two options per room to choose from, and we can edit from there if needed. Sarah wanted her kitchen to feel classic but still unique and special to her, so that’s what we focused on.
Walk us through the renovation process.
J: We started by opening everything up. It is a completely different house from what we started with! We took down three or four walls, which brought in tons more light. We also added windows, switched doors around, and completely re-oriented the kitchen. The rough-in phase was intense for them because of so many changes. We refinished floors, re-painted everything, and added in all new lighting as well. Once the walls, floors, windows, and doors were framed and finished, then it was on to the fun part. The cabinets come in, countertops are installed, and then the tile is added. This is the fun part where everything gets put back together!
Did you face any difficult design quirks in the kitchen? If so, how did you overcome them?
J: We had a couple little quirks when taking down the walls. We had a cove in the dining room and needed to figure out a way to make that feel purposeful while still achieving the open concept we were going for. We ended up being able to keep it by just ending the wall below the beam. It is great because it still defines the room and keeps with the original character of the house. We also had some tricky lighting decisions because the shelves are not symmetrical on either side of the sink. We decided on two sconces over the sink because it is such a big space. This makes it feel complete and makes sense for function, too.
How did you combine your design style with Sarah’s during this process to create such a light and airy space?
J: Our styles are similar so this was a somewhat seamless process for us. Working with Sarah was very collaborative, one of the most collaborative processes I have had with a client! We kept the big things simple and timeless and played up the accessories, lighting, and details. I encouraged her to go with the things she was drawn to right off the bat and not worry about trends. Because we kept the tile, cabinets, and counters light and bright, we needed some fun pops!
We love the burst of color from the vintage rug! Where are your go-to places to shop for home/kitchen decor?
J: I love sourcing unique pieces from boutiques, small businesses, and use Etsy frequently! We have lots of fun shops around Seattle as well — I love supporting local business when I can. For bigger more well-known stores some of my go-to’s are Anthropologie, Lulu & Georgia, and One Kings Lane.
What area of the kitchen are you most proud of, and why is it significant to you?
J: I am most proud of the all the details that truly reflect Sarah, I think we captured her so well in her space. Like she mentioned above it needed to be a place she loves spending time in and it is really evident in all the details that are unique to her.
Sarah Adler is The Everygirl…
Morning bird or night owl? Mid-morning girl, all the way. Talk to me after my workout 🙂
Favorite healthy snack? I’m much more of a meal girl than snack girl, but when I do, it’s usually olives or TJ’s broccoli bites
Life motto? Feel the fear, and then do it anyways.
Guilty pleasure? Monthly mani/pedis. But I feel no guilt about it.
Morning routine? Get up, tounge scrape, brush teeth, spray my face with rose water spray, change into workout clothes, do my morning meditation, plan out my tasks & day, and start the fun.
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why? Oprah, because, well, obviously. She’s perfected her craft along with serving the world in such a beautiful and impactful way, all just by being her (imperfect) self.