A Conversation with Celebrity Interior Decorator SABRINA SOTO
By Eden Herbstman
As the saying goes, “Home is where the heart is,” but what fails to get mentioned is the hard work, patience, and creative vision required for the making of a dream home. Luckily for the interior design-challenged, there is Sabrina Soto. Sabrina is one of the top interior decorators, with years of experience in home design. Inspired at a young age by her mother’s own decorating business, she is best known for her long-standing career on multiple HGTV television shows, including Get it Sold, Real Estate Intervention, and The High Low Project, as well as Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. As Target’s Style Expert for their home collection, Soto’s decorating expertise teaches the home audience how to decorate with affordable luxury pieces. Always budget-conscious, she advises her viewers, as well as clients, that price doesn’t determine the quality of the decor. And Soto’s job goes beyond just decorating; she brings her clients’ dreams to life by building their perfect living environments. In addition to her television success, Sabrina is now venturing into author territory, publishing her first book, Sabrina Soto on Home Design: A Layer by Layer Approach to Turning Your Ideas into the Home of Your Dreams, which comes out this May.
Eden Herbstman: What sparked your passion for interior decorating?
Sabrina Soto: It all started when I was little. My mom was a party planner and decorator, so I would follow her every weekend when she went shopping for clients, and I would just watch her do her thing as she put together rooms. I was constantly redecorating my room. I remember when I was six years old, my sister would be out with friends, and I would stay home painting and decorating my room. I never in a million years would have thought I would be able to do it on television.
EH: When did you begin decorating on television?
SS: I’ve been doing TV now for twelve years. Throughout my career I’ve been doing either TV or designing, but never both at the same time. One night I couldn’t sleep, so I woke up at four in the morning and I went on Craigslist. There was an ad looking for a designer with TV credit, so that was my first HGTV job. That was six-and-a-half years ago, and they don’t do that anymore. My first show with them was Get It Sold. It was based in Washington D.C, and they said it would last for six months, but that turned into five years. I always wanted to be on TV, but I never thought it would be in this capacity. I also assumed it would be hosting or reporting. This is a dream come true, and there isn’t a single day that I take it for granted. I think I’m the luckiest person in the world.
EH: One of your expertise is combining high and low pieces when decorating. How did you become successful at this practice?
SS: I learned how to do that when I was in high school. My parents went through a really hard financial time. We almost went from being middle-class to very poor overnight. My mom would always tell me that no matter what is going on, and no matter how much money you have, that you should still be proud of the place you live, and that you don’t need a huge budget to make it look nice. No matter how successful I get, I am going to be the cheapest person in the world. That’s what is so fun about it; you don’t have to get the best or the most expensive pieces. You can mix and match and make it your own personality.
EH: What are some of your splurge and save tips when designing a home?
SS: It depends on the space. The small accessories I don’t like to spend too much money on, but that’s not to say that for some clients I won’t buy an Hermes pillow, because they are going to keep it for many years. For the most part I try to save on the smaller items and splurge on the bigger pieces that will most likely be kept for many years. One thing I like to splurge on is art. I think art can be passed down from generation to generation if it is a good quality piece.
EH: When you begin to decorate a space for the first time where does the inspiration come from, and where does the thought process originate from?
SS: I listen to what the homeowners want during a consultation. I find that a lot of people don’t know how to describe what their style is or what they want the room to look like, so it really comes down to dissecting every word to figure out what they want to say when they don’t know how to say it. You never know if you get it right until you show them the final room. Before a reveal on the show, I am always more nervous than they are, because I really don’t know if I got it right or not. On the show it is just one consultation and then a reveal, but in real life, with my clients, I would be able to go back and show them.
EH: What is some advice you could give to successfully organize a NYC apartment by minimizing clutter while still making it look the best?
SS: Multifunctional pieces of furniture are good, like ottomans that also have storage, or a huge coffee table that can hold books underneath it. The mattress on my bed pulls up and there is storage underneath there, like for my luggage. I have a lot of stuff in my apartment, but you wouldn’t be able see it. You shouldn’t be able to see one piece of wall in your closet; if you can see the wall, you aren’t using the space correctly.
EH: On your television show you have to redecorate in a short amount of time. How do you stay calm and focused knowing you are on a time limit?
SS: I’m not going to lie, I don’t stay calm all the time. My team has seen many of my breakdowns. It is all just organizing and figuring out how to tackle the piece. The first thing I usually do is go online and see what big pieces I can get out of the way that can be delivered in time. It gets very stressful. In real life you don’t have the tight deadlines that you have on the show. You can’t show somebody half a room; everything has to be done because it is on national television. In the end though, we always get it done. The key to any profession is having the right people around you, people that support you and help get the job done.
Sabrina Soto is a New York-based interior decorator appearing on a number of HGTV shows, including Get it Sold, Real Estate Intervention, The High Low Project, Bang For Your Buck, House Hunters, Showdown, Buying & Selling Secrets, White House Christmas, and HGTV’s Green Home. Soto has contributed to numerous publications and television outlets including InStyle, The New York Post, Time Magazine, The Rachel Ray Show, Nate Berkus Show, and The Today Show. She is a LEED accredited designer who uses eco-friendly materials to decorate homes. In addition to serving as Target’s Style Expert for their home collection, Sabrina generously donates her time to Target Corporation’s philanthropic efforts, including Earth Day home makeovers, a library makeover at Ft. Meade for Veteran’s Day, and a Mother’s Day project to pamper and entertain the mothers of sick children at the St. Jude’s Target House. Sabrina’s first book, Sabrina Soto on Home Design: A Layer by Layer Approach to Turning Your Ideas into the Home of Your Dreams, comes out in May 2012.
Written by Eden Herbstman
Edited by Jonathan Metzelaar
Photography by Hadar Pitchon
Design by Jillian Mercado
Sabrina Soto, Photography by Hadar Pitchon