Everything You Need to Know about SJS Interior Design

With the launch of the incredibly popular design collaboration SJS x Artifex in 2021, we felt like it was time to give you what you have been asking for.  Put simply, you just want to know more about SJS!

We sat down with Sarah Jane Marriott, Creative Director of SJS Interior Design to ask all the juicy details! 

Sarah, tell us a little bit about yourself and SJS Interior Design

Sarah Jayne Marriott, creative director at SJS. My career spans over 16 years. I started as a junior at a great Sydney firm and worked my way up over 10 years. Fast forward to today and we are in our 7th year.  It’s been a whirlwind of creating!

SJS Interior Design is a boutique Interior Design and Decorating company who specialise in highly detailed, beautiful and bespoke interiors. With design studios in both Sydney and Byron Bay we are set up to assist our clients to create their own special and, well thought out spaces both here in Australia and, also Internationally.  

Recently, we launched SJS Designed, Made by Artifex with you guys which is an absolute dream come true and so rewarding to design and create a range that’s unique, locally made and put it out into the world!


Why Interior Design and who inspired you the most when you were first starting out?

I’ve been obsessed about everything to do with interiors, art and design for as long as I can remember. 

At age 11, my friend and I used to run after school art classes at my house for the younger kids in the area and from school, where we would set up afternoon tea and charge $1 per child, so it seems I was also a little entrepreneurial from a young age too!

I immersed myself in creative experiences all throughout my school years. Art, drama and music classes were my passion, and I dedicated all my time to this!


Tell us about your journey to Interior Design.  Did you complete any study?

When I left school, my only plan was to try out for the Interior Decoration diploma through Enmore Design Center (TAFE).  

To build a portfolio of work to enrol in the course I did the 1-year Design fundamentals course which really prepared me to embark on the Interior Decoration Diploma

While I was studying, I worked part time at a local tile/stone showroom which gave me a lot of training in materials, client facing interactions and admin and business processes. This was a great all rounder training to prepare me for my first proper design job. I started as the extremely green and naive junior designer that worked my way up to be the senior designer 10 years later.


What have been your most significant achievements? Have you won any awards?

In my previous role as a Senior Designer I was involved in many full-scale design and decoration projects that won numerous awards and publications which gave me the taste and clear direction on what type of projects I wanted to work on to be able to get our projects published and be in the running to win awards!

In the last 7 years we are very proud that  number of projects have also been published in design publications (Belle, Vogue, House and Garden, Anthropology, the local project to name some). 

Awards over the seven years we have had three of our projects shortlisted in the Residential Decoration category in the Australian Interior Design Awards. To be sitting alongside some serious Australian Design studios has been a pinch yourself moment for us!


Sarah, how do you know when interior design is “good”?

This is a tough question!

I think that it’s a lot of the smaller elements that work together to make or break ‘Good Design’

A beautiful view/the environment, good planning, proportion, the architecture, considered lighting layers, original artwork, something vintage, quality designed joinery and furniture, clients own personal belonging mixed with interesting styling, layering materials and textures, and adding some green or fresh flowers all in harmony with one another is what makes a beautiful, warm and timeless interior.


You have collaborated with us launching the SJS Design x Artifex.  What spiked your interest in furniture design and having a range designed and branded by you?

We have been designing bespoke one-off pieces of furniture for our clients with Artifex since SJS opened the studio. It felt like quite a natural progression to then design a range that we felt the market needed and where there was a gap. Every design studio has their own ‘style’ or visual language. By designing our own range of furniture, it also meant that we were able to make the SJS aesthetic accessible to a wider audience, whilst hopefully attracting new clients in the future.


Which piece in the SJS Design x Artifex is your favourite? Why?

I love them all, it’s hard to single out just one. I think if I had to choose it would be the Archer Table, which is named after my son. I find that it is quite adaptable to both contemporary and more traditional interiors. The dark, ebonised oak is very sophisticated, whilst the light Superno finish feels very modern, with a Danish twist. The detail is found in the leg, which is a sculptural yin/yang design defined by a thin brass inlay. So whilst it appears quite simple at first, the leg detail imparts a unique elegance and distinction.  

Do you have a favourite Artifex Interiors range that you like to incorporate into your projects?

My fav is the Atisuto Tray Table, I adore this, but we love doing custom pieces as most of our clients love having something that is 100% personalised to their home.

Why is it important for you to support and partner with a locally made business?

It’s so important as it allows us  to grow as a design community and keep much needed jobs and keep our small but exceptional design community thriving and successful. We always work with local where possible, they’re our friends , and our back bone.

As an Interior Designer, is important to support design trends and also constantly look into the future? If so, how do you balance this?

I think it’s important to have your finger on the pulse in terms of what is happening around you with fashion, architecture, furniture design and interior design here and especially abroad. I feel like timeless, good design for life doesn’t follow a trend. It’s a perfect balance of many elements working together and the heart of these elements is the end user/client.

How do you combine beauty and function?

Function needs to be considered first, a well thought out plan no matter the size or the space is the fundamentals of any design. Beauty and the details come after the resolution of the layout. Without this the design doesn’t feel good.

What inspires you?

Original Art, Architecture, books, other designers here and globally.  Our beautiful surrounding landscape, especially here in Byron where we are now permanently based. 

Art is so important to our design and creativity. Without original art on the walls the space feels soulless.

In both Sydney, Byron and when I’m travelling, I try to visit as local galleries and artist studios to discover emerging artist and beautiful work. I’m so inspired by the way they explore colour, texture, medium. Ben Quilty is one artist that embodies all that I love about art. If you are in the Northern Rivers, the Margaret Olley Gallery in Tweed is such a wonderful experience and well worth a visit!

The colours of nature up here in the hinterland specifically have inspired how I use colour within my designs, especially the last three years since living and working here. I have about an hour drive every day from home and the earthy, rich colours you experience over the four seasons is hard to ignore! Deep ochres, muted blush, rich aubergines, the abundance of green!! Blended all together is magic!

You mention you are inspired by other designers, could you name a few?

Locally I’m in awe of the talented design community. Flack Studio, Arent & Pyke, YSL Studio, Alexander + Co, Decus Interiors, H Interior Design, Ennen and Co to name a few.

Overseas I’m inspired by so many! I adore designer Patricia Urquiola. Furniture design by Christoph Delcourt, Inspirational and timeless interiors by Christian Liagre and Piet Boon. I’m a little in awe of the talented design coming out of LA. My fav’s are Kelly Wearstler, Jake Arnold, Atelier AM, Sarah Sherman Samuel are just phenomenal!

If a student wanted to enter the field, what advice would you give them?

I strongly feel it’s important to work for someone you admire for at least 5 years, you will learn so much, including the tough mistakes and when you have the experience and confidence to do it yourself. The design business is hard and is not for everyone! Keep a close design tribe by your side, collaborate and support one another. 

The number of connections and collaborations I have had is a result of the tribe and community I have built around me from the day I started studying right up to today. SJS isn’t one of six people it’s so much bigger than just us. It’s our incredible trades, artisan furniture makers (Artifex!), it’s our suppliers, the architect and at the end the amazing photographer’s. Without all our A team we wouldn’t be able to design and create long lasting, personalised design for our clients.

Tell us about your team …..

Me – Creative Director

Danielle – COO (chief Operations officer)  (we are sisters too!)

Kat – Decoration Coordinator and head of procurement

Lindsay and Ellen – Interior design Interns.

Maia – Interior design

We have just hired two Interior Designers that started recently, their names are Bec and Mim, we are excited to have them join the Sydney studio.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Managing a bigger team + the admin, systems and sticking to them!

I started as just me and I find it hard to share my creative side of the brain with the more logical right side. I am lucky to have amazing support from the team who are experts in this side of the business so I can focus on the creativity!


What do you see for the future of design?

The community supporting and staying more local. Exploring and appreciating the artisans and crafts people here surrounding us.

Designing and requesting more unique, bespoke design for our clients for now and for their future and future generations.

Growing our range of furniture with Artifex and potentially exploring other materials and offerings.

What do you think is the essential piece of furniture we should all have in our bedroom?

A beautiful bedside table, artwork and a 100% linen bedlinen set. 

What are you working on at the moment?

So many lovely projects. We have a multi residential project in Great Barrier Reef in QLD, a palatial country acreage in rural Western Sydney, A waterfront home in Rose Bay, A Tuscan inspired hinterland home to name a few.

What is the strangest request you have gotten for a job?

Designing a pole dancing studio.

What is your favourite project to date and why?

I have love for all our projects, but I have a very soft spot for our most recent Red Hill ACT residence completed at the end of last year. A lovely mix of design and decoration and specifically we used some amazing SJS Designed made by Artifex furniture within the home that looks SO GOOD.   The cherry on the top is that it has been shortlisted in the AIDA 2022 awards in the Residential Category so we are thrilled!


Let’s get a little personal!

What else are you passionate about besides work?

Painting, Cooking, Travel + being a mum.  I can’t wait to take my son away overseas to experience the world and other cultures

What is your most treasured belonging?

I have the most beautiful Armadillo Agra rug in the the brightest Peacock colour and it makes my heart sing whenever I see it. Also, our Eduardo Santos artwork for the Byron studio, it lifts our space and is pure joy.

What is one thing we may not know about you?

I’m a bedlinen nerd. I love sleeping with pure, quality linen, if there is polyester in there, I will spot it!

Name any kind of beverage you love to wind down with after a hard days work!

Margaritas or Rose!

Thank you Sarah for taking the time to sit down with us and share everything about yourself and SJS Interior Design!