Marin Builders Member, Sandra Bird IN THE NEWS!
Legendary Marin Kitchen Designer Sandra Bird Talks Interior Design, Women in the Industry and Design History
by LOTUS ABRAMS
Published by SPACES Magazine
September 7, 2023
Sought-after Kentfield interior designer Sandra Bird has been bringing homeowners dream kitchens — and more — to life for over four decades. During that time, kitchen design has changed a lot, reflecting peoples’ evolving lifestyles and preferences, as well as the introduction of innovations intended to elevate home cooking and entertaining, and Bird has remained at the forefront of the industry every step of the way. Here, the prolific 85-year-old interior designer, who also has a general contractor’s license and has completed more than 500 projects, reflects on her successful career working in Marin County and beyond.
Tell us a little bit about the interior design work that you’re known for.
I’ve done everything from houseboats to a 8,000 square-foot villa. I really enjoy working on houses that have a lot of character.
The spaces I enjoy designing most though are small ones that I have to fit a lot into. Almost 80% of my projects would be considered smaller spaces. That’s because in Marin, most of the kitchens are small. The homes were often built as summer houses for city people, so the kitchens were minimal, and they were cut off from the main entertainment area.
I think of myself as an interior architect. I’m changing the way the house functions.
Where did you grow up?
I spent the first six years of my life, from 1937 to 1943, living north of Seattle on 40 acres of farmland. The only indoor plumbing we had was the pump at the kitchen sink. We had an outhouse, no electricity and only a wood stove to heat the house. Then we moved to the city, to Everett, Washington.
I went to the University of Oregon for two years and then to the Portland State University, where I graduated with a degree in political science. At the time, an architectural degree would have been seven years in school plus a seven-year apprenticeship.
What brought you to the Bay Area?
I came here because it was a big city, and it was fascinating. I first lived in the Richmond area, and it was always so cold. Then I’d cross the bridge to come to work in Marin, and it was so sunny, so I moved to Kentfield in 1980.
How did you get into interior design?
I love to cook, and I felt most kitchens were not designed for cooks. I went into Fairfax Lumber & Hardware one day in 1977 and said I wanted to design kitchens for them, and they hired me.
I went out on my own about two and a half years later. I married Barney Bird, and we submitted a design for the SF Decorator Showcase, which must have been 1978 or ’79, and we got the main kitchen. I think we got 35 leads from that showcase, and it was published immediately in Better Homes & Gardens. Then we got five more showcases, including one in Napa. In 1979, I opened my shop beside Lark Creek Inn and was there for 37 years. The rest was history.
To read about Sandra's most memorable projects, career challenges and more, click HERE for the full article!
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