LEGENDARY INTERVIEW

Design Legends ("DL") had the distinct honour to interview legendary designer Sara Hayat ("SH") for their original perspective and innovative approach to design as well as their creative lifestyle, we are very pleased to share our interview with our distinguished readers.

DL: Could you please tell us a bit about your design background and education?

SH : I grew up around design and seeing the intricacies and elements that make a design great. I have always been curious and interested in the concept of Aesthetic Force - its power to move, to dazzle and its ability to take our focus off from ourselves and instead, making us aware of our present moment. Iris Murdoch calls this Unselfing. This shift in perspective and what it does for us, is powerful as individuals and community as a whole. I can tell you the exact moment i realized I wanted to design; I was watching Chef Grant Achatz talk about on of his favorite dishes - a helium filled balloon dessert. He was talking about how he would see the guests at his restaurant come - and no matter what age they were, as soon as they'd inhale that helium and enjoy their dessert, their voice would change, the whole table would burst out laughing! Whether it was a grandmother or a child, you could see pure joy on their faces. They were present in that moment, connecting with their family and friends, and enjoying this outrageous dessert. For him, cooking was no longer about creating tasty, beautiful dishes, but about bringing people joy and helping them connect. That is what my designs are all about - fostering human connection and creativity and remind us of what we can be.

DL: What motivates you to design in general, why did you become a designer?

SH : My love of learning and curiosity about human behavior helped me look at furniture design differently. I seek form that moves, that dazzles and reminds us of our special power to elevate and change our situation. I intentionally design function that fosters human connection and makes you feel warm and at-home. With these two ideals serving as anchors, I design my furniture - taking inspiration from cars, from watches and beautifully designed jewelry. There is a sofa i am making that was completely inspired by the tail lights of a Lamborghini. The sleek edges and sharp lines make it look so futuristic - again, a nod to our ability to rise above and envision a bright and beautiful future. The shape of the Samandar table was inspired by the gorgeous Tonneau shape of Richard Mille watches. My kids and my husband are also a huge source of inspiration for me. When making the T Modular - they are chunks of cushions that come together like a puzzle. The pieces can be used separately and come together to make a modern sofa. The inspiration came from my kids and how they love to play pretend with furniture. Building castles and forts with it one day and pretending its the Millenium Falcon the next! I wanted to bring play into my design. What better way to bring people together, make connections than through play? Its easy to rethink designing furniture when you break it down to the basic - what is its purpose? A chair to help you sit. Now make it visually dazzling, that allows you to feel playful and warm.

DL: Did you choose to become a designer, or you were forced to become one?

SH : I remember the exact moment when I decided I needed to get out of finance and really throw myself into design. I was watching The Final Table and Chef Grant Achatz was talking about one of his favorite dishes - a helium filled balloon dessert. He was talking about the joy he saw on people’s faces when they would take a bite of it and their voice would change. No matter what age they were, as soon as they would inhale that helium and start talking the whole table would burst out laughing! Whether it was a grandmother or a child, you could see pure joy on their faces. They were present at that moment, connecting with their family and friends, and enjoying this outrageous dessert. I want to create that feeling of connection and wonder through my designs. So many fantastic designs exist, I wanted to create a comprehensive collection that contributes value and has meaning.

DL: What do you design, what type of designs do you wish to design more of?

SH : I mainly design living room furniture. I would to experiment with lighting as well and see how I can add some of the design elements I've created to lighting. Lighting has the ability to instantly add or change the mood of the space. It has a huge influence on how we move and interact with the space. It can change our behavior and mindset.

DL: What should young designers do to become a design legend like you?

SH : When it comes to designing, bring in your unique vision. Dont think about what others might think. You need to love what you're doing and your designs first. When it comes to building a brand, do a personal inventory. Do what you are great at and get someone else to fill in where you are lacking. Thanks to technology, you can find someone across the globe that would help you do what you want in a set budget. Lastly, network. Being an introvert, this is something I have struggled with but I've learnt over the past few weeks in fact, that the energy you bring when talking about your products, that's the energy people resonate with. If you dont show people how much love and faith you have for your products, it is hard for other people to feel the same way. Reach out to people, connect. Despite how terrified you might be of experiences the unknown, not giving your all to make sure your designs are a success, would be unbearable.

DL: What distinguishes between a good designer and a great designer?

SH : Again, I believe design is a function of empathy. A great designer is able to connect with their audience through form and also function.

DL: What makes a good design a really good design, how do you evaluate good design?

SH : When a design is high in form and function, thats when it truly stands apart. With form, I want to dazzle, make people see stop in their tracks and see outside of themselves if only for a moment. With function, the way my clients interact with my pieces is very important. The way it makes them feel when they sit on my sofa, will make a good design great.

DL: What is the value of good design? Why should everyone invest in good design?

SH : Good design makes you feel great! It adds value to your life and is the invisible hand that facilitates your daily interactions.

DL: What would you design and who would you design for if you had the time?

SH : I would love to design lighting for James Turrell. He made lighting an art form and the way they influence mood is very powerful.

DL: What is the dream project you haven’t yet had time to realize?

SH : There is the T4 Modular System that we are actually producing now. It is a modular built from different geometric shaped cushions that come together to make different shaped sofas. The pieces can be used individually and then can be attached together to make unique looking sofas. I am very excited about that one.

DL: What is your secret recipe of success in design, what is your secret ingredient?

SH : We have a bunch of catalogs from the late 1800s and early 1900s that I would pour over. The designs are timeless and they helped me take note of the different joineries and details that go into furniture making. I also took my inspiration by looking at designs of Oscar Niemeyer, Edra, Joaquim Tenreiro. Their take on design was so unique and the materials they used told a story of their era, the things they were inspired by, and their culture. I wanted my designs to serve as a means of self expression as well. I love learning about how things work, and am particularly curious about human behavior and mental models. I am fascinated by how cars, watches, architecture and sneakers are designed. So just like ambient research in writing, I saved the designs I loved and made notes on why I loved them and how they made me feel. The first question I asked myself was, how do I incorporate all this in my designs? I wanted to ignore the designs I had seen but keep the feelings they evoked. To do this, I started with first principles thinking; What is a chair? It's basically something you sit on to rest or relax. The second question was, how does human behavior fit in furniture design? It’s well documented that our surroundings impact our behavior and mindset and we are surrounded by furniture all the time. I remember my mom would always style our house a certain way, and she'd say, "Your home should be a reminder of the state of mind or life you aspire to have. No matter what happens when you walk out that door, you should feel peace and happiness when you are home." So early on I was cognizant of the power of intentional design, its ability to uplift and reimagine what is possible. From designing the angle of the backrest to the width of the seat, it is intentionally done to make you feel relaxed and at peace. Finally, I would start sketching each piece by taking inspiration from what I had liked about a piece of architecture or part of a car. Most of my color schemes as well have been inspired by how Rolls Royce uses different materials and colors for their interiors and one of the sectionals that I'm making right now was inspired by the sharp and sleek edges of Lamborghini's tail lights. My Romanesque Writing table was inspired by Steve Aoki's kitchen Island. It has all these different surfaces and looks so futuristic. I thought that would make a great book shelf or writing table. My architect, whom I drove crazy trying to explain my concept, finally said, "You can either have a book shelf or a writing table but you can’t have both!" Choices were made and we came up with a writing table whose chair seamlessly combines with the table.

DL: Who are some other design masters and legends you get inspired from?

SH : We have a bunch of catalogs from the late 1800s and early 1900s that I would pour over. The designs are timeless and they helped me take note of the different joineries and details that go into furniture making. I also took my inspiration by looking at designs of Oscar Niemeyer, Edra, Joaquim Tenreiro. Their take on design was so unique and the materials they used told a story of their era, the things they were inspired by, and their culture.

DL: What are your favorite designs by other designers, why do you like them?

SH : The Rio rocking chaise by Oscar Niemeyer is one of my favorite designs. The way that they bended the wood to give it that unique base is ingenious.

DL: What is your greatest design, which aspects of that design makes you think it is great?

SH : I love the mercury drop set. It includes a dining table, stools, console table. All of these have the same design DNA. I love that even though the table legs are unique that the table top is quite sleek and doesnt take away from the focal point that are the table legs.

DL: How could people improve themselves to be better designers, what did you do?

SH : I learned a lot about human behavior and behavioral psychology. You have to make products that would connect with the audience. I listened to a lot of podcasts of people that are experts in this field. I followed them on twitter and would read and do what they would talk about.

DL: If you hadn’t become a designer, what would you have done?

SH : I was a day trader before I started designing. I still wouldve been day trading if I didnt start designing. Being a day trader taught me how to make decisions and be in touch with my feelings. It also taught me how to be malleable and change with external outputs I'm receiving. All the skills I learned in trading I apply in design. It gave me the courage and tools to become a designer. To be a good trader you need to understand yourself so I've learned and studied human behavior and behavioral psychology quite a bit. I believe design is a function of empathy, and having these skills helped me lay down the foundations of my design philosophy.

DL: How do you define design, what is design for you?

SH : For me, design is a function of empathy. It is knowing intimate details about what it means to be human. It is knowing about human behavior and how we interact and move in the world. A design resonates and its function realized when it comes from a place of empathy, of connection.

DL: Who helped you to reach these heights, who was your biggest supporter?

SH : My husband. He has been my biggest supporter. Without him pushing me I would still be day trading.

DL: What helped you to become a great designer?

SH : Believing that what I have to offer to the world is relevant and important. And having the faith that if designs are coming from a place of empathy that people will love it. So i designed for myself first. That helped me be original and break the mold.

DL: What were the obstacles you faced before becoming a design master?

SH : It is a tight circle and world to break into. Not knowing where to start and whom to approach was a big challenge and still is.

DL: How do you think designers should present their work?

SH : Starting online and generating a buzz is good. Having exhibitions and even using technology and presenting in the metaverse would be amazing.

DL: What’s your next design project, what should we expect from you in future?

SH : I have multiple projects going on . Some are complete, some are in the process of completion. I am excited about the T4 modular I talked about above, the Lattice coffee table and several others. They are unique and I know people will respond to it.

DL: What’s your ultimate goal as a designer?

SH : I would love my work to be permanent exhibits in a museum. Like Edra, it would be a great honor and ultimate recognition.

DL: What people expect from an esteemed designer such as yourself?

SH : innovative design and originality.

DL: How does design help create a better society?

SH : Design comes from empathy and has the ability to change our perspective and mindset. Good design makes it easy for us to move in the world.

DL: What are you currently working on that you are especially excited about?

SH : There is the T4 Modular System that we are actually producing now. It is a modular built from different geometric shaped cushions that come together to make different shaped sofas. The pieces can be used individually and then can be attached together to make unique looking sofas. I am very excited about that one.

DL: Which design projects gave you the most satisfaction, why?

SH : The mercury drop set. It is simple and translated to real life easily and beautifully

DL: What would you like to see changed in design industry in the coming years?

SH : I would like to see newer artists celebrated. I would like publications to give new designers are better platform.

DL: Where do you think the design field is headed next?

SH : I feel they are headed into the metaverse. I would love to see a virtual showroom where i can present my pieces. I have this vision of having a showroom in the Metaverse where people can come together, check out my pieces, interact with it, use AR to see how it will look in their homes, and then purchase it. I would also love it if, like in gaming, people from all over the world can come to my virtual showroom, talk and discuss the pieces - for example, asking your interior designer or your best friend who lives across the country to come and checkout furniture with you. This is more of a long term plan as my core business will always be producing furniture in real life. So my more immediate goal is to keep building my brand and roster of clients.

DL: How long does it take you to finalize a design project?

SH : It can take from hours to weeks to finalize a design.

DL: When you have a new design project, where do you start?

SH : I start with what the desired outcome is and then reverse engineer it to how we an do something unique when it comes to form and aesthetic.

DL: What is your life motto as a designer?

SH : Embrace the chaos

DL: Do you think design sets the trends or trends set the designs?

SH : Design sets the trends.

DL: What is the role of technology when you design?

SH : Technology plays a big role. I saved material and money on manufacturing by first modeling and rendering my products. It reduced our margin of error and time spent manufacturing my items.

DL: What kind of design software and equipment do you use in your work?

SH : Sketch-up, 3DS Max

DL: What is the role of the color, materials and ambient in design?

SH : It plays a huge role. The materials and colors can make the piece formal or playful.

DL: What do you wish people to ask about your design?

SH : Is it a means of self expression?

DL: When you see a new great design or product what comes into your mind?

SH : They have a beautiful mind

DL: Who is your ideal design partner? Do you believe in co-design?

SH : An ideal partner is taking each others ideas and using it to make the best product possible. Its putting ego aside for the betterment of the product.

DL: Which people you interacted had the most influence on your design?

SH : My husband, my kids and my parents

DL: Which books you read had the most effect on your design?

SH : Books on human behavior

DL: How did you develop your skills as a master designer?

SH : Creating moments of beauty and being vulnerable. Accepting the weakest part of yourself and finding power in it.

DL: Irrelative of time and space, who you would want to meet, talk and discuss with?

SH : I want to meet Debbie Millman and discuss design. I want to meet Brene Brown and discuss belonging.

DL: How do you feel about all the awards and recognition you had, is it hard to be famous?

SH : I love it! It has given legitimacy and gravitas to my brand. I am being taken more seriously

DL: What is your favorite color, place, food, season, thing and brand?

SH : My favorite color is red, my favorite place is where my husband is, i love pakistani food, I love spring and anything we can do as a family.

DL: Please tell us a little memoir, a funny thing you had experienced as a designer?

SH : The initial lattice table was made at 9 feet in length. There was an error in the drawings and from start to finish of the manufacturing no one thought to question a coffee table that was 9 foot long.

DL: What makes your day great as a designer, how do you motivate yourself?

SH : My designs motivate me. They are like my kids. I want to keep pushing and working hard for them to be seen and experienced by people the world over.

DL: When you were a little child, was it obvious that you would become a great designer?

SH : To me it wasnt but to my family it was obvious. I also always loved photography, graphic design, editing. I just didnt see it then

DL: What do you think about future; what do you see will happen in thousand years from now?

SH : I hope we look to each others humanity and use it as a guiding light.

DL: Please tell us anything you wish your fans to know about you, your design and anything else?

SH : Each piece was made with utmost attention to both form and function. The pieces are exclusive, and made-to-order with beauty and comfort in mind. I want my designs to bring joy, foster connection and facilitate meaningful interactions. I want my pieces to dazzle, anchor us in the moment and remind us of what we can be. For me, design is a function of empathy. It is knowing intimate details about what it means to be human. It is knowing about human behavior and how we interact and move in the world. A design resonates and its function realized when it comes from a place of empathy, of connection.

LEGENDARY DESIGNER

SARA HAYAT IS THE FOUNDER OF SARA HAYAT DESIGNS, A MODERN AND ARTFUL FURNITURE BRAND WITH A SIGNATURE PERSPECTIVE ON SHAPE AND LUXURY MATERIAL. THE HAYAT FAMILY HAS BEEN ROOTED IN FINE FURNITURE MAKING SINCE THE 1870’S, WHEN SARA’S GREAT-GRANDFATHER BEGAN MANUFACTURING FURNITURE IN GUJRAT (PRE-PARTITION INDIA). DRIVEN BY THEIR ENTREPRENEURIAL PASSION AND SKILL, M. HAYAT & BROS WERE QUICKLY THE LEADING FURNITURE CRAFTERS IN THE COUNTRY KNOWN FOR MAKING EXQUISITE, HIGH QUALITY ANTIQUE REPRODUCTIONS. SINCE, THEY HAVE FURNISHED SPACES FOR ROYALS, PRESIDENTS, PRESTIGIOUS HOTELS AND ESTEEMED CLIENTS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD INCLUDING KING GEORGE V AND PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY, WHOSE FAMED M. HAYAT & BROS. ROCKING CHAIR FROM THE KENNEDY WHITE HOUSE WAS RECENTLY SOLD FOR $89,600 AT JULIEN’S AUCTION. SARA WAS BORN AND RAISED IN PAKISTAN. ALTHOUGH SHE WAS SURROUNDED BY ARTISANS, MATH WAS MORE TO HER LIKING. SARA ATTENDED UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA WHERE SHE STUDIED ECONOMICS, HOMING IN ON WHAT DRIVES HUMAN BEHAVIOR AND HOW PEOPLE MAKE DECISIONS IN BOTH UNPREDICTABLE AND CALCULABLE CIRCUMSTANCES. APPROACHING MATH FROM A PSYCHOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE, SARA FOCUSED ON OPTIONS AND DERIVATIVES WHICH AFFORDED HER THE CHANCE TO DIVE DEEPER INTO PROBABILISTIC THINKING IN DECISION MAKING. AFTER GRADUATING FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA IN 2013 WITH A DEGREE IN APPLIED ECONOMICS, SARA BEGAN A SUCCESSFUL CAREER IN FINANCE, TRADING FUTURES AND CRYPTO CURRENCY. HOWEVER, THE IMPACT OF HER HERITAGE AND HER LOVE OF DESIGN STAYED WITH HER. LIKE MANY, SPENDING MORE TIME AT HOME DURING THE PANDEMIC EMPHASIZED TO HER THE IMPORTANCE OF SPACE. SHE BEGAN REMEMBERING TIME SPENT AT HER GRANDFATHER’S FACTORY LEARNING HOW EACH DETAIL CAN SHIFT AN EXPERIENCE. AS SARA VENTURES OUT WITH HER NAMESAKE COMPANY, SHE RECOGNIZES SHE IS STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS BUT IS POISED TO PRESENT HER OWN VISION OF CRAFTSMANSHIP AND THE PLACE OF FURNITURE IN OUR LIVES.


The Bevel Sofa

The Bevel Sofa by Sara Hayat

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