Successful Kick-off to Wine & Design Seminars

Blog, Residential interior designon May 7th, 2015No Comments

What a fun night!  Lots of eager participants joined me and my colleagues at the FLOR Palo Alto store to hear my presentation “Getting the Most from your Interior Designer”.  Some great tips, even better questions from the audience and some giveaways to boot.  One lucky winner received a FLOR area rug, and another an SAI canvas reusable shopping bag!

Still lots of room for the next three FREE seminars on May 13, May 20, and May 27.  See the Eventbrite link for details and registration.  And FLOR is giving away a new area rug each week!

Here are a few photos from last night’s event:

All set for the event.  Pretty!

All set for the event. Pretty!


Yours truly, left, and one of our guests.



Some mingling over a glass of wine and munchies.


Raffling off a rug and a bag!


Some of our guests listening with rapt attention.


April M Magazine Features SAI’s NKBA Award-Winning Kitchen!

Blog, Kitchen design, Recent Work, Residential interior designon April 20th, 2015No Comments


mhome_nkba_april2015 mmag_3rdplaceKitchNice to see our work getting some publicity in regional magazines!  Check out Page 49 in the April 2015 issue of M Magazine, as well as all the other wonderful award-winning kitchens designed by my NKBA colleagues!

Tickets Available Now! SAI’s Wine & Design Series

Bath design, Blog, Construction, Green design, Kitchen design, Residential interior designon April 13th, 2015No Comments

With home remodeling projects on the rise on in the Bay Area, tickets for our FREE seminar series are going fast!  Bring a friend and reserve your spot today at Eventbrite for the first seminar on May 6 at 6 p.m.

Award-winning interior designer, Sabrina Alfin, and her co-sponsor FLOR will be providing these information sessions geared toward guiding homeowners through what can be an overwhelming and lengthy process.  Each topic will cover key components of design and remodeling, from design conception to final construction walk-through with the goal of attaining the most beautiful and functional result.  Each session will include plenty of time to get your questions answered.
Wine&DesignSeries_1_InteriorDesignerOur first seminar is:
Getting the Most From Your Interior Designer, May 6

Why should you hire one?
Who do you hire first for your construction project and why?
How do designers get paid?
What makes for the best working relationship?
Why do I need to share my budget?
How does the process unfold?
What’s really the difference between decorating and design?

Other topics to follow each Wednesday evening in May:

What to Expect When You’re Remodeling, May 13

Conquer Your Fears: Color, Pattern, & Texture for Great Home Design, May 20

Why Green Design Saves Money: A Guide to Doing the Right Thing, Beautifully, May 27

Join us for one evening or for all!  Light refreshments provided.  Tickets are free but you must register to reserve your seats. Limit 2 tickets per person.

Tell your friends and bring a friend!

FLOR and Sabrina Alfin Interiors, Inc. look forward to seeing you there!


ASID Interviews Sabrina Alfin on Green Design

Blog, Construction, Green design, Kitchen design, Materials, Residential interior designon March 20th, 2015No Comments

Sustainability should be a given, without making clients feel they have to take political sides.

The Case for a Sustainable FFE Database for the Design Trade

Blog, Green design, Materials, Residential interior designon March 11th, 2015No Comments

As an independent designer, tools that make my job easier and more efficient are always welcome.  I love that QuickBooks Online allows me to record my time via any device so I can make sure that time gets billed out.  I think it’s great that most major to-the-trade manufacturers of furniture, lighting, and appliances have pdf tear sheets and spec sheets that I can access for client spec books and proposals.  It’s terrific that many trade sources have CAD blocks for their products so we don’t have to spend time re-drawing refrigerators and faucets on floorplans and elevations. And, I love having apps on my phone that track mileage on my car for tax purposes, for example.  All of these things are time saving, helpful, and keep my business running smoothly.


Apps make it easy to enter client project time.


But you know what would really REALLY make my business run like a top? A single to-the-trade online database for sustainable finishes, fabrics, flooring, furniture, tile, fixtures, lighting, and appliances.  A multi-manufacturer repository that can be cross-referenced by item, color, style, and composition.  For example, if I wanted to search for 3″ x 6″ subway tile made with recycled materials, spit me out a list of all the vendors who make such a product, the percentage of recycled content, the colorways in comes in, the order lead time, and the nearest trade showroom where I can get it.  Or, if I want to specify an upholstered bench with a button-tufted seat, show me all the possibilities by manufacturers who use FSC frames and/or sustainable fiber stuffing.  And what about textiles?  Of all the major vendors of drapery, upholstery, and multi-purpose textiles (think Kravet, Osbourne & Little, Pollack, Duralee, Schumacher, et al), which items in their lines are either (a) made with recycled content, (b) made with organic or rapidly renewable fibers, or (c) produced in a sustainable/socially responsible manner?

Right now the process is incredibly time-consuming, particularly for a one-woman show like me.  Let’s pick on the textile manufacturers for a moment.  Pollack Associates and Brentano, for example, are about the only manufacturers who have a search feature for green fabrics. And this makes some sense since they do a big contract business in addition to residential.

Pollack's site sorts by sustainability.

Pollack’s site sorts by sustainability.

But what about the residential vendors?  If I go to —this is the trade site for Kravet, Lee Jofa, Brunschwig & Fil, among others—I can sort by color, by price, by brand, or by application, but there isn’t an option for sustainability.  Now, I know for a fact that Kravet has some green options, because if I go to the Kravet web site I can find them.  But I shouldn’t have to go to multiple sites to get the info, especially if I’m searching for stock and pricing.

The point is, even if every vendor I use for my business had a green search option, that alone would save me oodles of time.  But what I really want is an aggregator–a site that pulls all the content together in one place and is easily sorted into categories, colors, and pricing.  Obviously, looking at colorways online has much to be desired, but if I knew ahead of time which fabric groupings I want to stay within, I can spend far less time at the showroom getting what I need.

And here’s what I think will be the biggest benefit to the trade:  eliminating the excuse that going green is too difficult. There are umpteen zillion different sites like SCSGlobal Services, GreenGuard, EnergyStar, etc., etc. but the vast majority of them are either geared toward commercial projects or consumer products.  There seems to be a gaping hole when it comes to the residential design trade, and unless you have someone on staff to dedicate their jobs to finding these items, the burden on individual designers to re-invent the wheel seems much too great.

We all know it’s the right thing to do.  We all know that eventually, much of this will be government mandated.  In the meantime, however, couldn’t our trade associations like ASID, NKBA, AIA, and others band together to jointly fund a project for information their members so desperately need?


An Awards-Filled Month

Bath design, Blog, Green design, Kitchen designon January 26th, 2015No Comments

We are delighted to share with you three honors bestowed upon Sabrina Alfin Interiors, Inc. this month:

  • Best Of Houzz 2015 for Design
  • Northern California Chapter NKBA Design Compeition 2015: 3rd place, Medium Kitchen
  • Northern California Chapter NKBA Design Compeition 2015: 3rd place, Small to Medium Bath

The Houzz award recognizes the popularity of portfolio images saved to ideabooks by the Houzz community and a Best of Houzz badge now appears on SAI’s professional profile page. Images of our work were collectively saved well over 3000 times!

The NKBA Awards were earned in a judged competition that awarded points for projects entered that best embody NKBA standards for design aesthetics and guidelines.

In both cases, SAI competes in a crowded field of worthy designers.  We are proud to be in their company.

Thanks to our clients, design partners, and friends for getting the word out about our studio. We are taking on new projects and would be thrilled to collaborate with you on your next design challenge.

Resale, Schmesale: A Designer Perspective

Home automation, Residential interior designon October 7th, 2014No Comments

A common question I get asked a lot when it comes to designing and remodeling a client’s home is, “But how will it affect the resale value?”

Before I give you my thoughts on this, let me clarify that I am not a real estate agent or a financial advisor.  And anything having to do with what is, for most people, their largest financial asset might benefit from a weigh-in from one or both of those advisors.

So, with that out of the way, my response back to that question is this:  how long will you be in your home?  If it’s more than five years, then I say your design choices are of little consequence in a geography like the Bay Area where real estate is always appreciating over time.  It’s your house and YOU live here, not some future yet-to-be-identified buyer.  Your home should be a reflection of your needs and your family’s needs.  And let’s be honest:  people around here are buying $1 million dollar tear-downs (insane, I realize), so whether or not you forego a bathtub in the master bath, for example, will be of little consequence ten years or more hence.  Most people like to put their own stamp on their living spaces to reflect their own lifestyles, and to take advantage of innovative new materials and technologies. So by the time you’re ready to sell, the chances are pretty good your buyer was already intending to make changes to fit their own needs.

As a designer, while I always strive to provide my clients with timeless interiors that will last a good long time, what is considered beautiful and tasteful today might be considered very dated tomorrow. Just take a look at any given issue of Architectural Digest from the 80s, and you’ll see what I mean…;-)

“But Sabrina,” I hear you ask, “what types of things should I invest in that will make my home more desirable down the road, as well as meet my family’s needs?”

Good question.  Here are a few things I think make a great deal of sense and that will absolutely add value over time:

Built-ins:  provide architectural interest and a focal point for any room.

built-in entertainment

Custom built-in entertainment units, for example, are attractive and space-saving. And when outfitted with LED lighting, they provide a great opportunity to display art objects or photographs.


Home automation systems: help regulate the home’s temperature, lighting, and other power sources to save energy (and money!). Can also control entertainment and security systems.


Lots of choices available for home automation systems, many of which can be controlled by apps on a tablet or other device.

Lots of choices available for home automation systems, many of which can be controlled by apps on a tablet or other device.

Universal design: make design choices that will allow you (or a future buyer) to age in place.

Curbless showers are both beautiful and functional!  Add a built-in bench, a grab bar, and a handshower and accessibility is no problem as you get older.

Curbless showers are both beautiful and functional! Add a built-in bench, a grab bar, and a handshower and accessibility is no problem as you get older.

So to sum up:  don’t be afraid to design around your own needs if you plan to be in your home for many years.  The resale will take care of itself as long as the remodeling you undertake has all the appropriate city permits, is done by a licensed general contractor, and uses good quality materials that will last.

Guest Bath Makeover: From ’80s Excess to Zen-like Calm

Blog, Recent Workon August 20th, 20142 Comments

My client in the SF Bay Area is smitten with Chinoiserie and Asian artifacts.  Her entire house is filled to the brim with beautiful objects and art she’s collected over the years.  But her guest bath was stuck in the ’80s with bold floral wallpaper and gold accented plumbing fixtures and trim.  She attended a decorator showcase house located in Woodside, CA in which I was a participating designer last year, and loved my pan-Asian influenced design for the home’s sunroom.

She hired me immediately afterwards, knowing that I “got” her aesthetic. We worked hard to make the guest bath a calm, inviting space using a soothing color palette–soft grays, browns, bronze, and a hint of blue–and great texture.  The porcelain 12×24 tiles in the shower have almost a textile quality to them with a “woven” pattern etched into the surface; the glass mosaic backsplash/border adds both color and a tactile quality to the look;  the sculptural lines of the Santec Ava faucet and shower set bring in a modern twist that still feels warm and spa-like.  Lastly, we used a pearlescent faux-finish paint in an ecru tone for the walls, giving it subtle shine to lighten the space and balance out the gray hues.

Here are the “Befores”:



And here are the “afters”:




Needless to say, she loves the results!  And we finished just in time before her guests arrived for her son’s impending wedding!

A big thank you to Dean J. Biryini Photography for the great “after” images.

Dorm Room Design: The Essentials

Blogon July 20th, 2014No Comments

Those of you with kids heading off to college in a month’s time are probably stressing out about the shopping list for dorm room essentials.  Fear not.  The days of boring, solid XL Twin sheets are long gone, and the array of well-designed options for bedding, towels, and storage solutions are practically limitless.  Well, not exactly limitless:  this stuff goes fast so if you haven’t yet started, I thought I’d show you a bunch of great options I’ve found that won’t break your already tuition-taxed bank.  Target, PB Teen, Land’s End, Dormco, and the Container Store are great go-tos for well-designed options. But here are several suggestions to get you started.


My recommendation is to buy a solid comforter (or quilt with a duvet cover; IKEA is great for those) that will go with your student from dorm room to college apartment, and then have fun with decorative and inexpensive XL Twin sheet sets–two–which will likely not be needed after Freshman year. Here are a few solid quilt options:

Target's Room Essentials Jersey Knit Quilt

Target’s Room Essentials Jersey Knit Quilt

IKEA ALVINE STRA duvet cover set

IKEA ALVINE STRA duvet cover set

PB Teen Crinkle Puff Quilt

PB Teen Crinkle Puff Quilt

Target Xhilaration Ruffle Comforter

Target Xhilaration Ruffle Comforter

And here are some colorful patterned sheet sets that are available in XL Twin:

PB Teen Cascade plaid sheets

PB Teen Cascade plaid sheets

PB Teen's Chloe shet set in organic cotton

PB Teen’s Chloe sheet set in organic cotton

Lands End Percale Dot Sheet Set

Lands End Percale Dot Sheet Set

Body Pillows

As everyone knows, college kids use their dorm room beds as multi-purpose furniture; they’re not just for sleeping, they’re for lounging and studying, too. (For that same reason, you might want to send junior off with two regular pillows, not just one, since headboards are non-existent.) So having something soft to lean up against on those cinderblock or otherwise institutional-looking walls will be a welcome addition to the basics.  Pro-tip:  get the kind of body pillow that is comprised of an insert and a removable cover, so when it inevitably gets dirty, the cover can be washed.

Fun animal print body pillow covers by Dormco

Fun animal print body pillow covers by Dormco

Soft and fuzzy Sherpa body pillow from PB Teen

Soft and fuzzy Sherpa body pillow from PB Teen

Room Essentials Heather Gray body pillow, at Target

Room Essentials Heather Gray body pillow, at Target

Towels and Wraps

Don’t go crazy buying towels.  There simply isn’t enough space in the average dorm room to have lots of extra stuff.  Two Bath sheets and two hand towels ought to do it.  And for getting from the communal bathroom at the end of the hall to one’s room, having a bath wrap  is probably not a bad idea. Takes up less space than a bathrobe.  Target and PB Teen have a slew of fun designs in their collections, like these:

Room Essentials Vine Towel in gray and yellow

Target Room Essentials Vine Towel in gray and yellow

Room Essentials Floral Towel

Target Room Essentials Floral Towel

Room Essentials Stripe towel sets

Target Room Essentials Stripe towel sets

PB Teen Classic Organic bath towels

PB Teen Classic Organic bath towels

Room Essentials Floral body wrap

Target Room Essentials Floral body wrap

Room Essentials Vine bodywrap

Target Room Essentials Vine bodywrap

PB Teen Greek Striped Bath Wraps

PB Teen Greek Striped Bath Wraps

Laundry and Storage

Saving space is critical.  If your student’s dorm gives them the option of lofting their bed before they move in, by all means do it.  Then get some good-looking but functional pieces for extra clothing storage and/or putting away seasonal items that are not in use underneath the bed.  Unless your kid’s school has very detailed drawings and dimensions of the space online, I would advise holding off on these purchases until you drop him/her off.  Bring a tape measure and then go get what fits.  As for dirty laundry storage, buy a bag, not a basket.  Easier to fit in a closet and/or hang off the end of a bed.  (Plus, they hold more stuff; kids will wait forever before they do a wash!) The Container Store is terrific for this sort of stuff; here are a few of my favorites from their collection:

So versatile! These Container Store milk crates can store files, books, computer games, etc.

So versatile! These Container Store milk crates can store files, books, computer games, etc. Stackable on both the top and the sides

Elfa Stacking Drawers at the Container Store.  See-through material means stuff is easy to find.

Elfa Stacking Drawers at the Container Store. See-through material means stuff is easy to find.

Large Rugby Stripe Bin from the Container Store

Large Rugby Stripe Bin from the Container Store

Mesh laundry bags in an array of colors, at the Container Store.  Lots of room!

Mesh laundry bags in an array of colors, at the Container Store. Lots of room!

Desk lamps

Multi-tasking desk lamps are a plus for space-saving reasons.  Here are a couple that look great and kill two birds with one stone:

iHome desk lamp with a built-in phone charger.  Available at PB Teen.

iHome desk lamp with a built-in phone charger. Available at PB Teen.

Target's RE desk lamp with pen compartments and a slot to prop up your iPad

Target’s RE desk lamp with pen compartments and a slot to prop up your iPad. Comes in multiple colors.

Fellow parents who have already sent one or more children off to college, what items have you found to be must-haves?


Sustainable Design: Going Backwards to Move Forwards?

Green designon April 29th, 2014No Comments

I ran across this gizmo for fuel-efficient low-tech cooking called a Wonderbag Slow Cooker.  In essence, it takes the ancient technique of wrapping or burying containers of food so they will continue to cook even after the container has been removed from the heat source.  Ingenious in its simplicity, I admire the founder of this company, Sarah Collins, who took a humble design idea to global attention.  And for every Wonderbag sold, they donate another to a family in Africa.


Wonderbags come in two colors and they’re made by artisans in Rwanda, Mexico and Turkey with launches in Kenya, Nigeria and Somaliland.

As someone who has a keen interest in green design and sustainability, this discovery had me wondering:  do we have to turn back the clock on technology in order to make significant reductions in our carbon footprint?  The convenience genie has already been let out of the bottle after 100 or so years of American consumer mass production.  How can we be both good global citizens and still maintain a lifestyle to which we’ve become accustomed?

Certainly companies like Tesla Motors have the right idea:  luxury design with a sustainable power source.  Who wouldn’t want to own one of these babies?


Tesla Model S in Cherry Red. Zoom!

And  if you must have that Sub-Zero refrigerator, this beautiful high Energy Star-rated bottom freezer model is as efficient as they come:

Sub-Zero Fridge

Sub-Zero panel front refrigerator with bottom freezer. Takes less energy to run bottom freezer models.

Nest, too, has taken the lowly mechanical home thermostat to new sustainably designed heights.  This “smart” control system helps homeowners save energy.  In fact, they claim their customer can get to carbon neutrality in as little as eight weeks!  Pretty impressive.  And frankly, just plain pretty, don’t you agree?


The Nest Thermostat interface is part iPhone, part “2001: a Space Odyssey”. Cool!

So there’s no question in my mind that we have to be more mindful of our consumption of energy, water, and materials.  What I love about Tesla, Sub-Zero, and Nest (for some obviously beautiful examples) is that they’ve managed to achieve the design of sustainable products that are still jaw-droppingly gorgeous and covet-worthy, using new technologies for the modern age.

What are some of your favorite energy-efficient products that look great?  Please leave your comments!