Coffee With: Sarah Macklem of The Yellow Cape Cod

We chatted about T.V. in bed, charred chicken, and tapping into her clients’ stories to bring them to life in their homes.

Sarah Macklem wants to bring out the “you” in your home. As the head stylist at The Yellow Cape Cod, her down-to-earth, comfort-is-key vibe is apparent when talking to her and when viewing her designs.

Q&A With Sarah Macklem

Casaza: How did you get your start?
Sarah Macklem: My love for interior design was inherited. Growing up, I watched my mom and dad build, renovate and restore several homes that we lived in. Not only did they DIY themselves through each project, but they took time to share their passion with my siblings and me. They often had us involved in the process. This instilled a love for home and design inside me at a young age. After I graduated, I started a career in banking. I worked full time, however, I always had design projects going on at home. I started an interior design blog as a creative outlet during my off hours to showcase my design work. One day, 10 years into my banking career, I decided it was time to make my passion for design my full-time day job. Although I loved working at the bank, I realized that my true calling was interior design when one of my bank clients came to see me with fabric samples and paint chips, asking for my design advice.

C: How would you describe your style?
SM: I would describe my personal decorating style as an updated take on traditional. My heart beats fast for classic, timeless design, but I also enjoy current design trends. My approach is simple, streamlined and uncluttered. I love working with bold patterns and a high contrast palettes.

The Yellow Cape Cod's Westin-inspired living room
Design by The Yellow Cape Cod | Like this look? Get inspired by her room.

C: Where do you get new ideas and inspiration?
SM: I get my design inspiration from the people I’m working with. One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job is getting to know my clients and tapping into what makes them happy. I love the challenge of decorating in different styles for families of all ages and backgrounds. In order for me to do that well, I find inspiration through stories my clients share about their life and their lifestyle. This leads me down the path of knowing what elements to incorporate to evoke the feeling they desire in their home.

C: Favorite in the house? Why?
SM: My favorite room in the house is hands down the master bedroom. This space is quiet, calming and restful. It’s where I go to at the end of a hectic day to decompress. My entire family loves to spend time in my master bedroom. It’s often the place where we reconnect, share the events from our day, enjoy downtime and watch our favorite T.V. shows in bed.

C: Design rule you don’t subscribe to?
SM: I don’t agree that a specific design element can ever be “out of style.” There are times when a certain element is trending and eventually loses popularity, but I don’t think that one element is ever totally out. For example, stained oak trim was a huge design trend in the eighties and nineties. Later down the design road when white trim became widely popular, I felt there was a large misconception that stained oak trim was considered “out.” I had many clients ask me if they had to paint the oak trim that they loved in order to have an updated space. My answer was usually, no. Don’t let current trends trick you into getting rid of something that you love. As a designer, I adore the look of crisp, white trim, but there is always a place for all wood tones, regardless of what is currently popular. Other elements can be implemented to give a space a fresh new look without eliminating something you adore.

Den makeover by the Yellow Cape Cod
Design by The Yellow Cape Cod | Like this look? Get inspired by her room.

C: Recent project that inspired you?
SM: I was really inspired by a den makeover that I worked on with a local, Detroit area, family. I had so much fun working in this space because there were so many personal items used in the design. Looking into this room gives you a glimpse of their personality and passions. The artwork we used consisted of photographs and paintings collected during their travels. It was fun hearing their stories of how these things were obtained as we determined where they’d be used in the room. A custom built-in bookcase was installed to provide display space for their special mementos, collectibles, family photos, and favorite books. I love a good DIY project and we incorporated one into this room through the large mirror over the sofa. They wanted a one-of-a-kind piece that was a little unexpected. We took a mirror that they had stashed away and gave it a layered paint treatment using shades of black, white and aqua to create a unique finish. It gave the room a touch of whimsy which is a prevalent element throughout the rest of their home. A gorgeous coffered ceiling is the icing on the cake in this space, it sets the tone that this room is special.

C: Favorite texture/pattern/color?
SM: My favorite texture is live greenery. Live plants literally breathe life into the home. My favorite pattern is floral. Florals have a way of softening a space and making it feel friendly and welcoming. My favorite color to use in design is black. Black equals drama. If I ever feel like something is missing, I add a little black.

C: What is “good design” to you?
SM: Good design never tells its age. It features elements of the past while embracing current design trends. It tells the story of the family living in it. It’s comfortable and inviting and makes you want to stay. It’s deliberate, confident and true to the style of the home.

C: Pack your bag! You’re moving into a famous home. Whose is it?
SM: Kate Winslett A.K.A. Iris’s English Cottage from “The Holiday.” I watch this movie over and over because of that cottage. It makes me want to throw on a pair of Uggs and a chunky sweater and hunker down for a month of drinking coffee and baking pies. This house is so soothing to my soul. It is small, quaint and filled with books and quilts. I love all the quirks that make the structure itself so charming. The slanted ceiling over the soaker tub in the bathroom, the old beams, and the stonework throughout the cottage remind me of one of the old homes my parents renovated. That may be the real reason why I’m so drawn to it.

Iris' cottage bedroom in the movie The Holiday
Iris’ cottage in “The Holiday” | Courtesy of Hooked On Houses

C: What’s your rule while entertaining?
SM: My rule for being a great hostess is to make sure every guest is comfortable. I think it’s best not to sweat the small details and just focus on what’s most important; the guests. The food may not always be up to gourmet standards at our home, but that’s okay. Sometimes the chicken gets overcooked (completely charred) because we got too deep into great conversation and forgot about it (true story, it happened last weekend). But, things like that give us all something to laugh about together. As long as everyone has a drink in hand, a comfortable place to sit and a conversation to enjoy, it’s a great party. A scented candle in the powder room never hurts. 😉

C: Best advice for DIYers?
SM: Don’t be afraid to try a DIY project, but make sure you have realistic expectations. The secret to success with DIY projects is trial and error. If you enter into a task knowing you may have to practice your skills before achieving perfect results, you’ll have less frustration and will enjoy the process more. If you’re a novice, I’d start with a small project to gain some DIY confidence before diving into a large, expensive endeavor.

Sarah Macklem lighting a candle in front of roses
Design by The Yellow Cape Cod | Like this look? Get inspired by her room.

C: Best advice for hiring a pro?
SM: Ask around! A personal referral is a wonderful place to start when selecting a pro that’s right for you. Also, be sure to do some online research. See if there are third-party reviews available for the pro and check out their portfolio to view examples of their work before hiring.

C: What one design trend are you most excited about this season?
SM: I’m so excited about wallpaper making a comeback! Wallpaper is a very easy way to give a space personality and interest. Whether it’s a bold patterned paper, a textural grass cloth, a flocked damask or a light-catching, foiled metallic, wallpaper can take any space from 0-100 in no time flat. What is really nice about the evolution of wallpaper is that now it’s made to be easily removable. This makes the commitment less scary and allows us to make a bolder choice knowing that we won’t be permanently married to it.

C: How do you take your coffee?
SM: I’m not picky when it comes to coffee. I’ll usually take it however it’s available. I’ll admit I enjoy it most early in the morning before anyone else is awake. There’s something spiritual about quiet coffee time in the dark at 5:00 am.