Nashville Designer Sarah Bartholomew on Collaborating With Pottery Barn, Finding Beauty in Functionality

Sarah Bartholomew's Pottery Barn collaboration features decorative accessories and furniture that can create a gorgeous entryway in any home.

Written by Trisha Boyer
Nashville Designer Sarah Bartholomew on Collaborating With Pottery Barn, Finding Beauty in Functionality
Sarah Bartholomew; Photo courtesy of Pottery Barn

Last month Pottery Barn hosted an intimate Music City dinner to celebrate the launch of their new collection in partnership with Nashville designer, Sarah Bartholomew.

The collaboration features a range of essential decorative accessories, organizational pieces and furniture that can be used to create the perfect entryway in any home. From classic-turned-modern wicker pieces to coral-inspired art and accents, it’s easy to see the influence of the South across the entire collection. Sounds Like Nashville chatted with the designer about her Nashville favorites and her chic collaboration.

As a “self-taught” designer, what did you do prior to design? How did you make the shift?

I went to the University of Virginia and studied history and art history. I did work in design a little bit before becoming a full-time mom to four kids, and I stayed at home with the kids while they were young. A little later I had a friend who was building a house and she insisted that I be the designer. That house gave me the opportunity to work with an amazing contractor and learn a lot along the way. We built the house from the ground up. That one job turned into a few more jobs, which grew to a few more. It grew very organically from the beginning. I’d always loved design – even as a kid when my parents were redesigning a house and I drew up alternate plans for them (which they ended up using instead of what the architect designed). Interior design wasn’t an option for me at Virginia, but I always loved the history of design.

What types of projects are in your portfolio?

About 90 percent of my work is residential, with some light commercial work here and there. I really love the home. I’m in throes of raising a family and the home is so central to that. In the South the appreciation of the home is so great, too.

Do you work outside of Tennessee?

I work all over –from the West coast to East Coast- with half of my projects in Nashville and half out of town.

Sarah Bartholomew; Photo courtesy of Pottery Barn

How would you describe your design philosophy and style?

It’s so hard to pinpoint style. Some of the words would be: [rooted in] classicism; fresh; crisp. I’m very much in tune with my projects and my clients. A Georgian in [Nashville’s famed Belle Meade community] is going to be totally different than a Cedar Shake coastal home on Long Island, which is different than a bungalow in the Bay Area. While they’re all really different, they all have a crisp nature to them and a timeless element. Even when I’m working on a contemporary home, I look for what contemporary elements have stood the test of time. I also love to mix antiques with modern pieces, and add lots of layers of textures and colors. I love to look back and see what lasts, for a new take on traditional. You can find things that are modern and clean throughout history, and I just study that carefully.

Where do you find inspiration?

I look at beautiful homes of the past. Travel inspires me. Art inspires me. I’m always inspired by other designers’ work. There are a lot of different layers to what inspires a project. I also create inspiration boards with magazine articles I may have clipped years ago, works of art, and other things, and any of that may launch the color palate or furnishings for a project.

Have you had partnerships (similar to the collaboration with Pottery Barn) in the past?

This is my first collaboration of this kind, and I’m so honored to have been asked. It’s really been a wonderful one.

How did the partnership come to be?

I got an email from Pottery Barn that said, “Hi from Pottery Barn,” so I just thought maybe it was a new collection they were announcing. But it was an email written directly to me. I was beyond delighted. From there I got connected with the team at Pottery Barn so we could brainstorm about what a collaboration would look like.

Was the entryway already on their mind, or did that come out of the discussions?

They had the entryway top of mind. Marta Benson [Pottery Barn’s President] saw some of my photos of entryways on Pinterest that caught her eye–they were thinking about organizing, as kids are heading back to school. It’s really about looking at the entryway and deciding: How do we do that in a beautiful way but also in a really functional way?

Sarah Bartholomew; Photo courtesy of Pottery Barn

What can we expect to see in the line? The collection has components of anchoring pieces – a console, a mirror, a bench – the big things that we all need to anchor an entry. On top of that there are decorative layers: a rug; umbrella stand; dog bed; pin board; hooks. The idea is to add in decorative layers that are also useful.

Any quick tips for enhancing an overlooked entryway?

The biggest tip is to make it functional first. It can’t be beautiful unless it’s functional. When you’re looking at the entry ask, “What do I dump everything on? What is in this entry that doesn’t have a place? Can we pick something pretty to allow it have space and be functional?”

Do you have any tips for managing a family of four, plus a full time career that takes you from coast to coast?

Having really tight control of my calendar for both family things and work projects is definitely key. I’m also incredibly lucky to have a supportive spouse and we work as a team. We sit down with a master calendar every week to map out what we have coming up, and we’re fortunate to have a support system of family in town, too. I’m also really careful about what jobs I do take out of town, and I schedule those trips around what works for our family.

Henrietta Red

Henreitta Red; Photo credit: Austin Gros

What do you enjoy doing in Nashville in your free time?

Dining with adults: Henrietta Red (pictured)

Dining with kids: Edley’s, Burger Up and Epice (+ Las Paletas)

Outdoors: Percy Warner Park for hiking, Sevier Park, Cheekwood

Shopping: I just opened a retail home goods shop in Green Hills called SB. Sarah Bartholomew. (With my design studio connected to it.)

Anything else you want to add about the partnership with Pottery Barn?

It’s just an amazing experience. When I think about lasting design, I think about Pottery Barn, because they embody that timeless but fresh aesthetic, but it’s also comfortable. They’ve stood the test of time. I’m not a fancy, fussy person. I’m a mom and a family person, and I’m honored to be associated with such an accessible and beautiful brand.

The Sarah Bartholomew for Pottery Barn Collection is available exclusively at