Australian-based interior designer Sarah Amos shows us how she “bridges the gap” for clients between their vision and the complete project.
Tell us about yourself and how you got into design.
I worked in property styling for four years doing staging and hands-on styling work. I was in and out of several properties daily, so I learned a lot about house styles and layouts. Before that, I studied interior design and started learning SketchUp in one of the course modules.
In 2020, I started working for myself. That happened organically due to COVID, and it evolved through Instagram. It only took about a thousand followers to really get something started.
Rendering of a living room using Enscape.
What does Sarah Amos Interiors offer?
Styling and interior design for clients. People often have their own ideas, and I provide the tool for people to see their visions come to life. They constantly see things on social media that inspire them and, most of the time, have an idea of what they want. I work their vision into their unique floor plan and create visualizations of their design. I help people gain clarity and confidence to build and renovate with a plan. I'm a facilitator and passionate about making people's homes precisely what they want them to be.
How do you pick a style?
I'm not scared of colour. I love incorporating colour, timber, a variety of accents, whether white or black, tapware, and breaking things up with contrast. Mixing colours is my specialty, whether it’s simply adding a pair of contrasting cushions or adding a touch of colored joinery.
Each project is unique, but I notice trends. Many people are drawn to lighter timbers — it's rare for clients to want dark and moody interiors; there is a strong trend for light, bright and neutral interiors.
My personal favorites are walnut tones and anything with a mid-century flair. I love anything with a bit of history.
Rendering of a living room 3D model using Enscape.
What led you to start working with SketchUp?
While studying Interior Design, there was a six-month unit on digital modeling. We touched on AutoCAD, but I found SketchUp the easiest to use. The ability to work in 3D with textures and colours and to see a space from all angles is really cool.
“I started with SketchUp and designed in 3D from the start. Most people are highly visual, and 3D models can make interior design accessible and time friendly for people.”
My husband and I built a townhouse, and I modeled it from scratch to see how it would look. I used SketchUp to help with furniture selections and plan various DIY projects.
After graduating, I started working in property styling, where my manager had a few interior design clients. I did 3D modeling for those clients to communicate furniture selections, curtains, cabinet designs, etc. Clients were always amazed when they saw the potential of their homes. The ability to see what the space will look like and how it will function is priceless. I haven’t dabbled in any other software since using SketchUp.
Even after seven and a half years of using SketchUp, I’m still learning! I still find tips and tricks that amaze me. There are endless possibilities – it's just great software. And now, SketchUp is available on iPad, which makes me excited to try the new capabilities.
How does SketchUp fit into your workflow?
Working in 3D allows you to work with the whole space and achieve a perfect sense of balance as you develop the model. You can build an island bench, and within a couple of hours, you can decide what you can and can’t do within the space. I’ll then take screenshots and share images of the in-progress design with my client. It's easier to make design decisions throughout the process rather than make big changes at the end.
I'm always working in phases. I usually start with a basic block model and then develop each stage. For example, in the kitchen, we might start with the main wall cabinetry, then work through the island, into the butler's pantry, and lastly, we would create the galley kitchen if there is one. I find that people want to see the kitchens first, and then other rooms come together. After the kitchen, I'll probably model the ensuite or laundry. Sometimes clients want to see the whole open living area — kitchen with dining and living, etc.
I’ll then use Enscape to finalise the model with lifelike renders before moving on to LayOut, where I can create working drawings with a full set of measurements and design notations. Once I have high-quality images from SketchUp, I present the concept to my clients.
I provide my clients with a large digital package containing progress images of the model. I set up scenes within the model and save each scene as a viewpoint. I usually set up four elevations, a floor plan, and 10 to 12 scenes showing the design from different angles. Sometimes I include videos for my clients using the animation feature in SketchUp.
Rendering of a kitchen 3D model using Enscape.
Why do you exclusively use SketchUp for your projects?
It's a one-stop shop. You can achieve many things within SketchUp, from 3D models to 2D drawings with measurements to life-like renderings. I haven't needed any other design software because SketchUp ticks all the boxes.
I like that it’s just one model I'm working with. So any changes made in the SketchUp model are reflected in LayOut or Enscape. This saves a lot of time. It just makes sense to me rather than having separate models or files where you have to make changes in each— and there will always be changes! If it's all linked to the one model, that’s the smartest way to do it.
How does technology differentiate Sarah Amos Interiors from competitors?
I'm noticing a growing number of people are offering services similar to mine. A lot of what I do involves very minimal face-to-face time. I always like to start with a phone call because you need to present yourself as a person and someone the client can trust. I start with a short consultation, whether over Zoom or by phone. Instagram is helpful because clients can learn about you without being too invasive.
I've also worked successfully with clients whom I haven't even spoken to over the phone. It's all been via email and text message. That's the beauty of technology. It doesn’t always have to be face-to-face, especially when there’s no design work and I’m just providing visualizations of 2D plans. Some clients simply want to see their plans and elevations come to life, so they know what the end product will look like. In these cases, I will create a model and give them visualisations. The styling work I do is much more personal because I'm in people's houses working with them face-to-face with their existing furniture.
I deliver high-quality work and like to provide my clients with as much content as possible. If I'm building a model — for example, a kitchen model — I'll set up a floor plan, elevations, and as many angles as possible without showing a repeat perspective, and I'll share all the imagery with my clients. I'll make any changes and resave that package of images. They might end up with three or four folders at the end (maybe more) rather than just one or two visualizations.
My work is very detailed. I model everything from the tiny gaps between the cabinet doors to specific types of tapware and appliances they have selected. I also do a lot of my own furniture modeling because it needs to be tailored to the space and the client’s vision.
I'll go the extra mile if I can't find the right furniture in the 3D Warehouse. At the very least, with the Warehouse models, I’ll change the leg style, color, or fabric to tailor it to the client's design. If a client chooses a chair from a local retailer that's unlikely to be found in the 3D Warehouse, I will model it from scratch to ensure the visualisation is as accurate as possible.
Rendered image of an upcoming new build.
What's your favourite project so far?
One of the first renovation projects I worked on this year was a renovation in Belgrave South, a suburb of Melbourne. The house was built in the early 80s and had beautiful, tall, vaulted wooden ceilings. It was semi-renovated about 15 to 20 years ago, so it wasn't in its original condition except for one bathroom. The client and I had a lot to chat about at our first site visit; it lasted three or four hours. We went through each room and discussed certain limitations, such as the concrete slab and plumbing locations which meant some components of the home had to stay where they were. This proved challenging. During the site visit, I took a complete set of measurements, going room by room so I could model the home from scratch. This was a collaborative process with the client, as she had some great ideas about what she wanted. It was a matter of figuring out what would work and finding alternatives to achieve the desired look with the existing limitations.
I presented the client with an extensive digital package containing model images of the kitchen, ensuite, walk-in room, bathroom, and powder room. I also used LayOut to provide a full set of detailed 2D working drawings as a technical tool for her builder and tradespeople.
I felt incredibly proud handing that package over to her. It included all the information she needed to proceed through her renovation with confidence and the technical tools she could give her builder to ensure everyone was on the same page.
3D model images show the proposed kitchen, powder room, and ensuite design.
Another example: A client approached me on Instagram and asked me to help her learn SketchUp. The client was building a large new home and wanted to see her vision come to life. We met over zoom for three or four months and started creating her 3D model and design. Initially, the meetings were set up so I could assist with her learning SketchUp; however, as we progressed, I ended up creating the model for her while sharing my screen. She was able to direct her ideas and watch the design come to life. By the end of it, she had confidence in me and asked me to design her study, main bathroom and finalize the kitchen concept. With the modeling process, there's an opportunity to offer design advice. As you see a space come together, you realize what isn’t going to work and find alternative ideas and solutions.
The house is now finished. It looks pretty much identical to the model! It's a fantastic property, and I'm hoping to go up there next year to help her style it. That was my highlight of the year, and we even developed a friendship.
3D model and finished images of the design of the walk-in closet, kitchen, and main bathroom.
What does SketchUp help you achieve?
It helps me accomplish my job! It allows me to be highly creative and provide precise design solutions to my clients. Now, I can even take what I provide them to the next level with lifelike renderings so clients can gain that extra level of confidence in knowing what the final result will look like.
“When people build, they buy something they can't touch or see. They have no idea how it's going to turn out. To give them that peace of mind and to have that end product — which is photorealistic imagery — to the point where I can even get the direction of sunlight right by using the geo map feature — is incredibly powerful.”
Once you get the hang of SketchUp, it's user-friendly and relatively easy to use. I ended up sticking with SketchUp out of all the software I’ve used — Revit, AutoCAD, and others. It's the best one on the market for people in the design world.
What extensions can you not live without?
Enscape is by far the best rendering extension to use with SketchUp. I’ve tried five or six other rendering plugins that were too complex or too basic. Either I couldn’t get a good enough result, or it took an incredibly long time to render. With Enscape, once I’m ready to render, it will generate a high-quality life-like image within minutes! The fact that you can render in SketchUp now is the cherry on top.
I also use a plugin called Architextures that's good for materials and textures such as tiles, timber floors, etc. You can also make your own textures and even download a bump map to add depth to the texture – making your renders even more realistic. I don't think I could get the results I have without that plugin.
“My workflow has evolved in the last couple of years to where it is now. The fact that I can do all these extra things in SketchUp, like using LayOut and creating lifelike rendered images, has allowed me to work with different types of clients. The 3D modeling was always good, but to have the opportunity to show clients a photorealistic picture is helpful for many people.”
Rendered 3D model image of client kitchen design.
What can clients expect from Sarah Amos Interiors?
A comprehensive visual pathway; a digital product containing a package of images that clients can take with them and use in their project, whether it's a build or renovation. They gain confidence and clarity, knowing that the final result will closely resemble their original vision. I use the term “bridge the gap” to explain my services.
“I bridge the gap between 2D plans and the final build.”