The interior design arm of Essajees, Essajees Atelier was established in Mumbai, India in 2014 by Sarah Sham as an independent design practice founded on the legacy and ethos of the Essajees brand. Among the city’s best, Essajees deals with art, antiques, and collectibles in addition to custom-made flooring and high-end furniture.
Sarah completed her undergraduate degree in Art History from Duke University in the US and Oxford University in the UK. She also studied finance at Stern University in New York and worked as a financial news anchor for Bloomberg News for a year.
Deciding to return to India and join her family business was a choice that continues to define her. Sarah reflects, “Instead of going into a fresh, new workplace, I went into a 120-year-old business with problems that were almost as old. Trying to fix something that’s broken is sometimes a lot harder than building something new, and my decision to do that has had a massive impact on me.”
Having garnered experience in high-end furniture manufacturing and production during a five-year stint with Essajees, Sarah realized that interior design was her calling. She earned a two-year degree from Rachna Sansad, completing the course with First Class First Distinction among many other accolades.
Keen to learn the nuances and finest details on interior design, Sarah travelled to Los Angeles where she spent time at Erika Brunson Couture Living. In LA, she created a furniture pop up at La Cienega Boulevard for Legends Week where Erika Brunson was displaying her creations and also sourced special fabrics for homes in Bel-Air.
Sarah has also worked as an art consultant for private clients with the gallery Lansdowne House, putting together extensive portfolios of contemporary Indian art for homes and offices in India and abroad. A stint with Saffron Art gave her the chance to collaborate with a team to compile the best paintings of legendary artist SH Raza.
Sarah’s design projects include multiple health care centers and private homes of celebrated nutritionist, Anjali Mukerjee. She has also designed homes at holiday destinations such as Alibaug, Goa, Pawna, and Lonavala in addition to setting up a wine bar and fine dining restaurant. Her current projects include a holiday home with the property developer Ipsrava in Assagao, Goa, a 10,000 square foot holiday home for a Bollywood director in Pawna, and a 7000 square foot retail store for a leading clothing brand.
Her projects have covered the entire gamut of interior designing, from styling bachelor-specific apartments to houses with no walls, plumbing, or ceiling – setting up spaces from scratch, literally.
This past year, Essajees Atelier won various awards including Top 10 Firms in India by Elle Décor, the Women in Design Excellence Asia award as Interior Designer of the Year and Trends Magazine Award Winner for Best Hospitality Project. Essajees Atelier has been featured in more than 20 publications, and their hospitality project made the cover of CW Interiors Magazine. Sarah has also won the Best of Houzz award for 2018 and 2019 which recognizes the biggest influencers on a platform of 19 million users.
When asked about a role model, Sarah says that she has never looked up to just one person. Multiple people have inspired her for multiple reasons at different points of her life. “I admire the abandon of Salvador Dali, the outspokenness of Malala Yousafzai, the fierceness of Beyoncé, and the perseverance of Serena Williams.”
Looking back at her Duke experience, Sarah remembers feeling lost at first. “It can be really overwhelming - I definitely felt like that. It’s important to take one day at a time, and remember that everyone around you is there to help you and boost you up.”
Furniture, design and floor spaces aside, Sarah is a fitness enthusiast and hits the gym at every given chance. She is also a pet-parent to a dog and a cat, between whom she juggles her time at home.