The rise and rise of Sarah Petersen

In late 2022 we contacted one of our Interior Design Academy of Ireland graduates Sarah Petersen, to see how her career as an interior designer was progressing. We were so impressed with Sarah’s work including the launch of her own design company Dan Eire Designs  that we not only produced a blog about her, but we made a short film showcasing her journey. 

Since then, Sarah has been going from strength to strength, so we decided to catch up with her again and see what she’s been doing.  

Hold on to your hat because Sarah Petersen does not wait around.  

Sarah – it’s been almost a year and a half since we made the film about your interior design journey to Dan Eire. What have you been doing since? 

Wow, has it been that long! Since I saw you last, I’ve bought a site in the countryside, bought a mobile home and renovated it to live on site and gotten married! It’s been a busy 18 months.  

Also – I’m going to be part of 2 separate television shows – one in which I’m a design expert for a Home Show and the other, Anna (my wife!) and I are featuring in a documentary series that should hit our screens in September 2024.  

I’ve been really busy filming, working on projects, planning the wedding (and getting married), getting everything ready to build our house on the site in 2025 (all going well) and now we’re just about to start the process of applying for a mortgage, so it’s all go! 

I’m also just about to start a new part-time position as an Adult Educator (teaching Entrepreneurial Skills) with the GRETB in the next few weeks! 

And how is Dan Eire these days? Are you busy and what kind of projects are you working on? 

I’m still busy, yes – thank you! I’m working mainly on residential projects, I have a couple of commercial projects in the pipeline and I’m working on my own house too – trying to juggle them all! 

Personal development 

You have been “out in the wild” as a professional interior designer for some time now. What has surprised you about being a freelance designer? Anything new you have learned since you left the academy? 

I’ve been running my own business since 2019 and just celebrated 5 years in business this March. I’ve learned so much about running a business, who I am as a person, my strengths and weaknesses and I’ve definitely learned a lot about how to communicate and interact more effectively with people. 

Have you remained on the same path you began, or have you steered much? Do you want to steer? 

I’ve pivoted a little bit – I’m leaning more towards the more technical aspects of design – like spatial planning, kitchen design, electrical plans etc. I really enjoy those parts – a lot more than choosing furniture/materials/colours for people. But I have a really great design consultant, Michelle Connolly Kelleher, working with me. She is also an IDAI graduate, and she loves that aspect of design – so we’re a great team – we both get to do the bits we like the most in our jobs.  

I’d like to explore this new teaching opportunity I’ve set up for myself and see if it’s something that I’ll enjoy and excel at. 

I also really, really enjoyed filming for TV – It’s definitely something I want to get more experience in – I’d absolutely love to be a household name when it comes to Homes/Property/Design. 

Now you are going to be on Virgin Media on the Great Inspo Home Adventure with James Kavanagh. Can you tell us how that came about – and what is your contribution to the show? 

I probably can’t say too much until it actually airs (my episode is on 14 April) but I’ve been brought in as a design expert to help James and William visualize the potential for their dream inspo home. 

You will also be in a documentary later this year? Tell us a bit about that? 

Anna and I were filming with the production crew for most of 2023 – it’s a documentary that follows 10 (I think?) couples throughout the course of a year or so and document any big changes in their lives. For us it was buying, renovating and moving into the mobile home and our journey with mortgages, planning/building the house etc. Plus, the wedding was in October, so there was some interest in that too. It’s just a general look at regular people and the different changes/challenges they come across as they navigate life! 

Household name 

I remember you told us you had entered the Ideal Homes Show which helped launch your interior design career. Are these things (TV and trade shows) a marketing tool to be “seen” or are you keen on moving into Television / media? 

I definitely want to feature more on TV – I’ve enjoyed it more than I thought I would, and I believe it’s probably one of the best types of publicity for a business that you can get. A lot of my business comes through word of mouth, but the more you’re seen, the more work/potential for work and career advancement you can have. 

The academy celebrates 20 years this year – where do you see yourself in – let’s say 10 years!! 

Wow, congratulations to The Academy – that’s a great achievement! In 10 years, I hope to be living happily with my wife in our beautiful home (after winning Home of the Year of course!!) – a nice career in design/TV/education which still allows me the freedom of freelance life (9-5 is not for me!) and the comforts/rewards that I deserve based on my experience and talent! 

Sarah is a great example of the career opportunities our graduates can enjoy and the dynamic and varied work that designers explore. The collaboration of Sarah and Michelle is living proof that while two people can do the same course in our academy, they have found their own individual niche and are thriving. They have also found each other, which is testament to the community generated in the academy and the camaraderie that can be found with like-minded people. Sarah has embraced the hard work of building her company and by remaining open and creative, she has also continued to evolve as a person. If she keeps doing what she’s doing, it’s very possible that Sarah Petersen will indeed be the first name on the lips of anyone mentioning interior design. We at the academy have no doubt our students will soon be saying “let’s Sarah Petersen it”!! 

Take a look at Sarahs film below. This inspiring story looks at Sarah’s journey to the academy, the leap of faith that she took when starting her own business and the materials and philosophies that have inspired her along the way. Enjoy! 

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Written by: Fiona Byrne

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