We’ve all lived in places that are far from our dream home (read: student halls). Even in adulthood it feels easier at times to just compromise and manage what you’ve got rather than move – again – or cover up your woes with the headache that can be renovating. Anyone can build a house, but making a home is a bigger challenge and one that’s often presented as self-absorbed and precious. The thing is though, is that a home is an extension of the self. Pour negative energy into it and negative energy will surround not just those four walls, but also you. That’s why I’d go as far to say that creating a comfortable and inviting space is conducive to healthy lifestyle. “Living in my dream home has truly changed my life,” says Sarah Schiear.
The New York-based entrepreneur launched Salt House Market in 2014 with a collection of fashion-forward aprons, before growing it to the e-commerce site it is now, offering everything from kitchen accessories to bedroom furniture and lighting—everything you need to create the perfect space. Sarah’s journey to launching her own business was segued by a stint in finance and media planning. Neither job satisfied her obsession with food though, so she started blogging as a passion project—something that led to her landing a role as an editor for a recipe website. “While I was there, I applied – as a shot in the dark – to a competitive cooking show called The Taste,” Sarah tells us. “I made it onto the show and after filming, decided to move to New York to pursue a career doing what I loved.”
Sarah finished third place in the show, but by the time it had finished airing, she was running a successful pop-up restaurant, as well as pursuing a career as a private chef and caterer. Committed to showing up as her authentic self in all aspects of life, Sarah started designing aprons that reflected her sense of style, fusing fashion and function—and Salt House Market was born. We caught up with Sarah in New York to talk about the future of her brand, why IRL interactions are the new digital, and to get her tips on creating your own dream space.
ON HOW SHE LANDED ON THE TASTE & HER ROUTE INTO FOOD
I majored in finance and entrepreneurship at the University of Miami, and I took a job at UBS after graduation. I quickly learned that finance wasn’t going to be my thing, so I started looking around. I was in south Florida at the time, so there weren’t many options – but I ended up at a media planning startup that was founded by the former media director of a big ad firm in Miami. I learned a lot and that background has proved helpful in what I’m doing now. At the time, I had recently discovered my passion for food and cooking. I was obsessed with throwing dinner parties for friends. I had started a blog about it so when I heard about a job working at a recipe website as an editor, I tried that out. While I was there, I applied (as a shot-in-the-dark!) to be on a competitive cooking show called, The Taste. I made it onto the show and after filming, decided to move to New York to pursue a career doing what I loved. I wasn’t sure what it would be, but I knew that I would find out in New York.
I grew up very close to an aunt who is an amazing cook and entertainer. But other than that, I didn’t really have much exposure to it. My family mostly went out to dinner. It wasn’t until I graduated college and moved in with my boyfriend at the time, that I really started cooking and throwing dinner parties for friends. I think it was just about how I wanted to spend my time as I transitioned into my adult life. We connect over food, and for me there’s no greater joy than creating that intimate experience in your own home for the people you love.
LIFE AFTER THE TASTE
Everything was a whirlwind after The Taste. I did a pop-up restaurant with one of my teammates from the show, who was an incredible, highly-trained chef. It all happened very organically. He’d been in talks with a few guys who were opening up a pop-up space in Nolita, and so he asked me if I wanted to do it with him. I didn’t even know what a pop-up was at the time, but I quickly figured it out! The concept was called ABODE and the experience merged fine food with more of a relaxed, dinner party atmosphere. The experience was amazing, and definitely set the tone for what would happen next. I had no clue what I was doing. I was physically and mentally exhausted working in a professional kitchen environment for the first time while also running the business of it, from conceiving recipes to lugging groceries to selling tickets, managing a staff, and ultimately creating the right experience for our guests. The highs were all the moments at the end of the night looking around and knowing it was a success. When guests would hug me, thank me, and tell me it was the best night or meal of their lives.
We had planned to do the pop-up as the show was airing, for about three months. As it started to come to an end, guests would ask if we could cook for their birthday party or other events. One of the first private dinners I ever did was for the Olsen twins, who I ended up working with throughout my catering career.
HOW HER LINE OF APRONS STARTED EVERYTHING
The aprons really were the starting point for the business. I selfishly was just looking for a cuter apron for myself, and when a clothing designer friend said I should have them produced as a fun side project, I decided to give it a shot. From there, I had to think about a name and a brand, and Salt House was born. When I thought about where I could sell them, I realized they didn’t really fit into any stores that sold aprons. They were more modern, more high-end, and more “fashion” than what you might find at a Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma. So I wondered, what would be the next store like that for our next generation?
I always had the mission to branch into other categories. Entertaining brought me so much joy, and I wanted to share that with other people. I knew I wanted to create a space where my peers could find things for their homes and kitchens that they loved, so that they could in turn create a space that would inspire them to host their own gatherings.
THE MERGE BETWEEN FOOD, FASHION & LIFESTYLE
I think food is becoming a powerful form of self-expression, the way fashion has always been. And I don’t necessarily mean identifying as a vegan or anything like that. Simply the act of taking pictures of your food and posting it to Instagram is one example. And I strongly believe that the way you style and live in your home is becoming the next extension of that.
WHY YOUR HOME SHOULD REFLECT WHO YOU ARE
This is my holy grail. Living in my dream home has truly changed my life. It empowers me and inspires me… it adds joy to my life everyday. But the fact is, you don’t have to do an entire remodel to achieve this feeling. Start small. Think about the items you use and interact with daily, and reinvent them. If you want to cook more but hate prepping, try buying a beautiful heirloom cutting board and a new, high-quality knife. Light your favorite candle and crank up that Spotify playlist while you’re there. There are so many seemingly dull moments at home that we can turn into special, joyful experiences.
HER CREATIVE PROCESS WHEN IT COMES TO ENTERTAINING
I generally start by thinking about a group of people I want to get together. So if a holiday is coming up, maybe it’s family… or maybe it’s a group of friends I haven’t seen in a while. Inspiration starts with seasonality for me, so usually I’ll pick a couple of ingredients that are in season and build a menu around them. I love coming up with detailed and thoughtful menus; it’s my favorite part of the process.
Other times, I’ll just get a craving to do something fun. I’ll be in the mood to create a Cuban-themed dinner, complete with coconut mojitos and crisp-fried tostones sprinkled with sea salt. Or maybe I’ll see an idea in a magazine or on Instagram and feel inspired. I read about these dinners in Italy where they would put a line of parchment down the center of the table and cover it with polenta, and then serve bowls of different toppings, like short ribs and grilled veggies. So I re-created that, and it was a blast.
One of my favorite dinners was one that I did with a fashion blogger friend of mine who loves poke [yellowfin tuna salad], so I came up with the idea to do a “tacos and tartare” theme. I love tacos and I love tartare, so it was fun and a little unexpected to combine them as a theme. I made skirt steak and maitake mushroom tacos with salsa verde, octopus tacos with peach-basil salsa, tuna poke with avocado, scallop crudo, and coconut-paloma paletas (with tequila shots!) for dessert.
THE NEXT BIG STEP? SALT HOUSE MARKET THE STORE….
Trends are cyclical. Because we’ve become so digitally entrenched, I think it’s all all the more reason for IRL to be the next movement. We’re already seeing it with digitally native vertical brands like Warby Parker and Bonobos investing heavily in creating amazing in-store experiences. The truth is, brick-and-mortar retail will never go away because we will always crave human connection. We just need to reinvent the way we’re doing it, from the experience to the business model.
The Salt House Market store will do just that. I’ve conceptualized an entirely new shopping experience that I cannot wait to unveil. Shopping at SHM will feel as if you’re hanging out at a friend’s beautiful home, only everything will be for sale. You’ll be able to discover brands and products on a deeper level, connecting to their narratives and interacting with them in a new way. You’ll be able to test things before you buy them – so if you’re looking for new cookware, you’ll be able to grab a few ingredients from our fridge with the help of an editor and try it out on the spot. You can attend a fireside chat with a panel of your favorite bloggers. For your bridal shower, maybe you’ll rent out our gorgeous kitchen for your own private dinner party and cooking lesson. Everyday there will be events, demos, shoots… cocktails being poured and chocolate chip cookies coming out of the oven.
We’re inviting you into our world for the day, so that you can feel inspired to take a piece of it home with you – whether that means buying something you love, or simply experiencing “home” in a new way.
TRUSTING YOUR INSTINCT
It’s something I’ve gotten much better at as things have progressed. It’s great to get advice and feedback, but at a certain point you learn that no one really knows anything. Especially when you’re creating something new. When I was first starting out, I would listen to other people who had more experience or years on me when, in reality, I would have been better off if I had trusted myself. Unfortunately, I think you have to learn some of those lessons the hard way, but once you do, following your own intuition becomes more automatic.
I’ve always been a fearless person, and it’s my natural disposition to think outside the box. My advice is to ask yourself: What’s the worst that could happen? If you pick it apart, you’ll find that most times, that worst thing isn’t going to kill you. That process dissolves the fear which is really just an illusion.