For Kathy Sandler, a lifelong design dream became a flourishing reality

By Olivia McClure
Photography by Claire Cuevas, Kristen Mayfield, Kathy Sandler

Kathy Sandler was introduced to interior design as a young girl watching her parents renovate their family home in Nashville, turning a two-bedroom, one-bath starter into a four-bedroom, one-bath home.

“It’s the first time I can recall understanding the importance of functional design in small spaces,” Sandler says.

With the desire to study architecture in college, Sandler enrolled in drafting classes during her high school years. But life happened, and Sandler took a 22-year hiatus from her design career to raise her children.

Once her children were all grown up, Sandler enrolled in O’More College of Design — and thus, her design ambitions were rekindled.

In 2004, Sandler established the Sandler Design Group, which works on residential and commercial properties nationwide. Besides being named a Tastemaker for Global Lighting, she was listed as one of Modenus’ Top 100 Interior Design Influencers earlier this year.

Sandler’s collaborations with leading designer brands, such as American Standard and Sherwin Williams, have further bolstered her design credibility.

“I’ve had the opportunity to see new products before they go on the market and give my opinion as to the marketability of a design being considered for production,” Sandler says. “This kind of hands-on involvement gives me the ability to recommend quality products to my clients with confidence.”

Recently, Sandler worked as a Design Assistant for a full season of the hit HGTV series, Property Brothers, which she describes as an enjoyable, enlightening experience.

“If a homeowner panicked, the Scott Brothers kept their cool, even when the HVAC went out on a very hot day,” Sandler says. “They are the same off-screen as they are on-screen; kind, funny and frank. I was so impressed by an off-camera conversation they had with a very difficult homeowner, I co-opted it to use in my business, and it’s been a game changer!”

For a woman so busy building her portfolio, Sandler still takes time to live in the moment, and one of her favorite ways to unwind is to travel — which, in turn, inspires her design work.

“Whether at home or abroad, I adore old cities for their distinct architecture, walkable neighborhoods and sense of place,” Sandler says. “The serenity of a Japanese temple is as invigorating to me as navigating the bustling streets of Amsterdam or tripping down the cobblestones in Philadelphia.”

In Sandler’s mind, interior design is an ever-changing field, and it’s up to designers, like herself, to evolve alongside their craft.

“I gain new insight with every collaboration, whether it’s with a client, an architect, another designer, a tradesperson, or a builder,” Sandler says. “In order to grow as a designer, you have to constantly be open to possibility, change and new ways of seeing.”