Graphic designer finds a home in Interior Design

Headshot of Sarah Kincaid in a black dress

For Sarah Kincaid, the signs were always there.

Her father is a builder, and she grew up spending her weekends at construction sites, looking at floor plans and searching for new ideas. When she left to study graphic design at James Madison University, the pull continued. She took classes like modern architecture, and enrolled in a study abroad program that focused on architecture.

“I didn’t think anything of it at the time,” she says. “But looking back, I put the pieces together that interior design was something I’m really interested in.”

It wasn’t until Kincaid returned to Virginia after spending several years living abroad that she had the chance to explore her interest more fully by designing her own custom home. The experience was a test, she says, to see if she was cut out for a career change.

She didn’t work with a designer and reworked an existing floorplan. Kincaid crafted a home that was an expression of all of the places she had traveled and a reflection of her own aesthetics. She also handled everything from making decisions about the structural design and selecting materials, to working with vendors and staying on budget.

“The fact that I made it through the process in one piece was a testament that I can do this,” she says. “I was able to handle the pressure and the end result was exactly what I had envisioned.”

Soon after, Kincaid started applying for interior design jobs and realized she needed further training in order to understand the language of interior design and the programs used within the industry. VCUarts was both close to home and offered a CIDA-accredited master’s program that aligned with her interests.

A Creative Daring Scholarship helped make it possible for Kincaid to return to school.

“The decision to go back to school was not taken lightly,” she says. “I knew there would be many challenges in terms of finances and securing quality childcare for my boys. This scholarship alleviates some of the financial burden so that I can focus on my studies.”

Now a year into the program, Kincaid is getting the experience she hoped for. Last spring, she worked on a project to reimagine the forum space of the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU. She says it was the first project that brought together a variety of new skills, from drafting and drawing to working with InDesign and AutoCAD. In addition, the space was a challenge, with few right angles and large, curved walls.

“It was very intimidating at first, to be honest,” she says. “The ICA was designed by well-known architect Steven Holl. But the skills I learned in my first two semesters at VCU prepared me for the challenge.”

While Kincaid’s personal spaces reflect Scandinavian aesthetics—simple, serene, and neutral—she has been drawn to color within commercial design while studying at VCUarts. Her experience in both graphic and interior design often merge, as she considers how a business’s brand is reflected in the interior environment.

“I think that’s very important, especially for commercial design,” she says. “It is very exciting to me when the branding informs the creative direction of an interior space. I think it can be a great jumping off point and a wonderful opportunity for a cohesive design.”

Invest in our students

VCUarts is invested in experiences that equip students to leverage their abilities, talents and drive to bring ideas into existence. Kincaid’s Creative Daring Scholarship was made possible thanks to a gift from Thomas and Deborah Valentine. You can help ensure talented students from all backgrounds have access to a VCUarts education.