There was a time when Sasha Adler, 39, would have laughed if you’d told her where she’d be today. In June 2018, she launched her eponymous interior design company, and she has since become one of the most sought-after designers in Chicago — and the nation. She recently designed the Goop Austin pop-up store in Texas, a private aircraft, and numerous residences in her hometown and beyond.
“It’s been a whirlwind … a dream come true,” says Adler.
Dreams have to start somewhere and, for Adler, they stemmed from her first love: fashion. Growing up in a vintage apartment in the Gold Coast with her close-knit family, she says, “As a kid, I’d always change into a million different outfits.”
With her heart set on a career writing for fashion magazines, Adler graduated from the University of Michigan, where she met her husband Greg, and moved to New York. After a stint in public relations, she landed a job for a Paris-based glossy. “It was a small company so I did a lot, from styling photo shoots to all the editorial.” She and Greg started to experience burnout with New York living, so they headed to Adler’s hometown in 2004.
Relocating made her reassess her path. “I was exploring my options when I got introduced to [interior designer] Nate Berkus. … We just had this instant rapport,” says Adler. “I’d always had an interest in interiors, but never really considered it as a career. Nate pointed out that a lot of the principles relevant to fashion and styling are applicable to design.” He offered Adler a trial internship at his firm and, after a month, she knocked on Berkus’s door and told him she was all in.
Adler started as a design assistant, then moved up from designer to design director and, eventually, ran her own projects. “Over the 14 years I worked there, I had the opportunity to learn from Nate and our clients. He placed a tremendous amount of trust in me and gave me creative license to find my own voice within the context of his firm.”
“Consciously uncoupling” from Berkus on excellent terms and going solo last year, Adler was ready for the next challenge. As a mom of three (ages 2, 6, and 9) she admits, “There’s guilt associated with working. But I want my kids to see what I’m building so it inspires them for their futures.”
One of Adler’s first challenges in growing her brand was finding the right workspace. “We stumbled across a vintage apartment in the Gold Coast. It had all the original crown moldings, fireplace, wooden flooring. … It was the perfect fit. I filled it with pieces I stole from my own home so it feels like a living showroom.”
And, that’s precisely Adler’s calling card: the curation of old with new, and functional with luxurious. It’s a cross-pollination of all things visual, with a focus on customization. “I still to this day apply a lot of things from fashion to interior design,” she says. “I’ll pull a fashion shoot from Vogue and use it in a color palette or fabric, or take inspiration from something that’s been on the runway, like a trim detail.”
Adler loves handmade items and undiscovered artisans. “I get excited by the unique … things that have character, history, age, and life before coming to us. That’s something inherent in my aesthetic.”
As it happens, one passion often leads to another. “My husband teases me because I love fashion, design, art, jewelry, travel. He’s like, ‘Something’s got to give!’ But to me they’re all connected … the art of combining different materials, colors, textures, proportions,” she explains.
Adler confesses she makes the worst travel companion because she gets really absorbed. “On a trip to Italy, my husband was so frustrated as I stopped every minute to photograph everything. But I came back here and applied it to my work, particularly in the pieces we custom design.”
Now as she celebrates her company’s first anniversary, Adler has a moment to reflect. “I just feel so lucky. There’s still plenty to do, but it’s been an incredible year and there’s so much more to come.”
Take a look at her most stunning recent work
AT THE SHOOT
Interior designer Sasha Adler took us behind the scenes of a raw space in the Gold Coast that she’s transforming into a family apartment. “I’m working closely with the clients and the architect, Northworks, to create a home inspired by historically significant details that still feel young and modern,” says Adler. Even among dropcloths and scaffolding, Adler shined. Read more about her design journey in our story on page 8.
Photographer: Maria Ponce
On the Cover Dress Oscar de la Renta, Shoes Gianvito Rossi, Bee ring designed by Adler
Top of Post Dress Prada, Bow ring designed by Adler