Meet Award Winning Furniture Designer Sara Hayat

Sara Hayat’s award-winning furnishings come from a legacy of design and a study of human behavior.

Sara Hayat
Photo by Frances Marron.

Sara Hayat, founder of Sara Hayat Design, comes from a long line of fine furniture makers. Her family’s roots in the industry reach back more than 150 years, when Hayat’s great-grandfather began manufacturing furniture in Gujrat, in prepartition India. Surrounded by artisans during her upbringing in Pakistan, Hayat nevertheless studied math and economics, learning about what drives human behavior. After a successful career in finance, Hayat’s love of design brought her back into the fold. Hayat relates that like many, spending more time at home during the pandemic emphasized to her the importance of space. Now, Hayat’s award-winning furnishing collections reflect her unique vision, as well as the legacy of generations.

Can you talk about your journey to founding your company?
“My family has been manufacturing furniture since the 1870s. But, when I first graduated from University, I decided to pursue a career in finance. Design has always been a guiding force in my life, but futures and commodity trading, with its inherent focus on human behavior, gave me a whole new appreciation for good design. How we curate our environment directly impacts our behavior and mindset. We interact with furniture constantly. It evolves with you, grows old with you. Furniture is a silent companion that witnesses laughter, sadness, joy, friendship, and heartbreak, absorbing the memories created. It was the idea of taking control of how we design our environment that helped me create my pieces.”

Please tell us about your design influences.
“I have taken inspiration from so many influences in my life. I love the different materials and colors used in sneakers. I love the incredible details that go into making cars like the shape and design components of a headlight or the stitching on the leather interiors. I’m inspired by different shapes of a watch, a good podcast, the list goes on. It’s the combinatorial power of all these things that help me get into a creative space and design pieces that are aesthetically unique and functional. When I see the furniture from Edra or the architecture from Oscar Niemeyer, I want to know how they came up with the idea for their designs. What about their environment and the experiences they’ve had led to their creations.”

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How do you feel about trends?
“Most of the things we see are an iteration of what we’ve always seen. These designs are antifragile. They have stood the test of time, which is what I strive for in my designs. There is a unique value added in creating antifragile pieces that surpass trends.”

Any favorite materials?
“I love the gravitas and warmth that real wood brings to a room. But more than the material, it is the expertise in craftsmanship and the attention to detail that bring a concept to life. It’s the beauty in mastery that can make any material shine.”

How has the industry changed since you began?
“With my family’s company, M. Hayat & Bros., manufacturing and designing furniture for such a long time, the statement that captures one of the bigger changes in the industry is, “If it’s not wood, it’s not furniture.” There is a lot more use and manipulation of metals and other faux woods like medium-density fiberboard and the use of veneer. The longevity of the pieces and craftsmanship is less important compared to the focus on the aesthetics of furniture.”

Tell us about your design philosophy.
“All our furniture is made with utmost attention to both form and function. The pieces are exclusive, and made-to-order with beauty and comfort in mind. I want my designs to bring joy, foster connection and facilitate meaningful interactions. I want the pieces to dazzle, anchor us in the moment and remind us of what we can be. For me, design is a function of empathy. It is knowing intimate details about what it means to be human. It is knowing about human behavior and how we interact and move in the world. A good design resonates, and its function is realized when it comes from a place of empathy, of connection.”