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Three Things Designer Sara Touijer Learned Filming Rachael Ray’s Rebuild

When friend and neighbor Brian Flanagan texted Interior Designer Sara Touijer to ask if she would want to be a designer for a new TV show, her response was an emphatic “Yes.” “It was a dream come true,” says Touijer, principal designer and owner of Touijer Designs in Rye, NY, who helped design homes for 10 families for the new series, Rachael Ray’s Rebuild, which drops on Hulu Monday, October 23. 

Ray’s new show was inspired by her own experience of losing her upstate New York home to a fire in 2020. Rebuilding a life after a catastrophe is a challenging process. Beyond the physical damage to the structure, there are safety concerns, unforeseen financial obligations, and the challenge of juggling matters with insurance companies and contractors, not to mention the emotional toll this all takes on a family. Ray, having been through it herself, assembled a team including Touijer, to bring their experience and resources to families who are in the midst of trying to rebuild their lives, to get back into their homes and remake them better than they were before.  

Touijer wasn’t originally intended to be on screen. But one day she was measuring for the first home and a showrunner suddenly gave the direction to “film her.” “That was the start of it,” she says. “I don’t know what he saw in me, but I’m forever grateful for that shot.” Being a part of the new show was a meaningful experience for Touijer who says she is happiest when helping others. “The most rewarding part of this experience was seeing how people come together as a family, as a community, as a crew,” she says.  While she has 12 years of experience designing homes for clients in Westchester County and beyond, this experience brought a few realizations that she will carry with her in her work. 

Design has impact that goes beyond the visual.

One of the things I knew but truly felt after working with these families was the impact a designer has on a person or family’s life. As a designer, we focus on the interiors of a space and how it affects the well-being of the individuals living there. 

Interior design isn’t just about making spaces pretty. It’s not frivolous. There is a deep side to designing people’s homes. I believe designers also impact the interiors of people’s hearts and minds. You spend so much time indoors. It matters how you feel when you’re in those spaces.

Every homeowner can benefit from having a pro in their corner.

I don’t think any of the 10 families involved in the show had worked with a designer before. They were so grateful to have a professional focused on their home design. It was one less stress to worry about. There were so many aspects of design incorporated into the homes that they never considered.

Interior design can be viewed as a luxury service and often not accessible to everyone. The good news is that there are many interior design resources available that help anyone at any budget create a space in their homes that is so much more than they expected. 

That kind of knowledge is invaluable when you’re making permanent decisions about your home. 

I offer affordable online consultations that help clients know what’s possible as they’re investing in their homes. Sharing my knowledge is important to me, and I value every client I have the opportunity to work with. 

Sentimental items and heirlooms aren’t just ‘things.’

When you’ve gone through a traumatic event, like the loss of your entire home, you’re looking for ways to bring back what you lost. 

During the process of working with the families on the show, I realized the importance of incorporating sentimental items and heirloom pieces in your home décor. I saw what it meant to the families who lost so much to have something they treasured from their old home represented into the new design. 

The Murphy family had a kitchen table that was submerged in the flood waters. It was important to them to have that back in their new kitchen. We rescued the table, cleaned up the tabletop and added new legs. It fit perfectly into the new design and had positive memories tied to it. 

The Sornsteins had a dining hutch that had been in the family for generations. While this piece wasn’t able to be salvaged, a skeleton key to the hutch was saved and displayed in a shadow box, in the kitchen. It was a special reminder of the piece that was lost.

Bad things can and do happen in the world. Life is unpredictable and can change in a split second. It’s devastating to have to start over and can be an overwhelming process. Through perseverance, strong will and the love of those around you, you will get through tough times and rebuild even better. Appreciate every moment and be as present as possible. Sometimes, in the worst moments of your life, the biggest blessings can be found. 

Photo Credit: Hulu

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