Sara Simpson and Ann-Marie Waterhouse on Taking Risks in the Design World

Photo by Brea McDonald Photography
Photo by Brea McDonald Photography
Photo by Brea McDonald Photography
Photo by Brea McDonald Photography
Photo by Brea McDonald Photography
Photo by Brea McDonald Photography
Photo by Brea McDonald Photography
Photo by Brea McDonald Photography

Sara Simpson and Ann-Marie Waterhouse of Alice & Bird Interiors bring different talents to their interior design firm; Simpson manages the design, and Waterhouse the nitty-gritty business details. In this installment of the MH+D Inside Out series, Simpson and Waterhouse explain how they stay grounded in the design world with a touch of tongue-in-cheek humor.

Q. How did you get into interior design?

Simpson: We’ve known each other since we were teenagers. I went to school for interior design, but I was working in the retail sector, and Ann-Marie went to school for business. At one point Ann-Marie said to me, “Why aren’t you doing this on your own?” That idea of starting my own business scared me a lot.

Waterhouse: And of course, I said, “Well that’s the annoying part, so I’ll do that.” I’d say our business is built on my confidence in her ability to make things beautiful, and she has confidence in my ability to manage relationships, finances, budgets, and contracts.

Q. What types of projects do you like to work on?

Simpson: The best scenario for us is being hired for a design that we can see it through until the end. We love when we are given the opportunity to bring our team of folks in to collaborate with and implement the design through the construction phase.

Q. How do you approach owning your own business?

Waterhouse: We’re flexible in our expectations of our little company.

Simpson: And it’s always evolving.

Waterhouse: We’ve found, too, that there’s always a solution to a problem. In the construction industry, though, you have to be willing to feel the risk on every single job. I think, too, our satisfaction comes from meeting so many different people with different needs and being able to fulfill them, and we’re proud of that. Everything worth having takes hard work, and every project is hard work in one way or another.

Q. Where do you see Alice & Bird Interiors in the future?

Waterhouse: I mean we’re three-and-a-half years old. A lot of tradespeople we work with remind us, “You guys are in your infancy.” There are people with fifteen years under their belt that are still learning.

Q. Do you feel that you’re still learning?

Simpson: Every job that we work through and complete, we think to ourselves, “We just learned so many things.” But I know, because of how I feel at the end of the job, that we’re doing the right thing. It’s just the process. There are so many details that always have to be ironed out. You need to keep a sane mind as you’re figuring these things out and realize that it’s not the end of the world if….

Waterhouse: We’re not heart surgeons.

Simpson: Right. Things can always be changed. It’s day by day. Having our own business, I think to myself, “Will there ever be a point where I’m not thinking about it all the time?” I think that’s just the nature of running your own show. It’s consuming, but it’s rewarding.


Our MH+D Inside Out series features interviews with creators from our community and gets inside some of the top minds in the design industry. Read on for their stories, tips, and sources of inspiration.