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Artful Intrigue: Designer Sara Story

It’s not every day that we chat with a top designer who also happens to play elephant polo competitively. But when the designer is Sara Story, an AD100 (and PAGODA RED) favorite, the larger-than-life hobby makes perfect sense. After all, one look at her beautiful work and it’s clear—this tastemaker is no stranger to risk taking.

We’ve long admired Sara’s eye for collecting, and her ability to incorporate major works of art into her designs in a way that feels both personal and welcoming. We asked her to share a bit about how she manages to strike this delicate balance, again and again.

Design: Sara Story Design. Photo: Marco Ricca.

“When starting a project, I consult with a client on their collection and ask what sort of atmosphere they are looking for in regards to their home,” she explains. “Art is a huge passion of mine—it provides much emotion and depth to a project, so I find it very integral to an interior and to life.” In the image above, a painting by Yayoi Kusama, greets visitors in the entryway of the designer’s own home.

When it comes to helping clients select new pieces for their homes, Sara takes the long view. “Art creates focal points and interesting moments of intrigue,” she says. “I strive to curate engaging, timeless and evolving spaces, therefore I select pieces that will grow and intrigue clients over time.  I like for each piece to have a story and to have room to breathe.”

Design: Sara Story Design. Photo: Masano Kawana.

“Whether it’s a single piece or a collection of items, I believe art has to really speak to you,” Sara continues. “When I first started to collect art, I gravitated towards strong female artists, and I encourage my clients to find what speaks to them. For example, I have a client who collects contemporary artists from California.”

Working within this kind of structured framework puts unrelated objects into dialogue with one another—with juxtapositions creating richer, more nuanced stories. “It’s interesting to mix media,” says Sara. “Tactile paintings with more flat objects, or vice versa… or photography with very textural ceramics.”

Design: Sara Story Design. Photo: Robert Relic.

Her talent for layering historical references into ultra-modern spaces is evident in the project above, where blue-and-white ceramics share space with contemporary and mid-century pieces, including a painting by Andro Wekua. The effect is a home which reflects the unique passions and interests of its owner, rather than showcasing a cluster of trends.

“An interior should gently unfold before you and hopefully inspire and engage you,” says Sara.

Design: Sara Story Design. Photo: Masano Kawana.

The designer holds a degree in interior architecture, along with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Perhaps it is this added layer of expertise that has helped her steer large-scale projects, such as the overhauling of her own historic home, pictured below and at top. For the dining room below, the designer commissioned a site-specific piece by Otto Zitko, complimented by a gleaming sculpture by Sarah Lucas.

Design: Sara Story Design. Photo: Marco Ricca.

“Architecture is critical for interior design,” says Sara. “The more depth you have on a practice the more you can fine tune the details. They say the devil is in the details, and I find that is especially true in design.  The materiality, the scale and the execution are critical for a successful project.”

Design: Sara Story Design. Photo: Robert McLeod.

Another of the designer’s signatures is her masterful approach to lighting. We love the way she uses light to create moody, atmospheric spaces—especially her propensity for incorporating one-of-a-kind vintage fixtures into her interior projects.

“Lighting is perhaps one of my favorite areas of design,” confesses Sara. “Lighting can be a show stopper—spectacular and dynamic or a very small scale and whimsical. I love finding vintage pieces—they add so much history and patina.”

Design: Sara Story Design. Photo: Eric Laignel.

Sara counts travel as an indulgence she can’t live without, and cites it as one of her favorite influences. “Travel is a huge source of inspiration for me,” says Sara. “That coupled with my love of art (visiting galleries and museums) really informs and develops my eye.”

We love the sense of adventure that comes through in everything she touches. Aside from her hefty roster of interior projects, Sara plans to release several new wallpaper patterns to her eponymous line, in the near future. In addition, a hardware collection, along with furniture and fabric lines are in the works. Certain to be both artful and exciting, we can’t wait to see what she does next.

Sara Story, of Sara Story Design. Photo: Taylor Jewel.


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