It is often said that when you do what you love, it never feels like work. And in the case of interior designer Sara Story, she is her passion personified. “I love listening to my clients’ stories and their experiences,” she explains of her approach. “The interiors we design should reflect their passions and interests. It should be tailored to their lifestyle.” But beyond understanding her clients’ worlds, Story has an incredible, well, story of her own.
Born in Japan, she lived there for two years before moving to Singapore, where she spent three more years. Her family ultimately settled in Texas, but Story’s formative years abroad clearly inform her work. So we sat down with Story in her gorgeous New York townhouse overlooking Gramercy Park to learn more.
What sparked your passion for design? When and how did you get started in your career?
From an early age, I was very cognizant of my surroundings. Ripping out my carpet and exposing the concrete floors, painting my walls, rearranging the furniture are just some of the things I would do. After receiving my degree in Interior Architecture, I moved to New York to get started! I worked for a designer I respected, then eventually started my own company.
What do you love most about your work?
I am constantly learning and inspired by artists, artisans and all the fantastic materials we get to work with. There is constant innovation in the design world!
Describe your design style in 5 words:
Global, layered, timeless, whimsical, comfortable.
Has your approach to design evolved over time? If so, how?
Most definitely. I continue to learn and always strive to evolve. Having a solid experience base in which to inform my decisions allows me to take risks.
Where do you get your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from nature, traveling and exploring museums viewing art.
What does a successful project mean to you? How do you know when you have finished the design?
It is finished when the story has been told. We have created a fantastic interior that functions well, and there is an atmosphere that is magical. Although, a great interior is always growing and evolving, too!
I love to travel, and finding treasures is a nice way to remember your journey.
Your work has such an eclectic, global aesthetic. Where do you go to search for the best, most unique pieces?
I love to travel, and finding treasures is a nice way to remember your journey. I love finding exceptional pieces and learning about different local artisans to bring unique pieces to my work.
What is your advice for spotting special pieces while traveling? How do you pinpoint the quality items vs. the less-than ones?
Going to local markets and doing research prior to my trip. It is always fascinating to meet the artisans who create the pieces. That is always a helpful way to know the quality—asking questions and really looking at the fabrication.
What is your travel beauty routine like? Any tips for making it easy and organized when you’re on the road?
I try to keep the beauty routine simple! I use a great toner that keeps my skin feeling good and always use a moisturizer with sunscreen. I like to travel light, so I keep it to a bare minimum. When I’m home, I’ll use more lotions and serums.
A woman’s bathroom vanity is such a special place to display her beauty treasures—Estée Lauder designed her initial product packaging with this in mind. Any tips for creating an artful display that looks chic and not cluttered?
My vanity displays curious finds from my travels, like rocks, coral pieces and ceramic vases, along with lovely images of my kids next to my perfumes, lotions, potions and makeup. It looks fantastic to display beautiful lipsticks and makeup—the packaging is so gorgeous!
On my vanity here, the silver elephant is from Thailand. My family is active in trying to protect elephants from ivory poachers and making sure they have a natural habitat. My parents' foundation, The Elephant Story, raises money for elephants.
The necklace is from Asia, as well. I travel there usually at least once a year. It’s an important part of the world for my family. The gold bangles with emeralds I bought when I was in Marrakesh.
If you were stranded on a deserted island, name the 5 things you’d need with you:
My family, books, sunscreen, lipstick and wine!