Insider tips from globetrotting interior designer Sara Story


By Anna Carnick

This week, we sat down with Sara Story, a Japan-born, New York-based interior designer known for travel-inspired settings that are at once polished and comfortable. Raised in Singapore and Texas, Story flavors her projects with subtle touches inspired by her globetrotting lifestyle and bold, modern art. She was kind enough to offer up some insider tips for sourcing, advice on what to splurge on and what to save on, as well as her favorite designers, past and present.

AC: How did your career in design begin? What first attracted you to the field?

SS: Design, architecture, and art have been my passions all my life. When I first began thinking of my career, I decided to study what I love to do. I wanted to learn how to create spaces that would fulfill a purpose, creating enviable atmospheres so those in the room could relax, entertain, tell stories, and share memories.

AC: With so many styles and options available today, how do you make design decisions? Where do you start?

SS: The architecture and overall landscape [inspire] the design process. Then it becomes all about the space, light, and function. Lighting is enormously important to me, and [it] is usually where I start when I am selecting pieces for a space.

AC: In choosing design pieces to live with, what’s worth investing in? What can you get for a steal?  

SS: I think light fixtures, statement furniture pieces from iconic designers, and art are worth investing in. Sometimes rugs, too. There is nothing like a luxurious, plush, and cozy rug. I like interiors to be a mix of new and old—to create history, depth, and personality. You can find wonderful contemporary pieces from Northern Europe at great price points. They’re amazingly fresh, with great lines for modern spaces.

AC: Do you have any particular sources that you feel always work for your spaces?

SS: Some of my go-tos are Masters of Modernism for their lighting, Ligne Roset for fun upholstery, and always Ralph Pucci for conversation pieces from contemporary designers.

AC: Which designers from history do you admire most, and why?

SS: Eileen GrayCharlotte Perriand, and Jean Prouvé all used a beautiful mix of industrial elements with rich sophistication. Aesthetically, their designs have a utilitarian aspect while still being refined and elegant.

Josef Hoffmann and Thonet use wood in incredibly sculptural ways. The scale is perfect! Gio Ponti was a master, and I love the forms of his furniture and his playful touches.

AC: Which contemporary designers do you most admire?

SS: I admire Vincenzo De Cotiis’ work. He is an architect and hotel and furniture designer from Milan who has made minimalism and industrial styles extremely elegant and even glamorous.

AC: Having lived, traveled, and worked around the globe, how does your international perspective manifest in your work? Do you have any advice for working with pieces sourced around the globe?

SS: My travels often serve as a source of inspiration.  I am inspired daily by the different uses of materials, interesting fabrics and lacquers in different countries and cultures around the world.

Of course, sourcing product from global vendors can be a daunting task, but in my experience you simply have to trust your vendor. Ask a lot of questions and make sure you are aware of the little things. For example, research what finishes work in what climates before purchasing. We have completed two projects in Asia, and this climate is very harsh on many materials. After a lot research, though, we were able to make the best decision!

  • Text by

    • Anna Carnick

      Anna Carnick

      Anna is Pamono’s Managing Editor. Her writing has appeared in several arts and culture publications, and she's edited over 20 books. Anna loves celebrating great artists, and seriously enjoys a good picnic.

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