A New York City-based interior designer draws upon her travels around the world and involvement in the art community to create crisp, elegant and comfortable living spaces.

By Kim Quevedo

Story transformed this 2,400-square-foot industrial space into a perfectly tailored modern loft in New York City’s Tribeca. She used a neutral palette accented with contemporary art and splashes of color and pattern; Tribeca loft photos ©eric laignel

Born in Japan and raised in Singapore and Texas, interior designer Sara Story aims to bring a worldly approach in her design work. Not only does she include crafts of artisans from all over the globe, but Story also encompasses some of the different and unique transitions of spaces she has observed on her travels. Since founding her design firm in 2003, Story has worked on residential and commercial projects worldwide, including Singapore, Texas, California and New York City, as well as created two wallpaper collections. With an energetic, free-flowing style, Story is also inspired by art, fashion and architecture.

What motivated you to get into the interior design world?

After being in the corporate world, I took a step back and thought about what my passion was and what I wanted to spend my time doing. Looking back on everything I love, I gravitated toward design and architecture. That is what made me go back to school. Once I got a degree in interior architecture, I moved to New York, worked for a prominent designer and went out on my own when I thought it was time.

How have your travels inspired your projects?

I think when you travel you learn so much about different cultures and their design aesthetic, and that is always in my repertoire and definitely in my mind for projects. I just got back from Asia, and Japan, in particular, was inspiring with the scales of design, use of materials and the transition between everything, particularly in the way they resolve how materials meet each other.

Some of what I saw outside of Tokyo lends itself to a project in Sun Valley, Idaho, I am working on, specifically in the ebonized vertical wood on the exterior and how that transitioned into the interior, and how they installed this beautiful tile vertically.

It was also interesting to see the different way they use their light fixtures and how they are integrated into the beams. That is something I am working on with that project. It was interesting how it all corresponded at the same time.

How does the art world influence you in your interior design work?

New York City has a wealth of inspiration in all its galleries, architecture, art and different shows, and it always keep you on your toes. You keep learning about different artists and their different techniques. It all interplays together with interior design.

What was the inspiration for your wallpaper collection?

For my wallpaper collection, I would go through so many different paintings for inspiration of color combinations and texture. I also drew upon fashion. I went through old vintage Christian Dior. It is so interesting to see all the different color combinations and variations. It is really fascinating.

In a residential area outside of the city center, this three-story bungalow in Singapore is a mix of traditional Colonial architecture and contemporary Asian design. 

Plaster molding, refined paneling and exposed ebonized beams highlight the double-height ceilings in the living room. Photos courtesy Singapore bungalow photos ©masano kawana

How did everything come together for the bungalow in Singapore?

That was a really interesting project because it was my first project in Asia. Part of the inspiration of the house was taking the old black and white Colonial houses that were built in Asia, and are kind of national landmarks in Singapore, and doing a contemporary version of a black and white house — so having lots of beams, latticework, marble and teak — and thinking about the environment and what is sustainable there for materials. Lastly, I brought in a European vision too with European antiques. It was a combination of European antiques, architectural black and white house, and contemporary elements like art and light fixtures. It was an eclectic mixture from all over the world.

Can you share your thinking behind the Tribeca loft project?

This project was for a really young bachelor, so it was thinking about Tribeca and bringing interjections of fun, cool patterns. There was a graffiti wallpaper on the ceiling in the entry vestibule and this inside-out pharmacy in the entry powder room, like a medicine cabinet with no doors. That was inspired by Damien Hirst.

Then we built this little office and, in the back, there is this doodle wallpaper I really like. We also took this old air compressor from a scuba tank and made into a vanity. It was fun, and about creating these energetic, cool moments.

Do you have any advice for people going into interior design?

Always keep your eyes open, keep learning about things and explore the cultural aspect of where you live to the fullest.