While art can be the jumping-off point for interior design sometimes, its rare to be given an entire collection as the springboard. This 2,500-square-foot Upper East Side apartment is chock-a-block with gallery-worthy artworks and designer Sara Story, working with the teams at Matthew Baird Architects and Rusk Renovations, provided an interior as compelling as the art contained within.
“I believe that art is an integral part of the design process and is as equally important as the interiors,” remarks Sara Story. Her “extracurriculars” further evince her appreciation for art in design, including her board position at Ballroom Marfa, a contemporary art space in Marfa, TX. Translating this experience into her design practice, Story studied the clients’ collection to develop complementary and soothing color palettes.
Neutral fabrics in grays, creams and whites are textural, and patterns are used with paucity and kept small scale. Furnishings are clean with an underlying notion of organicism, so as not to distract from the art at hand. As though it was inspired by the simplicity and dreaminess of a Doris Day ensemble, but with a 2019 nothing-too-precious livability, the home is a mix of contemporary and traditional influences in a “light, airy and tactile” milieu. The culmination is a softness of space, a halcyon haven, but with piquancy.
To achieve this setting, the apartment needed to be opened up and flooded with natural light. “Matthew Baird’s team did an amazing job of making this a reality,” remarks Story. This dovetail of effort also allowed her to put first and foremost function of space, a guiding principle with which she approaches every project.
Story’s experience also lent itself well to thoughtful and thought-provoking placement of paintings and sculpture. “We knew a ceramic collection would be impactful in the entry millwork – it’s a cabinet of curiosities,” she explains. Each nook perfectly sized to highlight stirring, beautiful sculptures by Eva Zethraeus, Anat Shiftan and Carlos Otero. A design moment is created that acts as an intriguing preface to the story of the home.
Two expressive sculptures by Brooklyn- based artist Brie Ruais were placed in the master bedroom. Adding an organic touch and complementing the room’s warm wood tones, the works of art “provide a peaceful and spiritual dialogue in the space,” explains Story.
As if a nod to the art collection itself, Story specified statement sculptural ceiling fixtures throughout including in the dining room, a smaller, more challenging space. “Our clients wanted to add something unexpected,” notes Story, “[so] we selected a dramatic and special light fixture, the Mondrian Glass Ceiling Light by VENICEM” – an apropos piece, given it was inspired by its namesake artist.
Art is not the only source from which Story draws inspiration; she is continually inspired by fashion, travel and life in general. “Always go through your day with eyes wide open so that you don’t miss a thing.” Ears too, for that matter, especially as it relates to learning about what her clients want in a home. “It’s amazing how much can be gleaned from general conversations about family, art, travel, music – the key is to just listen.”
Photography by Marco Ricca.