Sara Story loves a challenge. To keep life interesting, the New York–based designer likes to conquer one or two big physical hurdles a year—like running a marathon or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro—to push her outside of her comfort zone. “Always doing that for yourself makes life’s challenges easier because you’re always overcoming something that might make you scared,” she tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast. “Training for something keeps you focused, and as we’re getting older, I think that that’s even more important.”
This mindset has helped Story confront not only life’s difficulties, but the complexities of the interior design industry as well. Originally born in Tokyo, Story’s family moved to Texas when she was in elementary school. She remembers the contrast between the edited, tailored and quiet interiors of Asia compared to the relaxed Texas sensibilities. After earning a degree in psychology, Story went back to school for architecture and interior design, landing a job with Victoria Hagan. Since opening her own eponymous firm in 2003—with a debut project on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue—Story’s work, which often draws on fine art for inspiration, has won awards and graced magazine covers.
On this episode of the show, Story discusses her soon-to-be-released debut book, The Art of Home, the challenges of hiring and retaining employees, and why it’s important to set boundaries with clients.
Crucial insight: In addition to navigating delicate client conversations, Story’s interest in psychology has helped her nail down the best time frame for client meetings: about two hours. “There’s a whole psychology on how long a meeting should last,” she says. “A meeting usually starts with everyone getting acclimated, and you’re showing them [the concepts] and they love it—everything’s great. But if you take it too long, then [clients] start to second-guess everything and the whole momentum starts to go down.”
Key quote: “Sometimes you don’t understand as a creative person that an efficient business is a successful business. You can be super creative—and you should be super creative—but you have to run a business efficiently, and I really learned that from [Victoria Hagan]. You bring the creative part to the table, but to understand how to run a business, someone has to teach you that.”
The Thursday Show
Meanwhile, on the latest episode of The Thursday Show, Scully and BOH executive editor Fred Nicolaus dissect the most recent news in the design industry, including why Amazon is quitting the furniture business, AI-generated building materials, and what dorm-room shopping means for retailers—and designers. Later, designer Summer Thornton discusses the debut of Casa Rosada, her new hospitality project in Mexico.
Listen below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
Homepage image: Sara Story | Courtesy of the designer