Interior designer Sara Story loves to enrich her contemporary designs with timeless antiques. In curating exhibition vignettes for Sotheby's New York Sotheby's Decorative Arts Week this October, Story shares her best tips for designing original interiors and buying at auction.
What components of design make up a great room?
A well-designed room has multiple points of interest. These layers allow the space to continue to unfold and evolve as one uses the space. A great room also considers the scale, materials, and forms of the pieces within it. Everything has to harmonize.
What are your tips for incorporating antiques into a contemporary setting?
Incorporating antiques into a contemporary setting adds personality, depth, history, and character, making for a truly dynamic space. When you find a piece you love, give it space to breathe. Don't overcrowd a room. The more ornate the object, the more space I like to give it to show off.
What design rules do you break in your interiors?
Design rules are made for breaking! To create great spaces that will transcend time and its trends, you have to break the rules and follow your own point of view.
What are your tips for buying antiques at auction?
Educate yourself. Do your homework on the designer or artist that created the piece to familiarize yourself with their work and its value. Read the condition reports so you are well informed about your purchase. And of course, trust your instincts.
What are some tips for finding bargains on antiques at auction?
It is very important to review the entire lot carefully beforehand. Frequently, there are many excellent pieces available that, for one reason or another, are not highlighted in the auction. Keep an open mind. You may come with the intent on buying one thing, but if everyone else wants the same piece, it may not be a smart purchase for you. Be ready to fall in love with something unexpected. Buying at an auction is often, inherently, a "bargain." An auction allows you to bypass the middleman – most of these pieces would go for higher prices at vendors in New York. As I have familiarized myself with Sotheby's Collections sale, I have been impressed with the number of pieces available without a reserve. Always keep your eye on these pieces!
What is a popular new trend in interior design that you're really loving?
I try not to follow trends. I love that everyone can have a voice when it comes to interiors. Interiors should be reflective of one's life, passion and history. That said, I'm loving all the sculptural upholstery, and mixing of metals and playful textiles.
If you only pick one thing from Sotheby's Decorative Arts Week's auctions to keep for yourself, what would it be?
There are a pair of commodes that I have fallen in love with from this auction.
THIS RARE PAIR OF LOUIS XIV STYLE GILT BRONZE-MOUNTED BRASS AND TORTOISESHELL INLAID BOULLE MARQUETRY COMMODES FROM PARIS CIRCA 1867 WILL BE OFFERED IN SOTHEBY'S NEW YORK 19TH CENTURY FURNITURE AND DECORATIVE ARTS SALE ON 15 OCTOBER. ESTIMATE: $300,000–500,000.
What one piece can completely transform a room?
A chandelier can completely transform a room. It creates a strong focal point (you know how I feel about those!) while adding a touch of playfulness to the light. I always find myself lost in all the interesting reflections created by a chandelier's cut crystal. A great light gets better and better over time. You keep seeing new things: a new reflection, a new angle of light, a new pattern of crystal against crystal. They evolve.