Art aficionado and former local-turned-world traveler Sara Story has tapped into Central Texas’ hidden resource to design an understated albeit opulent estate all her own. Here our stylish chronicler, Houstonian Amber Elliott learns more about the craft of the lady amidst the art.
There’s Something About Sara
Out of state visitors who frequent the major cities, or our itdestination du jour, Marfa, presume they’ve seen the best that Texas has to offer. However, only natives are privy to the often overlooked, yet remarkably stunning oasis known as the Hill Country – perhaps our best kept secret.
One could argue that the saying “Everything’s bigger in Texas” has been somewhat overused. Sara Story is an exception. The vivacious Houston-bred blonde is larger than life and then some – beginning with an infectious laugh that is best described an eruption of joy or a roar of genuine delight and above all, is highly contagious.
In fact, the only thing about our flaxen-haired Grace Kelly-esque heroine more astounding than her signature chuckle is the awe-inspiring compound on which she and her family reside. Sitting upon 400 pristine acres, Story had all of the land’s cedar trees within view uprooted after all, and some would deem the property merely a “ranch” though the descriptor hardly seems to do the impressive spread justice.
Palatial & Pastoral
“After having my own family, I really wanted my kids to have that Texas-in-nature mentality. So I set out to create a place that would be a nice retreat from the hectic New York lifestyle,” she explained. Together with her husband and three children, they split time between three residences including a townhouse on Gramercy Park in Manhattan and return to the Hill Country roughly every six weeks.
In total, the sprawling plot just north of San Antonio is comprised of four structures: a pool house with a state-of-the-art exercise room, a bungalow adjacent to the tennis court, a resort-worthy guest cottage with a wine cellar and lastly, the art-infused main house where much of the family’s time is spent when not frolicking among the ranch’s sport-filled options.
“I didn’t want everything to be all in the same place,” Story shared. “I wanted there to be different experiences with the natural landscape all right here. If I didn’t have the wine cellar in the guesthouse, I’d don’t think I’d ever go there.” And why should she?
In the main structure, the children and their parents enjoy separate dwellings conjoined by al fresco breezeways, a nod to the pioneer structures of early day Texans. In addition to its communal, open living areas, the lady and man of the house can unwind in the airy master suite while the youngsters entertain themselves in their own decidedly inspired quarters close by.
“The boys’ bunk rooms are so playful,” she mused. “On a trip to Provence my son Duke picked out James Bond movie posters that eventually established his blue and lime green color scheme. My daughter, Dagny, is very whimsical so I thought that hand-painted butterfly wallpaper would be really fitting. Pink is her favorite color.”
Lucky girl; the bashful four year-old has an unobstructed view of Franz West’s Untitled bubblegum-hued installation stationed at end of manicured lawn. During her mother’s energized photo shoot for this story, the young beauty and stylista-in-training proved to be less shy than she originally led on, urging Story to buy a blush-colored geode ring from the accessories table, on loan from Julian Gold. In the end, Story realized that she couldn’t live without the bauble and purchased it along with Vince Camuto mules and Valentino “Rockstud” pumps to which Dagny endearingly replied, “Mommy you should’ve bought all of the shoes.”
Story’s personal style, much like her design aesthetic, is fairly discreet. She gravitates toward supple textures in neutral shades when shopping for everyday essentials. These days, her uniform consists of Helmut Lang leather leggings and monochromatic separates from Balenciaga, Isabel Marant and Rag & Bone. “Celine is my go-to,” she divulged.
Style For Miles
In terms of her vast talents with décor, Story boasts a degree in Interior Architecture from the San Francisco’s Academy of Art University and certainly has a keen eye. Her favorite pieces include an Eileen Gray chair in the master bedroom, rouged oak seats by Rene Gabriel in the living room, and Masters of Modernism light fixtures above the kitchen island.
She has, admittedly, spent a significant amount of time collecting and editing down to strong, harmonious items that worked with the space and didn’t combat the Mid-Century architecture’s aesthetic. Ever in her favor, Story found that several big-name artists were more than willing ship their work, but only upon learning it was headed for the Lone Star State.
“There’s such competition in New York with so many people vying for pieces,” she explained of her hours spent perusing galleries and museums. “Most artists have a fascination with Texas; Donald Judd and John Chamberlain all came here to work, of course. So many art dealers told me that if I said an artist’s work was going to Texas they would die for the opportunity, and that’s how I got in.”
Story, too, feels influenced by her Central Texas surroundings which informs her point of view. Many of the rich materials she selected are native to the area including limestone and oak. To juxtapose the strong exteriors – the pool house was drawn from the ultra-sleek Barcelona Pavilion – she used plush textiles in the interiors like cotton, velvet, mohair, and horsehair in the study. Trips to her favorite destinations, Copenhagen and Thailand, played tremendous roles, too; she utilized each culture for their respective approaches to simplistic furniture and pared-down motifs.
“I wanted the furnishings to be very quiet and subtle. All of the colors really came from the artwork,” she expressed. “Every room is comfortable and approachable.” Good thing since Story enjoys entertaining at home for intimate gatherings with friends and family. There are Thanksgiving dinners at the main house and Fourth of July parties overlooking the pool, complete with fireworks, of course, to name but a couple of celebrations.
Her parent’s home is visible from numerous vantage points. As Story and her father share several commonalities, it is no surprise she scooped up the plot of land next to his the minute it became available. In fact, Story and her sister join their father in Thailand every year for the King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament benefitting charity. Their parents are so enthralled with the majestic animal that they opened a store aptly named The Elephant Story in the adjacent town of Comfort. Naturally, two vintage elephant hooves serve as bedside tables in daughter Dagny’s room.
In between her own residences and attending to international interior design clients, Story managed to produce a wallpaper line as well. “It’s a creative way for me to conceive something and have free reign over what I wanted to do,” she gushed.
The second line launches this fall and will feature fabrics sourced from India and wood block prints. Daunting and ambitious as the project may sound, for Sara Story, comfortable grandeur is all she has ever known and it suits her perfectly.