Pamela Duque (L) and Lauren Larson (R)
Sara Story is an interior designer best known for creating timeless yet modern spaces infused with bold accents and a global sensibility. Her eponymous design firm which opened its doors in 2003 is headquartered in an airy Soho loft with a staff of six and a fast paced, energetic vibe. At any given time, the firm juggles an average of 10 projects and with such full workload, Sara relies on her two senior designers, Lauren Larson and Pamela Duque, to help bring her designs to life. Lauren, 25, is originally from Portland and has been with Sara Story design for nearly a year. She previously worked for Victoria Hagan which also happens to be where Sara got her start. (When Lauren isn’t not working, she pens a blog called Material Lust which explores the relationship between art and design.) Pamela, 28, hails from Texas and joined Sara two years ago after working for Bill Sofield. I recently caught up with Lauren and Pamela to get the scoop on how they got their start in the industry and what they love most about working for Sara Story Design…
Pamela and Lauren with Sara Story
Hi Ladies! Tell us about your background and how you ended up working for Sara…
Lauren: After graduating from Parsons I worked for Victoria Hagan for three years on high profile residential projects. Victoria throws you in the deep in and you either sink or swim. You learn the field quickly…the deadlines are fast and the clients are demanding. You learn how to make it happen. After ‘surviving’ years there you feel like you can do it with your eyes closed. I was familiar with Sara and have always followed her work since she’s a fellow Victoria Hagan alumn. Joining her a matter of perfect timing.
Pamela: Originally, thought I would become an organic chemist. I actually had some research published and then I realized that I didn’t quite fit in that world. I studied architecture at Yale and that background has helped me in being able to visualize a space from looking at drawings and to consider how things are constructed. After school I worked at Studio Sofield on more architectural design…retail projects and also millwork and furniture design. It was more technical and I didn’t deal with clients so much. I spent most of my time on the up-front production end of design. I had always admired Sara’s career and a former colleague let me know she was hiring so I applied for an interview and the rest is history.
Sara meets with Pamela and Lauren to discuss a client project
Did you always have an interest in interiors growing up?
Lauren: My mother is an artist, a watercolor painter — so I was surrounded by art growing up. I would often spend the day with her drawing interiors, architecture and landscapes. She always forced me to draw from real life rather than photographs which made me grow to have a connection to space. Whenever I am in a space I am always looking around.I was never really interested in becoming an Interior Designer until I went to Parsons to study painting. My foundation teachers pushed me to become an Architect after my drafting and drawing classes and Interior Design feel into place.
Pamela: Absolutely. I have spent countless hours arranging and rearranging my mother’s house, picking out furniture, looking at colors. Growing up, it was sort of our weekend ritual, finding more stuff for the house. And my room was rarely the same for longer than a couple months.
A sneak peek at a design scheme for a Sara Story Design client
What’s does your day to day job entail?
Pamela: It runs the gamut – there’s a lot of coordination — the follow up end of things, by phone and email — and then there’s also the creative side — generating drawings, finding inspiration, sourcing materials…
Lauren: Because it’s a small office everyone is involved and doing a bit of everything. In one day I could be scheming, to meeting with a client, to running to measure something on site, to meeting with a vendor or an upholsterer, to creating budget and proposals, to coordinating the shipment of a furniture piece.
An Upper East Side condo designed by Sara Story
How would you describe Sara’s style?
Pamela: Timeless and chic, with just enough quirky interest to remain elegant.
Lauren: Sara’s style is influential of her travels. She is always traveling and bringing back photos of architecture, interiors, furniture, artwork and textiles she comes across. Her style feels collected.
What do you like most about working at Sara Story Design?
Pamela: The projects are amazing, and Sara is such an adventurous designer – it inspires us as well as the clients.
Lauren: I have struggled a long time with the fact that people have always said to me Interior Design is 90% business and 10% creative, but Sara she gives both Pamela and I a lot of design freedom and allows us to have a vision along with hers.
What do you like least about your job?
Pamela: Chasing after people for answers!
Lauren: When things fall behind — vendors, shipments, etc.
A Sara Story designed living room
Do you have a favorite project that you worked on with Sara?
Pamela: The Elle Décor Showhouse was great to work on – it was no holds barred, and Sara is so unafraid of color and pattern.
Lauren: We just installed three Reading Rooms – one all yellow, one all green, and one all orange. They turned out so fun and full of energy!
What has been the biggest on-the-job challenge that you’ve had to tackle?
Lauren: The biggest is yet to come. We have two clients in Singapore and the coordination alone will be sure to bring some new challenges!
Sara at work
Finish this sentence: Sara Story is…
Pamela: A force to be reckoned with.
Lauren: Never repeating. Each project is looked at with fresh eyes and ideas.
What do you think you’d be doing right now if you weren’t working in interior design?
Pamela: Teaching elementary school and having a side career as an artist.
Lauren: I think I would be getting a Masters in Art History.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
Lauren: I like to think I’ll be living in another country working in the art world.
Pamela: Fabulous at almost forty!
Finally, can you share some of your go-to websites for inspiration?
Lauren: I am obsessed with the website PATTERNITY. It finds pattern in everything from architecture to art.
Photos by Nicole Gibbons for So Haute