From House Beautiful
When it comes to getting inspired, “we rely on (some might say hoard!) a massive stockpile of old magazines, like House Beautiful, Elle Décor and World of Interiors,” say Laura Stanley and Lizzie Bailey, the duo behind New York and Bozeman, Montana-based Story Street Studio. That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise; after all, the designers both trade their roots to the editorial world.
After a stint at Country Living, Laura Stanley went to work for textile designer John Robshaw, where she met the likes of Celerie Kemble and Bunny Williams in the showroom. Lizzie Bailey, meanwhile, had her own love affair with textiles, furniture, and everything decor-related as the market editor for House & Garden magazine before obtaining a degree in interior design and landing a position at Katie Ridder’s esteemed firm.
With their shared appreciation for layering the old and new—with plenty of patterns in the mix!—the two joined forces to create Story Street Studio, where they relish in finding the perfect mix to create truly personal spaces. And their common foundations in editorial still run deep today:
“Starting out in editorial, working as assistants and market editors at different magazines made us both obsessive when it comes to shopping and sourcing,” they say. “We love to hunt things down or try to ID an obscure fabric pattern from a photo! And producing photoshoots and stories, on tight deadlines for demanding editors, made us neurotic about logistics, organization, and tracking all the components of a project. It was intense but invaluable training.”
What sets your work apart?
Lots of layered patterns and colors, on top of a mix of new and custom pieces and antiques. We work hard to make sure every project feels unique to the client and is never formulaic.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received (from family, mentor, boss?)
“Write it down” or “You’re only as good as your notes.” There is so much detail, precision, and rigor that goes into interior design. We take extremely detailed and thorough notes at each site visit and client meeting and we live and die by those notes! If it’s not written down, it’s not happening, so we never leave our office without a notebook and pencil!
How do you want your clients to feel in a space?
Joyful, energized, at ease. We hope they’ll feel like we’ve given them something they didn’t even realize was possible: what they wanted but better, beyond what they imagined.
What or who was your first design crush?
Bailey: David Hicks was the first designer that really blew my mind. The color combinations and the mix of prettiness, done in a modern way, and then this hard-edged, masculine elegance.
Stanely: John Robshaw for his unapologetic and abundant use of color and pattern and for introducing me to the world of textile design. I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I walked into his showroom.
And your current design crush
David Netto is such a master at striking a balance between classicism and modern sensibility. East & West coast vibes.
Pamela Shamshiri is a wizard at mixing time periods and styles, with a sexy effortlessness. Seems like she never repeats herself.
And we can’t get enough of Commune’s extremely cool California vibe. Their projects look as if they are from another era and yet are wildly modern at the same time. We adore their thoughtful use of textiles and materials.
For under $100—or even for free!—what decorating trick has had the most impact?
Custom or specialty lampshades are so transformative. Fair warning: It’s addictive. Once you’ve swapped a plain paper shade for something more unique it’s hard to go back. We’ve been accused of turning more than one client into a “lampshade snob.” Of course, custom shades can be expensive (and worth it!). But there are also lots of great ready-made options on the market too.
What’s overrated in decorating?
Trends… We tend to avoid trends and instead favor furniture and lighting that will stand the test of time. Decorating is expensive and we hate the idea of things being thrown away in a short period of time because they get dated. A mix that will look just as great in five (or ten) years is what we’re always aiming for.
What’s underrated in decorating?
Never underestimate the value of good, old-fashioned space planning.
What would we be surprised to learn about you?
We are both obsessed with all things New Age and Goop-y: Energy healing, reiki, chakra balancing, astrological signs, manifestation, spirit animals. If we’re not talking about design we’re probably chatting for hours about the latest mind-body discovery one of us has made or a wellness podcast we listened to.
What’s your favorite…
Thing to collect: Textiles. Always. Even if we have no idea what we’ll do with them (and often we don’t), we can’t resist buying something beautiful when we see it. Everything from precious, vintage kimono fragments in Japan to vintage pom-pom trim from Roundtop in Texas. Eventually, some things turn into pillows, lampshades, or framed pieces of art. Some things just stay in the collection as inspiration.
Bailey: I love the English Country House aesthetic because it is inherently layered, an amalgam of eras and styles. Of course, John Fowler really distilled this into an art in the 40’s, 50’s. He was a master. But to me, the style transcends any one decade – and is timeless—because it’s so much about pairing antiques (inherited or bought!) with comfortable upholstery, and always a haphazard element or piece or a color that doesn’t quite “go” but somehow makes it all work. Katie Ridder is a modern-day master at this. Laura and I are always trying to loosen up and throw something into our designs to break up anything stale or predictable.
Bailey: Farrow & Ball Monkey Puzzle No. 238 (Archive Color). The name alone is fantastic. This elegant green-blue has been a recent favorite for doors. In a high sheen it’s glamorous without being shocking. And in a matte finish it makes for a super cozy, sophisticated library.
Stanley: Fine Paints CG-4. We recently painted a pantry in this lively saffron yellow and it delivers a major happiness factor! It’s like a dose of vitamin D and serotonin, elevating your mood the moment you enter the room.
Artist or piece of art:
Bailey: Impossible to pick one! But, if Thomas Crown was going to steal a painting from the Met for me and I could live with it on a private island for the rest of my life, it would be Manet’s Young Lady in 1866.
Local shopping destination: To really find a lot of things for a project—whether it’s key pieces or accessories to finish a project—we actually love heading out of the city to Stamford, Connecticut, or Hudson, NY where there are still many antique and design shops per capita so you can hit a lot of places in one go.
Online store: Chairish and InCollect both get a lot of traffic in our office. We source so much from vintage light fixtures to furniture. LiveAuctioners.com also, which lets you search auction houses all over the world and set alerts so you’re notified when something you’re hunting for is coming up for sale. Lizzie also has a borderline disturbing obsession with online estate sales but isn’t willing to share the names of the sites because she doesn’t want any competition.
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