Stylist Spotlight: Sarah Storms
It’s hard to confine Sarah Storms’ talents into a single title. Is she a designer? A stylist? A writer? A combination of all of the above?
It’s also hard to pin down a hometown for Storms who is currently based in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. She spent her early years in colonial Massachusetts in an 18th-century cottage with wavy wood floors, clapboard siding and an unforgettable red door. Then her family moved across the Atlantic to Luxembourg and Storms watched her mom turn a more conventional townhouse into their new home.
“I grew up with a mom who always cared about interior design,” recalls Storms. “When we moved to Europe I experienced my first IKEA, and I watched my mom learn how to design for that lifestyle.” Luxembourg was lovely, but then it was back to the U.S. where her parents moved the family to a horse farm in New Jersey. Storms watched her mom work with an interior designer to decorate that Georgian brick farmhouse and realized then how lucky she was to get to grow up in so many distinct places and experience different design aesthetics.
But Storms didn’t go to college for interior design. She wanted to be a writer and her first job was with Travel + Leisure. While helping style the magazine’s photo shoots, Storms quickly realized that her interest in decorating could be more than a hobby. Today, it’s her career.
Although she still does freelance writing for Lonny Magazine, where she was the style editor for two years, Storms currently spends most of her time transforming spaces as her day job. Recently, the design team at COCOON9 came across her website and reached out to see if she would be interested in styling their 480-square-foot summer show house at Mecox Southampton.
“The Cocoons certainly intrigued me and when I learned there was a Mecox component and I would have free reign of picking pieces in the store, I knew I had to say yes,” remembers Storms. She was tasked with creating a modern beachy look—a challenge for someone who calls herself a classicist. But with the help of mid-century pieces from Mecox, Storms was able to facilitate a wonderful marriage of a modern aesthetic with her more traditional tastes.
Compared to the plush and upholstery-laden luxe interior created by Greg McKenzie, the first designer to work on the show house, Storms’ styling is more minimalistic. She incorporated graphic rugs in muted pastels, nickel and silver metallics, seersucker bedding and furniture made of everything from cement to natural fibers like wicker and rattan. She opted to accessorize with artwork, antique vases, two Roman busts and a really large-scale floor mirror which emphasizes the sense of airiness and light.
Unlike McKenzie’s Cocoon which had the Murphy bed folded up, Storms employed the bed to turn that space into a bedroom. “My approach to styling a really tiny bedroom is to scale down the essentials and keep the scheme—tones, textures, patterns, etc.—really consistent,” says Storms whose palate consisted of pastels, tans, blues, lavenders and grays. In the Cocoon’s living room, Storms layered two small rugs to delineate the space and create the illusion of more depth—like a room within a room.
Storms is a big fan of rugs, noting, “It’s funny how a 4x6-ft. rug can really help you plot out a small room. For example, the area rug we used in the bedroom establishes a little seating area. Without the rug, it’s just a chair and a table. Nothing is grounded.” She feels she has a unique perspective as someone who comes from the world of photo shoots where the goal is to fit a bunch of things into one frame. But when it comes to working in the small house movement, she emphasizes the importance of editing and being extremely stringent so you’re only selecting the best pieces.
“Styling a small space is a great way to distill your style. The lack of square footage forces you to be more thoughtful and selective,” says Storms. She also points out that it’s a lot easier to be more cohesive if you can see one end of your house from the other. Storms admits that she was initially taken aback by how light and airy the Cocoon is, and she still can’t get over all the windows and built-in storage. She was also surprised that the structure was so luxe and felt nothing like a predesigned modular home lacking design consideration.
“COCOON9 is a super contemporary concept and Mecox is such a storied brand with amazingly sourced products that have real history. That’s how I think about design—combining the forces of contemporary and traditional,” says Storms. When asked if she considers herself a designer, Storms doesn’t spend much time thinking about her answer.
“I sort of fell into this. So no, I don’t consider myself a designer. I’ve worked with so many incredibly talented interior designers and architects, and I have so much respect for the technical craft of designing a truly functional, mathematically perfect, family-of-five-can-live-here-without-batting-an-eye space…I’d call myself an interior stylist.”