Art Design

How Interior Designer Sara Story Brought Art and Life Back to a Forgotten Texas Town

Yoshitomo Nara, Miss Forest. All images photographed by William Jess Laird and courtesy of Sara Story.

In 1859, a settlement called Center Point was established along the Guadalupe River, quickly becoming a vibrant commercial center. Six decades later, a highway was built nearby, bypassing the town and devastating its economy, a trend only further exacerbated by the Great Depression. But, in recent years, interior designer Sara Story has been buying up key landmarks: a dilapidated bank, old ranger and settler houses, an original train station.

Each project marks a step toward restoration for the once vibrant artistic community as well as the infrastructure. In the town's bank, Story has dedicated the ground floor to a gallery teeming with works by the Haas Brothers, Donald Judd, and Harold Ancart. Upstairs, a Jacques Adnet daybed and vintage Italian sofa lay the groundwork for an artist residency space, now open to creatives around the world whose stay culminates in a large-scale work. Earlier this week, the designer released The Art of Home, a monograph that breaks down her design process and ethos, and here, she offers further insight into her particularly evocative Texan project. 

Left to right: Artwork by the Haas Brothers, Matt Kleberg, the Haas Brothers, and Zizipho Poswa.

CULTURED: What was the impetus for revitalizing this town? Is there a personal connection to the location?

Sara Story: My father’s ranch is very close to Center Point, Texas, and I grew up spending time there. I have since bought my own ranch, and we wanted to cultivate the culture in the town and create a place to show art, create art, and have a dialogue with the Center Point community.

CULTURED: How do you see this space fitting into the existing Center Point community?

Story: We plan on having two artist residencies per year and having three shows a year. Having an artist come to Texas and spend time in Texas creates a nice dynamic for the town, and having shows open to the public develops an interesting dialogue with the town and the art community.

The Haas Brothers, Aloe, I love you.

CULTURED: Yoshitomo Nara has a monumental sculpture outside the gallery. How did he become involved in the project?

Story: Nara is one of my favorite artists. I was born in Japan and spent a lot of time between Asia and Texas. He seemed like the perfect artist to start the sculpture garden. His work is very magical with a bit of rock n' roll. Miss Forest is 25 feet tall, and I thought the piece was a perfect addition to Center Point. She represents love, whimsy, and playfulness.

CULTURED: Can you tell us about conceptualizing the inaugural exhibition, “Texas Art Is Love”?   

Story: I wanted the first show to be all Texan artists that are very respected. Their work is also very playful, approachable, and interesting. Art gives me so much love and inspiration. I wanted to give that to the town and let them experience what I know art can give you and let you feel ... We had an amazing turnout and the community was incredibly embracing. It exceeded all my wildest expectations.


CULTURED: What about the bank spoke to you as an ideal location for a gallery?

Story: The bank was built in the late 1800s and has beautiful bones and architecture. The vault is still there, which makes the building unique and a wonderful spot to preserve and share with the community.

CULTURED: What was your strategy for the redesign?

Story: I wanted the exterior paint colors to highlight the architecture of the building: graphic black and white. But, I wanted the interior to be light-filled, so I selected Douglas fir with a white wash for the floors. We discovered the original brick under a lot of millwork and plaster, so the brick is exposed. At the end of the day, it is all about the artwork we are presenting.

CULTURED: How would you describe your design ethos and aesthetic?

Story: I like my interiors to be fresh, multi-layered, art-filled, and comfortable. I strive to create an atmosphere and ambiance you want to spend time in. Art and lighting are typically the focal points.

Left to right: Artwork by Zizipho Poswa, Donald Moffett, and Otis Jones.

CULTURED: In putting your book together for this fall, how did you decide which projects you wanted to highlight?

Story: I wanted the book to be a nice representation of my work in design aesthetics and diverse in locations—California, Colorado, Texas, New York, city, country, ranch, and beach.

CULTURED: Expanding upon that geographical diversity, you have homes in multiple states, and the projects featured in the book span the country. How does location influence your approach to design?

Story: The landscape is the first thought, along with the architecture and how they relate. The interiors follow suit along with the materiality that relates to the location and design program. One of the most interesting aspects of being a designer is that we get to design in such different landscapes using such a wide variety of materials. It keeps the job inspiring.