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In Conversation: Designer Jason Bell

Home for the Holidays is the STORY we return to year after year (five and counting). And each year, interior designer Jason Bell has been the man tasked with making our space a cozy (and functional!) living gift guide that you want to visit again and again. We took a time out to talk with Jason about his relationship with STORY, the challenges that come with designing a retail space, and more! Here are some highlights of our conversation.

How has your relationship with STORY evolved over the last five years?

Working with Rachel and her team has gotten better every year. It took several years to perfect a layout that really worked for the store to maximize product. Interestingly enough, we don’t really change the layout much any more. Over the years, as the store grew through word of mouth, we had to create more and more shelf space that was shoppable, usable, and looked great. About two years ago we really nailed down what we still consider to be an optimal layout. By then we understood the traffic patterns of the store, and how things had to be dismantle-able while still selling masses of goods. That’s probably the key of what five years of history took. It’s about perfecting something.

Each year we conceptualize a place where you’d like to be for the holidays – whether it be the alps, or the Rockies, or in a southwestern home – but at the same time, perfect the design elements to better accommodate the customers and product.

What have you learned from working with STORY over the last five years that’s been applicable to some of your other projects?

They aren’t too comparable because I don’t do a lot of commercial work. Within STORY, thousands of items have to go into the space – that doesn’t really resonate when designing someone’s home. There are some different goals. In a store like STORY, the aim is to display a product and get empty shelves ready to display that product as best as possible, whereas in a home, it’s about hiding all of the things you don’t want to see – closets, doors, etc. On the residential side of things, I’m there making the bed. The steps for how to get from A to Z are quite different.

How would you describe the relationship between productivity and creativity?

As I relate the creativity of design to a retail perspective – there is 100% a connection. I don’t care if you’re doing a retail store or a home, it must be inviting and tell a story. If you’re doing a restaurant, no one is going to come through a restaurant that doesn’t look good. Same goes with a home – a person won’t want to live somewhere that doesn’t look great. But there’s a lot of room for subjectivity when it comes to what looks “great” – it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

When working with Rachel in her team, we come up with a few key words to describe a space that we have in mind, and the juices start flowing. You develop a look. Then you have to stand back and say – OK, we have this picture, but how will it display merchandise properly? From a creative perspective, it’s my responsibility to make the store beautiful, functional, and give it its own charachter. That’s the fun thing about working with STORY – the creativity piece has to go hand-in-hand with the store’s productivity and its ability to deliver a worth-while experience.

What’s one thing we can’t find out about you on Google?

I’ve lived in New York City for 20 years, but my wife an I just moved back to Alabama – where I’m originally from – last summer. I have three children and….I LOVE ice cream sandwiches.