In Conversation With…
Museum galas, product launches, store openings, weddings, birthdays, celebrations of all sizes…for events that require a bold creative statement, designer David Stark is the megaphone you need. The perfect combination of imagination and taste, David transforms blank spaces into idyllic worlds of wonder. His latest? STORY’s very own Home for The Holidays big top, a concept inspired by 20th Century Fox’s forthcoming film about the life of P.T. Barnum, The Greatest Showman. As a master of ceremonies in his own right, we knew David was the only person who could bring such a theatrical theme to life.
Get to know what makes this renowned designer so very special!
You’re known for “elevating ordinary events to extraordinary experiences.” Can you tell us how you did that with STORY Home for The Holidays?
You know, in this day and age, going to a store needs to be special. It needs to be an experience. It also needs to be worth the trip. And when it is, it’s very much like theater. One of the things that has always attracted me to STORY is that theatrics are part of the store’s DNA, ever-changing and morphing into new, immersive worlds regularly.
Luckily, this holiday season, you handed us an awesome theme in the inspiration and partnership of 20th Century Fox’s forthcoming film The Greatest Showman, destined to be a musical blockbuster on the life of P.T. Barnum, and we grabbed that inspiration to the hilt.
At STORY this holiday season, vivid jewel tones, a marquee-like wall of hundreds of glowing light bulbs, a tented ceiling, colorful bunting, wide awning stripes—none of these elements are over-the-top in their materiality but they really transport guests to the “big top” in a way that brings out the child in every adult.
In general, what makes an experience extraordinary?
This might sound sort of moony, but when you create with passion and heart and soul, it elevates the experience to the realm of art. That’s our goal. You can’t quite put a finger on it. You can’t quite touch it. But you can feel it. Our goal is not just to decorate. Our goal is to create a convincing world.
What factors convince you to say yes to a new project?
We are the right partners for those that want to go on a creative journey. Of course, that is not right for everyone, but that kind of “road trip” is what drives me and my team. When I smell a good creative journey on the horizon, I jump at it!
What was your favorite subject in school?
I feel very blessed to have gone to RISD for my BFA, and I always say that going there was like checking in to an intellectual spa. All of my drawing, painting, 2D and 3D classes were my favorites—all of them. But more than that, I was truly educated by the extraordinary talents that surrounded me within the student body. We had a remarkable class, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about one (or 10!) of my classmates that were truly my “teachers.”
What’s your favorite material to work with?
Oh, I am open to the world of materials as our palette. In events, I actually started out with flowers, working as a more traditional florist initially. But somewhere along the way, I realized that as much as I loved flowers, they were just ONE of the tools in the toolbox and were not right for every situation. I still use flowers non-stop, but I use EVERYTHING else too. I mean, everything. We recently made an entire (and very chic) gala for the Brooklyn Museum out of toilet paper and paper towels! Anything is possible!
You’ve been designing photo-worthy events for years, but does knowing your work will be shared across Instagram ever influence your concepts?
It doesn’t, really. Look, I know that everyone’s goal is to create Instagrammable moments, but I think a lot about artists that I admire. Matisse made hundreds, probably thousands of paintings. He didn’t wake up in the morning and say, “Today I am going to make a masterpiece.” He got up, went to the studio, and made the best, most innovative, heartfelt work he could make. That’s my goal too. And when we post it on Instagram, I hope people like it.
You do so much, from writing books to designing projects of various scale. How do you fit it all in?
I wake up VERY early everyday! Lol. That’s true, but honestly, I have a truly extraordinary team. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars for the gift of a team that works endlessly to make magic TOGETHER. I am truly blessed.
Who inspires you?
My husband Migguel Anggelo inspires me. He is a thrilling performer and artist, and he is not afraid to throw himself off a cliff for his art. THAT inspires me.
What’s a fun fact we can’t learn about you from Google?
Hmmm . . . I LOVE black licorice, the saltier the better.
Where is your favorite place to feel the magic of the holidays?
The best gift you’ve ever received?
It’s hard to say BEST, but Migguel generally makes me some outrageous, exotic, wild art piece in secret and the surprises me with it. He makes incredible furniture covered in thousands of wooden match sticks. I am the proud owner of a few pieces that have been given to me at holiday time.
If you had only one holiday decorating tip, what would it be?
If you don’t own a menorah, a fresh potato makes a great one! With a few slits of a knife, our potato held the candles for all eight nights of the holiday with pride. We did this last year, and it’s now our new, family tradition!