“I don’t know if I told you I grew up on a prison reservation. I mean, what’s uglier and more depressing than a prison?” asks Meridith Baer with a chuckle. The designer and founder of home staging giant Meridith Baer Home is talking beauty and making it happen where it’s scarce. It’s a skill she’s perfected since childhood.
Meridith Baer Home stages approximately 200 homes per month
Houzz has named her firm Best of Design for the last five years (2014 to 2018)
ROOM TO DESIGN
Her DTLA warehouse—what Baer describes as “Disneyland for lovers of all things and interiors”—spans over 300,000 square feet of furnishings, rugs, plants, artwork and other décor
The daughter of a prison warden, Baer learned at an early age to create a world of her own making. To play and handcraft games, fun and wonder out of thin air. “You do the best with what you have, where you have it,” says the designer.
“And you take some risks,” she adds. “You get up and do something different.” She’s taken this advice to heart, and this year celebrates 20 years of rather stunning success with Meridith Baer Home, a company she spun from her imagination and two hands. In the late 1990s, Baer, then an actress and scriptwriter, was in between rental homes.
A woman of modest means and fabulous taste, she had lots of furniture, art, and decor, not to mention a massive plant collection—but nowhere to put it. A developer friend, whose unfurnished, high-end home on the Westside had been sitting on the market, let Baer perform her decorating magic in the home. She did and the property sold quickly, and well above the asking price.
At the time, home staging was not done, a situation Baer would change. A real estate agent who heard about the successful sale asked Baer to “furnish” another home. Then another. She rode the momentum to create Meridith Baer Home, the nation’s staging company, with a list of who’s who celebrity clients and an army of designers working around the nation. Doing the best with what you have, indeed.
“I got kicked out of my house,” explains Baer. “But then I put the furniture in a house someone was selling, and it sold for half a million over asking, and now I have a $100 million company.”
YOU DO THE BEST WITH WHAT YOU HAVE, WHERE YOU HAVE IT—AND YOU TAKE SOME RISKS. YOU GET UP AND DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.
Headquartered in Los Angeles, which is also home to the company’s design warehouse spanning over 300,000 square feet, Meridith Baer Home has offices in San Francisco, New York, Miami, and the Hamptons. When we speak in mid-July of this year, her company had already staged 1,600 homes—a record. Baer’s firm also does interior design and leases luxury furnishings.
For those in a hurry, there’s Instant Home, where designers can furnish a property in as little as two weeks, based on a single consultation. “I’m super proud of the company, and the group of people I work with that built it,” says Baer. “It has a life of its own now, with all these great designers and business development people and crew. It’s a machine.”
Staging by Meridith Baer Home in New York (top) and California (bottom).
The idea of taking something undesirable or unwanted and giving it a new, positive life is summed up in a cheeky mantra Baer is fond of. “Chaff to gold,” we’ll call it here. “It’s basically taking something that no one wants, or something that doesn’t matter, and turning it into gold,” says Baer, who constantly applies it to design—turning cast-off gates into charmed decor or fashioning a gathering of branches into sophisticated centerpieces.
Even bad situations can be steered to the positive. This has been Baer’s belief since childhood, and for the last 20 years, she’s applied it rather spectacularly to her company, which continues its spiral upward. “I want to work seven days a week,” she says exuberantly. “I’m doing what I love.”
MERIDITH BAER HOME
L.A.-based interior designer Schuyler Samperton never had a master plan, but always followed her instincts.
“When I was little,” says Schuyler Samperton, the lilt in her voice as lovely as the story she tells, “I would play decorator with samples that my father, an architect, brought home from his office.” Design has always been part of my life.”
Cut from the same cloth as her father, Samperton studied art history with thoughts of a career at Christie’s or Sotheby’s before segueing into the music business and working as a publicist for Fox. Then she met designer Michael S. Smith and he offered her a job.
Two weeks later, she inherited design projects; four years after that, Schuyler Samperton (by then a design manager at the firm) left to start her own company with a co-worker. In 2007, she went solo, and her work has been splashed in the pages of Vogue Living, Elle Décor, Architectural Digest and more.
Celebrated for the elegant, easy aesthetic she employs to transform high-end residential and commercial spaces from coast to coast, Samperton’s comfort zone exists somewhere between these geographies.
Originally from Washington DC, she maintains a house on an island in Maine, a tiny apartment in Miami, and heads her firm in Los Angeles; she designs in all vernaculars and brings a heightened sense of multidimensionality to her work, allowing a project’s specific environment to dictate its character.
Samperton has never fully shed her East Coast side; in fact she rather flaunts it, a Sister Parish for the modern day, with the grand dame’s sensibility for curated flourish.
“I love wallpaper. I love worn rugs. I love pattern on pattern and creating a mood with beautiful lighting—that’s what really feeds my soul,” says Schuyler Samperton.
“I love spaces like that,” particularly if the space is a cozy library. “Oh, that’s sort of my favorite little spot,” she adds, drawing a picture in words. “Wallpaper, a nice fireplace, a pretty rug, tons of art on the walls, a bunch of pillows—that to me is like heaven.”
A version of heaven is exactly what Samperton creates for her sophisticated clientele. “I went through a point where I had a lot of single men as clients,” she laughs. “It was quite an adventurous bunch for a while, which was really fun because they sort of let me do whatever I wanted. I remember saying to one, ‘I’m just feeling a total Big Sur moment, and he said, ‘I love it, just do it.’”
In 2017, the designer launched Schuyler Samperton Textiles with eight patterns in rapturous colorways. Her mother’s scarves inspired some motifs; one is named for the street of her childhood home. Not one to be in a holding pattern, Samperton is currently at work on a 1920’s remodel in Los Feliz, a place for a prominent TV show actress, an apartment for the screenwriters of American Graffiti and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and a jewelry store showroom. It’s a lot, she concedes, but like the spaces she designs, “always something different.” samperton.com
With an international background and a true passion for traveling, interior designer Sara Story masters the art of creating atmospheres throughout bold interior spaces
Being a citizen of the world is not only the result of living in several countries and experiencing different cultures. It is also, and above all, a state of mind. New York City-based designer Sara Story embodies this idea: Born in Japan and raised in Singapore and Houston, she describes her style as “eclectic and constantly evolving.”
“My aesthetic is contemporary but it always makes reference to the past,” says Story, who, since founding her eponymous design firm in 2003, has created a diverse portfolio of residential and commercial projects worldwide.
Among them is an elegant Singapore house featuring traditional black-and-white colonial architecture, and interior spaces adorned with ebonized ceiling beams, antique chairs, Art Deco side tables, vintage lighting and porcelain urns. In New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood, Story transformed a 2,400-square-foot industrial space into a modern loft with brick wall, oak plank floors and blackened metal windows.
In her own weekend ranch in Texas, she found the right balance between vintage and modern furnishings, and contemporary artwork. Mixing styles and textures, Story is fascinated by the scale and details of Asian aesthetics, and passionate about art, fashion, and pattern. This combination of influences and sources of inspiration has led her to design two wallpaper collections, the first transforming traditional Asian motifs in a contemporary way, and the second inspired by her travels.
Situated in Aspen, Colorado, this contemporary house is the perfect family refuge for a couple and their daughter. After living in New York City for several years, the family decided to relocate to a quieter place. The greystone floors, Venetian plaster walls and blackened steel highlight beautiful mountain views.
An art collector herself, Story shaped the interior spaces around her clients’ impressive collection, creating dialogue between the pieces of art and design throughout the house. Paintings and sculptures by Damien Hirst, Fernand Léger, Alexander Calder, Frank Stella, Andy Warhol and Takashi Murakami—among others—make this dwelling visually impactful, while the neutral palette of the rest of the elements, combined with wood and stone, generate a feeling of coziness and warmth.
Creating “crisp, elegant and comfortable gestures that thoughtfully balance multiple elements of good design for an everyday, polished life,” says Story, reflect her vision, in everything she does, with no fear of adding touches that are surprising or audacious.