Over the past two years, we’ve been on a mission to bring to life the cross-category, cross-price-range opportunities at Atlanta Market, pulling together products from showrooms and temporaries across campus in a series of photo shoots. Perhaps you’ve seen some of the shots on campus, online and in print? Atlanta native Gina Shorthouse served as designer and stylist for these projects. Look for her Behind the Scenes feature in the January 2024 issue of Atlanta Market Magazineand learn more about Giana below.
When did you first realize your love for design?
I first recognized my interest in design when I received a book on interior design in my home economics class at age 12. From then on, I noticed the excitement I felt when I’d flip through a copy of Teen Vogue and discover an article about a space in the back pages. I collected shelter magazines like Elle Décor and Veranda and I would think to myself, “someday I’ll put spaces together like the ones photographed in this magazine.” I didn’t know how it would happen, but I knew that I wanted to be a part of that process. From that moment in class, to taking a career test the same year, to the fondness I had for decorating my childhood dollhouse, to rearranging my bedroom in the wee hours of the night, to sharing excitement with my Dad as we watched episodes of Trading Spaces and House Hunters, and later convincing my teachers in high school to let me create shoebox models and makeshift Photoshop renders in lieu of class assignments…all of these moments collectively led me directly down my path of becoming a designer.
How did you get into product styling?
After college, I joined a residential design firm and took on the role of marketing manager because of my varying interest in graphic design, photography and web design. I liked that I could leverage all my interests while supporting a business that specialized in interior design. As part of my role, I started styling the firm’s photo shoots and kind of fell in love with it. One of the photographers was like, “You’re really good at this. You should consider doing this.” So I built up my personal portfolio and began taking freelance styling jobs on my off days until I built up enough work to start styling full time.
How does styling products for a brand shoot differ from styling a whole space for an interiors shoot?
The difference lies between styling for a 2-dimensional application versus a 3-dimensional space. Styling for photography is much like graphic design. The composition of the photo and the objects that take up space in the photo have to be graphically captivating and follow the principals of design, which involves a bit of strategy, trickery and know-how in terms of how the camera views objects differently from how the naked eye does. It’s easier to fill up visual space in a photograph than it is to fill up a space you’re experiencing in real life. It’s all about placement, scale and composition.
What was one of your favorite styling projects and why did you enjoy it?
Is it strange to say that my favorite has been the most recent shoot we did for the Atlanta Market? I loved everything about it because I got to explore product that I would have never picked out for a client and I got to tap into a design style that I rarely ever get to express through my design work. It’s been such a trend over the past several years to lean more neutral, whether it be minimal, Scandinavian, Japandi, organic-modern or even modern coastal. We’ve had a huge boom in the retail markets that have informed this shift to neutrals and earth tones, so I don’t get to go vibrant and colorful like I did in this shoot. It was also fun to search for and select quirky decorative objects to use as props in the shoot.
What made you want to pivot into interior design?
In short, I was burnt out from nearly a decade of styling and my body was taking a hit from constantly working one shoot after another. I developed an autoimmune disease a few years ago that flairs up when my body is under intense stress, and it shows up when I’m working on shoots. So I had to start listening to my body and honoring the importance of my health mentally, emotionally and physically. I decided to pivot back into interior design so I could spend more time at home and give my body the rest it so desperately needed. With interior design, I have the freedom to work from home and only go out when I need to meet with clients or vendors.
What new skills did you need to learn?
I had to learn a lot of things that I missed from going into marketing and then styling after school. I had to learn how to properly select, measure and specify wallpaper and custom drapes. I had to re-learn how to draw custom millwork drawings and how to account for the proper scale of items. In photography the scale of an object is less crucial because you can use camera tricks in a pinch to get something to read more clearly, but in person scale is really, really important.
What is your favorite room to design?
I think I love kitchens the most because of the amount of customization that goes into it. You get to design custom cabinets (if you’re lucky enough with the budget), then there’s flooring, countertops, backsplash, plumbing fixtures, lighting and hardware, and sometimes even window treatments. You essentially get to touch it all in one space – and even more so if there are furniture selections involved.
Do you plan to continue doing both styling and designing?
Yes and no. My health has really been impacted by styling. As much as I’ve loved it, the reality is that I can’t keep up as much as I could in my 20s. Between my autoimmune condition and a lifelong struggle with back issues, I can’t afford to continue putting stress on my body so I made the very major and difficult decision this fall to retire from styling at the end of this year. It doesn’t mean I’m leaving the styling world behind entirely, but it will look a lot different than it does for me now. I am currently in the process of drawing up plans on how I can support brands in the interior design and home decor industry from a consultancy capacity and I have some cool things in the works that I think will bring great value. Look for an announcement and official launch soon!
What is your favorite showroom at AmericasMart to source from?
I source rugs from Loloi often. They have a solid variety that blends well with different design styles and are affordable, which is super important for many of my clients who have kids or pets in their homes. Their showroom is also super easy to access and pop in and out of if I need to take a client to look at rugs or take a sample on loan.
Learn more about Giana Shorthouse and her work at GianaShorthouse.com and follow her on Instagram @gianashorthouse_studio.