Designer Spotlight: Meet Sherry Shirah, of SLS Designs
I had to take a look through my old emails to remember when I first met Sherry Shirah. In March of 2016, Sherry sent me an email inquiring about a custom piece for her new home. Sherry knew exactly what she wanted and after a phone call to discuss her vision, I began working on a “medium” sized tapestry (these measure 72” across and hang 28” long). When I was finished, I sent her an approval photo. She loved it and asked me if I would be able to come and install the piece. I had never been asked to install my artwork for a client, but was excited for the opportunity to see the new home Sherry helped design, and also see my artwork hanging in a beautiful space. I wanted to make a good impression and bought a small tool box that I filled with hanging hardware, a level, a tape measure, a pencil and a few other things that made me feel prepared to “install my artwork”.
Even though I’ve hung hundreds of tapestries on my own wall, there was a little pressure to hang my art on a brand new wall in a brand new home (while my client is watching!). But when I arrived, tool box and art in hand, Sherry welcomed me with the warmest smile and hug, and a tour of her gorgeous, single story, modern home. The decor was clean, with a balanced mix of vintage and modern touches and the feeling of artistic appreciation beginning with a baby grand piano in the foyer, the Annie Leibovitz SUMO book on it’s own tripod bookstand, a wall sized vintage map of Paris hanging opposite a glass, and a temperature controlled wine room. Remember, I’m still just in the entryway!
Since meeting Sherry at her home in 2016, I’m lucky enough to call her a friend. Recently she made a career change, going from technology to interior design with the start of SLS Designs. In my opinion, she was born to design and now has two tapestries hanging in her home and has incorporated my coordinating velvet pillows in multiple projects. We are sharing images of all this below along with a little Q&A on how she makes it her mission to design spaces that you love to live in every day. She specializes in residential interior design primarily in Dallas, TX and New Orleans, LA. I’m excited to share more about her business and design approach below!
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
This may be one of the toughest questions to ask someone… haha.
Can I be type A and a wanderlust soul at the same time? I’m originally from New Orleans so I naturally gravitate towards rich cultures, interesting spaces that have old character and delicious food! I live to travel but I find I love my time at home in Texas just as much. I have three dogs that I spoil whenever possible so that makes home one of the most special places on earth.
How long have you been working in the design industry?
It’s either passion, conviction or pure craziness but I started my interior styling business at the end of 2017 after deciding to leave the technology industry. Out of college, I worked at a prominent interior design firm in Atlanta for a few years. I innately loved design but my career took off in another direction when I decided to pursue tech. Through the years, I have used my own home as my blank canvas for constantly rearranging furniture, art and plants and I’ve always helped friends with theirs. Flash forward to the last few years, it was really weighing on me to pursue my dream of starting my own interiors business so I took the leap. I’ve loved every minute of building my own business and have been fortunate to work with many incredible people so far to help create a space that they love to live in every day.
What advice do you have for someone with a passion for design and wants to take the leap and make a career out of it?
It really is a leap to take that risk because it's embracing complete change and the unknown. I know the feeling first hand! But I think a second life career that centers around ones passion is such a gift to dive into. Know that you will have ups and downs - moments of brilliance and lows but maintain conviction and push through. Also, don't be afraid to make mistakes, it's going to happen because learning is part of the process but don't be afraid to own up to those mistakes. Also, find a couple of industry mentors/sponsors that you can bounce questions off of and gain insight. That has been invaluable for me.
How do you begin the design process?
I really start with two things: 1, walking through my clients’ space to understand the era of the home, how it flows and what pieces may already exist that could be instrumental towards driving the décor direction that we move towards and, 2, I have a personalized questionnaire that I asked my clients to complete. It helps me understand things like “which colors do you gravitate towards?”, “do you love plants?” and “where have lived throughout your life?”. This is really key as you approach the design tone of any home.
Where do you find inspiration?
Every day I find inspiration whether it be sitting outside having morning coffee, reading trade blogs/magazines, going antique/vintage shopping, even in my yoga practice…
When it comes to including art in your designs, what do you look for?
Art is so subjective and I really try and to find unique pieces that my clients will love. I say to my clients that they really should love each piece of art they see in a room. It should invoke a special feeling. I find that including different textures are important to mix in a well curated room and that even applies to the walls. I gravitate towards unique photography, vintage oil paintings, sculptures/3D pieces and of course fiber art!
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
Old and new world curation.
Favorite color pallet for designs?
White, black, linen and rose
What's your favorite room in the house?
I really love my art studio/office. We have wall-to-wall bookshelves that are never alike week over week. I move books around, add new ones, hang new art and am constantly shuffling things based on my mood.
What recent design trends are you most excited about?
I love the emergence of new independent artists that are leveraging Instagram to gain exposure. It allows me as a designer to gain access to unique artists all over the world. I’ve inquired and bought from artists from Australia to Toronto to Alabama!
What is your best advice for someone who is redecorating a room?
Start with a piece you love and want to see every day in that room and build around it. Remember that less can be extremely interesting when you have the right scale.
How do you approach design challenges with clients and/or spaces?
Every project comes with it’s own set of challenges, it’s just the nature of design. I think one of the biggest lessons you learn as a designer is that if you screw up or a piece isn’t to the clients liking (and I don’t know anyone that this hasn’t happened to) be humble and know when to take ownership. Challenges are all part of life. You’ll likely grow from the experience.
What's your favorite place you've traveled to (or dream to one day)?
France, for the opulence and Cambodia, for the soul of the people; both have such deep rooted history and you leave feeling so much love.
Tell us about a past project that you used a piece from Lauren's ART and/or HOME collection. Which piece(s) did you include?
I recently installed one of Lauren’s Spring 2018 tapestries into a home of a client that lives in a 1940’s tudor-style home on the M-streets in Dallas, TX. She has this magnificent room that we call the fancy lodge and the tapestry adds so much warmth and interest throughout the room.
I also love having three of Lauren’s lush velvet pillows as rich accents in my small shotgun home, The Purple House, in New Orleans. Everyone comments on their beauty and durability and wants to know where I got them.
You have included the velvet pillows in multiple design projects, what about them are you drawn to?
I absolutely love how timeless and luxurious the velvet pillows are. They bring a richness and warmth to any room. Beyond aesthetics, I've found that they are SO durable. I have two euros and a lumbar pillow in the Airbnb/VRBO (The Purple House) and they weather all of the guest stays really well so I highly recommend them to clients with children
What surprised you most about this piece from Lauren's art and/or home collection?
I continue to be in awe of the attention to detail that Lauren has. From the art itself, to the package and the handwritten notes. The authenticity carries throughout her process and her art from order to delivery.
What's your website and Instagram so we can see more of your work?