Frederick resident and designer Shoshanna Shapiro has long been fascinated by big transformations, so it was a real full-circle moment when the designer won a 2022 HGTV award in the “Dramatic Before and After” category.
Years after she daydreamed about rearranging furniture while babysitting as a teenager, Shapiro opened her own design company, Sho + Co, to provide renovation and interior design services in the DMV region. In her young adulthood, Shapiro renovated a 120-year-old house she bought, which gave her the experience she needed to fall in love with design.
“Although the renovation was part of that story, I wasn’t driven as a career person to say I’m an interior designer,” Shapiro says. “It was kind of like, I just happen to be good at understanding it, and I liked seeing the big transformation. To me, that’s empowering. Not only is it empowering to be able to do that kind of [design] stuff but also to create the kind of organization and function that can improve your life.”
When she had children, she often rearranged their rooms to keep things organized and usable. Her friends would ask how she did it when they came over, and she would offer her design and organization services to them for free.
Later, she worked with builders to understand how the entire process worked from start to finish. Knowing that gave her the confidence necessary to continue her design career while also teaching her how to work with clients, builders and tradespeople, which she still does in her daily life.
“You’re dealing with all sorts of people that may be intimidated by you or belittle you, so there’s a lot of rough [things] along the way that you have to kind of manage. You have to have that solid knowledge and understanding because if you don’t, there’s a lot that can go wrong,” Shapiro says.
One of the biggest factors for Shapiro when designing a house is emotion. She wants her clients to be able to feel the way they want to feel when they enter their newly renovated space. Shapiro knows firsthand from difficult times as a cancer survivor what it’s like to be in a space that doesn’t suit you.
“About nine years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer, and I went through all that kind of stuff, and I think that is when I really realized how important a clean, healthy home environment that inspires you [is]. When you can’t move and are doing a lot of sitting in a place … [a nice home] makes you feel like you can be healthy, you can be strong,” Shapiro says.
Shapiro’s main design influences are her clients, and she finds it fun and challenging to fit both their design styles and needs into the finished space. She finds it especially rewarding when she can help a client through a life change like a big move or change in family dynamics.
“I can see that in every home, every transformation of how those things can impact somebody’s life,” Shapiro says. “Even if they don’t know it, I want to share that with them.”
Home design trends
One trend that Shapiro sees sticking around for a long time is “biophilia,” or bringing elements of the outdoors and nature into the home. This can be done in many ways, such as texture in furniture or using live plants as decor.
“The reality is people in general are always going to be inspired by nature, by things that make them feel calm, at peace, relaxed,” Shapiro says.
Shapiro points to woven textures in blinds and raw edges on furniture as two subtle ways to incorporate nature into the home. Materials such as copper, brass and raw wood can also help bring this more natural feeling to a space.
Colors also play into biophilia. Lately, earth-toned colors such as greens and browns have been trending rather than the colder grays of the last decade.
But with all trends, there can be a desire to go over the top, which Shapiro steers away from. Some designers are leaning into the use of “live walls,” where entire walls are covered by plants, which Shapiro sees as a bit too much.
“You can have one or two elements throughout the house, and it really like grabs you and it feels good to everyone, but once you start getting it everywhere it just becomes too much,” Shapiro says. “So you do have to pick and choose that trend. But a lot of furnishing companies are doing it kind of right.”
In terms of using trendy design in the home, Shapiro likes to do so with decor rather than entire design themes. For example, instead of designing an entire space around a color, she suggests adding pops of color or using seasonal decor to alter spaces throughout the year. People can do this with throw pillows, blankets and small decor pieces such as florals and candles.
“So I think what [design firms] do is every year, they’ll say, this color’s in trend or that color’s in trend; they give it a fancy name. You’ll see a lot of places, but you shouldn’t ever design your house based on trendy colors,” Shapiro says. “You should design your home based on how you feel, what makes you feel good.”
In the future, Shapiro hopes to continue to grow her company and brand, which includes an online decor store. Her goals include opening an office with a showroom and eventually a brick-and-mortar location in downtown Frederick.
“It’s an evolution. I want to grow. I want to do more,” Shapiro says. “My passion lives in the experience I can provide the homeowner from the minute I walk in to [the end when they say], ‘Wow. I didn’t believe you could actually even get there, and what a difference you made.’ So I want to do more of that.”