Food & Home

A Race to Renovate

With a very limited independent film–scale budget, Annette Joseph transformed an ideal (yet very raw) two bedroom downtown Nashville loft into a cozy, light filled space that was just perfect for my family’s stay there. Housed in a building called “The Icon” in the up-and-coming “Gulch” area, Annette and her team worked tirelessly and achieved the unachievable in 10 days! Below, Annette chronicles how it was done. She is one impressive lady.

Love, gp

Annette Joseph on the Race to Renovate

Living and dining room

When I first got word I would be designing a temporary living space in Nashville, Tennessee for Gwyneth Paltrow while she was filming a movie, all I knew is that she was a very accomplished actress, loves to cook, and has a website called goop.

Anything more about her I was about to learn at our first design meeting in Nashville, on a cold day in January.

Our meeting:

We met in the apartment, which in a word was a shell. All it really had to speak for it was a fantastic view of downtown Nashville, and that’s about it. The kitchen was builder grade (in other words, not so nice) and the bathrooms were very ordinary. The big challenge? How to make this space a beautiful yet comfortable landing pad for a busy woman and her family, temporarily living in the south.


Gwyneth does a lot of cooking and we agreed that the kitchen needed some alterations, mainly a gas stove. I assured her I would make it a cook’s kitchen—and I did.

Master Bathroom

When we surveyed the rest of the apartment, the only request she had was a proper bathtub, as she loves to bathe her kids at night. After our walk through we sat down in my office to hammer out the details, so I could get started. I only had 10 days to plan, tear down, construct, and decorate the apartment (a 3-month project condensed into 10 days).

How it Came Together

Left, living room. Right, master bedroom

I had put together a large stack of ideas, everything from furniture, color palette, fixtures, fabrics, appliances, lighting, and photos of original artwork for Gwyneth to sort through, so our meeting consisted of yes’s and no’s. She motored through about 200 choices in an hour. She knew the color palette and the style she wanted, modern yet comfortable, no autumnal color ways, and no sharp edges for the safety of the children. When we finished we shook hands at the door, and said good bye and she thanked me again, and we both went off to work, she to the set, and me to my desk to pull an all-nighter.

The Plan of Attack

We had a strict timeline… worked 16-18 hour shifts with an amazing crew of craftsmen….and here’s how it went down….

Kitchen and bathrooms in progress.

Monday and Tuesday: While the guys tore everything down that I specified out of the space, I shopped for tile, fixtures, lighting, and a proper bathtub. I ordered furniture, while my fabulous assistant Natalie bought everything for the day to day, like all the kitchen small appliances, kitchen essentials like dishes, pots and pans, sheets, towels, even toys for the kids. One trick was that we never let the 18-hour crew leave to eat lunch, we brought lunch and all ate together to keep the momentum going.

Left: Trunk loaded after a marathon trip to Bed, Bath & Beyond. Right: Crew putting the apartment back together.

Wednesday-Sunday: We put the apartment back together, hanging drywall, sanding, and painting all at the same time, which is a nightmare, but with clever solutions we managed to get it done. We laid tile, hung lighting, created a pantry, installed appliances and drapery all at the same time, and we even painted a giant chalkboard wall for Apple and Moses. At one point I counted there were 30 men all pounding, painting, tiling, and installing appliances and lighting at the same time.

Master bedroom, ready to be unpacked.

By Monday of the following week, one week after tearing the place to shreds, three assistants and I were cleaning and prepping to load in furniture to start finishing the space.

Master Bedroom

Tuesday – Thursday: My assistants and I were washing, ironing, loading into cabinets and folding laundry all at the same time, while a professional art installer installed artwork on the walls. We arranged flowers, placed scented candles, installed an iPod station, and a TV.

The owner of Mitchell Gold Atlanta/Nashville, Ben, came and installed the master bed himself, everyone pitched in.

Needless to say it was non-stop 24 hours a day, and I could not have done it had I not had the relationships with vendors.

Warming up an Industrial Space

By Friday we were finished, and the nonstop pace had paid off. By using soothing tones of linen and grey, soft inviting fabric choices, an accent wall painted fuchsia as a fun surprise, along with comfortable big scale pieces of furniture from Mitchell Gold, this stark industrial space looked warm and inviting. I incorporated lots of great lighting all on dimmers (my hard/fast rule for lighting your home) and fluffy rugs.

Quick Hits

The fuchsia paint was an affordable dramatic design idea, it was a welcome surprise at the entry to the master bedroom.

The console piece on the fuchsia accent wall was from Nest Interiors in Nashville, a repurposed altar piece from India, it was an open-back iron and wood piece, which I was able to light inside.

We used fuchsia velvet custom pillows, the fabric came from Hobby Lobby, and we had them affordably made at a budget upholsterer.

The fun plastic dining chairs were from Overstock as were the galvanized stools. It’s a great resource for hip chairs.

Another dramatic yet affordable feature was the master bathroom. I tore all the walls down and covered the entire space with marble tile from Mission Stone and Tile in Nashville (the secret is that the marble was actually ceramic marble-like tile from Italy at a great price.)

The bathtub was a floor sample I found in a lighting store in Nashville (watch out for floor samples; as long as they’re in good condition, they’re often great deals). I gave the claw tub center stage and hung a few inexpensive lights with drum shades to create a sense of drama.

The kitchen lights were a flea market find, I bought the fixture for $400… I was so thrilled.

The stainless steel island was from a local fabricator, Falcon Fabricators. It was very fun to go to the factory, and it cost about $500 bucks…the shelves in the pantry were also from here.

The three-tier wooden stand in the kitchen was from a fantastic local store in Nashville, Nest Interiors. Having an eye-catching, wooden piece like this one made the stainless steel kitchen area much more inviting.

The Nespresso Machine, $249, was a must and something I always put into clients homes, great for entertaining…and morning wake up, of course.

The sofas, chairs, master bed, coffee table, and rugs were from Mitchell Gold.

Apple and Moses’ purple bunk bed and custom monogram floor pillows came from Posh Tots.

The Convertible grey felt couch in the kids room came from Blu Dot.

Apple and Moses’ cool toys and coloring books were from Anthropologie.

Questions and Answers


What are your favorite places to shop for great decorating deals?


My go-to stores are:

Homegoods—my number one choice!


Pottery Barn or Pottery Barn Outlet

World Market



Design within Reach

Mitchell Gold Furniture

Restoration Hardware

2 Modern


1st Dibs



Did you borrow the art from galleries? What’s that process like?


As a photo stylist I borrow things all the time to appear in magazines. Designers will usually borrow things for show houses, and temporary installations. Since this was a temporary situation, and Gwyneth is an art supporter and designer, I had no problems borrowing important pieces from the galleries. However unless you are a stylist working in TV, film or magazine, or a designer working on a temporary space, borrowing artwork is not an option. I strongly believe all people should purchase and live with fine art.

I couldn’t have done it without Anna Skillman at Jackson Fine Art and Susan Tinney at Tinney Contemporary Gallery Nashville who lent all the art in the apartment.

From Tinney Contemporary:


Sisavanh Phouthavong

Attack of the Hummingbirds: Enron Scandal 48” x 48” Acrylic on Canvas

Todd Alexander

Look What I Can Do 49” x 36” Mixed Media on Panel


Linda Mitchell

Dreams #4: Summer Heat 24” x 24” Mixed Media on Canvas

Jason Lascu

Birthday Hat 22” x 8” x 8” Mixed Media

From Jackson Fine Art:


David Hilliard

Jackie Immersed, 2007 72 x 20 inch C-prints mounted on plexi; face mounted to plexi


Mona Kuhn

Colonial, from the Native Series, 2009 30 x 30 inch Chromogenic Dye Coupler Print


Mona Kuhn

Livia and Renan, from the Native Series, 2009 30 x 30 inch Chromogenic Dye Coupler Print

Jeannette Montgomery Barron

Bathing Cap, 2007 28 x 28 inch pigment print on Hahnemuhle cotton paper

Jeannette Montgomery Barron

Ghost Dress, 2007 28 x 28 inch pigment print on Hahnemuhle cotton paper

Jeannette Montgomery Barron

Neiman Marcus, 2006 28 x 28 inch pigment print on Hahnemuhle cotton paper

Jeannette Montgomery Barron

Norell Perfume Bottle, 2006 28 x 28 inch pigment print on Hahnemuhle cotton paper


Todd Murphy

Kestrel Branches from the Sovereign Tree Series, 2009 30 x 60 inch Digital C-Print mounted to plexi

Todd Murphy

Trunk and Nuthatch from the Sovereign Tree Series, 2009 30 x 60 inch Digital C-Print mounted to plexi


Vee Speers

Untitled #33, The Birthday Party, 2008 24 x 20 inch Cibachrome

Annette Joseph lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and two children. She works as a producer/photo stylist for national magazines and TV. She works on interiors photo shoots, food and entertaining features, and is currently working on her first book on style and entertaining. She has worked with many high profile clients in her 25-year career on their private spaces.