For designer Sherry Shirah, work is all about telling stories through the careful curation of physical spaces. A New Orleans native who moved away in childhood, Shirah spent years working in the technology world, leading software teams in Atlanta and Dallas. But design, much like New Orleans, kept calling her back.
“I’m one of those people that reevaluated what I was doing,” Shirah said. “Time is precious, so coming up on five years ago, I started my own design studio.”
Shirah dove headfirst into the business of design, buying and renovating a Victorian shotgun home to live in and work out of. With an initial client list populated by friends, she quickly found her footing and began designing near and far.
And while Shirah’s early years in the tech sector may seem like they wouldn’t apply to her current vocation, a lot of the underlying process remained the same. It all starts with a deep dive into a new client’s wants and needs for the project.
“I take a speed dating approach,” she said. “I have a really lengthy questionnaire…It’s really about telling the story of the people, the family, that I’m working with. And you’re never going to see a clone of design in my work. It’s always going to be unique to the people that I’m working with.”
After the design work begins, Shirah approaches the process in much the same way a computer programmer would, constantly checking to see if all the parts and pieces are still working together and stopping occasionally to reevaluate the scope of the work.
Shirah points to two vastly different projects as prime examples of her analytic approach paying off with a beautiful finished product.
The first is a cozy Lower Garden District cottage she calls “Cottage d’Art” filled with all original furniture, fixtures, and art pieces. At the other end of the spectrum is a sprawling 7,300 square foot Florida estate she dubbed “Chateau Tranquil.”
While both projects were very different, Shirah said her team’s detailed execution on each property allowed for amazing results.
Developing software is vastly different from redesigning a home, but Shirah said she has found a way to succeed in both worlds.
“At the end of the day, the hardest thing about anything you’re ever going to do is working with people,” she said. “If you can just be a good communicator and connector and work with people, you can do anything.”