what's in your toolbox

what’s in your toolbox: annette joseph

by Ginny

It is a real pleasure to introduce the fabulous Annette Joseph! Annette is an Atlanta-based Photo Stylist and Producer, whose client list boasts some serious heavy hitters such as Better Homes and Gardens, the beloved and mourned Domino Magazine, Country Home magazine, and many, many more. Her most recent design coup is the home renovation for actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s Nashville apartment. In just 10 days Annette and her team transformed a bare, raw industrial space into a bright family home punctuated by artwork and industrial rustic elements. For more details chronicling Annette’s design work for Gwyneth, check out her feature in GOOP! To see how this savvy stylist manages to keep all her ducks in a row, read on guys and dolls!

1. Design*Sponge: What is in your toolbox? What are the tools you can’t live without?

Annette Joseph: My favorite tool is a tiny hammer; it is a hammer, a flat screwdriver, and Phillips head screwdriver all-in-one. It is available at most large hardware store by various manufacturers. Then of course I cannot live with out both large and small Martha Stewart scissors. Also I must include my linen apron! I bought it on a photo shoot in Napa 5 years ago and never take it off during a shoot. Of course, my iphone is the newest and most valuable tool. We use it for everything from photographing objects we want to use as a prop, to a gps in towns all over the country (and the world).

2. Design*Sponge: Fill in the blank, “When I am in my studio, I feel… light. happy. inspired by all the collected beauty.”

CLICK HERE for the rest of Annette’s interview (and her studio music mix tape) after the jump!

3. Design*Sponge: What are on the top shelves of your inspiration library right now? This can be anything from blogs, books, magazines, vintage catalogues/manuals, etc.

Annette Joseph: Even though I work in the magazine business I read and collect them.My all time favorite is World of Interiors~ a new find Apartamento, ElleDécor Italia, oddly enough these magazines are particularly un-styled. I find endless inspiration in the casualness, and in some way try to achieve these imperfections in my styling of interiors. I call it “perfect imperfection”.

Books~The Divine Home by Peter Vitale, Italian Rustic by Elizabeth Minchilli, My Mothers Clothes by Jeannette Montgomery Barron, I used several her photographs in a masterbedroom I did for Gwyneth Paltrow, in Nashville. Her images are graphic, simple and haunting in their simplicity. etc., by Sibella Court

+ The Anthropologie website.

4. Design*Sponge:  How do you keep yourself organized?  Do you have an agenda book and do you make “to-do” lists?

Annette Joseph:

*I am a slave to my iCal as is my assistant Natalie; we live and breathe by it.

*I keep all of my styling jobs in individual clear folders. These folders hold shot lists, prop shopping lists, receipt envelope, vendors’ cards and information, photos of the location. When we have 8 jobs lined up in a 2-week period it makes picking up the right shot lists easy.

*The most important thing to time management is to get things off your plate quickly. Some of the most successful people I have encountered respond immediately to emails, questions. The one person that comes to mind is my friend and uber-designer, Nate Berkus.The way he has become so successful in my mind, other than his obvious talent, is that if I email him with a question I can expect a response within a day, usually an hour. This style of organization allows one to move quickly through tasks and efficiently even with lots of projects on the deck. I am a big believer in getting things off my plate.

5. Design*Sponge: Do you have any insider/secret styling/design tips or tricks that you would care to reveal?

Annette Joseph: I could tell you but, I’d have to kill you ;) There are no tips about styling that I could write in a sentence. My assistant has been with me for 4 years, and she still has questions everyday. Styling is working and learning as an apprentice for a long time. After having about 20 assistants, I am must say you either have the knack, the eye or you don’t. However, paying attention and being hyper visual are assets in production and styling. Being detail-oriented is essential to success.

6. Design*Sponge: How do you combat creative blocks? What tools do you use to keep your creativity flowing?

Annette Joseph: I go for a long run…that always seems to solve every creative block I might encounter.

7. Design*Sponge: In addition to being a photo stylist, producer, and author, what would you like to conquer next?

Annette Joseph: I renovated a flat in Italy. I want to renovate a large compound in Italy next.

8. Design*Sponge: Where do you like to shop for inspiration?

Annette Joseph: My favorite place to look for inspiration would have to be Italy. I spend each summer there, no work just wandering various markets all over Italy and France, cooking, running on the beach, and people watching in the square. Slowing down my daily life literally recharges my creative batteries. A lot of people say “how can you take 2 months off of work”, my response is “how can I not”? I come back refreshed and better than I left, with new ideas that make my work look great and my clients happy.

9. Design*Sponge: If you could peek inside the studio/toolbox of any designer/artist/craftsman, who would it be?

Annette Joseph:

* I. M. Pei

*Sister Parish

* William Peace, an Atlanta Designer I think is amazing and talented.

They seem so different, but as a stylist, one must be an expert in many styles and have a love for every genre of design.

10. Design*Sponge: If you could make a master mix-tape of music that is inspiring you at the moment, what would it be?

Annette Joseph:

I Came 2 Party ~ Space Cowboy

Ooh La La- Gold Frapp

Telephone- Lady GaGa and Beyonce

1901- Phoenix

It’s a New day- Will I am

Nothing on you- B.o.B

Suggested For You


  • I like her other work but I actually thought the apartment fotos were before shots.
    It seemed so dull, cold and lacking in color, despite that fushia wall!

  • Every woman needs a toolbox! I have several mini toolboxes all over (some for sewing, some for making jewelry, etc). My sister-in-law even had her toolbox customized with her name painted on the side along with “keep your hands off the goods” – a message for her husband!

  • I love the fuschia wall. I think it looked very Gwyneth.

    Now I want a little wall to paint fuschia!

    Now, I certainly don’t understand why Gwyneth would ask for a bottom to top renovation for a temporary stay in Nashville. Temporary = a month? a year?

  • Can’t we see more of the kitchen she’s standing in in the photo…or a link to it? i’m intrigued by the green cabinets!

  • I want that hammer! lol.
    Annette is a great designer and I can’t wait to see what she is up to next:)

    To see more of that lovely kitchen go to http://www.ajphotostylist.net and check out lifestyle & interiors (the kitchen is under “My House”)

  • ok, i’m asking because i know i can’t be the only reader wondering…How did you get started in styling? What’s the key to breaking in? What do you look for in an assistant? :) I love those green cabinets too; i’d love to see more!

  • I hate to chime in on a negative note, but I agree with Holly–the space ended up looking so cold and hard! Linen and gray is not an inviting color scheme in a concrete and glass loft. Even the fuschia wall seemed to point up the loft’s general lack of color, and it’s a cool tone too. More layers of texture would have helped–then again, she only had 10 days to complete the job. The one bright spot for me was the bunk bed. It’s like something out of Harold and the Purple Crayon. I’d have loved climbing into that as a kid!

  • I started reading Annette’s blog recently and have become a huge fan!! I am a designer and dream about getting into the photostyling business but find it hard to find a way in to this business even just as an observer! Any tips?

  • I am goofy happy to see Annette onyour blog today. having freelanced as a stylist for both BH&G and Country Home (my little kitchen was featured in the very last (boo hoo) issue), I’m a huge fan! She rocks, huh? Thanks so so much!

  • New Goals:
    -Get things off my plate.
    -Two months off work.
    Oh, yeah. I can do this.

  • Huh. The go-to shop list in Goop was not very inspirational. I too thought the photos were the before shots – very cold and not cozy at all. With two small kids, my design goals for my house are all about “homeyness.”

  • I agree with others. I didn’t like the Gwyneth loft at all. But the photos on her site – I love! There are some really lovely spaces she showcases on there. I never would have guessed it was the same person.

  • I always find it so interesting and with with a sigh of relief when amazingly talented creative people live & work successfully NOT in NYC. Sometimes I feel like this city has chains on me then I see people like Annette and I dream it’s possible.

  • I think it is beautiful. It seems very serene. I think that even if it is a temporary place, if you have to be away from home for any time longer than a week or two, you want it to feel comfortable and a reflection of yourself. Superb job in such a short time and I would LOVE to live there permanently. Annette Joseph has impeccable taste. While I might say, it is probably not everyone’s taste, but the bottom line is that it was designed for Gwyneth and if she loves it, isn’t that what it is about, creating a space the client will be happy with. All you naysayers rest assured, she didn’t design it for you and you don’t get to live there.

  • The space is wonderful, being a trained architect I know how incredibly hard is to put a project like this together in 10 days. Love the style, the colors and the loft. Great Job Annette!

  • Given the small budget from the film company, and the short time Gwyneth’s family would be living in Nashville during the filming of her new movie. Anette did a fantastic job. I loved the clean uncluttered look. which also created plenty of safe play space for the kids. This is a great place to come “home” to relax and cook for her family after a long day of work. Anette gave the client what she wanted with a little extra flair (the fuschia wall and the awesome chalkboard for the kids). LOVE IT !!!