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Susan Victor & John Ishmael – Nandina Home Atlanta, GA

Interview with Susan Victor & John Ishmael of Nandina Home

Introducing the fifth in our summer series of Designer Spotlights focusing on the group of top design experts who will be featured this July at AmericasMart’s Vignette Exhibition…Susan Victor & John Ishmael! Susan and John are the lead designers and part owners of Nandina Home, a retail organization that consists of two thriving stores (the flagship location in Aiken, SC, and their newest store in Atlanta) and a busy design workload year-round. REstyleSOURCE recently chatted with this talented sibling pairing, in a brief Q&A which will not only give our readers some background on their “retail meets design” philosophy, but also what they can expect to see from the duo’s Designer Vignette at AmericasMart Atlanta in July 2016…


Which came first for you, retail or design?

John: I started with a slipcover and drapery workroom over 20 years ago. I soon after moved to the retail environment, and that is when I started honing my design skills.

Susan: Actually, 10 years ago this June my husband and I both made huge career changes, and along with our business partner Sue Shannon opened our flagship store Nandina in Aiken, South Carolina. So I would say the retail came first, but within months we realized that design would drive the success of our business. From the beginning we looked to my brother John for expertise in merchandising and custom product design through his workroom. John actually introduced us to Lee Industries and Lee became one of our anchor upholstery lines from day one. Within a couple of years we decided to expand into the Atlanta area, and John joined our team as an owner and lead designer in the Atlanta store.

What does ‘retail meets design’ mean to you?

At Nandina ‘retail meets design’ is in our DNA. When you walk through our doors, you are greeted with inviting room settings that we hope make you sigh, and say “This place gets me.” We want every potential customer or client to instinctively feel like this is the home they want. We also want them to see the creative process that goes into making a beautiful home. We have pulled our design front and center of our stores, large open work tables with fabric books and selected textiles hung for inspiration. Our customers comfortably browse the store while our design clients work with the designers on their projects. By having a retail location, we have the ability to feed our design projects with furniture, rugs, art and accessories in a timely manner, and to have a place to absorb those pesky special item design orders that just don’t work!


©s.m.schmidt_henson-22 (1)Photo c/o Nandina Home

What inspires your creativity?

John: I am always inspired by fabric; I try to always be thankful that I found a profession that allowed me to put my addiction to textiles to work in a productive way!

Susan: I am a true wayfarer, and would travel the world if I had the resources and time. Travel has opened my eyes to the nuanced beauty that his hidden in every culture and landscape in the world. Wandering through ancient villages in Europe taught me the art of mixing the old and new, and how patina not only affects the visual but also the tactile. Experiencing sunsets over the Pacific and rain forest in South America improved my skills in layering of color and light. When I end one trip I am planning the next – the only way I can convince my husband is to assure him that our travel is truly a business expense!


MaliAzima_NandinaAnsley_073 (1)Photo c/o Nandina Home

John’s Favorite Quote…”An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way.”

 Nandina 3Photos c/o Nandina Home

nandina previewDesigner Notes: Inspiration

For our vignette, we wanted to create a room that we are often asked to design in real life: a multipurpose space that serves as an office, a private sitting room, and an extra bedroom. Everyone has that one room that has to act as a go-to home office and guest room, often a cluttered mess with a sofa bed and hand-me-down furniture. True to our brand statement of “Real Life, Real Style” we wanted to create a room that would wow you with style, but would also function perfectly in real life. We envisioned our version of this room with a masculine, library feel.

Which vendors and products did you go with to create this look? Which pieces are your favorites, and why?

Our jumping off point is a Design Legacy fabric that provided the perfect palette. Oversize window mirrors from Go Home expand the 10′ x 10′ space, and stunning taupe/silver drapery from Emdee give us a punch of masculine glamour. A desk from Gabby Home is elegant and unexpected and the convertible daybed from Lee Industries is one of the most versatile pieces of furniture we have seen.

MaliAzima_NandinaAnsley_190 (1)Photo c/o Nandina Home

Must-See AmericasMart Atlanta Showrooms?

Nandina showrooms

Go Home  |  Jaipur  |  Currey and Company  |  Gabby

John: Some of my favorites are Go Home and Golden Oldies. Jaipur Rugs, Currey and Company and Gabby Home are open all year and that really comes in handy. I also love Global Views and Phillips Collection.

Susan: I love to shop Global Views because their showroom is incredibly inspirational. I also am a big fan of Regina Andrew and Gabby Home – they are both on the cutting edge of creatively designed furniture pieces. Currey and Company lighting is an absolute must visit – they have taken the design world by storm and many of their chandeliers become the pièce de résistance of a project.

Designer Tips On Shopping the Market?

John: I love to create my color stories before I begin to shop. I then like to look at many of my favorite showrooms websites to see what they have that is new and unique. Once in the showrooms, I can see in person what fascinated me and how it will blend with our brand if we want to bring it into our retail space, or how it might work in a specific design project. I never feel like I have enough time to see everything I plan to see during a visit to AmericasMart in Atlanta.

Susan: I agree with John – doing your homework before you go to market is critical. As buyers at AmericasMart we lose sight of the privilege we have of seeing the newest and most creative offerings in the design world. The Mart works hard to create opportunities for us to see design from some of the giants in our field. It is our responsibility as retail operators and interior designers to take these products to our clientele and to provide the creative expertise to place and show them in the most unique and beautiful ways. Take time to bone up – comb the most current design shelter magazines, research the vendors you are familiar with but also research the potential rising stars. Stay true to your brand – it really helps you use your time wisely.

Nandina2Photos c/o Nandina Home

Susan’s Favorite Quote…”Design makes things special, and who wants normal if things can be special.”

©s.m.schmidt_oliff-30 (1)Photo c/o Nandina Home

KrogREstyleSOURCE Loves Local

REstyleSOURCE is all about ‘loving local’ – from designer and manufacturers right down to local brick & mortar shops and eateries! What are some of your favorite local shops and restaurants to visit when you’re in Atlanta?

You can’t go wrong if you visit Inman Park for its restaurants…and of course, Nandina Home & DesignKrog Street Market (seen at left) has more restaurants than you can visit in a single market, but you should try! There are many local design oriented shops in the area known as West Midtown or Westside and is worth devoting a 4 to 5 hour tour. Don’t miss Scott Antique Market, it’s a real treasure hunt.

Nandina1Photos c/o Nandina Home

nandina flowersFavorite Tips for Stylish Entertaining?

As brother and sister we have shared a lifetime of creative experiences…actually more years than we want to admit! We both love to cook and work with florals, and have often used those skills to entertain–from small intimate formal diner parties to major events of 100 or more. We seldom get to partner on design projects so pairing to do the AmericasMart Vignette has been an honor as well as a blast. Whether entertaining or designing we both start with defining the space, choosing the palette and identifying the components that will make the space or event memorable – menu, lighting, textiles, etc. In the end it is all about the emotions that are evoked through the senses.

Sargent_nandinaabv_-9226 (1)Photo c/o Nandina Home

Up Close & Personal with the Designers

Coffee or Tea? J: Coffee!! S: Hands down, coffee  /  Sweet or Salty? J: Salty; S: Sweet  /  Beach or Mountains? J & S: Mountains  /  City or Country? J & S: City  /  Text or Phone Call? J: Phone call… But I feel like I text all day long; S: Phone call…please, please a human voice!  /  Night Owl or Early Riser? J & S: Early riser. It must be inherited – we know that we can both call before 7am and the other will answer.


Read the Book or See the Movie? J: Read the book; S: Before retail, read a book, now I need the abbreviated version in a movie.  /  Kindle or Hardcover? J: Kindle; S: Old school hardcover  /  Luxury Hotel or Camping Trip? J & S: Luxury Hotel…really, did any designer choose camping trip???  /  Fancy Restaurant or Home Cooked Meal? Any home cooked meal that we prepare together!

Atlanta, GA

404 521 9303

Nandina Home & Design is a premier home furnishings store and full service interior design firm. Our retail locations offer a collection of custom fine home furnishings,original art and and one of kind accessories and gifts. Our highly qualified interior designers use their skills to create stylish interiors that delight even the most discerning aficionado. 

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