If you love pinning on Pinterest, regramming on Instagram and just religiously perusing the glossy photo spreads of lifestyle magazines, chances are you’ve come across the work of photo stylist and lifestyle expert Annette Joseph. She’s an entertaining/cooking/styling genius who has worked with everyone in the industry (from the Today show to Gwyneth Paltrow) to create her world-at-your-fingertips work. Her current project of renovating a medieval fortress in Tuscany (she splits her time between Italy and Atlanta) has a lot to do with creating a permanent homebase for the Style Workshops & Retreats she hosts and runs throughout the year. After I stopped begging the ever-stylish Annette to adopt me and take me with her on one of these stunning international trips, I sat down and talked with this author, entertaining guru and now, StyleBlueprint FACE of the South.
You’re a stylist, producer, author, entertaining expert, wife/mom and so much more. What is your favorite hat to wear and why?
I love being a mom as it calls on all of my skills — after all, every mom is a producer and an entertainer. I love my family, and without their love and support, I could not do what I do on a daily basis. They are the center of my universe and what makes everything possible.
Describe your affinity for Italy and what the country means to you.
I am the daughter of immigrant parents, so the European lifestyle is something that was engrained in me from birth. The Italian lifestyle, la dolce vita, is something that feels comfortable to me. I have been spending summers in Italy for the past 12 years. The daily life is slower, it’s a more manageable pace. I love the locality of the food — the slow food movement started there. The idea of cooking lunch every day and sitting and talking with family and friends for hours appeals to me on every level. In the evenings, meeting for aperitivo is a highlight or even gossiping at the local hardware store makes me happy. Not to mention Italy is super chic, and the style there is incredible — it’s always a visual feast. Italy is effortless, going from city to country life in a few hours, scenic and the language is beautiful. What’s not to love?!
What are the big differences between entertaining in the South and across the pond in Europe?
Italy is steeped in tradition and everyone sits down to Sunday supper and lunch every day with their family — it’s a given. In the current South we do have traditions, but the gathering of family and friends every Sunday has gone by the wayside. Italy operates at a slower pace and is more traditional (plus they have three hours in the afternoon to enjoy a meal); in the South, we are so busy and forget to sit down and enjoy a meal on a daily basis. The main reason I wrote my book Picture Perfect Parties was to convey that entertaining can be a weekly thing and make it less intimidating.
Fun fact: It took me a while to realize in Italy that you are responsible for your own birthday party. I kept expecting my friends to take me out for my birthday, until one friend explained to me that I had to plan it and pay for it. Big light bulb moment for me!
Speaking of Italy, where are your favorite Atlanta restaurants to get great Italian food?
What is the No. 1 mistake prospective photo stylists make when creating the “perfect shot”?
Inexperience. I think that everyone wants to be a stylist without the experience of working in the photography/styling business for at least three years as an assistant with a trained professional. I highly suggest you put your time in. Once you’re on set you will know what to do in any scenario.
You’ve done many live appearances on the “Today” show, Martha Stewart Sirius Radio and others. Any embarrassing moments to share?
Hmmm … probably Hoda Kotb commenting on my shoes during a segment. In the middle of the broadcast she said how much she loved my shoes and it threw me off. I had no idea what I was talking about and why I was there. Being on the “Today” show with those two lovely, funny ladies, really keeps you on your toes.
You are renovating your new home in Tuscany (and future site of your style workshops). What’s the hardest part about living through a renovation? What excites you most about the property?
First off I should say that our project is a medieval fortress from the 12th Century, located in the region of Lunigiana in Northern Tuscany. We have 27 acres and a vineyard, surrounded by olive groves and an amazing view of the mountains.
Well I just love a project, so the renovation for me is nothing but fun! However, I am not living in the renovation — I think the hardest part of a renovation is if you’re living in the mess. This fortress is a pleasure because I have a great team and great resources. I am most excited to learn about wine making since we now own a vineyard. I think drinking our own wine is pretty awesome (you can follow along on Instagram).
What has been your most challenging project to date, and how did you overcome that adversity?
Most challenging, hands down, was Gwyneth Paltrow’s penthouse in Nashville, mainly because of the time constraints. She was a dream boat to work with, but the timeline almost killed me. Having said that, I would do it all over again!
You’re writing a new book, Italy Is My Boyfriend. What books are currently sitting on your nightstand?
Yes, I am in the middle of writing my book right now, about the ins and outs of being in Italy for 12 years, buying and selling properties and the awesome/awful things that have transpired over the years. You’re going to laugh when I tell you what I have on my nightstand: How to Raise Dairy Goats. We are going to make goat cheese in Italy, so I am reading about goats. Sexy, right?!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
What three things can you not live without excluding friends, family and faith?
A big thank you (or better yet, grazie) to Annette Joseph for sharing a little bit about her inspiration, ongoing projects and her enviable la dolce vita!
While on this Italian kick, brava to our wonderful FACES photographer, CatMax Photography.