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Joshua Shockley makes old new again

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Growing up on a farm in Charlestown, Josh Shockley was surrounded by acres of land where chickens, sheep and cows roamed. But being surrounded by the livestock, flora and fauna instilled in young Josh a valuable skill. “I’ve always been influenced by nature,” he says. “This time of year there’s pods and fruit and light — and the colors are amazing. You’re virtually cataloging all of these color combinations. Nature is a great inspiration.” But for the country mouse turned Providence city slicker who’s now a sought after interior designer, it’s all about balance.

“I’m always looking around,” he says, counting Adler’s, The Paint Shoppe on Smith Street and Rustigian Rugs as some of his capital city favorites. “I’m downtown and I like to walk around here because there are a lot of exciting ideas. Shop windows tend to do really exciting things — the Rhode Island Antiques Mall, Richmond Square, antique stores... sometimes I go to the Salvation Army to get some really cool ideas you can recycle. As a designer I think everything has been done before; it’s about shuffling and reinterpreting.”

Josh’s mother is a seamstress and his father a wood-worker, “so those worlds merged,” he explains. He laughs that the first sign he may have been destined to be a designer was when he built forts as a child, like most tend to do, only his were well planned. “Oh, there was an entry, separated bedrooms, windows...” He studied art, interior design and textiles at the University of Rhode Island, and used those skills as the design studio manager for Pottery Barn. There he learned about what makes a room and the critical importance of lighting and furniture construction. “Then I went to RISD where I really sharpened my skills,” he explains.

Today, clients hire Josh for everything from single room renovations to whole-house design. “It varies,” he says. “I’ve done a project where there was a fire and they had to rebuild, I’ve done just one room or one floor and added more as money becomes available. I’ve done it all.” He likens the role of an interior designer to a navigator. “They’re holding the GPS or the map and say where to go and how to get there.”

Though he’s worked on projects with budget near the million dollar mark, he prides himself most on the projects that have the smallest budgets, because those are the ones that challenge a designer to be inventive. “There’s a designer for every client,” he says emphatically. “If you have a very small budget, there’s a designer out there for you. ...If a designer says they can’t work with that [budget], they’re not creative.”

Josh can appreciate that meeting with an interior designer can be an intimidating, even awkward experi- ence. “You remember your first dance? Originally you were nervous and your back was flat against the wall, but eventually you warm up and enjoy it,” he says. “It’s a process ... It’s a lot of trust. At the end of the day, I want to be a good value; I want to deliver. I want to create warm, individual environments.” 

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