Photography by Peden + Munk

Business by Design

by By Andrew Myers | magazine | April 7, 2011

In the business of design, woe is the designer who neglects the design of the business. Such is not the case with Susan Hornbeak-Ortiz, principal and co-founder of the six-year-old firm Shine by S.H.O., who has found that creativity, flexibility and multiplicity become compounding metaphors as well as conjoined inspirational springboards. Since showing her full-house collection (which includes everything from lighting and furniture to textiles and her own artwork) in 2010 at Paris’ Maison & Objet trade fair, she’s going global, with innovative showrooms opening later this year in Saudi Arabia and China.

A graduate of the prestigious MFA program at UCLA, the Newport Beach native had been multimedia since childhood—photography and installation (her MFA thesis), sculpture and drawing too—the fine, decorative and industrial arts merging and melding without artifice or artificial distinction. “Mom was an interior designer, Dad a builder, my grandfather a carpenter, my stepfather an architect,” Hornbeak-Ortiz says. “I learned how to read floor plans as a kid.”   Such symbiosis came in handy when in 1999 Hornbeak-Ortiz, her three kids (which now count four, ages 18, 17, 10 and 8), and husband Russ moved to Portland, Oreg., where Russ worked as director of U.S. marketing for Nike and she reworked houses, selling three after working her design magic. “Sometimes I regret letting go of the last one,” she laments. “It was the mayor’s old house, built in the 1920s on almost an acre of land and still 10 minutes from downtown.” All was firing on full financial and fun cylinders. “But I get bored, restless—the artistic temperament,” Hornbeak-Ortiz explains, “and I surround myself with people who are the same.” She and her husband, it became increasingly apparent, were in the midst of a mid-career crisis: comforted by the security of accomplishment and, yes, steady checks, but increasingly worried that safety might be becoming as stultifying as a minimum-security prison. “The kids were getting older, we knew college and a roster of expenses and cares were coming, and that if we didn’t jump and try something new we probably never would,” says Hornbeak-Ortiz. That long jump came in 2005, when Hornbeak-Ortiz and hubby formed Shine Home, with an initial focus on the reproduction of vintage lighting, and relocated the family to San Juan Capistrano. “We could pick wherever we wanted to live, so we chose midway between my family in Newport Beach and Russ’ in San Clemente,” she says.   The house they settled on then—an undistinguished 1960s construction a little north of 2,100 square feet that “needed to be totally gutted”—turned out to be perfect in terms of becoming a versatile family home;
its location (near the Mission and within walking distance of the showroom, now called Shine by S.H.O.); and as a platform for a collection that quickly moved beyond lighting.   Away went what Hornbeak-Ortiz describes as “the weird, faux Spanish aesthetic”; in came “a modern hacienda version of that.” Concrete floors the color of beach sand, white walls, dark beams and continuous surfaces create an airy, loft-like vibe—a perfectly neutral palette and minimal canvas on which to explore and to grow. “This house is very much my laboratory, for how my designs look, of course, but with four kids, for how functional they are and how well they wear,” says Hornbeak-Ortiz, adding that initially the interior design reflected her collection’s bold use of colors—turquoise, chartreuse, yellows and the like—which she used in lighting, side tables and, perhaps most apparently, textiles. Light and bright, strong and sculptural, the collection expanded, the lines multiplied and the international client base grew to such an extent that Hornbeak-Ortiz decided to exhibit at the January 2010, Maison & Objet, a grande dame trade fair in Paris. “We air-shipped everything,” she says. “Eighteen-hour days, utter madness. And great.”   While the expense was manifold and effort exhausting, it was at the fair that Hornbeak-Ortiz was approached to open a showroom for her entire collection in Shanghai as well as a hospitality showroom in Jeddah. The former is slated to open late summer, the latter early fall—and yes, she’s since received a serious query regarding a showroom in Moscow, meaning that in short order, Shine S.H.O. might well have high-profile presence in the world’s three most vibrant international luxury markets. “It was a coup,” acknowledges Hornbeak-Ortiz, referring to both the business expansion and the creativity the trip catalyzed. “My visits to Versailles inspired my new collection; I seemed to see the castle through a modern lens.”   That lens has since yielded Versailles coffee, side and dining tables, dressers, cabinets, as well as the Cary and Dauphine armoires and Yves chair, among many other pieces. “Nothing inspires me like travel,” Hornbeak-Ortiz says, adding that while she’ll never abandon color she’s become fascinated with high-end materials such as marble and gold leaf, or the less expected, such as bone. “I’m always searching for interesting materials then pushing how those materials can be applied.” The results of her exploration now fill her home—and will likely soon fill houses and hotels in the Far and Middle East as well.