Genevieve Gorder: A Southern Romance by Design

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Genevieve Gorder is one of America’s favorite interior designers, most widely known as host of TLC’S “Trading Spaces” and HGTV’s “Genevieve’s Renovation” and “A White House Christmas.” Since first appearing on MTV at age 24, Gorder has been in over 23 lifestyle shows globally and is a two-time Emmy nominee and five-time Telly Award winner. 

She’s also a part-time resident/frequent visitor to Savannah, thanks to her engagement to local designer and sculptor Christian Dunbar. A match made in design heaven, Gorder and Dunbar met through a mutual friend last spring and became engaged six months later in Provence, where they led a design workshop for the Savannah College of Art and Design’s study abroad program in Lacoste, France (Dunbar is a SCAD M.F.A. graduate). The designers are set to marry in a private ceremony with Gorder’s daughter — then, says Gorder, “a super sexy dinner party for our friends in a beautiful riad in Morocco.” 

Starring in both the 2018 reboot of “Trading Spaces” and her new show “Stay Here,” which debuted on Netflix August 17 (and for which she also serves as executive producer), Gorder has no shortage of exciting projects to juggle. She sees the Netflix series — which transforms rental properties into luxury experiences to increase their income potential, often incorporating the work of local artists and artisans — as an opportunity to focus on what she refers to as the humanness of design. “I need to be alone with a city visually before I meet a person or do a project. It’s my most powerful time,” she says. “I always look for the right district. Where do the skateboarders hang out? Where do the designers hang out? Who’s cooking the good stuff? It’s a sacred trinity, and it’s where the home unfolds.  And of course, you don’t understand anything until you get to know the people. I like to get to the grit before I build the pretty.”  

Browsing. Photo by Parker Stewart

Much like what she does on “Stay Here,” Gorder is getting to know Savannah while redesigning her fiancé’s former bachelor pad and even partnered with the local outpost of Circa Lighting for a trunk show of her Tempaper collection of wallcovering. “I’ve used Circa Lighting for years in my own home and in my clients’ homes, because they have some of the best products out there,” she says. 

Gorder and Dunbar will be married by spring, and Dunbar will join Gorder and her daughter in New York City. Still, Savannah remains a special place for them and possibly the start of something more: the renovated project in Savannah will be the first in a collective of properties the couple plans to redesign around the world.