Diary: Interior stylist for a day – my top tips for styling your home

kitchen photo shoot

My day as an Interiors Stylist on a home shoot was a huge success. Styling is something I am constantly aware of (sound familiar? You probably are too); the clothes we wear, the colours we choose and the patterns we love (and loathe) in our homes. Interiors and aesthetics are my passion and something I have been obsessed with since childhood. Recently I got the chance to put this obsession to its best use and was acting stylist on an interiors shoot for a homes magazine. I know, how much fun can you have in a 1930s semi on a wet Wednesday? Plenty it turns out…

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For those like me who are fascinated by the industry, love styling the interior of their own home(and spend the GDP of a small country on the glossy tombs every month) read on to see what it’s REALLY like creating those pictures we flick through, poring over every detail.. Here is my diary of a day as an interiors stylist.

homes interiors magazines bought religiously
Yup, all of these…

24 HOURS PRIOR: First off, the memo from the magazine casually mentions to “have a quick tidy up” and make things pretty. So far so good, I can do that. Except they mention it three times and I am starting to get paranoid and actually got scrubbing 24 hours prior and as far as getting the paint out in the kitchen….

lounge renovations
It is ALWAYS this tidy, obvs…

wooden flooring clean

DAY OF SHOOT 09.00 Things kick off EARLY…the photographer and his truckload of kit arrives pretty much the second I have got everyone out the door…the confused children who have not been allowed to touch ANYTHING since they woke up (if I could have fed them outside I would have…) and the hungry, unshaven husband who can’t make toast without using several pans and creating a crumb-avalanche and therefore will be having breakfast on the hoof this morning. (Look, its ONE DAY people…)

camera rig kit
Ok, this is not the actual camera but there was a lot of kit !

09.30 Post load-in we check over the shoot list from the Editor, they have specific requirements per room and certain features they are keen on focusing on so we go through these one by one. The photographer and I have a quick recce round the four floors working out which order he want to shoot in, how we are going to get the equipment in each space, where to shoot from and how much light there is. It’s a spring day so obviously its black as the ace of spades outside (its Britain after all) and its barely nudging 5 degrees at best… which would be OK except we are shooting for an August issue and it couldn’t look much less like a balmy, English summer day. Bang goes the exterior shots which is a shame as have just done the decking and garden.

photoshoot in kitchen
Can you just move that table…outside …..

We decide to crack the kitchen first as it’s a big room and there’s a lot of vignettes on the list. The camera tripods and lighting is taking up one end so the two of us shunt the huge dining table to the other end and dump loads of things we don’t want in shot on the table and take out the chairs. Then we put IN fresh flowers, clean tea towels and some kitchen canisters for pops of colour. A couple of test shots are taken and we remove the tea towel, add in a vase and fill a wire basket with lemons as the corner is just too dark.  Stylist magic is now required as photographers says ‘we need height here’ and ‘more colour there’. All starting to look pretty gorgeous and we refer constantly to test shots to make sure we have achieved the very best shots we can.

oilcloth tablecloth in kitchen
With table cloth…no lets try it without….
Lets move the table again...
Lets move the table again…

Mid-Morning: My brain is confused as I am normally mainlining coffee at this point but we are pushing on through and start to focus on the close ups the editor has requested. We decide to feature the lovely breakfast bar and copper stools and make up a continental breakfast that I won’t get to eat *sobs*… I have bought whopping almond croissants from Bertinet, my local French bakery and style them with my best/favourite mugs, a vintage milk bottle and cool, Italian coffee maker. We move the camera and tripods again and spend the best part of an hour tinkering with arrangements of crockery, with and without fresh berries, formal and informal dining table arrangements and get some fab shots worthy of any hipster ‘where to eat in Portland’ blog. Am loving it all so far, interiors styling for a magazine shoot is FUN!

continental breakfast croissants and coffee
Mmmmm are they almond croissants…?

Moving on the sitting room which is DARK (I painted it in Farrow & Ball ‘Railings’ for autumn) and papered with a navy blue Orla Kiely paper so it’s Abigail-Aherne-Would-Be-Proud dark and not even vaguely summery. This is where the skill comes in… lights and more lights and not the house kind. Photographer gets busy with his light metres and test shots and stylist’s assistant (also me) whips to the local deli to grab us a sandwich …am not about to start making lunch in the pristine kitchen, even though it now looks like we have been burgled due to constant rearranging of furniture.

living room corner
Dark arts and obligatory rainbow book spines….
living room painted dark
Dark walls, dark paper, might need more lights…
living room wall mirror reflection
Arty reflective shot to maximise room angles

Lunchtime (if you can call it that – 15/20 minutes max) and we are then heading for the basement. To my utter dismay, the recently finished utility room proves very difficult to photograph. I am disappointed as I have put a lot of effort in with the wallpaper (Cole & Sons Hicks Hexagon) and tiles and flooring (I know, I know it’s a utility room, don’t judge me, I spend a large portion of my life in this space). We get one OK shot of a corner of the wall with the door going out to the decking and quelle horreur…the glass door is FILTHY. Totally overlooked it and quickly whip out the glass-cleaner so as not to hold up the shoot.

laundry magic happens here
Utility room with my favourite wallpaper

I should explain that I had to don a summer dress and sandals for one of the shots where I am in-situ (in front of a camera is not my comfort zone) and make mental note to beg the picture editor to photoshop out my pasty legs and give me a healthy glow. I had to quickly whip this off and the jeans back on as you can’t clean windows up a ladder or hold up a large,heavy mirror in a ditsy silk dress, you need to tog-up appropriately – think a roadie for Iron Maiden complete with gaffer tape and tool belt and you’re there.

Mid-afternoon – onto the playroom which has a cool new painted wall graphic which I am super-proud of (note to self: the photographer has seen many of these, mostly much better executed I imagine, this is no place for pride…) and a get a cool close up of a gallery wall which has been held up entirely with those double-sided strips as we can’t put any nails in the wall due to a specialist lining in the plaster…. *crossed fingers and hoped all stayed up for at least one more hour*

Playroom gallery wall with no nails....
Playroom gallery wall with no nails….

 

scandi playroom
Playroom in basement with painted mountain wall graphic…

15.00 hrs: Finally we head for the bedroom, sounds like a tacky novel, I just mean we are ticking off our shoot list like a BOSS… we whip through the kids rooms which do not even resemble my kids rooms on your average day (what no marbles? dirty socks? half-eaten marmite toast?) The master en-suite is our final location and as it’s a loft room is the hardest to do. The ceilings are angled and the stairs up are narrow so its tricky to get the camera equipment up there. Stylists do plenty lifting and shifting.

tricky angles on interior shoots require drastic measures
Ok this is not really what happened but it was a struggle….
image:pinterest

 

Teen boy room
Noahs room clearly after some magical makeover…

The reflective surfaces of the mirrored glass bedside tables are playing havoc with the shot and so we decide to style them up to lessen the glare. I recycle some gorgeous hyacinths from the living room and grab some cool aftershave and my husband’s dress watch and personalised leather notebook (NB I bought him this for Christmas and its been stuffed in a drawer ever since …hurumph)and it looks like a corner from a hip and trendy magazine even if I say so myself. Interior styling is not disappointing at all.

Main bedroom top floor
Bedroom vignette with orla kiely stem wallpaper

 

ensuite bathroom top floor master bedroom
No Batman bubble bath here…. teal metro tile heaven….

16.30 hours We head back to the living room as we have missed a smaller, detail shot off the list but its not a biggie and we complete it with the aid of me holding up a (very) heavy mirror so that the corner literally peeps into shot by about 10cm. Turns out I have great upper body strength, who knew? Nailed it and thats a wrap.
We ‘celebrate’ with a large mug of tea and double check the shots on the laptop whilst I read from the list. All good. I really hope the editor is happy with them. The photographer points out most will not make the cut!

Am so pleased to have been able to get the experience and work with such a knowledgeable photographer – I have learnt LOADS. Can’t wait to see the finished results in the magazine. The equipment is all loaded back into the van and I am surprised at how tiring its been. That said, I have run up and down four floors ALL day long carrying various plants and chairs and lamps and that’s got to mean I’ve earnt an almond croissant, right? Except now they are so stale you could use them as a blunt Instrument. Still, at least the house is all looking spotless and tidy…. I actually like my house when it looks like this. Maybe they could all stay out for one more day?

Laundry luxe
Just one more peek at the never-to-be-seen utility room….

Stylist know-how – 7 Top Tips for Interior shoot:

*Floral Magic: Get some fresh cut flowers on standby, nothing adds a pop of colour, focal point or even background like a vase of blooms (or cut some greenery, large boughs of
copper beech, cow parsley or even elderflowers look great.)
*Get Fruity: – a bright coloured bowl of green apples or a wire basket of lemons always adds some zing. Even an art-ily placed single apple can look just gorgeous on a
wooden worktop or in a kitchen vignette.
*STANDBY! – have a couple of handy touch up items such as a damp cloth and duster and some cleaning spray for last minute touch ups. Also blue tack can come in handy for keeping corners of books & mags flat!
*Snacks are for Slackers: – have some sandwiches or lunch made up before you start so you can stop and refuel without destroying the kitchen shot.
*Dress code: think about how many ladders you’ll climb, chairs you’ll stand on and stairs you will run up and down… ?
*Timing is everything: – make sure you have built in clean up and faffing time before you start and leave plenty of time to get through the shoot list. It can take a lot longer than you think.
*Ditch the pride: it does look lovely, but the shoot is about getting the best shots and sometimes that can mean moving your favourite frame or chair OUT of shot in order to do the best job for the whole room. Work with the photographer who knows about angles and lights to achieve a great final result and don’t be upset if your best didn’t make the cut… think of the client or publication it is for ultimately.

Stairwell to basement
NOT featured…..

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