I’m often asked what I do as an interiors stylist and the truth is very far removed from the perception that it is a very glamorous job for which I just get paid to shop & create pretty roomsets? If any of you read my last post here, I think any preconceived ideas have probably been dispelled by now?

For any of you thinking of becoming a stylist it is a great and very rewarding job, but glamorous couldn’t be further from the truth.

As there are lots of very interesting before and after blog posts featuring room make overs for residential properties, which I personally love reading, and I’m guessing you do too, I thought it might be interesting to get an insight into what goes into the job of creating a room set for a commercial photography shoot and how the role of an interior stylist contributes?  So kind of a before and after for a shoot?

The example I’ve used for this blog post, was a recent job I completed for a client and is pretty typical of an average job. I will take you through the steps of receiving the client brief to the completed shot. I know when I first decided it might be fun to be a stylist, after studying for my Interior Design degree, I had no idea what I was getting into really. If I had read a blog post like this first, it would have been really useful and so I thought why not share the knowledge I’ve picked up along the way?

So the first point of contact with the client usually involves them or an art director, giving you the brief. The brief may or may not include a set design. If not it is quite often the role of the stylist to design the set, along with lots of communication with the photographer and the set builder to ensure that your ideas are realistic. The photographer will be thinking about how he wants to light the set and will often ask for multiple windows or doors for light sources. The set builder will know how realistic some of your ideas are regarding the time frame or budget allowed. As well as designing the set, the stylist will also often be asked to source flooring and wall coverings, window dressings and paint colours. This will be determined by the look and feel the client has asked for.

In the example I’ve shown below, my brief was to create a coastal inspired bedroom to showcase the product which were white fitted wardrobes. The design board determines the look and feel and will help to confirm that your ideas are the same as those of the client.

I mainly use google sketchup for the set design and Photoshop for the design boards, so that they can be emailed to the client and any amendments easily changed until the idea and props have been approved by the client. There are also other ways of making simple mood boards, on apps such as Canva and morpholio.

A budget for props is confirmed and it’s important that you have a good source of props hire  and reliable independant retailers, who will hire their stock to you for a small percentage of the retail price. I also have a collection of my own props that are useful for bringing to shoots, such as neutral pottery, linen covered books and interesting salvaged pieces which I regularly pick up at boot sales and antique fairs.

As well as sourcing props, the client will usually ask me to collate a design board of pieces I am using, so that they can approve them.  They have to be quite comprehensive so that the client has a good understanding of the key pieces that are being used on the shoot.

There’s a lot to think about and as well as being creative an interiors stylist has to have an excellent background and knowledge of all interior styles and periods so that you can interpret the brief. It’s essential that once the sourced items have been put on the design board, that you can ensure that they will be in stock and available on the day of the shoot. It’s ok making pretty design boards to present but if you then can’t bring the goods to the shoot, you’re going to have a disappointed client?

You’ll also have to be resourceful and knowledgeable and able to make decisive decisions quickly. Sometimes when the client sees a key piece on set, they decide it’s not working as they imagined and you need to know where alternative key items can be bought. This happens, believe me.

Being a creative stylist is also being a team player and communication skills are vital, through your interpretations of the brief from the client to working on set with assistants,photographers, hair and make up professionals, models and the client and their team.

As well as bringing all the props to the shoot, it’s vital that you bring your own tool box as you can’t always be sure that every studio you work at will have the supply you need and of course if you’re on location, it’s imperative you come fully prepared for any eventuality.

So here’s a run down of what I bring in my tool kit. Again it’s not a comprehensive list and some stylists will have different essentials but this is usually what you can guarantee you’ll need in most situations.

  1. Staple gun and spare staples
  2. Fishing wire
  3. blue tac
  4. double sided tape
  5. masking tape
  6. tape measure
  7. small electric cordless drill
  8. pins
  9. spray starch
  10. needle & thread
  11. small hammer
  12. small panel pins and nails
  13. florists wire
  14. string for hanging pictures
  15. scissors
  16. set of allen keys
  17. hole punch
  18. small nail brush (great for smoothing the pile on velvet upholstery)

So from brief to finished shoot, this is the final result of all those hours of preparation.

I’d love to know what you thought about this post. Did you find it interesting and helpful? Are you surprised about what is expected of a stylist or is it just what you thought? I love to hear back from you, so do get in touch x

 

After spending quite a bit of time in Spain over the last few years and recently just returned from a week near Barcelona, I have a bit of a love affair going on with Rattan at the moment which is used in so many interesting ways over there.

It seems that I’m not the only one either? My Instagram feeds and Pinterest suggestions are awash with balearic style shots of rattan furniture, styled up with lush plants.

 

I first took notice of this humble material when Ilse Crawford delivered her range for Ikea and those magnificent straw pendant lights sold out within weeks.

Then of course there were the beautiful decorative jute rugs that stole our hearts.

So if like me you are loving the tones, textures and tactile nature of rattan, here is my round up of some of what the High Street and online retailers have to offer.

For a rug similar to the one in the image by sfgirlbybay above, try this Asele rug by Urbanara.

This gorgeous occasional table is available at Moth in Didsbury Manchester. Hazel the lovely owner of my favourite shop, is also a lover of Balearic style and her beautiful shop has a selection of rattan objects to choose from.

Made.com are always on top of every interior trend and have these fab Java lights for only £59

These cute Tiki style mirrors are from La Redoute, for £69 and currently with 25% off.

 

If you feel like bringing a bit of the tropical garden vibe indoors, this hanging Ibizan style chair is perfect? Available through Wayfair.

Or if you prefer to keep your feet firmly on terra firm and are looking for something more like this, there is this chair below, from Maison Du Monde.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most of my trips away with Mr B, without our off spring, are never more than 2 or 3 nights, due to our youngest still being only 15, we rely on one of our lovely friends, who has a daughter the same age as Amber, to look after her for us, and we don’t want to take advantage of her kindness. Consequently. we have become very good at maximising our time in a city and it’s amazing how much you can see and do in 48 hours if you plan ahead and ensure that you are located in the very best part of the city.

So recently we returned to Barcelona, a city we haven’t visited for over 20 years, before our children came along. Our hotel was located in the El Born area, which I had figured out was the part of the city where all the best bars, restaurants and independent shops were. It has a lovely neighbourhood feel such as La Marias in Paris or Notting Hill in London, which is just our kind of place and is also perfect for hanging out in the evening without having to schlep back into the city centre on public transport or spend your money on taxi fares. El Born did not disappoint, in fact quite the opposite, it was love at first sight. You know that feeling you get as your taxi approaches your hotel and you get butterflies in your stomach because you just know you’ve hit the jackpot? El Born is a labyrinth of old streets right in the heart of the gothic quarter with the right amount of traditional Tapas bars and cool cocktail bars, beautiful independent clothes and shoe shops and amazing vintage shops.

A couple of people have asked if I’d write a blog post about our trip as a bit of a guide for their anticipated visit. This is obviously not an exhaustive list of what to do, but it’s what we did and some of the places we saw and would visit again and I can whole heartedly recommend.

So first up, how to get from El Prat airport to the city, you might ask? I know it’s something I always check as it’s not always necessary to jump in a taxi and waste your hard earned euros to get from A to B?  I would definitely recommend getting the Aerobus into the city centre. It runs frequently, every 30 minutes, from both terminals and costs just over 10€ return. The train is a bit more complex, depending on which terminal you land at, you might have to get the shuttle bus that runs between terminals, to take you to the train station and then you have to change midway at another station to get the train into the centre of Barcelona?

We chose to stay at Chic and Basic Hotel in El Born. They also have other hotels around the city. It was a lovely hotel, in a great location with a good breakfast and very helpful staff. I wouldn’t say the decor was totally to my taste as it was quite contemporary in the bedrooms and had a bit of a night club feel with LED lights that you could change the colour of by remote control, but it was still very cool and for Barcelona prices, the name of the hotel was a perfect description, working out at about £100 a night for a double room. Breakfast was 18€ each but for that you could help yourself to cereals, eggs, hams, tomatoes, breads and jams, fresh fruit juices and great coffee. They also, as promised, had gluten free bread waiting for me in the morning, which I just had to order the day before with the reception staff. As the El Born area is a warren of small streets it’s perfect for cycling around and the hotel provide their own bikes for hire.

As we arrived quite late in the evening, we ended up eating in one of the first good Tapas bars we passed, which was an interesting mix of North African and Spanish. Cal Pep had been recommended as one of the best Tapas bars in the area and I’m sure it is, but to be honest every place we passed was packed and the food all looked amazing and our choice for the first evening was fantastic. Sometimes we’ve found you can send too much of your precious time looking for a certain restaurant and when you only have two evenings you need to go with your instincts? In El Born your instincts will be on high alert, as I’ve said it all seemed good. The area has it’s own mini Ramblas which is lined with convivial bars and music well into the night and around the old market hall there are also lots of eateries and late night bars.

The morning of our first day was spent at the Museu Disseny which was host to the “David Bowie Is” exhibition, that had first appeared at The V&A a few years back. This was our reason for visiting Barcelona, my birthday present to Mr B was tickets to see this exhibition again. The Museum was about 1/2 an hour walk from El Born which was a great way to take in other parts of the city, stopping midway for a coffee and to soak up the sun and the atmosphere.

After the exhibition, we made our way to La Sagrada Familia which we had pre booked  tickets online for.  We had viewed this amazing structure from the outside many years ago but obviously a lot of work had been completed since then and after watching “The Art Lovers guide to Barcelona” well worth watching btw, we were intrigued to see what the interior of this formidable building was like. Now I’m going to be honest here, and it might not go down well with the tourist office of Barcelona or fans of Antonio Gaudi, but it didn’t really do much for me! It was a little bit theme park for my liking and although I could appreciate the craftsman ship and skill involved in this build, it was a bit too touristy for me? There were literally hundreds of people within the cathedral all taking selfies on selfie sticks and there was no sense at all that this was a religious place of worship. We even heard one young American lady ask very loudly to a guide “So who was this Gaudi guy then?” In short I’m sorry to say it left me a bit cold and we both agreed after our visit that were a lot more interesting places to see in Barcelona. If you are going to go though, and please don’t listen to me, that’s only my humble opinion on the great building, it is very wise to pre book tickets online before your trip so that you can queue jump and get in there straight away on arrival.

After we left the Sagrada Familia we made our way towards La Ramblas & the amazing Placa Reial that runs off it. This has got to be one of the most beautiful, grandest squares I have ever seen. So much so, it has been etched on my mind as one of my enduring memories of our last visit to Barcelona over 20 years ago. I remembered the breathtaking architecture and the majestic rows of palm trees that line the square, so vividly and of course it looked exactly as i’d remembered it, all those years ago. It is a must for any visit to this city to wander through this square or sit a while with a glass of Estrella or Cava.

We then stumbled across the famous Boqueria food market, just off the main Ramblas. This is an assault on the senses, a riot of colour, sound and smells. It is similar to lots of these types of markets throughout Europe, but as Barcelona is a coastal city, it’s main attraction is the varied and fresh seafood, ranging from oysters, to fresh lobster and langoustines and the unbeatable pleasure of being able to sit at a bar with a plate of fantastically fresh food and a cold drink whilst watching the world go by and observing all the frenetic energy of the stall vendors. A definite must for any food lover visiting this City.

Making our way from the market back onto the Ramblas we had a quick look at one of Gaudi’s other masterpieces of architecture, Casa Batllo. We have seen this amazing structure before so we just took a couple of “We was ere” snaps outside in memory of our visit but if you have never been to Barcelona before or seen this fantastical building, a guided tour is highly recommended.  Casa Batllo has a varied range of concerts and events throughout the year, such as live music on the roof in the summer months, with canapes and cava included and a full tour of the interior of the building is included in the ticket price, which you can view here.

Next door to Casa Batllo is Casa Museu Amatller another fine Art Nouveau building and the former home of Chocolate heir, Antoni Amatller. As well as turning the existing family chocolate business into a leading industry, he also spent his time and money as a photographer and collector and employed skilled craftsmen and artists to decorate and furnish his home, which can now be viewed. Looking at the video of the interior which was playing in the entrance to the building, it looks absolutely amazing and a real insight into the life of the Spanish upper classes during that period. We are going back to Barcelona in a couple of weeks and this is one place we really want to go back to.

As you enter the Gothic Quarter of the city you’ll come across the Picasso Museum, which is amazing if you’re a fan of the great man? Across the street from the Picasso museum you’ll find Palaudalmases a small theatre like space where regular live Jazz and Flamenco shows are held, starting from 6.30pm in the evening. The beautiful sun light dappled courtyard as you enter has a real sense of Spanish history and is untouched by modernity. Flamenco is a lovely example of preserved Spanish tradition and culture and I love the excitement of  the live performance and the accompanied guitar playing and always try to see it performed whenever I’m in Spain. I’ve been lucky enough to see Paco Pena perform live and I can’t promise that standard of performance but I’m sure it will be authentic and fun?

On our final day we decided to take the pace slowly and ambled around the streets of El Born looking in the many vintage and independent shops, which are all of such quality. Here you’ll find lovely boutiques such as Angle specialising in Scandinavian brands of clothes and shoes for men and women and Little Creative Factory who specialise in artisan made linen clothing and accessories. You could easily spend a day in this area wandering around and getting lost?

A short 20 minute walk away took us to the port where we stopped for lunch at a street food market. The choice of food was vast from sea food, to succulent pork and steak sandwiches topped with caramelised peppers, paella and churro dipped in chocolate. From the handsome port, which is lined with more restaurants and bars than you can shake a stick at, you can take the funicular to Montjuic hill top where you’ll find the Joan Miro Foundation, the only other museum in Barcelona dedicated to just one artist. It’s also a great view point to see the whole city below.

There is so much to do in Barcelona, we didn’t even touch on any of the other Gaudi buildings and Park Guell where the artist lived, as we have visited these sights before, but they are definitely worth a visit if you haven’t been? We also didn’t get to the beach, Barceloneta, which has some of the best seafood restaurants the city has to offer. But there is always next time?

If you have any favourite places that you’ve visited in Barcelona that you want to share with me, leave me a comment, as we are going back very soon and I always love to hear from you x

 

 

 

 

I am often asked how I became an interior stylist and what exactly does the job involve?

It’s a very big misconception that a stylist is merely paid to shop for a living and be up to speed with all the latest interior trends. All though this is an integral part of the job, there is much more to it than shopping. There is a lot of blood sweat and tears that go into creating a room shot and if you think it’s the job for you and want to know a bit more about it and how to break into the industry, read on.

When I first thought about becoming a stylist, I’ll admit I didn’t really know an awful lot about the job apart from that it looked like the best job in the world, creating amazing room sets and interior shots all day long. I bought the only book I could find on the subject, which was “Photo Styling” by Susan Linnet Cox, still available on Amazon, but this was long before blogs and instagram existed and although the book was useful, it would have been great to have different points of view from other stylists working in the industry.

I have read some great, insightful blog posts since I became a stylist, by other professional stylists and bloggers, such as Sophie Robinson, one of the judges on the Great Interior Design Challenge, Maxine Brady who has worked on many magazines and home make over TV shows and Sarah Akwisombe, she of the amazing No Bull Blog school. I thought when I read these posts, how useful they would have been to me back when I was studying and dreaming of being a stylist? Also as my daughter only has 1 more year at High school and is soon going to have to decide on her career path of choice, I though the more information that’s out there, for her and her peers to read, the better. I’m all for sharing knowledge and skills with anybody but particularly with a younger generation.  So I thought I’d write an insight from what I’ve learned along the way, just in case anyone else out there finds it helpful?

So do you need a professional qualification to become a stylist, I’m often asked?

Well definitely not, but if you have one or are thinking of studying for a creative qualification it will certainly open doors. Most stylists I have worked along side have a degree or some creative background in fine art, photography or textile design. My degree is in Interior Design and it certainly helped having this in order for people to take me seriously and be prepared to meet me and let me show them my portfolio, when I was starting out.

If you don’t have a creative qualification though, don’t worry, it’s as much about having a good portfolio and contacts than anything, that will get you through the door and into your first assisting job. If you’re wondering how to build a portfolio if you haven’t worked on a professional shoot, start creating your own scenarios and vignettes at home and photographing them to build up a good context of work and show your style. Improve your camera skills, if you need to, and always use natural light to take your shots.I went on a short 10 week night school course to learn basic SLR skills and this all helps to show case your talents. There are now lots of short one day Instagram photography courses that will teach you styling techniques such as the Makelight courses run by Emily Quinton

Network and make contacts.

This is far easier than when I started out, when I literally had to cold call studios or go to organised networking events (cringe!)  Now with instagram and blogging, connecting with like minded people and other creatives has never been easier, so monopolise on that? Build yourself a profile. Start writing a blog about your design related interests and arrange to meet up with other creatives through Instagram meet ups or just dm people you admire on that platform and ask if they want to meet for coffee and pick their brains. Most people in this industry are very sociable and love meeting people they have a common interest with. I got my first break assisting just by asking other stylists if I could come and shadow them on jobs whilst I was working in a props hire warehouse. Not all of them will say yes and sometimes it’s difficult to say yes when you’re working on a big shoot for a large brand, as the health and safety rules of the studio, doesn’t always allow, but many will help if they can.

Do your homework.

Study other shots you like in books and magazines and break down what it is you like about the shot. Is it the colour combination used, the textures, a particular flower the stylist has used that makes the shot? Sometimes it’s the space left within the shot and how that effects the balance of the items within it? Start using Pinterest & pinning favourite images for inspiration. Follow other stylists blogs and their Instagram feeds. Some of my favourite stylists on Instagram are Emily Henson, Hans Blomquist, Sania Pell,Pella Hedeby but there are many more, too many to name and you’ll find your own favourites?

 

Image above Pella Hedeby

Images above Hans Blomquist

Image by Sania Pell for Cox & Cox

Don’t be too proud to work for little or no money at first

Be prepared, at first, to work for free if you have to, assisting stylists. This really helped me to learn some skills without being too stressed that I was expected to know what I was doing straight away. It also really built up my networking contacts as well. My first paid job came from meeting a photographer when our house was used as a location for a shoot and I chatted to her about breaking into the industry. Never be too proud to work for free, it’s all adding to your portfolio and building your confidence.

There’s no I in team

One of the biggest myths, that I quickly realised, is that the finished shot is all the work of the stylist. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There is a big team responsible for the shot starting first and foremost, with the client and art director who will brief you on their idea for the shoot, to the photographer and set builder who are all vital to the quality of the finished shot. A great shot is a combination of all these people but ultimately it’s the client who approves the shot and makes the final decisions.

Geographical location plays a part

Most of the work that I do living in the North of England, is commercial photography for brands. If you decide you want to work on magazine and editorial shoots, you will have to be prepared to commute to London where nearly all of that type of work is.

Commercial photography isn’t as creative as editorial but it is a skill in itself. Making the product, which isn’t always what you would choose yourself, look good, is much harder than it sounds. Often you will be given a tonne of product that all has to be seen in the shot and this is where your creative skills will really come into play.

 

Quite often the product will be something quite basic, like the radiator in this shot that I styled. It’s important to elevate the item without overshadowing it with too many props. The product has to be the hero of the shot otherwise the client won’t be happy. So it’s often about less is more and again a skill that has to be learnt.

Organisational skills are as important as creativity

Being organised and a good communicator and being able to work within tight budgets are all main skill sets that you will need. Also being pretty frugal with your budget is a skill you will need. I was recently given a very large budget to spend over 150 shots which meant creating a spread sheet and keeping every receipt I had and ensuring the spread sheet and the receipts balanced at the end. Each prop bought had to earn it’s keep by me making sure it could be used across several shots in a different way. The budget might have seemed large but over the amount of shots I had to use it for, it was only just over £160 per shot, so creative management and being able to visualise a large amount of shots over different room sets, is all part of the job. Are you still interested in becoming a stylist???

This shot below was part of a series of shots taken on location and all shot within a day. Everything that was needed, from the flowers to the candle sticks, to the rug and the curtains in the room, all had to be transported from Manchester to Lincolnshire and ready and waiting in the location house, first thing in the morning when we arrived to start the shoot. It is often the job of the stylist to make sure the logistics of this work and you will often be responsible for organising the transportation of everything you need.  At the end of the shoot everything has to be packed away and the house restored to how it was when you arrived, so that it is vital that as one shot is being taken by the photographer, the stylist is prepping another, to keep the wheels in motion and to ensure everything is captured in the time scale you have. If the location house is only available until 5.00pm and the light outside is fading you need to ensure that the client gets every shot they have asked for.

Many commercial shots involve models and often the stylist will be responsible for booking the models through an agency and meeting and greeting them and keeping them happy during the shoot. This is essential especially when working with young children and babies to ensure that the client gets as many shots as possible. Sometimes a baby can be on set for over an hour until the client and the photographer are happy that they have the shot in the bag. So patience and sociability are important skills for a stylist. 

Last but certainly not least, I have often been asked by other stylists embarking on their careers what is essential kit to take on a shoot. The list is exhaustive but I will go through the essentials for your tool box, in another blog to follow about the day in the life of a stylist. I’ll also cover mood boards and set design, so keep tuned if you think it’s of interest to you.

What I will say to close this post, is the job of a stylist is not often boring. You are always working with different teams of people, in different locations and with different product. Every job is different and there is never two days the same and. If you’ve got the type of character that can work under your own steam, come up with ideas on the spot and communicate effectively with a wide range of people, it could be the job for you?

*All other images are my own

 

 

 

 

 

So next week I’m off to Barcelona for a couple of days and I don’t know if you’re anything like me but, when it’s your first summer trip of the year, do you always think you’ve got some suitable foot wear that you wore last year only to find that when you drag the things out of the wardrobe you remember that

a) they either rubbed your feet all summer long that you never really felt comfortable with them or

b) they were so damned comfortable that they are wrecked!

Well that my friends is the situation I find myself in as I write this blog post. So I’ve been avidly looking online, through fashion mags and in the High Street stores to try and find out what the most fashionable feet are wearing this summer and I thought I’d share my findings with you, should you be in a dilemma like moi?

Slides are every where this summer and although my daughter assures me fur topped ones are the only slides you need in your life, I rather like these more formal half shoe versions for myself?

These are from Cos £99

Espadrilles have made a come back again although a bit flatter than the usual wedge offering, which are perfect for wandering around on a city break?

This on trend blush pink version are just £19.99 from H&M

Metallics are still every where possibly as they look so good on tanned legs? These are by Molly Goddard X at Topshop

If you love the Morrocan influence that is everywhere from embroidered kaftan tops to ethnic pompom fringed bags and jackets, you’ll love these shoes, as much as I do?

From Next £32.00

Continuing with the Moroccan influence, I already have a soft black pair of these Babouche style shoes from Zara(now sold out) that I have been wearing all Spring and they are the most comfortable shoes I own. I’ve got my eye on this gold pair from Topshop to up the glam stakes for the evening.

Finally if comfort is always the over riding factor it’s a relief to know that the Arizonas by Birkenstock are still very much a fashionista’s staple item!