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!

 

 

 

I love a good root around an antique fair or boot sale and there is nothing better, as far as I am concerned, than spending a day in the middle of the beautiful Cheshire countryside picking my way through some of the finest antiques and vintage treasures, sourced from the UK and Europe.

If like me, this is your idea of heaven, then The Decorative Home & Salvage Show is an event not to be missed. It is such a treasure trove of beautiful decorative pieces for the home and garden, with something for every taste. From French Shabby chic, to rustic country and industrial reclaimed and salvage. You will find furniture, fabrics, bric a brac, lighting and clothes.

The event runs for three days, Friday through to Sunday and there is literally something there for all the family to do such as fairground rides for the children and plenty of good food and beverages available on site, it’s a great day out.

Copious cups of tea and cake to keep you fortified while you shop.

As an interior designer and stylist and complete salvage hunter obcessive, I know there will always be something to catch my eye. From the perfect rug that I’ve been looking for to must have props such as beautiful textiles, linen covered books and tiny wee vintage shoes, perfect for styling a children’s shoot, everything is there and as is often the case when you go vintage shopping, there’ll be that one item that you weren’t looking for, but that you suddenly can’t live without.

Today was no exception and I came away armed with beautiful crockery and glass ware, something a stylist can never have too much of? Some of my favourite traders were there, displaying their stalls like true visual merchandisers. I’m always impressed by the amount of effort that goes into the displays, you really do feel like you’re walking into your favourite shop.

Nicky at Homeward has a great eye for colour and mid century design. You can also find her at The Treacle Market Macclesfield and here.

Paul & Lucy Vintage specialise in industrial salvage and have some really wonderful pieces for display and props.

Smug Fox had one of the loveliest stalls that caught my eye for it’s mix of vintage furniture and beautiful homewares. These little pink ladders came home with us for our daughters bedroom, which i’ll use to display fairy lights to add a scandi look to her bedroom.

Antique Ideology have a great mix of painted furniture, mid century designs and industrial salvage and you can also find them here.

The event is at Cheshire show ground and entry for the weekend is only £5 per day.The best of the three day event is that if you live relatively closely, as I do, you can always go back again tomorrow and do it all again.

For further details of future events organised by Arthur Swallow go here.

 

 

There is currently a definite 1970’s revival in design, not just in fashion but in homewares. Our love of everything hand crafted and homegrown, such as house plants and macrame are just a few of the trends that show no signs of going away. We are definitely having a bit of a “Good Life” moment and so I was delighted when Denby Pottery sent me some of their new Studio Craft range of  glazed table ware to style. My first thoughts were this is so Tom and Barbara and I instantly loved that feeling of nostalgia that it gave me.

The four natural tonal shades of browns and creams and speckled surfaces, take me straight back to my child hood. Those days of well made British design that was built to last. Brands that our parents always invested in such as Ercol, G Plan & Denby were good solid house hold names that were bought to endure the years, not like some of the throw away design that comes and goes, almost faster than the paint can dry in our newly updated schemes today?

The Studio Craft collection of Denby pottery is tactile and robust and perfect for everyday use. I was always told buy best and buy once and there is no better or more ecological way to invest in pieces that become part of our families daily life and eventually part of our family history.

All words, thoughts and opinions as well as photography are my own. This is not a sponsored blog post.

 

 

 

There was a time when the very mention of the word fake flowers or plants, sent a shiver down any serious interior lovers spine. Fake flowers and plants were nasty and very cheap looking and could only ever be used, god forbid, in desperate situations, such as out of focus in the background of a styled shot or surrounded by real foliage to disguise the fact the said flowers were indeed faking it.

Fast forward to now and with the help of maverick designers such as Abigail Ahern, who has championed the use of fake while also elevating their purpose in the home with her superior selection of plants and flowers, we are flooded with amazing, “are they, aren’t they real?” There is an explosion of blooms and foliage, succulents and cacti, now available from High Street stores, leading online retailers such as Cox and Cox and Rockett St George and even supermarkets.

 

A selection of faux plants from Abigail Ahern

Some of the best that I’ve seen and indeed invested in for props and Barlow towers are as cheap as £6 a pop. The quality of the faux plant or flower, is no longer represented by the sky high price tag.

 

 

These two are from ParLane which I bought at Barnshaw Smithy in Cheshire. They are such amazing quality and only around £10 per stem. When you think that you can easily pay that for one house plant or small bouquet of flowers, which if you’re anything like me, will only last for a couple of weeks, they seem cheap in comparision.

This all year round ever green branch was bought from Moth in Didsbury Manchester.

 

Spot the difference. Two of these plants are fakes and were bought for just £6 each from Sainsbury’s.

So what do you think about faking it? Are you convinced by these faux favourites of mine or not?

You know I always love to hear from you x