During the 15-plus years I've styled log homes for magazine photographs, people often ask me if I have a degree or background in interior design. The answer is no. Styling is very different from interior design. The way I arrange furnishings and accessories on a shoot might be completely impractical in terms of the way a room should function for actual living. I style the room for the camera to help create an image that will inspire the viewer, as well as represent the lifestyle of the homeowner.
What I attempt to do is enhance the living space in a way that makes the viewer want to be there. More often than not, I remove items from a room to keep the photographic composition easy to look at. Items need to be positioned just so in order for the viewer to be able to see them clearly and separately, as opposed to having layers and layers of objects stacked up on each other.
While some things need to be removed in order to create a pleasing photograph, there are a few essential items that can be added to a space in order to create a lively, engaging composition. As I mentioned, some aspects of styling are not necessarily practical for daily living, but I do believe that many features can make a difference in how a space feels day in and out.
Please give me color! The spectrum of the rainbow, I believe, is essential to our well-being. When styling, I bring elements of color into every photo. Many of the log homes we photograph are furnished with a warm but neutral palette to blend with the earthy tones of wood. I think it is important to accent the neutrals with splashes of bright, bold color.
What should our homes be, if not comfortable? Comfort, calm and serenity are the feelings I strive to elicit in styling a room. Pillows, throws, candles, a fire in the fireplace, cocoa and cookies on a coffee table laden with piles of great reading material — no matter how grand or humble the home, these are common ingredients of the good life.
Collections are precious, or why would we have them? Well, items that you have chosen for your collection might be precious to you, but don’t feel obliged to display the collection of objects people have bestowed upon you as gifts. Frequently, we hear of log-home owners receiving housewarming gifts who suddenly find themselves overwhelmed with mementoes depicting bear, moose and rainbow trout. Collections are perhaps the greatest reason for the clutter in some homes. Display your collection items in a manner they deserve, in their own space and set apart from other accessories. Remember the word “precious.”
My favorite life-enhancing accessory, flowers have it all: color, beauty, texture, aroma, each of them little masterpieces of art. Flowers bring a room to life, as do house plants. They are essential to styling a home, and if I find myself in a position where it has not been possible to acquire fresh flowers for a shoot I will go foraging for anything from the surrounding landscape, even twigs, that I can bring indoors and make into an arrangement.
On a typical shoot, I will set the table. It’s particularly enjoyable to work on a table setting with homeowners who have certain favorite pieces that they are excited to bring down from the cabinet. In my opinion, you can never have too many sets of dishes, napkins or place mats. The more options the better. When styling, I like to set each of the eating areas differently: more formal for the dining table, casual for a kitchen island or breakfast nook, and fun and lively for porch and patio tables. I truly believe that creating a splendid table greatly enhances the dining experience.
Flowers may be my favorite accessories, but food is beyond a doubt my absolute favorite prop. Like flowers, food brings life into a setting. Chips and salsa on the deck with a sparkling beverage pitcher invites the viewer to the party. I love styling with food items, creating a sumptuous, bountiful mood, generally in the public living spaces. The bonus is that once the shot is finished, we get to eat the props.
The Great Outdoors
When we photograph a home, the majority of the shots are interiors. But the exterior shots are extremely important as well, and so is styling those outdoor spaces. The same essential ingredients that work for interiors apply to the exteriors. Outdoor furnishings should be every bit as comfortable as indoor furnishings, using cushions, pillows and throws to liven up settings. Action is conveyed by the presence of gardening tools and gloves or fishing rods and reels. And, of course, flowers, candles, food and other good things in life are enjoyed even more fully in the great outdoors.