In this post, I’m going to explain what is an interior stylist and give you hints and tips on how you can become an interior stylist too.
I’ve shared lots of my projects in this post so you can take a look. And if you want to become an interior stylist, read this post to gain tips & tricks on how to break into the industry.
What’s the difference between an interior stylist & an interior Designer?
When I tell people I am an Interior Stylist they usually reply by asking ‘Oh, is that like an Interior Designer?’ Interior stylist and interior designer share some skills but there are MAJOR differences too. Mainly the fact that Interior Designers offer design services for people’s homes that will be installed permanently but I create the same thing which will only be in place for one day on location or at an event but then it will be taken down again!
To explain it neatly – there is a difference between a fashion designer (who makes the clothes from scratch for people to wear) and a fashion stylist (who styles the clothes on location with models for brands). And that is exactly how my job as an interior stylist works. I create looks for brands to promote their latest collections and ideas to inspire customers to purchase the latest products for their homes.
The pre-shoot creative process
Interior stylists are used for a range of projects from advertisements to press look books, magazine shoots, web shoots etc. All shoots are different. Some are huge and some are much more simple. Some require weeks of planning and some don’t. Some require a huge team and others I style in my own home.
My background is working as a magazine stylist for over 10 years on the interiors desk at House Beautiful and other interior titles. On magazines, I learned about the editorial process and how to package ideas to appeal to the season or an up and coming trend.
There is one consideration – the admin duties of a shoot. That involves balancing the budget, keeping track of costs, making sure your team get paid and managing booking hotels, locations and transport. I always say my job is 1% styling and 88% spreadsheets! It’s my job to make sure that the shoot runs smoothly!
Coming Up With Creative Concepts
Before a shoot starts, I will do a ton of research on trends or looks. The planning stage takes up a most of my time, as I choose the location (there are 100s dotted across the UK that you can hire for the day). Once the ideas and budget has been signed off by my client. I’ll create detailed mood boards that show the team exactly the looks I want to create including paint options, fabrics, lighting – as well as angles. Sometimes I even sketch out the look so that my client understands what I’m going to create.
I start each project by making a mood board of ideas – which is called the creative concept. This shows how i intend to style the products in a setting that look so desirable that people (that’s you) want to buy them. Then I bring that concept to life on a photoshoot. Then these images are used everywhere from in store, on adverts and on packaging.
Part of being an interior stylist is about producing a shoot, managing all the logistics and bringing all the pieces together on set to create a look at speed. Once the ideas are pulled together, I’ll start pulling my team together.
Location Hunting Skills
The inspiration point for a shoot is usually the location. I work closely with lots of location agencies to find the perfect place for my client’s shoot. That can be a huge house, a church, a barn, a garden – whatever I need that ticks all the boxes!
I’ll always go and view a couple of locations before I shoot, to make sure I pick the perfect one. I’ll book in a viewing with the agency, and then take photos of the angles I want to shoot, as well as furniture and accessories in the property that I might want to use. This is also the time to take measurements if I want to get curtains made, or need if I need to fit new flooring.
I was once asked to find 1000 tennis balls for a Wimbledon shoot for Ralph Lauren all for next day delivery! This is where google is your friend – as I hunt across the internet to find the perfect props for my clients!
I can be asked to find the most random items. From medical equipment to vintage furniture.
A lot of my prop sourcing is done around Brighton. I will buy items from shops in town, or visit all the amazing junk shops in the area for unusual pieces. I’ve even driven around in my car pick up things from Gumtree.
There are lots of hire prop places in the UK – most of the big ones are in London. I’ve spent hours walking around vast warehouses looking for furniture to dress a location house. It’s like walking into a giant supermarket filled with fabulous things that you want for your own home.
On some occasions, I’m asked to make things for the shoot. I’ve spray painted 20 tennis rackets white for a client or customised vintage furniture in the garden for an event. Every job is different which is why I love what I do.
Working Closely With A Team of pros
Quite a number of people don’t realise that the images that you see in magazines/catalogues/websites and blogs had a team of people creating them. Usually, that involves a large team of people including the interior stylist, photographer and set builder.
Photographers: After the client and the stylist, the photographer plays a key role. They bring experience, lighting and a ton of equipment. They also will edit the images once the shoot is done to add colours, edit out creases in fabric or even add a whole new element (like a door) to make the shots work.
In my career I’ve worked with a ton of photographers both here in the UK and abroad. Most are now my friends – and I love catching up on set on all the gossip and what they have been up to. Have a loyal team of upbeat, talented photographers in your address book is key.
Assistants: A fabulous assistant is an important cog in the wheel! An assistant will help source props, has a wide knowledge of the interiors trend, is hard work on set (the house are long) and able to pack up, hoover and put a location back to the way it looked before we started. A good assistant is worth their weight in gold. This is the first step into becoming an interior stylist. As you meet all the photographers, go to all the locations and learn from the Interior Stylist the tricks of the trade.
Set Builders: On most editorial shoots for magazine, I’ll use a set builder to help me create my dream set. The will make fake walls, fit flooring and help build endless boxes of flat packed furniture.
Transport: Once you have picked out all your props. You’ll need a great team to carefully get everything to the set and return it all in one piece. There are specialist shoot curriers who will lift and shift all your props to the set. Most will help you pack up and will load everything into the van. Crucial if you are on a tight deadline to get out the location before 6pm!
Once everything is in place, the exciting part is arriving on set and seeing all your props unloaded off the van. I usually drive up with a car full of props including my iron, flowers, food props and bits and pieces from my home.
The reason an interior stylist does so much prep and planning, is so that when shoot day comes everything runs smoothly. You need to have everything you need on location – and more sometimes. It has been known that on the day of the shoot, the client might have a change of mind on what they want, so you have to be flexible and resourceful.
I keep a spreadsheet of the shots, with each one allocated time for each. This keeps the shoot on track and makes sure that we don’t over run (as locations will charge overtime).
We’ll shift and move furniture around the location, so you’ll need to have a strong pair of arms for lifting! The house is totally taken apart, then put together – often in day. I describe it as moving house twice in a day – exhausting but really fun too.
The Best Bit About Being An Interior Stylist
For me, it’s when I run through all the shots at the end of the day. When you see what was once an idea in your head appear on screen it’s a magical moment. It makes all the hard work and long hours worth it.
Then later down the line, you’ll spot your styling work on the TV or on the cover of a magazine. I saw my work HUGE on a big screen in Brighton station once which was a huge thrill.
it’s hard work – with long hours on location, and busy days in the run up to the shoot booking vans and your team. But it is so creative & rewarding.
Do you want to become an interior stylist
After reading this post, you decided you want to become an interior stylist – then there are a number of routes you can take. You can read more about my own career journey here.
- There are courses that you can do both online and at a high education.
- Take a NTCJ journalism course, then worked my way onto an interiors title via work experience on editorial desks.
- You can build up a styling career by being on Instagram or blogger.
- You can do work experience with interior stylists (i would always advice contacting establish interior styling assistants and asking them for their advice first).
- You can try the production department of TV Home Makeover shows.
- Or try out your styling ideas at home and see how you go.
Hopefully, this has given you a bit of an insight into the crazy world of interior styling. Don’t forget to follow me on instagram for more interior ideas & inspiration.