Behind every single beautiful interior shot that you’ve pinned, or torn from a magazine is the hard work of a professional stylist. A stylist’s job is to combine styles, shapes, colours, textures and materials to create a specific look to excite and inspire, showcasing gorgeous furniture and accessories in stunning settings.
Working closely with photographer and client, a stylist’s role is broad and varied – from sourcing props and crafting unique details pre-shoot to working with the photographer to compose the best composition on the day. Creative flair together with a keen eye for detail and an in-depth knowledge of what’s on trend are absolutely essential.
So how do you become an interior stylist? I hope that I can give you some ideas by sharing my own experiences.
Currently, other than short courses, there’s no official degree course or long-term training programme in the UK specifically designed for interior styling.
Attending a wide variety of more general creative courses (not just orientated to styling) has helped me to be more confident creatively in my own right.
Sketching, flower arranging and street photography are just a few of the specific skills I’ve developed that I use on set, informing my understanding of what it takes to create a great shot. In fact any new creative experience is enjoyable and useful – take every opportunity you can.
Unsurprisingly I’m always looking at images: on Pinterest, on Instagram and in my favourite magazines. Every idea starts somewhere, so it’s essential to file away inspiration and analyse how great shots work. I’m not just looking at what’s in the shot, but also the composition, the angle, the colour palettes and the unexpected details. Keeping in the know about new products, stores and designers ensures that my props for each shoot are eye catching and on trend.
How to get work
Each stylist comes to their role through their own unique path, but most stylists have a creative background one way or another. The key is to get working - and that’s best done by assisting established stylists and learning on the job.
I began assisting after a career as a project manager in graphic design. My project management job had involved working with a creative team, understanding client briefs, and organising shoots, so although I did not have a creative degree I was already familiar with the world of commercial design.
I collected a long list of stylists names - from magazine credits, blogs and social media and approached them for work. One “yes” and I was away. I’ve assisted for nearly 3 years now, and in the last year have started to get clients in my own right.
No stylist is properly equipped without a kit box and an unending personal supply of ribbons, postcards, vintage props and all the essential little bits and pieces.
Being prepared on the day for any eventuality means that your kit box should be stocked with tapes, strings, hooks and blue tac – that way you can hang a picture or secure a prop in an awkward position without a worry. Building up your own selection of small props and beautiful ‘bits and bobs’ means that you always have unique finishing touches at your fingertips.
What you can do to practice
You don’t need to work on a professional shoot to practice styling or showcase your ideas. Create a small space at home, perhaps on a kitchen table near a sunny window, where you can set up some spontaneous shots. Perhaps a bunch of flowers in an unusual vase or a freshly baked pie on a beautiful plate, it doesn't have to be elaborate.
The key is to consider all the details of the shot – the surface, the composition, the combination of colours – then share them on Instagram or Steller. Curate as you go and soon you’ll be building up a showcase of your personal style.
A DAY IN THE LIFE... what happens on a typical shoot
A recent collaborative shoot with a client started with a pre-shoot discussion where I proposed ideas for the overall look and how to showcase the product. I made up mood boards of shots, colour swatches, sketches of possible shot compositions and location suggestions in order to get my ideas across.
With the direction agreed, I then shopped for props, spray-painted frames and organised every detail of the day.
The day of the shoot
Laden down with props and my trusty kit box, I stopped off at the flower market on the way to the location for a 9am start.
Once there, with the space cleared and props unpacked, I directed our set builder to paint bespoke background panels to pull the whole look together.
Each shot was then set up, with items added and removed, shifted and shuffled until the perfect composition was achieved. This is the part of the day where creative ideas ‘on the go’ are needed – perhaps the original idea didn't quite work, or an prop or product didn't arrive, maybe something just needs an added flourish or detail added. Whatever the case, the stylist is there to make it work.
The last hour of the shoot was then taken up with wrapping and packing all the props away and making sure the location was put back exactly as we found it.