I often get emails from aspiring stylists who want to find out how they break into the industry. So just for you, here are my five tips for newbies on how to be an interior stylist. They may surprise you, but hopefully inspire you. And yes, that is me ironing a rug!
1/ Put in the graft
I started out as the junior on a magazine, making the tea and filing press releases. Sixteen years later I now produce huge shoots for big brands and my job has taken me around the world. I always say that my job is 99% organisation and 1% actual styling. I spent my days arranging deliveries, getting curtains and cushions made up, running around getting props, as well as booking photographers and locations, making sure everything I need turns up to the shoot on time. On locations I will get up at 5.30–6am to drive to London, will spend the day unpacking boxes, sorting through props, art directing and styling up shots. I’ve been on location until 11pm at night packing up boxes, all to get all the shoots done. My job is very physical, carrying boxes and loading up my car with props. You have to be prepared to be the first one on set and the last one to leave. It’s exhausting, but I still love my job. I always advise any would-be stylists to do as much work experience as they can to see if it is really for them.
2/ Speak to your contacts
Back in the day, I had a Filofax filled with addresses and telephone numbers for every photographer, stylist, set builder, location agency, courier and press office in the industry. Now I’ve moved all these numbers to my iPhone and I tend to email through my requests to PR agencies. But every once in a while, I pick up the phone and speak to people who are helping me out with props. I’ve got great personal and professional relationships with press officers, people who knew me when I first started on magazines making the tea. A great press officer will go the extra mile to get me the props I need at the last moment. They are the cogs in my styling wheel.
3/ Get a great kit together
When I turn up on a shoot, I am laden down with props, flowers, cushion fills, a steam iron and a giant bag that I call ‘the kit’. Without my kit, a shoot can’t happen. Stuffed inside this bag is all types of packing tape, a hammer and screwdriver (for flat-pack furniture), stickers to label up props, scissors – tons of scissors – curtain hooks, picture wire, Wonder Web, a sewing kit, Velcro tape, pens, pencils, stamp kits, postcards… you name it, it is in the kit.
High-tech is the stylist’s friend. From my phone full of contacts to my iPad that holds my portfolio and the laptop that I write my features on, technology makes my shoots happen. I’m a big fan of embracing the new wave of technology. I love Pinterest (I have 98 boards of ideas!) and this is where I compile all my mood boards for clients and magazines, as well as for my own home. I love Twitter for discussing ideas and sharing blog posts with like-minded people. And Facebook is fab for meeting smaller companies launching new and interesting products for the home.
5/ Getting out and about
The best bit about my job is that I’m not being tied behind a desk. I spend my days and weekends seeking the latest trends. I pop into small boutique shops to see how they display their wares to glean ideas for shoots. I’ll snoop around car boot sales buying furniture for shoots. A big part of my work is finding lovely homes to appear in the pages of magazines, so I get to meet people who are as passionate about houses as me. I love craft fairs, like Made in my hometown of Brighton, where I meet new designers as they first start in the industry. When I have a big decorating story that I need to use lots of fabrics for, I’ll head up to London to the Chelsea Design Centre. All these key pieces are the tiny little touches that make my styling shoots unique.
I was asked to first write this piece by Jane Pople the Editor of the The LuxPad in March 2015. The LuxPad is a blog dedicated to design, inspiration and expert interior tips. To read the feature in full click here for their blog. And check out their shop -> Amara which has exclusive on-line steals for your home and beyond.