Styling Tips from Elle Decor

“Before a magazine shoots a home, it sends one or two experts to make the space look its best. To make the scene picture-perfect, a stylist will fluff pillows, organize shelves, and arrange flowers—anything that makes a great room look even better in photographs. We spoke with three interior stylists: Noemi Bonazzi, set designer and stylist, Emily Henderson, of HGTV’s Secrets of a Stylist, and Scott Horne, a prop stylist and set designer. Here they share their tips and tricks for giving interiors that elusive “done, but not too done” look whether you’re having your work shot for a magazine—or your own website:

De-clutter. Bonazzi notes that even the finest homes naturally fill up with the detritus of everyday life. “You want to simplify. You don’t want to shoot through too many things,” she says.

Bring never-fail props. “Even a boring room can look awesome with beautiful flowers and art books,” says Henderson. Horne has trays and throws on his list of must-haves.

Opt for simple, subtle flowers. Bonazzi cautions against huge or elaborate floral arrangements. Instead she says to opt for simple arrangements of one kind of flower. “Try to think what flowers go well with the artwork or furniture,” she suggests.

Pay attention to reflection. “When you’re shooting towards a mirror, it’s an opportunity to bring something chic into the shot in a subtle way,” says Horne, who suggests positioning flowers or a piece of art so that they appear in the mirror’s glass.

Clear surfaces. “Keep countertops clear, unless they are specifically set up to display for something,” says Horne. A collection of Limoges vases looks elegant, but a random mismatch of objects won’t work in a photo.

Avoid styling clichés. “The bowls of Granny Smith apples on a coffee table? The half eaten scone? Nope,” says Henderson. Bonazzi warns against the ubiquitous glass of wine and cheese board.


Break up the bed. “King-sized beds are the bane of stylists,” says Bonazzi. If you’re confronted with a giant, break it up with a blanket at the foot and decorative pillows at the head. “Otherwise it looks like landing strip,” she warns.

Put shelves in order. When styling bookshelves, Horne says to group like with like, while still keeping things from looking too uniform. To break up the books, Horne suggests introducing a plant or a piece of art leaning against the back.

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Don’t make it too perfect. “Decorators tend to obsess over perfection,” says Bonazzi. “Let the room breathe a bit. The pillows don’t have to be perfectly, perfectly aligned. Let things slip a little, it’s what makes them more interesting.” All three stylists said at least one thing in the camera’s frame should be “just a little off,” to keep things from looking boring.
Read more: How to Style a Room – ELLE DECOR
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