Adventures of a Stylist (and amateur photographer)

©Kelly Berg

I recently had the fun pleasure of styling - and photographing! -  a few rooms in my friend and colleague Rachel Perls' house. I'm sure you know her - she's the owner and color expert over at Hue Consulting. We've worked together quite a bit over the past few years on various projects, and her blog, one of the very first in the world of color, was a huge inspiration for me when I first began blogging myself.
Rachel lives in a great Spanish/Mediterranean style house in Oakland near the Berkeley border. She had painted some terrific colors on the walls, but as a busy mom running after a two year old, she was struggling to find the time and energy to create more cohesively designed spaces. Knowing that her wall colors could be an amazing addition to her architectural color portfolio, she asked me if I could help her whip the place into a more photo-worthy condition. I happily agreed to help. 


Rachel just blogged about her experience here: The Next Layer After Color. I thought it'd be fun to also share my side of the process.
Me, the amateur photographer. © Rachel Perls
Let me start by saying this was a speed styling session. Something that isn't unfamiliar to me, as I have quite a bit of styling experience from the early days of my design career. It's not easy - it's definitely an artistic skill that comes with lots of practice. I told Rachel we could have done so much more and that I considered this the "first phase." I think that scared her. She might have experienced enough styling for now.

Usually, when I style for a client, I do all the shopping and returns. I schlep everything to my client's home and schlep everything back that doesn't end up getting used. I had the luxury of sending Rachel on her own shopping excursion. She sent me photos of the spaces she wanted to get photos of, and I directed her to specific items in specific styles and colors. It was a little difficult to give up shopping control, because a lot of times I just don't know what will work until I see it. But Rachel did a great job. And I was not sad to miss out on making returns (my most un-favorite part of styling gigs.)

Before ©Rachel Perls
Here's Rachel's living room pre-styling. Great wall color, fun rug, very purple sofas...and a dog named Lucy.

One of the main problems I saw with this space was that it read very chunky. There's a block of yellow, a block of red and a block of purple, and nothing is balanced properly. Also, the deep pillows on the deep sofa were getting lost. Lighter pillows and throws in yellows and creams would help tremendously. And a little texture was needed to tie in that rug a bit more. Oh, and we definitely needed to add a more Mediterranean/Spanish feel. We were lacking a clearly supported design concept. 

After some shopping and styling and light adjustments for the photo, here are the living room photos we ended up with.

After © Kelly Berg

Before © Rachel Perls
After © Kelly Berg
I have to say, this was a tough room to shoot for this amateur photographer. The lighting was a bugger! And the yellow walls were glowing sooooo much more in the photos than in real life. It was good experience for me to shoot an interior like this, but just another layer to be considered when trying to create portfolio-worthy pics. My best advice? Take loads of photos and keep playing with the manual camera settings. (Yes, you'll need a camera with manual settings. And don't use the flash. Ever.)


And here's a shot of the dining area before I got my hands on it.

Before © Rachel Perls

Great space, but it needed, like the living area, some design cohesion. Before the big styling day, I suggested Rachel swap out the seat cushion fabric on her dining chairs. The blue and turquoise hues and patterns weren't relating to anything else in the space. She had a great idea to cut down on time - borrow the neighbor's chairs. Worked for me! On the day of styling, I pretty much ordered Rachel around, asking her to produce bowls, vases, runners, plants, etc. etc. She was a very resourceful trooper and we ended up with this:

After © Kelly Berg

After © Kelly Berg

After © Kelly Berg
Very subtle changes, but the new styling allows the wall color to be the center of attention, which is the whole goal when you are trying to sell your services as an architectural color consultant. We didn't need to sell Rachel as an interior designer, so I made sure not to over-style anything.

One of the rooms that Rachel had spent the most time decorating was her daughter's room. This is all too common. I see it over and over again. What is it that spurs us into decorating for our children, but not for ourselves? We know it's important...and we make it a fun process. But somehow, many of us forget that tending to color and design in adult spaces is just as important...and should be just as fun.

Anyway, here's little Nina's room in its before stage. So cute. And Rachel painted that gorgeous dog portrait. She is a very talented artist. 

Before © Rachel Perls
But, it needed a little fine-tuning. So, I suggested swapping out the pillows, losing the black-out curtains and clearing out the clutter. We had gorgeous light when we shot and ended up with these magazine worthy pics.

After © Kelly Berg
After © Kelly Berg
After © Kelly Berg
The final room we styled was the master bedroom. Rachel had recently painted it a soft, velvety shade of pink, but was a little stumped on how to proceed. She consulted with me awhile back on bedding, and I suggested a creamy white duvet with a good amount of texture. Between the two of us, we landed on the pintuck style bedding. But we still needed more.

Before © Rachel Perls
It didn't take long for me to see that this bed was on the wrong wall entirely. It felt completely unbalanced and a bit unsettling in this location, being halfway under the window, halfway not. I strongly suggested she move the bed to the opposite wall. Not just for the shoot, but for living. Rachel obliged. She had purchased one super-cute pillow online. It looks a little lonely there, doesn't it? We did our best in this room, but the fact of the matter is, there now needs to be something more on the big empty wall over the bed. Headboard, art, decorative painting...it's very bare right now. Regardless, we still got a few beautiful shots. The lighting cooperated with us beautifully in this space, and Rachel's new wall color looks amazing...don't you think?

After © Kelly Berg
After © Kelly Berg 
After © Kelly Berg

So there's a little behind the scenes of an informal photo shoot. You can see there really is an art to photo styling. It is different than interior design in some ways, although the same basic principles are applied. It's about balance and light and mood. But it's also about thinking on your feet and making things look good on camera even if they don't look quite right in real life. Fortunately for most of Rachel's shoot, I had a good foundation to work with. 

Thanks for the opportunity, Rachel! I hope you are enjoying your "new"spaces!


Need help styling your home? Give me call at 650.867.3896 or send me an email at kelly@artestyling.com to discuss your project.
Kelly BergComment