The next layer after color

As a color consultant, I consider myself pretty proficient when it comes to color- I'm very confident in what I do. But I also know my limits, and when it came time to staging and photographing my house for my portfolio, I knew I had to bring in the big guns.

Ready for a completely open, 'behind the scenes' peak? Prepare yourself; I'm not holding anything back!

Enter my friend and fellow color consultant colleague Kelly Berg of Arte Styling. I sent her some phone snapshots of my interiors: kids toys strewn everywhere, bed unmade, just to give her an idea of what she would be undertaking. Her vision was clear. We have to add cohesion, and a stronger Mediterranean/Spanish feel to the spaces. Mind you, these spaces are all very unfinished- projects that I intended to complete always get pushed to the wayside for paying clients. So what if I had navy blue throw pillows on a purple couch that didn't go with a thing in the space? They were cozy! But not an adequate excuse when trying to take a decent picture.

This is my living room, in everyday mode:

It's a pretty kid-friendly space, with a big ottoman instead of a coffee table, and not a lot else. The couches appear to be big dark bulky objects here.  Gold and violet look lovely together, but it's nice if they tie together somehow. Here, the couches don't relate to the surroundings.

And here's my dining room, also in everyday messy mode:

Blue chairs were upholstered back when my vision was for a different color scheme. We still love the colors, but they don't really (ahem) go with anything anymore.

Highchairs are charming, right?

Moving upstairs to the bedrooms...
Besides tidying up, removing the oh-so-lovely black out curtains, and swapping out the yellow throw and pink pillow, the nursery was the only room "photo ready".

Our bedroom in everyday/un-decorated mode. Not what you'd expect from a designer's house, but we are notorious for leaving our own house 'til last...

Kelly determined that the bed needed to be moved to another location where it could be placed against a wall. So we completely rearranged our bedroom for the shoot, then decided we really liked the new set-up! Apologies for the horrible picture- I snapped it with my phone for reference shots only.

I had lots of homework to go before the big photo shoot day.

First, we needed to take stock of all the home accessories I already had around the house. Kelly gave me a list of accessories to buy, reassuring me that I could return anything I didn't like afterwards. Now I know why people pay interior designers to do the shopping- it's really time consuming and challenging! I must have hit 5 different stores to procure everything we needed.

Turns out I was seriously lacking in throw pillows of an appropriate hue and value. Here are new ones, purchased specifically for the shoot. We didn't use many of them, but it's nice to have options.

We also needed more for the bedroom, which is still pretty spartan at this point.

As a color consultant, it is often quite difficult to get back to a client's home to take decent portfolio pictures. People lead busy lives, and often don't understand how much time it actually takes to prepare a room for a quality shot. So, the majority of the time, I pop in for half an hour, snap some candid shots, and hope for the best. To have control over the scene, the time to arrange everything just so, is a luxury I had not experienced before. A luxury, but also, a ton of work!

Then, the big day of staging arrived.

We fluffed pillows, arranged throw blankets, poked through cabinets looking for fun nick knacks. We pulled book covers off to reveal canvas wrappings, stacking them artfully. Bowls and dishes were arranged, re-arranged, then shuffled some more. It was an intricate game where I didn't know the rules. Kelly was in her element, humming as she shuffled, hopped back to examine, then shuffle some more. I basically stood back to stay out of her way as she worked her magic.


We swapped out my blue and green throw pillows and red throw blankets for a gold/brown/cream palette to break up the purple and knock it back a bit. 


I borrowed a dark brown wood coffee table to bring in a different texture, tie in the decoration to the wood beams, and give us a spot to display objects. Things were coming together!
All decorative spaces were utilized, even this cute little niche above our fireplace. Candlesticks were tried out, as were ceramic bowls. We settled on an intimate little print and a woven basket to fill the space.

In the dining room, I borrowed simple dark brown chairs to tone down the overly-busy feeling my blue and green upholstered chairs created.

 We unearthed carved wood sculptures from storage, and brought in a little greenery and some ceramic bowls. Much more cohesive.

In our bedroom, with the bed now against a wall instead of under a window, we now have a nice big space for art. Alas, nothing there so far, as I am pretty picky when it comes to bigger pieces. So, Kelly and I worked around the big empty wall. We also played with using a raspberry throw blanket and accent pillow, or light pink blanket. Totally changes the mood by altering value and contrast.

My bird branch migrated upstairs where it's delicate sensibilities made more sense. I have to say, I love my new pintuck duvet and shams (also a suggestion from Kelly).

The last space we styled and photographed was the nursery. There wasn't much tweaking that had to be done in this room, as I had pretty much finished decorating in here.

We added a vase of flowers and a few extra throw pillows.

Viola! It was a lot of work, but I now have a greater appreciation for what goes into a beautiful photo. Think magazine or portfolio shots look that fabulous to begin with? Think again!

How has your experience been  photographing interior spaces?

'Before' shots by yours truly. 'After' shots by Kelly Berg