10 things I wish I knew before I became an Interior Stylist


Learning the ropes is how we all become good interior stylists. Here's 10 things I wish I knew before I became an Interior Stylist

I’ve learned so much in the many years I’ve been an Interior Stylist and writer. That knowledge grew exponentially when I went freelance. Freelancedom just opens up the interiors world to so many new experiences.

Last month I was teaching Styling for Interiors at Central St Martins and hearing all the questions that these creative pupils had about entering into the Interior Styling industry really took me back. You kind of forget that you know how to do something instinctively after years of doing it over and over. But when others are coming to it for the first time they have so many questions. So today I’m sharing some of the things I wish I knew before I got started in styling that would have helped me from the get go and will help you to if you’re just starting out!

10 things I wish I knew before I became an Interior Stylist

  1. Moving house will be a doddle
    Constantly loading and unloading boxes from vans whilst on shoots makes the act of packing stuff up a piece of cake. Your partner will thank you for it.
    You’ll also be able to fit a crazy amount of stuff into the boot of the tiniest car. Tessellation is your friend. 5 x 5m in the back of my Fiat Punto with two of my team in there too springs to mind!
  2. You can’t be lazy.
    Everyone mucks in on shoots – it’s not just the work experience and assistants who lift, carry and make the tea. It’s a team game and the more you help the more likely it is that you will get hired again. There’s no sitting around chatting or being on your phone. If you’re on your phone you’ll soon go home. Oh and if you offer to make the tea before being asked EVERYONE will love you. 
  3. Connect with everyone.
    The more people you meet (and impress) the more likely you are to get booked again, get more experience and land a great first job. So in a nutshell say yes to everything at the beginning.
  4. You’ll get to know where to buy the best stuff.
    The New Covent Garden flower market might seem intimidating at first but once you’ve been a few times you’ll never get shoot flowers and plants from anywhere else. You’ll also struggle to keep your house from turning into a jungle.
    Propping means you know where to get the strangest of things – Christmas trees in July, Dahlias in December.
  5. It takes time to become an interior stylist.
    I thought that after doing work experience for a few months and because I had a sense of interior style, a look, and a ton of energy I’d be snapped up straight away as a full-time assistant. I was wrong – especially nowadays when magazines have less staff than ever. On average a person will assist for at least two years before they start styling their own shoots – and for good reason. Things will go wrong on shoots and you need to know how to find a sofa for a Living Etc Living room shoot when yours doesn’t turn up on the day, or to get a set ready when the special colour paint you ordered doesn’t arrive. (both true stories) Confidence in styling comes with time and so does dealing with all the logistics and nightmare situations. Interior Stylists are problem solvers.
  6. We don’t work for free.
    This will be carved on my tombstone. Yes, you will need to do work experience on the first few editorial, commercial shoots as well as events but once you know how it all works you charge. Experience and exposure don’t pay our bills.
  7. Stay on trend
    You will need to keep up to date with what the interior trends are whether that’s colour of the year, styles, patterns or seasonal. I’m not suggesting you become a slave to the trends and use them in all your shoots but they will govern the types of props you can get hold of each season – pampas grass / handled vases/ombre fabrics, anyone?
  8. Success is outside your comfort zone.
    It’s really easy as an assistant to stand behind the stylist doing the shoot and think  “I wouldn’t put that vase there. It needs to be over a bit more to the left”. But when you’re calling the shots you’ll definitely second guess yourself over and over till you have the experience to see what isn’t working in a shot and correct it. So practice styling at home to get used to the act of setting up a shot and push yourself.
  9. Network
    If ever the saying “It’s not what you know it’s who you know” was true in Interiors it’s even more so. It’s a really close-knit community that’s supportive, friendly and encouraging. Being part of an Insider community will get you in front of the Stylists who are looking for help on shoots, editors who are looking to have features written, and assistants who will recommend you after working with you. Being part of a group like InsideStlyists.com will increase your community and visibility instantly.
  10. Get found
    It’s hard to be a freelancer from scratch without ever having worked on a magazine where everyone knows each other. I’m so grateful that I started my career in magazines as I met loads of people who have been friends and a big support for many years.
    I once met up with Selina Lake at a press show and she thanked me for setting up Inside Stylists as the Facebook group connected her to like-minded people who could recommend assistants, share a pr contact and so much more. It never occurred to me that if you’ve only ever worked as a freelancer you’re a bit isolated. To say I was touched is an understatement. For me, that’s what Inside Stylists is all about – community.

So, there you have it. I could probably go on and reach 100 points but that’s for another day. All I’ll say is that if you’re thinking about becoming an Interior Stylist joining Inside Stylists is a great way to get connected, be found, and get support from the very beginning.

If you want to know more have a look at this post on How to become a member of Inside Stylists as a beginner but if you have any questions please just comment below. I love to hear from you.

Till next time

Emma morton-turner

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