HOT TO: STAGING A ROOM FOR PHOTOGRAPHS

Lists are lazy, but it's Monday morning and I have a real job now.  Gone are the days when I could write novellas about redecorating David Bowie's Labyrinth. I may be busy making other people's spaces look pretty, but I still have a few tricks I can share to help your spaces look better too.  On the internet. Where it counts.

Let's do this.

1) Back up -- with your camera.

Vignettes (tight shots/detail shots) are easy to photograph because they don't require control over the entire room, but often there is not enough visual information to have narrative or emotional value. 

erin williamson design

Magazine editors generally want an overview shot that shows most of the room and establishes a full setting to reference when they tell their story of the space.

erin williamson design

And pinterest loves a classic vertical shot that shows about 1/3 of the room, highlighting its most iconic features.

2) Build the space to suit the image.

erin williamson design

No matter how beautifully decorated the room, you need to move things around to showcase your focal point. This goes beyond adding pillows and flowers. I mean you have to muscle some furniture around so that it shows best in the image, not in real life. These chairs are completely out of plane if viewed straight on, but when viewed from at an angle they appear to be casually placed and everything leads toward the top third of the image.

Which brings me to the next tip:

3) Don't shoot directly into the back of furniture.

erin williamson design

This is huge, and occasionally you have to break this rule. But it's best to never shoot straight into the backs of furniture unless you have some super sexy back action happening. Allow your viewers to find an entry point into the frame by either standing to the side and shooting through the furniture arrangement, or moving chairs so that they are angled and do not block the field of view. 

4) Landscape the room with varying heights.

erin williamson design

You are basically constructing an architectural set, and if everything is at the same height the resulting image will read as Snoozeville USA. Make it dynamic by staggering heights of art, drapery, plants, furnishings, etc. across the room. Sometimes a change in camera angle will do the trick.

5) Get lower.

erin williamson design

Too much ceiling can kill a picture, plus don't you want to show off your swanky rug? Get used to squatting. Back up, use a wide angle lens, make sure you get enough of the floor, and then crop in when you edit the photos. Shooting to crop is not really best practice, but it's often a necessary evil unless you have a fancy perspective control lens. I don't.

6) Bookend your image.

erin williamson design

The eye travels, which is great as long as it's travelling inside your image. If you have lots of white space (like windows) at the edges of the frame, chances are eyeballs will keep on travelling... outside the frame. Try to edge the image with something slightly darker to keep the field of vision contained. It's like building a vignette around the frame, but better than using a cheesy filter. Oh, and if you have directional decor at the edge of the frame, position it so that it points inward.

7) Control your light. 

erin williamson design

For a while it was kind of in vogue to shoot with lamps on. Just don't do it. Shooting a light source is difficult and often doesn't read well. And sometimes when you are shooting into a window, it's ok to close the curtains. In fact, you can use them to filter and direct the light.

8) Flip pillows around so you don't shoot into blank fabric.

Stone Textile Design

Hide that plain white canvas you used on the backs of your $200/yd pillow fronts. If you are shooting a sofa or chair from an angle and the pillow back is showing, flip that sucker over. It will be our secret. (Design by the fabulous Stone Textile, from a shoot I did last year).

9) Clean up the clutter.

erin williamson design

Stuff multiplies X1000 under the microscopic glare of the camera. Do yourself and your viewers a favor by limiting accessories to only things that seem purposeful. 

10) Make the vignettes you shoot count.

erin williamson design

I don't shoot a lot of detail images, because frankly I think they are kind of boring and unlikely to be circulated -- for interior designers, anyway. So when I go in for a detail shot, I try to highlight something that might get lost in the bigger picture, like the pattern play between this upholstery fabric and rug.

And that, my friends, is it. We may not be solving all of the world's problems here, but it is important to show your hard work in the best light possible. Like, literally. So bust out your cameras and tripods and make that magic happen.

Please drop me a comment and let me know if this helps!

[All design work by Erin Williamson Design except image #8, all photographs by Erin Williamson ]

JEAN COCTEAU IS HOT, MY FIREPLACE IS NOT

My desk faces this wall, so I spend a lot of time staring at the abomination that is our fireplace.

erin williamson design

Ok, maybe it's not that bad. But if your job is designing interiors maybe it is. When we bought our house, I knew it would be a problem... who built this travesty? Did they just throw a dart at the wall and decide gosh golly it would be the perfect height for a fireplace? Somewhere in no man's land, a brick ledge is gathering dust and lizard tails. Plus it used to be a putrid shade of rusty brick topped by a mantel just this side of nuclear orange oak. Let no one say improvements have not been made, but still... over it.

Did you notice the vents that I carefully, obnoxiously disguised with plants? I hope not. 

In the immortal words of Ice Cube, I want to tear this mother up (that is not exactly what he said) but the firebox... Removing it would, frankly, suck. So I have considered removing some bricks or possibly adding them instead. This is doable, right?

tall fireplace | design crisis

Because the megalomanic in me is ready to build the tower of babel part deux.

fireplaces | design crisis

Or I could mayhaps go a bit more subtle. Because I am a very subtle person.

Who am I kidding? At the rate of current renovation around here (please see our master bath, sporting a lovely shade somewhere between pea and bile green), construction is years away.

In the meantime, wouldn't it be awesome if this happened?

jean cocteau |madeleine castaing

Jean Cocteau's home decorated by Madeleine Castaing has been on my radar for years... it's so inspiring. Don't like your architecture? Draw it in!

Speaking of Cocteau, I am obsessed. Did you see my scarf?

erin williamson | jean cocteau

Do you like my picture? Was I a) being arty for instagram or b) disguising pajamas and unbrushed hair? I don't want to ruin the image of my perfect life for you, so let's go with a.

Hey, did you know that Roche Bobois has a super line of embroidered Cocteau pillows?

jean cocteau roche bobois | design crisis

And I'm watching this Cocteau lith on ebay:

jean cocteau | design crisis

And I'm even following this tattoo guy David Scheisser on instagram because his work reminds me of Cocteau. Obviously line drawing is the next Twombly/Kelly Wearstler Channels/abstraction craze. Turns out David likes to draw on walls too.

david schiesser | design crisis

I feel like we've come full circle here. I should just draw on my walls. Or you know, have someone else do it.

eirn williamson design

What do we think? Crazy awesome, or crazy going to scar my children for life?

It could be cool. Think about it.

EXISTENTIAL CRISIS

There will be a lot of words in this post, so if you're just in it for the pretty pictures here are crowd pleasing samples from two recently completed projects:

I hope that helped your peepers. If you'd like to talk, read on. If you need more pictures, please mosey over to my portfolio.

As always I struggle with how to begin a post following such a lapse in communication. After eight years of blogging I'd say we are estranged old friends who aren't quite sure if things will be the same when we meet again. Gone are the days when I posted 700 pictures of my house in progress alongside a histrionic running commentary. I don't really have time for personal projects anymore, and I don't think my clients would appreciate me posting pictures of their homes, pleading "HELP!!!! Do I like Farrow and Ball Pointing or New White for the living room wall color?!?!" And besides, I already know the answer is Pointing (it almost always is) because by now I kind of actually know what I'm doing. Where is the fun in that?

To be honest, and I'd like to think I have operated honestly in this space over the years -- that I have come as close to being the real me as possible, that if you were to meet me you'd see that I really do talk like this (insert east Texas accent)  -- I'm not sure how to write about my life in design anymore. But let me back up a little.

2015 was pretty badass. I can't lie, it felt good to win the Wayfair tastemaker award, to get published in Architectural Digest and Elle Decor and Domino (thanks, Loloi!), to feather my cap with Houzz accolades. I can say that I have worked really hard for years, that I have paid my dues, that I have studied and tried my darndest to deserve any opportunity that came my way. But let's face it, sometimes it's luck. Being in the right place at the right time is important.

All of this brings me to a weird transitional place where I feel mildly successful, yet wholly unpolished. I feel... vaguely fraudulent. When I hang around my truly successful friends and acquaintances I am maybe putting on a bit of a show, a masquerade designed to hide the tap dancing spazz inside. Because my guts are still screaming OMG!!! with jazz hands while outside I am pretending that I always move in these circles elegantly and without hesitation. It would be funny if it weren't so terrifying.

Meanwhile I have done probably six reels for TV shows that want me to be everything from an expert home flipper to a sassy bitch who may or may not have a heart of gold. Where is the show with real people doing real design projects? Don't producers know this job is plenty dramatic enough? Doesn't America want to see a tap dancing spazz who can decorate? Also can this show please be located in Austin?

So now I don't know what to make of the blog. Do I create a shiny veneer, designed to market my perfect career and life, brimming with affiliate links and how to posts, staged with beautifully lit photos of the products I am using and things you can buy? You wouldn't believe how much traffic I could generate that way. And the free stuff! There is so much out there for bloggers.

I know it works for other people, and good for them! But for whatever reason I don't think it's good for me.

Unless I could get a new refrigerator or range out of the deal... I would like to remodel my kitchen. I will totally sell my soul, my kidneys, and maybe even my children for free high end appliances. I guess everyone has their price.

Anyway, what should we talk about? The piles of tile stacked up on my washer and dryer, stranded samples that may or may not find their way into the 17 bathrooms and 8 kitchens I am currently designing? Almost everything I am working on right now is under construction, and that makes for some sad sack visuals. Plus all of my clothes are covered in dust, and it's just terribly unglamorous up in here.

Other problems that need solving include: finding a way to get more projects published, finding an office, finding a location for the next Holy Grail pop up shop in April, finding time to shoot multiple completed projects, finding any time at all, and getting my kids to eat better food.

All I'm asking for is total world domination without losing myself.

Can you help? 

I'm listening.