Around the House – A Photo Stylist’s Favorite Props

There are a few favorite props you’ll find in every interior photo stylist’s arsenal.  No stylist shows up to a shoot without a trunk full of fresh flowers, glossy coffee table books, a textured throw, and some decorative trays and boxes.  They may vary in style and color depending on the space being photographed, but some variation of each of these old standards makes its way into almost every single magazine shot.  Why?

At right, an interior photo stylist’s favorite props include fresh flowers, a colorful throw, pretty trays, coffee table books, and a few trendy tabletop accessories like these crystal bookends.

Because, small though they may be, these tried-and-true accessories bring an extra layer of style and color to almost any room and make a photo pop off the page.  Try bringing a few into your home for a cover-worthy look.

Every stylist knows that fresh flowers are a must for any photo shoot.  Orchids are a top pick of many stylists, as they’re super easy to care for and last for months rather than a few days.  A sculptural orchid can add drama to a minimalist design or give some height to a too-low side table, and they are fabulous at breaking up a sea of monochromatic tile in kitchens and bathrooms.  You can find relatively inexpensive orchids at Home Depot or Stew Leonard’s, and re-pot them in a pretty porcelain or silver bowl.   Cover the plant’s base in a bit of moss for an extra elegant look.  Stylists also frequently use a big bunch of single-color flowers.  A huge cluster of blue hydrangea or pink peonies can bring a major dose of color to a shot.  Flip through any décor magazine and you’re sure to find this trick on almost every page – especially in rooms that are predominately neutral in their color scheme.  For a more casual, country look, use a mix of flowers in a variety of colors and display them in an old pitcher or glass jar.  This look doesn’t pack the same kind of visual punch, but really softens a space and brings a little romance to the room – great on a weathered farmhouse table or sitting out near an open window.

A stack of coffee table books is another favorite prop for photo shoots.  They’re another easy way to introduce color, which is why you’ll often see cookbooks incorporated in the ubiquitous all-white kitchen shots.  They’re also helpful in adding vertical dimension when dealing with a shot that’s all on one level.  Stack a few pretty art books horizontally under a lamp to give it more prominence on a side table, or use them in the same way anywhere you’re displaying a grouping of family photos, so the photos aren’t all at the same height.  Obviously, it’s best to use books that you already love and cherish, and it’s a great excuse to expand your library with a few new tomes on subjects you’re passionate about.  But if you simply need some color or “elevators” on a tight budget, second-hand bookstores, library book sales, and rummage sales are all great spots to score large, attractive books.

A pretty throw is every stylist’s go-to to break up a shot full of beige furniture, but it can also make a corner reading nook look more inviting or introduce some pattern and texture anywhere they’re lacking.  You can introduce a dash of bohemian flair with a colorful kantha quilt, go for some hipster appeal with a trendy sheepskin, or just bring out more of a favorite accent color with a simple, solid colored throw.  A throw is also a great way to convey a sense of seasonality; set out a cozy, cable knit cashmere blanket in the fall and then swap it out for a lighter linen one come spring.

The right tray and small, decorative bowl can turn a stack of magazines, pile of TV remotes, and loose change into a veritable tablescape worthy of a photo, so most stylists travel with a collection of trays, bowls, and decorative boxes in a variety of colors and sizes.  They’re great for turning cluttered coffee tables into colorful, eye-catching vignettes and can make countertop clutter look downright pretty.   I love to place a trio of different sized small bowls on a simple white tray on the bathroom counter to collect all the random hair ties, chap sticks, and loose change that seems to accumulate there. Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and Home Goods are all great places to find inexpensive trays, small ceramic bowls, and decorative boxes in all kinds of materials, colors, and patterns.

Stylists also know that props are an easy way to make any space look current.  A few well placed, of-the-moment accessories can make a somewhat dated design look very now.  Flip through a recent home décor magazine, and you’ll note some of the latest trends – brass accessories, the blue and white color combo, crystals, and fiddle leaf fig trees are all “hot” props right now.  There are ways to harmoniously incorporate these trendy accessories into almost any style of home with next to no commitment.  (Because committing to a trend is how you end up dated in the first place!)  If you have a traditional, formal room, try a few blue and white porcelain ginger jars clustered together on a table or mantle.  If your taste leans more contemporary, bring in a roughly cut geode or a brass-dipped antler to set atop your favorite coffee table books.  And the trendy fiddle leaf fig works in any style space – just use whichever planter suits your taste.

[blockquote class=blue]Kitty Burruss is a wife, mother, and interior designer.  She has assisted in many interiors photo shoots around the New York metropolitan area, and has filled entire mini vans with the props mentioned in this column.  She currently has two fiddle leaf figs in her dining room.

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About the Author: Kitty Burruss