Hot To Prop

As John mentioned this morning, Do It Yourself Magazine’s 48 hour whirlwind photoshoot of our home was extremely eye opening and of course, über exciting. They say the best way to learn something is to completely throw yourself into it, so from holding equipment to noting all the photo styling lingo, we made many a mental note (which we’re sure will come in handy when it comes to sprucing our home in the future- and virtually redecorating your homes too!). So without further ado, a few shots that I snagged over the real photographer’s shoulder, and some interesting behind the scenes facts about our two day DIY extravaganza.

So-That’s-How-It-Works Fact #1: Almost every national magazine will tweak your house before they shoot it. From sending out a prop stylist a few days ahead of time (which wasn’t the case for DIY) to snagging a few things right before the shoot (which was), everything from flowers to vases and table runners- even area rugs- can be brought in to add some pop on film.

For example, in our den (above) they rearranged a few things while adding some fresh flowers and a pretty green ceramic tray (snagged at Pottery Barn) to one of our ottomans for some additional color and charm. Sadly many of the items that they purchased got returned, so that adorable little tray didn’t stay. But we do know where to find it should we decide to permanently take the plunge…

So-That’s-How-It-Works Fact #2: Home magazines aren’t just selling style, they’re selling a lifestyle. So it’s not uncommon to notice that many houses featured in glossy mags have a pitcher of iced tea out by the pool and a half read book by the bed. In our case they added a sweet little bowl of red grapes and two opened bottles of pink lemonade (along with some gorge purple hydrangeas) to the table in our sunroom to project that casual lived in feeling.

So-That’s-How-It-Works Fact #3: There’s no such thing as too many flowers. From our little floating vases to this sweet blue pitcher, blooms abounded in every container available. Beth even had her favorite florist in Iowa (where DIY is based) ship everything to our house on ice just in time for the big day(s). And we learned a cute little photoshoot phrase about floral arrangements. If a single bloom is facing straight at the camera someone will shout “hey, that flower’s lookin’ at me” at which point someone will step in front of the camera and push the flower slightly to the left or the right so it’s not facing the camera head-on (which can look too perfect and contrived for them). Fun, right? I literally took notes on all the lingo- it was so intriguing to me. I felt like I was among extremely stylish aliens and I was learning their fabulous language one day at a time. They also assigned sexes to inanimate objects (“she wants to go here” or “I think he’s too dominant there, let’s lose him”). Too funny.

So-That’s-How-It-Works Fact #4: Food is just as important (and abundant) as flowers. From robust loaves of bread to adorable cupcakes from a local bakery, Beth and Cat made a food run and returned with bags a plenty. And it’s not just about strawberries and apples, stylists are using more playful and unexpected goodies these days- like gummy bears (displayed in a glass jar in our sunroom). They even picked up some mini oreos but we ate ’em all before they could hit the set. All that propping and shooting works up quite an appetite…

So-That’s-How-It-Works Fact #5: Props depend on the season. Since our living/dining room is going to be featured in the spring, Beth and Cat worked hard to take our neutral, seasonless space…

… to a cheerful spring-y room full of pop and personality:

We always love a before and after, and in this case there are some interesting things to note about the transformation above:

-The items on our floating shelves above the dining table were arranged to be photographed straight on, so from the side you can clearly see the voids where items were intentionally eliminated so that they didn’t conflict with the pendant light and the tall floral centerpiece on the table.

– The biggest change that was made for the shoot was the living room rug switcheroo. Beth and Cat swapped out our brown 5×8 rug for something lighter and brighter: the yellow Moorish Tile rug from Pottery Barn (which we actually purchased at a serious discount thanks to the fact that it was a floor model- score!). And now our trusty old brown rug lives in the guest bedroom to provide a foot-friendly experience to everyone who stays the night (it’s a lot warmer than our hardwood floors in the winter months).

– The slipper chair is angled in a way that makes sense in the shot, but in real life it actually blocks the entryway to the hall that leads to our bedrooms. Which brings us to…

So-That’s-How-It-Works Fact #6: Things might look balanced and centered in the shot. But honey, they ain’t! Here’s an honest to goodness shot of things in the living room after a few of the hero shots (another term we picked up, which means the images that they’ll be putting the most emphasis on in the article).  Since the camera is sometimes placed at an angle, things have to be shifted to make everything seem to make sense through the lens. When in reality they, er, reallllllly don’t.

So-That’s-How-It-Works Fact #7: Borrowing is the name of the game. When the photographer suggested that someone run out and purchase a rug to break up all the hardwood in the kitchen…

… someone cleverly snuck into the third bedroom and borrowed our little 4×6 jute rug. Perfecto! And although they later shot the bedroom (with the rug in there as well), everything else about each space was completely different, so they didn’t seem to care about the rug relocation. Now I’m going to look for duplicate items in every mag I read! I wonder how many vases and pillows are recycled throughout the rooms- although Beth and her team totally made a concerted effort to use different accessories in each space (which we really appreciated since we plan to prop our house to the nines for our next par-tay and we got loads of ideas).

You’ll also notice that our kitchen looks more appetizing than a bloomin’ onion from Outback. From artisanal cheeses to well orchestrated artichokes- and even mini roses (placed in the glass fronted cabinet no less) they pulled out all the stops. And our sweet little burro tail plant (one of our favorite succulents) was moved onto the window sill, and we loved it there so much that we made it his permanent address.

Ah, those were the days. Creamy cupcakes and chunks of cheddar.  Pink pansies and playful peonies. Our house never looked so abundant.

Thanks so much to Beth, Cat, Erik, and Piper for their tireless efforts to make our house look the part! We can’t wait to see all the real pics in the Sping, Summer, Fall, and Winter issues of Do It Yourself Magazine. Stay tuned…


  1. MaryB in Richmond says

    SO excited for you — and for us, getting to see it all in action and learn so much from it. Wow!! Congrats, too — you two have worked hard for this attention, and it’s so fun to see you in the limelight!

  2. Charisa says

    Fabulous!!!! If I were a Trump I would keep fresh flowers around like that all the time! Gorgeous! Love love love the idea that they styled it for SPRING; makes me really inspired to have little seasonal decor tweaks. Velvet in the Winter… Linen in the Summer… Oh pretty please do a post about THAT! Love you guys!

  3. Sandy says

    What an amazing experience you guys had. I just ate up all of the delicious details and loved that you passed along all of trade tricks and tid bits you learned!

  4. jbhat says

    I feel like I have died and gone to magazine-shoot heaven, and I cannot wait to see the photos and your words when they come out next year. Plus you guys are so cool and cute, it’s not even funny. The magazine is lucky to have you.

  5. says

    Wow. That’s great guys. I will have to source out the magazine when it comes out. Just wondering what you guys thought of all the props they put.. your place is pretty neutral, how did you feel about all the pops of color in the springy living room?? For the record, I love it!!! Also, any idea where that blue pitcher is from? LOVE IT!!

  6. says

    How fun to see what they did. I totally agree about the flowers. I’d cut back on our heating or food before I gave up my fresh arrangements in every room.

  7. laurie says

    Thanks for sharing, great insights. Spot the Dupe is a game I play in pretty much every multi-shot layout without noticing, sometimes they will move the same trio of pieces another room angle! I call cheat. :)

  8. Sandy says

    Laurie – you are so right. I have noticed the same thing -photogs moving the same stuff around to get shots at different angles. Even knowing this little trick hasn’t taken the fun out of taking it all in, but we’re on to it, aren’t we Laurie?!?!

  9. Sandy says

    Sherry – as Cindy asked – do tell how you were feeling about all the pops of color (some of them a bit strong) sprinkled throughout your mostly neutral decor?! It all looked fab, but is it a look you would want to keep?

  10. Harp says

    congrats! can’t wait to see the printed results. I have to say your house loos FABULOUS with all those great pops of color, you should considering keeping them in my humble color-loving opinion;)

  11. YoungHouseLove says

    Wahoo! Thanks for all the kind words about the shoot and our home. It was so exciting and we just can’t wait to see the glossy magazine versions of everything. Keep in mind my shots were hardly professional and many of them weren’t even taken from the same angle as the photographer, so the actual magazine images are sure to be about a million times better. We seriously can’t wait!

    As for how we felt about all the color, one of the best things that we learned from watching two master stylists is that change is easy and fun and GOOD! So in general we plan to move accessories around, pepper in some ever-changing colored accent pieces and just have fun with stuff. It’s amazing how a little switching around can refresh your entire space, so we certainly plan to keep some pops of color and a few new accessories. Regularly rearranging the items on our bookcases, mantles, side tables, and floating shelves will keep everything current and exciting (our goal is to do it at least once a season if not more- it really does breathe new life to a space!).

    Oh and as for where the adorable blue pitcher is from, it’s actually Cat’s (a lot of stylists bring some of their own stuff along) and the pottery place that she purchased it online no longer carries ’em. Bummer, I know, but I actually had a pale blue vase lying around that looks almost as charming. Pics to come…

    And as for the rug in the kitchen, we love it too (although we think a 3×5 will fit even better than the 4×6) so our eyes are peeled for the perfect kitchen addition. John’s the practical one so he’s determined to find something durable and keep-cleanable so we’ll letcha know when we hunt something down that fits the bill.


  12. Kimberly says

    Hey! I love this blog. Just got a new condo…will send u pics.

    Wanted to know: Where are your den window blinds from? I need a couple of those?

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