As some of you guys have already discovered, we had the great pleasure of having our house photographed for the latest issue of HGTV Magazine. Well, our last house (we’d probably bat someone away with a stick if they tried to snap pictures of our new place just yet). And since a bunch of you have been asking for the behind the scenes scoop, here it is.

That day was such a blur that we weren’t even sure that we had any behind the scenes photos to share, but when we looked back in iPhoto, it turns out we remembered to snap a few photos. This is Clara the editor. She’s telling us what we need to fix for the shot to work better (“you need to see more of my toys”).

The HGTV Magazine crew (which included a photographer, his assistant, a stylist, and an editor from the mag) spent two days in our house. They were lots of fun and very gracious guests… even as our dining room became a makeshift office for 48 hours.

Well, except for when it had to be tidied up and photographed. Notice how there are only 4 chairs instead of 6? It was their trick to make it feel open and show off the pedestal a bit more. All part of the fun of seeing your house through someone else’s eyes.

And of course there were moments when the room had to be almost entirely cleared to get the perfect angle. This was the set up they used to photograph us in our office for the opening spread.

Sherry and I are quite comfortable with the chaos that comes along with a whole-house photo session (nothing can compare to the three straight weeks of book shoots). And by now I’d say our kids are getting pretty cool with it too.

Rachael, the photo stylist, was awesome with flower arrangements, pillow fluffing, and Clara. They even developed a secret handshake to help her feel at ease with all of the strangers around. Although I fear this photo gives away the whole secret (it was just pressing their thumbs together). Simple or not, we love Rachel for thinking of that.

We also love that she and Jen (the editor) brought some fun props with them. You may have caught this Instagram shot of our kitchen doused with pretty food and accessories. It was eye candy and literal candy all at once.

You can see some of those styling props hard at work in this picture of our kitchen, which we think is just about the prettiest shot of it ever taken. But even as photo-styling goes, we loved the balance the HGTV Magazine crew struck. In our opinion, it wasn’t too over-styled (it still looked like our kitchen) but it was fluffed enough to make it look interesting on the page and to give us some new ideas about what we might want to tweak ourselves (more on that later).

Perhaps the only bummer about the feature was that some of our favorite shots didn’t make the cut. We knew they were taking more pictures than they’d have room for, but we saw some along the way that we had our fingers crossed for – like this one of the recently-completed fireplace.

That shot also featured our new favorite term: “an aggressive sandwich.” Someone deemed the prop sandwich too big at one point, dubbing it too “aggressive” for the shot. I think they eventually tamed it by removing a tomato slice. We all had a good laugh about what goes into these shoots, and Sherry still trades emails with our new HGTV friends by signing them with “xoxo, Aggressive Sandwich”

Here’s a peek at what could’ve been, had these shots ended up in the spread.

The frame wall never looked better. Here’s one of our over-their-shoulder shots of the hallway styled up with some pretty flowers by Rachael.

I wonder if the photographer feels a little sad when certain shots don’t make it. He took a ton of time setting each one up, but he’s probably used to it. Oh and you’ll notice that we had to take down the basket light in the kitchen because it was casting weird shadows during the fireplace shot, so down it came.

Fortunately, we got to enjoy the fresh flowers, even if the photos didn’t make the final cut.

Oh, and they also cut a shot of the two of us prepping food in the kitchen (when we took this Instagram picture). But we’re 100% sure that we looked far from natural in it, so we’re forever grateful (us + cameras aimed at us = especially awkward). The funny thing is that we thought this might be a 2-3 page spread and it ended up being 10 pages long! Completely mind-blowing, and way more than we expected.

Speaking of abundance, there were lots of flowers. Which of course means that Sherry was in some state of flower-induced euphoria the whole time. They had a box shipped directly from the flower market in New York City and, thanks to our cooler, the sunroom became a makeshift florist shop for the two days they spent with us. Seriously, the room smelled like one giant flower for like two weeks afterwards. Sherry loved it. I thought it was kind of spooky once the flowers were gone (“where is that smell coming from?!”).

You should have seen Sherry creeping around the house whispering “If only they would last foreverrrrrrr.”

At least we have pictures to remember them by.

Besides tempting us to blow our life savings on fresh flowers (don’t worry, I’ll rein Sherry back in), one tip that we picked up and were inspired to put into action by watching the pros involved the pillows on our sectional. Rachel loaded it up with a bunch more pillows than we’d ever used… and Sherry was in heaven. Picture her doing one of Oprah’s over-the-top “a-ha moment” faces. You can’t really see them in the final magazine shot, since they used a picture of the living room with us in it, but Sherry may or may not have bought some of the pillows directly from Rachel when they were done (they were $20 from HomeGoods) to fill out her already robust pillow collection. Just picture me rolling my eyes in the background.

Oh, and you can’t tell from our picture above, but this little table was deemed too short for their shot so they borrowed some scrap wood from the basement to give it a lift. Also note how our usual desk and mirror got the boot so that our chalkboard could take its spot (see the picture above).

Wardrobe tricks were also employed – namely for one of Sherry’s loose shirts that was deemed “too maternity looking” for the way it draped in the shot of us in the office. She ultimately swapped this outfit out for something less breezy (which is why she’s in a different shirt in the other shots) but lo and behold, the original test photo with the pre-clipped shirt ended up in the magazine on the first page of the spread.

As for some literal “behind” the scenes dirt, when they took the picture of Clara playing in her big girl room, I hid behind the wall in the closet so that one of us was nearby while they snapped away. The toughest challenge was getting her not to run in there with me.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle for them was shooting the outside of our house, since late March in Richmond wasn’t looking as spring-y this year as it usually does. Not to mention we had yet to begin lots of our recent improvements out there…

So now you know why the pictures of our outside are pretty small or just limited to close-ups of us on the porch. Although they did a great job of cheering things up by moving our red adirondack chairs (swiped from the patio) to bring in some semblance of color.

Oh and although the article mentions our moving plans, we actually didn’t share them with HGTV until we shared them with you guys on April 30th (via an email that Sherry most likely signed “Aggressive Sandwich”) – so they added that right at the end before the issue shipped. It really was locked deep in our brains until our alarm system was in and we were ready to tell the world at large, so I think only our parents, siblings, best friends, and the realtor knew before that. It was especially fun to finally tell the HGTV crew though, because we were able to explain how meaningful it was to us to see our house captured in such a major way before we said goodbye. It was a nice last hurrah, and they were psyched to have been the ones to document it all.

So we’re incredibly grateful that they thought our home was worthy of their magazine, and we’ll end this little behind the scenes spiel by sending out a big thanks to all of you who have stumbled upon it and said such kind things via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blog comments, email, and carrier pigeon. Just kidding about the carrier pigeon – you guys know we only accept ravens.


  1. says

    I just got your book, and now with the magazine I keep thinking how weird and awesome it would be to buy the house that gets so much press.

    • says

      Thankfully the new owners seemed to like checking out the photos (we disclosed it to anyone who came to a showing just to be sure they weren’t freaked out by it) and we left them our book and a bottle of wine at closing.


  2. Mitz says

    Congratulations on making the spread on HGTV magazine eventhough some of your favorite pictures didn’t make the cut. We’ll enjoy those pictures here :)

    I would also love to have fresh flowers in my home every-day. I can relate to how Sherry would want them to last “foreverrrrrrr”! those anemones, those peonies, them ranunculus and hyrdangeas!

    Can’t wait to see what you’ve done on the new house on your future posts!

  3. Betsy says

    Wow, so much fun seeing the behind-the-scenes of a magazine shoot! LOVE the kitchen picture. Shoot, love all of them.

  4. Kara says

    So fun! Those flowers are killing me. Gorgeous! What a great tribute to your beautiful house before the move. You guys are so sweet; I’ve been reading your blog over breakfast for years, thanks for being a part of my morning!!

  5. Rosemary says

    Do you have a link for your feature on HGTV? Or was it only printed?

    Gorgeous! I’m sure the new homeowners love having their home featured by HGTV!

  6. Kate says

    Awesome post, glad you guys shared. And I bet you all are also stoked to have this archived forever as another reminder of all the hard work you put in to make this house outstanding. I’m very much looking forward to all the changes and updates you’ll be making in your new digs. Thanks always for the inspiration and know-how to make our own houses as beautiful as yours!

  7. Lil says

    I was wondering when you guys were going to mention your spread! It was fun to read through the article and notice things that weren’t “right” (that chalkboard doesn’t live there!)

    Congratulations. I love HGTV magazine!

  8. Julie says

    Interesting, a closepin! I think I finally know why all the shirts at Eddie Bauer don’t look the same on me as they do in the magazine. Or at least that is the excuse I am going to use from now on!

    • says

      Oh yes, guys, from being in advertising I can promise you that clothes never fit the model perfectly and always get pinned/clamped/rolled or otherwise manipulated to make them look so dang good in catalogs, print ads, and commercials! So it’s not you or your body being weird, it’s the secret styling that makes things look/fit differently in ads. In other words, it’s not you, it’s them. Haha!


  9. Careen says

    When I got married, I did DIY arrangements with tons of gorgeous flowers shipped from Columbia by FedEx. I spent $500 on what would have cost thousands from a florist.

    • Val says

      I did, too! It was my favorite part of the wedding, even though it was a ton of work. We had the bath tub in my tiny apartment bathroom completely full of buckets of flowers — I took a picture before taking them all out to make the arrangements and it’s still one of my favorites. Plus, the room smelled awesome the next day while I was getting ready.

      Love the spread! What a great way to remember your old place.

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