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

    John and Sherry,
    I absolutely love this post! Being an interior photographer myself, I enjoy seeing behind the scenes. I really like seeing the little tricks they’re using and also how these crews, with large budgets, handle themselves with the homeowner. Thanks for such a great behind the scenes post!

  2. Melanie says

    So exciting! I need to go get a copy.

    What is that framed page-long note on your wall of frames? I guess I never noticed it before.

    • says

      That’s this cool poem that an old friend of ours wrote out in calligraphy and gave to us as a housewarming gift. He was actually the guy who did the “inspection” fixes on our first house when we sold it. He was such a cool guy!


  3. says

    What an awesome going away present for you guys to be able to remember that season of your life. My husband and I just moved from our first apartment as a married couple where we spent four years to our first house. The moving process got so crazy that we never snapped pictures like I’d planned. It’ll be so nice for Clara to have such nice pictures of her childhood home (not that your blog didn’t cover house #2 in lots of detail).

  4. laura says

    Hi guys! Reading the last paragraph, I’m wondering how you kept Clara from spilling the beans about your new home? Wouldn’t she say something about it at school? Or did you not really tell her you were moving so she wouldn’t repeat it to others?
    Have an amazing weekend!

    • says

      I know it’s really hard to imagine buying a house and promptly locking it away in your mind, but it was a save-our-sanity thing for us. We got the keys at closing and other than quickly getting the leaking roof and furnace fixed (some of which was done while we were gone on tour without us even being there), we literally didn’t go back there for months. Aside from the tour we also hosted the holidays, were doing tons of projects on our current house, were working on a lighting collection, etc). So John and I hardly talked about it to ourselves because the “ahhh overwhelming! we have two houses to juggle!” stuff would creep into our minds. We just focused on the current house and all of our other projects and since so much more time was spent there (and with friends/relatives/traveling on tour) I don’t think Clara really mentally grasped the new house until about a month before we moved in when we started doing fun things with her over there – like painting fabric and birthday party castles, etc. After that she talked about “the newwwwww house!” a lot!


  5. says

    Love all the tricks they used! What great tips for our own homes, thanks for sharing! I wish I could have fresh cut flowers everyday too Sherri, I love getting high off fresh flower smell and healthier than magic markers (jk) =), but I think I’m better off with the potted variety…At least they can be reused in the backyard.

  6. says

    I looove fresh flowers! I’ve been seeing wild, orange tiger lilies everywhere, but they’re mostly on the edge of people’s properties and I really want to knock on their door and ask if I can snip some. Alas, I reign myself back in because that would be really creepy haha.

  7. Ashley says

    The flowers!! I love the flowers!

    Reminds me… I need to get my husband on that gift of some flowers each month. I’d love that…. :)

  8. Anastasia says

    Love these behind the scene shots! Which issue were you featured in? I’d love to grab a copy and see the whole thing!

  9. Katie says

    It was so fun stumbling across you in the magazine. After reading your blog for years, it was like stumbling across a friend featured in the magazine. I was so excited! Your house looked awesome. I hope they’ll come back and feature your new house when you are done.

  10. Hollie says

    I know it’s a little early for lunch, but I’m having cravings for an “aggressive sandwich” right about now.

    I haven’t gotten the latest issue of HGTV Magazine yet, so I didn’t know about the photo shoot. However, I was flipping through TV channels about a week ago, and I paused for a moment on QVC as something very interesting caught my eye. They were featuring a tablet at the time, and the gentleman demonstrating it was showing how easily you could “flip” through the pages of a magazine. It wasn’t clear which magazine he was using in his demonstration, but the pages they zoomed in on very prominently featured your house, which is what made me stop in my tracks.

    So, just know that, aside from the many readers of HGTV Magazine, thousands and thousands of QVC viewers got a peek at your supremely decorated former abode, if only for a few seconds.

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