I’ve gotten some emails and messages asking me questions on how I stage, take photos, and edit them. I’m just going to focus on staging and taking photos right now and I’ll get to the other parts at a later time.
I really don’t know how to stage. I feel like I’ve learned a little over the years but it’s still frustrating to me and I often just hate it so much I put some flowers on the piece and call it good 😉
For me personally I love a piece that is simple and well staged. Vignettes are great, but sometimes they can look cluttered with too many items on a piece. I’ve definitely been guilty of putting too many or too few of items, where it just looks awkward. You live and learn!
So, here are some of the rules I try to follow myself when staging because I think it looks good. I probably shouldn’t call then rules, since I just made them up – I’ll just say these are the things that go through my head when staging a piece of furniture. I work with a lot of nightstand/end table size pieces as well as mid sized dressers like this one. Longer credenza pieces like this MCM one give me some trouble and I’m still trying to figure out what looks best. These “tips” are in no order, just a list of ideas that I find look good and are pretty simple to follow:
1. stage with items of varying heights. Generally you want one tall, vertical piece, one piece that is mid-height and one low, horizontal piece. Aim for tall, medium and short/small.
2. use some type of art, mirror, or something that hangs on the wall above the piece. It adds height to the piece, and when staging a piece for photos you want to fill the vertical space instead of having it look too sparse. Sometimes certain looks don’t require art. Also note- standing a piece of art on the top of the piece and leaning it against the wall can also work. I prefer items like art and mirror to be hanging since the space between the top of the piece and the item looks more visually pleasing in my opinion.
3. books are your friend 🙂 You can use any type of book, really. If they have a cover, take it off! Books can add color and also work great as items to add height or fill horizontal space. Place them standing up like they are on a book shelf and use a book end of other object to hold them up. You can also just lay them flat and stack 2-3 to fill horizontal space. I often lay books horizontally and then add a small figure on top like a bird or small item.
4. use flowers and plants. I opt for flowers in a vase. Most of the time I can just go find flowers or greens in the yard to use, but buying a inexpensive bundle from the grocery store also works. These are perfect for filling that middle space between taller objects and shorter ones, plus it adds some life to the picture.
5. some pieces of furniture need less staging, and some can handle more. Don’t over do it when staging and take away from the piece. Staging should enhance the piece, not overpower it.
6. try to stage with the style of the piece. Keep more modern touches with mid century pieces of furniture – abstract or modern art is great, clean lines and metal. Sometimes juxtaposition when staging does work, though. Use modern or abstract art with antique pieces. It can modernize them and help make the piece feel more updated as if it will fit into a home today, not one 50 years ago.
7. pick a theme. This goes with the previous point, but try to stick with the style of the piece. French piece look great with neutral more monochromatic staging. Sometimes lots of colors look great, and other times it’s best to pick a few to stick to and add in some neutrals as well.
8. everything doesn’t need to be centered or symmetrical. Now, somethings can be, and they look best that way, but not everything should be. Sometimes I struggle with this because I like things to look perfect, but I’ve found hanging art just off centered toward one side of the other looks best.
9. stick to your style and at the same time think outside the box. If you like certain items, use them. If you like minimal staging, do it! There’s no need to stage the same way as someone else. Draw inspiration, but don’t copy. The way you stage a piece can be a branding opportunity. If you always use a certain item, it can become a well known icon that people may recognize when they see one of your photos. Also think outside the box. Upcycle some items or use them differently than they were originally meant to be used. This can be hard, but if you always look for a way to make something unique, eventually you will figure something out that’s different and all yours.
10. mix textures and materials. Add metal, glass ceramic, wood, paper, and woven items. If a piece is fully painted with no wood on it, add a wood item. It really adds warmth. Also use items like woven baskets with pillows in them, or small ones on the top of a piece.
11. when grouping items together, odd numbers usually look best. Also, staggering items is often better than having everything in a row.
12. it takes time. It may not be fun, or fast, but you can do it! Or at least improve your staging. Lately I’ve been trying to focus more on taking the time to think about the way I stage pieces instead of just placing a few items on top of the furniture and snapping some pictures. Here’s to hoping people see an improvement 😉
I have a few ladies whose work I love to follow and they stage their pieces beautifully. If you don’t already follow them, you should. At least check them out! Amanda of Ferpie & Fray, and Christina of Phoenix Restoration live by me and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting these talented ladies. There’s also Meg of Estuary who is crazy talented and takes the most gorgeous, magazine worthy photos. I’ve linked their blogs and facebook pages below, so go follow them and find some inspiration!