The beautiful spaces in glossy magazines and on interior design-related websites — and even trending on Instagram — can often be the places where our inspiration is sparked. We see one of these images and we think to ourselves, “that’s how I want my living room to look!” or “that’s the coffee table solution I’ve been looking for.” And behind these pretty photographed scenes, there’s someone hard at work tweaking this and that to make the room look like the one your imagination was hoping for all along.
Hilary Walker is a prop and interior stylist based in Dallas, TX. Her client roster includes Loloi Rugs, Magnolia Home, World Market, The Container Store and others. “My job is unique in that it is completely behind the scenes,” Hilary says. “All those pretty pictures you see in magazines, advertisements and catalogs… a stylist was a part of making that happen, yet most people have no idea!”
Knowing deep down that she was never going to have a “normal” job, Hilary eventually landed herself in interior and prop styling for photography, combining her personal best of both worlds: art and design. Now it’s her job to shop for and place props, craft a room’s composition, envision the environment she’s creating, nitpick the fine details, and more. She’s picked up quite a few styling tricks along the way, and today she’s sharing 10 of her most trusted with us — and you can use all of them in your own home.
Hilary also breaks down her stylist’s toolkit for all those aspiring stylists out there, so catch those (along with her tips for styling your home) after the jump. For more from Hilary, check out her blog documenting people with unique styles here and her podcast here. —Kelli
1. Play up Symmetry: Flanking bookshelves is an especially effective way to arrange a space symmetrically. Whether it’s beside a fireplace, a sofa or a desk, symmetry calls attention to itself and makes any space look grander than it is.
2. Pair up Opposites: You’ve likely seen the trend of using unmatched chairs at your dining table, but did you know you can do the same thing in your living room? The key is to match two chairs of similar scale but different design styles.
3. Go Dark: Black walls, navy sofa, chocolate brown art… In a world of white walls and bright light, a deeply colored room feels unexpected, chic and dramatic.
4. Layer Your Rugs: Nothing world-changing here. This is just a good old-fashioned stylist’s trick for creating warmth and depth on the floor.
5. Bring the Dining Table into the Living Room: This is an unexpected entertaining alternative to serving food in the dining room. Instead, gather around the living room and graze from a nearby dining table. Everyone knows it’s more fun to eat on the sofa anyways!
6. Think Creatively About Your Table Options: There are so many more options than you might expect. I’ve used storage chests for coffee tables and bar carts for side tables. Even a stack of old books can be used to hold a drink or snack!
7. Utilize the Space Under Your Coffee Table: If your table has open legs, this is a smart way to maximize on unused space. At the risk of it looking cluttered or disorganized, though, collect items such as books or throw blankets in a large tray or basket.
8. Forget the Gallery Wall: Go big and graphic with oversized artwork! Pairs make a strong, symmetric statement but one single piece can give the illusion of a mural. Either way, your walls will thank you.
9. Any Ledge Can Be a Decorative Moment: Mantel shelves are prime opportunity to make a decorative statement. Layer it with your favorite art, something organic and an interesting piece of lighting to bring an empty space to life.
10. Color-Code Your Books: Organizing your library by color can be a visually striking way to arrange objects artfully while also streamlining what can otherwise very easily look cluttered.
BONUS – The Most Important Things in My Styling Kit
As a prop stylist, it’s ALL about the tools. Or, as it’s known in the industry, a stylist’s “kit.” Your kit is your membership card, so to speak. It’s what separates you as a professional from the amateurs. Your kit is essentially a bag of tools that a stylist brings to set in case of any given need or dilemma. It’s like a Mary Poppins bag of pins and clippers, wire and cleaners. You never want to be caught without your kit!
Picture hanging wire