How to Style a Coffee Table like a Pro


When I enter a home to style it for a photo-shoot, I always bring accessories for a coffee table. I have a big collection of coffee table books in my studio and tons of bits and bobs in my prop stash for this specific purpose. However, you don’t have to be a stylist to achieve a similar look. In fact, your coffee table can look just as amazing as any magazine with the right tools.

To get you thinking in the right direction, here’s a video I did with Ballard Designs that shows you how to style a coffee table. It breaks down different steps, so you can practice and style until you have the perfect set-up.

Here are a few highlights from the video:

  1. Start with what you have. There’s no need to go out and buy a ton of props. Instead, shop your own home or your own prop closet.
  2. Anchor the corners with large objects. Repeat after me: trays are my BFF. Trays are my BFF. A tray will provide a place to corral smaller objects while creating visual interest and helping you organize.
  3. Repeat shapes and colors. If you add pink flowers, add another pop of pink in a book on a different spot. If you incorporate blue, add a ginger jar, too. Repeating colors helps the eye move seamlessly around the table.
  4. Have fun! Don’t be afraid to change-up your coffee table style season to season. If you find a special object while out antiquing, or “treasure hunting” as I like to call it, add it to your coffee table vignette.

If you’d like even more help styling your home for photographs or for fun, come along on my Strictly Styling Workshop this summer in Italy! I’d love to have you.

Do you have any tried and true coffee table tips? Share them in the comments!

xx Annette

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Get Your Home Holiday Guest Ready

Today I'm sharing a few easy ways to get your home holiday guest ready just in time for guests to arrive. Take note and get excited!

Not only do I like to entertain guests around my table, but I also like to have guests stay at the house. I love having a houseful during holidays.

The secret to entertaining is to always make your guests feel special. Be gracious, be kind, and be caring, and your guests will always feel welcome and at home. Since hosting house guests is an art form, there are some easy tricks that make visitors feel really special.

Today I’m sharing a few easy ways to get your home holiday guest ready just in time for guests to arrive. Take note and get excited!

Tip 1: Make your guest rooms feel glamorous:

Today I'm sharing a few easy ways to get your home holiday guest ready just in time for guests to arrive. Take note and get excited!

  1. Make sure the sheets are soft, well laundered, fresh, crisp, and pretty.
  2. Place flowers, books, and magazines on the side table.
  3. Put out a brand new scented candle, and don’t forget the matches.
  4. Have plenty of pillows and blankets in the closet.
  5. Place a couple of bottles of water in the room.
  6. Make sure you go over how the television works.
  7. Show guests where the temperature controls are, especially if guests are on a different floor from where you are.

Tip 2: Zhush-up the bathroom, too:

Today I'm sharing a few easy ways to get your home holiday guest ready just in time for guests to arrive. Take note and get excited! 101911644.jpg.rendition.largest

  1. Place fresh soap in the shower/bath.
  2. Put out plenty freshly laundered towels – lots of them.
  3. Place some fresh flowers on the counter.
  4. Have a basket filled with extra toothpaste and tooth brushes.
  5. Have a hair dyer on hand.
  6. Go the extra mile and hang a freshly laundered robe for each guest

Tip 3: Have snacks and food available in a self serve station:


  1. Make your kitchen available for guests to help themselves.
  2. Have plenty of fresh fruit in a large bowl on the counter in the kitchen.
  3. Have a self serve coffee station. I personally love a Nespresso machine in the guest room or kitchen for guests to make themselves a cup in the morning. Don’t forget to add all the necessary accessories like sugar or even chocolate!
  4. Cookies or other small nibbles like nuts are a nice touch.

The most important tip is to check out the guest room and the guest bath before your guests arrive. Make sure you have everything on hand for guests. Once guests depart, don’t forget to replenish. Everything should be full, fresh, and attended to in your guest room. It’s just like running a hotel; the most important things are the details.

Happy Holidays and enjoy of all your house guests!

Photos from Better Homes and Gardens

Styled by me, Photography Rob Brinson, Edmund Barr

Kitchen Photo from Coin Cafe Pour La Masion

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Photography Tip:: Build a Prop Stash

First things first…when you build a prop stash, you need to make sure you shop like a stylist. Pick props that are basic as well as pick props that are unique. You should have a complete color wheel of fabrics and napkins to coordinate with plates and bowls of all sizes and colors. I keep buying white and natural napkins which I do not need! Don’t be like me! Shop for what you don’t have, and when you see napkins to add to your collection, grab them. My message here is don’t keep buying the same napkins (or props) over and over again.

The numero uno rule of being a professional stylist is to be efficient and organized. Once you start to seriously collect your prop inventory, you will find that storage is key. It’s important that everything is easy to access and most important is that you see everything displayed clearly. Pay attention to this tip! 

*(I will never forget looking into an (ex) assistant’s van and seeing everything thrown into the back and all over the backseat like it was garbage, when in fact they were gorgeous props. Message here? Be organized…even in the backseat of your van, treat every prop like it’s a treasure, because it is!)

Utilize amazing storage! Having a great place to pull from when you need accessories to style a room or to prop a recipe is key. I use metro fixtures which are available online or from The Container Store. They are sturdy and affordable. I also use vintage bakers racks. As long as you have a centralized location for your prop stash, you’re in business.

For example: here is a great collection of unique props. Store them all together, in a safe location on your shelves. Here’s another tip: use them a couple of times and then trade them with another stylist or antique dealer. I keep the ones that are so special I will never come across them again and rent them to other stylists. Having a unique vintage scale is a must, old pitchers, and a stash of vintage bake goods. Store these items together. When thinking about organizing, store like with like. In other words, I store all my galvanized props together, and plates stacked by color and size. Think like a retail store and create color stories and stories by material.


For storing fabric: I think airtight see-through boxes are an easy solution. I stack the boxes on shelves and they are organized by color. Because I can see through the boxes I know which color napkins to pull down for a shoot. (*Remember to air them out regularly to prevent mold and mildew and wash them after every use.) A dresser will work as well for this kind of storage just make sure to colorize your napkins and tablecloths and remnants.


Here’s how I organize my prop stash: I have shelves in my garage, and I merchandise my shelves neatly by color and material. I also purge regularly. Just like styling a photograph, it’s important to edit your props as well. I try not to use a prop more than twice, you’d be surprised how many people notice when you use the same prop over and over again. You don’t want to be that photo stylist; you’re a pro.

My prop room looks like this:


I store all my flatware in a filing cabinet, with narrow drawers Like this one from the Container Store.


I like to store trays and surfaces stacked in a rack and store small things in jars and vases.


Remember you are spending lots of money on your things (even if you’re shopping flea markets… it adds up!), so take good care of your prop stash. Let me know if you have any organizational questions in the comments below, and I will be happy to answer them. Happy Shopping and Propping!


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Ikea Vardagen Series:: Tradition meets Function

Ikea Vardagen table linens are great neutral linens | These carafes from ikea can hold anything and everything |

As I’ve shared with you before, Ikea is always one of my go-to shopping destinations when sourcing props for styled shoots, workshops, and my own home. Just recently, Ikea released their latest collection, the VARDAGEN series, and I’m smitten.

This collection would be a great basis for any home because of the earthy tones, traditional shapes, and functional capabilities. It would be especially good for anyone you know who is starting their first home (i.e. new college grads and newlyweds), or anyone considering a kitchen overhaul on a budget. Even if you’re not on a budget I love these pieces because they work. In my own home I love the idea of high low. Just like you would put on an H&M blazer with Prada shoes. If it’s good design it’s good design no matter what the price point.

Inspired by traditional kitchenware, the Ikea VARDAGEN series was designed after traditional, sturdy kitchen knives. You’ll recognize their shape immediately, too.  The modest designs mean these knives can blend with current kitchen equipment and be used for years to come.

Use glass jars to hold flour and spices in your kitchen, or detergent in your laundry room. | Ikea vardagen kitchen knives are traditional and functional. | These carafes from ikea can hold anything and everything |

Of course, as a photo stylist, I’m always looking for exquisite containers and linens for my photos. I would be remiss not to mention the VARDAGEN series table linens and glassware. The VARDAGEN jars would be great on your kitchen countertops. Fill the small one with salt or other spice and the larger one with cookies or even your kitchen utensils. I also love using jars like this in unexpected rooms like the laundry room.

As far as linens, you can never have too many neutral linens for entertaining.

Add these to your party pantry.

It’s all about elegant basics and this collection is just that.

What are you loving from the new VARDAGEN series?

Any good ideas for incorporating these items in your own home?

Please share them with me in the comments, I would love to hear from you creative darlings… xx

Photo credit: IKEA

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Elements of a Party- How to Organize Your Party Pantry

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As you know, one of the best ways to be a relaxed hostess is to be an organized hostess.

One of the best ways to assure that you are relaxed is to start to collect all the elements of a party in one place: plates, glasses, platters, serving pieces, flatware, and linens. This way you can pull everything together for your parties from one location.

Building Your Party Pantry:

First of all, don’t buy a thing! I want you to look at what you own. Here are the basics you will need to create any party. I want you to look at everything in your home, things in your living room and den, even the things in your bedroom and foyer or garage, and yes, of course, the basement. I want you to shop your home for useable objects and items; think about repurposing and using things in a whole new way.

Picture Perfect Parties

Your Party Pantry List:

  1. 3 Baskets, wicker, and/or metal
  2. 3 Trays or flat objects that are food safe and could be scrubbed and used to plate or gather food. I love white enamelware; I find mine online or at flea markets. 1 rectangle, 1 square, and 1 round.
  3. 12 Glasses, anything goes! The more mismatched the better.
  4. 12 Wine glasses, both red and white, 12 champagne coupes, and 12 champagne flutes.  These can be from a flea market and mismatched.
  5. 2 Wood surfaces, like planking or old cutting boards. 1 rustic and 1 smooth.
  6. 4 Tiles; old tiles can be used as platters for cheese or appetizers.
  7. 2 Chalkboards and old signs; anything that you could write on to use to write menus or messages to your guests.
  8. Ribbon, string, yarn, twine, and raffia.
  9. Wrapping paper; it makes great table runners, or use it for wrapping vases.
  10. Galvanized or enamel buckets. Great for flowers, napkin rolls, breadsticks, or French bread. 1 large, 1 medium, and 1 small.
  11. Vases or garden pots.
  12. Bottles and jelly or mason jars (I like to save jam jars and run them through the dishwasher), all sizes.
  13. 1 of each small, medium and large plates and platters.
  14. 3 of each small, medium, and large bowls.
  15. Metal containers and wood containers.
  16. 4 of each small and medium wood crates, or small fruit crates/baskets from the grocery.
  17. 3 yards of each old pieces of fabric for runners and table cloths; burlap from the garden shed.
  18. Old napkins and tablecloths (I like to over dye old, thread bare linens).
  19. Mugs, tea cups.
  20. Muffin tins and old baking pans.
  21. 12 white dinner plates.
  22. 12 dessert plates.
  23. 12 appetizer plates.
  24. 10 espresso cups.
  25. 10 coffee cups.
  26. 12 white bowls for soup, dessert, or salad.
  27. 12 white dessert plates.
  28. 12 knives, fork, spoons, dessert spoons, and dessert forks.
  29. Small wooden servers for jams and spreads.
  30. Mismatched flatware for serving meats and condiments.
  31. 12 white and natural linen napkins *If you do not have these, you should purchase them.
  32. Linen tablecloths: 1 white and 1 dark linen *If you do not have these, you should purchase them.
  33. Cocktail shaker.
  34. 10 Martini glasses.
  35. Novelty toothpicks.
  36. 2 white cake plates, small and medium. 1 colorful cake plate.
  37. Pie server and ice cream scoop.
  38. 8 placemats. I only like placemats for breakfast or lunch, or a very casual dinner. NOT parties.



Make sure you have a place to store all of your essentials together. I have an actual room, but you can buy great shelves and pick a place in your own home; it can even be the garage or your basement, or a spare closet or room would do nicely as well. Above is my party pantry and below is a great closet you could replicate. The most important idea is that everything is in one place for easy access.


For more information, grab my book Picture Perfect Parties and get ready to P A R T Y! Cheers and Happy Holidays! xx

Photo credit : Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn from my book Picture Perfect Parties

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