Tag Archives: tear sheets

Style Lesson: How to style an outdoor space

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As most of you know I have been styling interiors for more than 20 years, however sometimes my jobs take me outdoors. This is the time of year those jobs start coming in. I love styling outdoors, but there are a few hard and fast rules you might want to keep in mind when styling outside. The exterior photographs are often as important as the interior shots in an editorial feature and for a designer’s portfolio as well. Designers out there… pay attention.

Styling the exterior is often one of the toughest propping decisions I deal with on a shoot. There is a balance that needs to be achieved and that balance can tip with just a minor misstep. The outdoors is a big big place and it’s without boundaries. If you’ve ever designed a garden then you know this is true. With this in mind, it’s important to look at the scale of the exterior architecture, as well as the coloration and what you want to enhance in the photograph. One of the most important things to remember is that you must create boundaries for the eye in the photograph.

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1. Know when to shoot: let the sun be your guide. We usually photograph the exterior at dawn or dusk, depending on the position of the sun. You never want direct sunlight on the house. Diffused soft light is ideal.

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2. Create boundaries: use potted plants to anchor the structure. Avoid using a lot of small colorful plants. Think substantial, but not too large. When thinking of scale and proportion, remember it’s about the house and not the plants or accessories. You don’t want to create boundaries that detract from the main feature. As I say over and over again, less is more. Edit, edit, edit. Anchoring the structure with potted plants creates a boundary for the eye in a photograph, it’s a way to draw the eye to the house in a subtle way. This is your prop’s most important function, remember that.

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3. Don’t over accessorize: use accessories that make sense. Stay away from using too many throws or blankets, pillows, lanterns or candles, elk horns, wine glasses, you get the picture. I have seen way too many outdoor shots with too much going on. Before you know it, the back porch starts to look like the patio accessories department at the Home Depot.

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4. Remember the Magic Triangle: In the case of outdoor styling this is a great trick to keep everything in balance. Your triangle will give you a starting point in an environment that can be overwhelming.

Even for entertaining stories it’s so important to make it look real, readable, and edited. Keep this in mind next time you start propping an outdoor setting.

Please feel free to send me any questions or comments and thanks for stopping by.

Photo 1: Rob Brinson

Photo 2: Anthony Masterson

Photo 3: Reed Davis

Photo 4: Lauren Rubinstein

Styling By: Annette Joseph for Meredith publications

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Tear Sheets: “I Did It” Dining Room Table


I love a good DIY and this table is off the charts amazing. This cute husband and wife of Auburn, AL made this “picnic inspired” table that could fit through their back door for weekend parties and tailgating. Best part? They made it for less than $50. Amazing!

Do you have an amazing DIY that you’ve done? I’d love to see it!

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Tear Sheets: Styling Shelves


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Here are some of my basic rules of thumb when styling shelves. One of the easiest ways to pull the look together is with repetition: repeat the same colors and shapes. At my home in Italy (top left) you can see that I repeated the star fish and vases to give the look consistency. I also used a similar color palette (lots of pops of white) but I love adding a jolt of color, like that turquoise globe. You can see that I practice what I preach!

I also swear by putting “like with like,” using books in the same height with a similar color scheme (as seen top right with the blue books) or layering in a collection of bowls or glass bottles (as seen on the bottom). These are just a few of my rules for styling shelves. I always like to keep things fresh but these guidelines work every time.

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