Want the best job in the world? Here’s how to become an Interior Stylist
One of the questions I get asked A LOT is how to get a career in interiors. Lots of folk who watch or take part in The Great Interior Design Challenge think that there is only one career path in Interior Design and that that is to become a professional interior designer. But I’m going to pop that balloon. There is so much more to interior design than dolling up houses.
There is a whole publishing industry that is churning out content to enable people to have gorgeous homes and better still achieve the look themselves. This is all backed up by an enormous retail sector, selling furnishings, furniture and accessories. One thing all these brands have in common is that they need great photos and their products set in an aspirational interior
Interior Stylist Amanda Koster styles this shoot for Living Etc
So the drool-worthy pages you pour over in design mags, are all pulled together by an Interior stylist. Even the impossibly unachievable real readers homes have been styled for the shoot by a stylist. The pages in the mail order catalogue, yup, you guessed it all carefully curated and styled by an interior stylist.
Room styled by Claudia Bryant for Living Etc
Fancy a job in this incredible industry? Here is my top tips to getting a foot in the door
First up you have to live east breath interiors. This is a tough industry in that its hugely competitive and only the really driven will survive! Immerse yourself in your favourite magazines and blogs and instagram accounts.
Try and get yourself an internship or offer yourself up for assisting work.
It’s ideal if you can work towards getting an in-house job on a magazine or publication. The only road in will probably have been by making contacts by assisting or doing work experience. I started at BBC Good Homes magazine in 2000 as a Stylist after working on their shopping pages as a freelancer prior. I assisted for 2 years before I got my first full time job. So contact stylists you admire (they are often credited next to the magazine article they’ve styled) and ask to assist them or get in touch with the style or homes editor on your favourite magazines and offer your services there too.
Blogger turned stylist Sarah Akwisombe styles this shot for her blog
Publishing has changed dramatically since I started out and there are far fewer mags and staff jobs. So for anyone starting out now I’d recommend starting a blog or at least being on instagram. This is a great way to connect with other designers, journalists, stylists, editors and more importantly PR’s. I can highly recommend checking out Sarah Akwisombe who has carved out a styling career from using her blog. She also runs a kick ass No Bull Blog School which helped get me started on my own blogging journey.
You don’t need any specific training to become an interior stylist and there are many roads that lead to this career path. There are courses, the only one I’ve heard of (but have no personal experience of) is the Interior Styling course at Central St Martins. However most stylists I know did have some creative training in fine art, textiles or furniture at university level. I studied BA Hones in 3D design.
Advert for Sofa.com styled by Marie Nichols
You need to make sure you have the right kind of personality to be a successful interior stylist. You need to be a people person. You’ll need to juggle the expectations of the client, keep the photographer chipper, chivvy along the set builders, organise the couriers, get the PR’s on side, and gain the trust of the fastidious magazine editor. You’re only ever as good as your last job and all work is referral and reputation. There are no sick days.
You’ll need to be realistic about the fact that 90% of the work is in London.
There is no 9-5 working hours. You might need to go to the flower market at 6am to pick the right out of season flowers for the shoot and you’ll always be the last person to leave the location at the end of the night. And then you have to get home and unpack the car!
When it comes to launching your career think of your niche. There are so many avenues to go down from the main stream and high street, to the niche luxury brands. Very few stylists will cross all the parameters so zone in on your niche and stick with it if you can.
Inspirational outdoor dining set styled by Selina Lake for her book Outdoor Living
Be prepared to network. It’s a very social industry and jobs are never advertsied. You need to make sure you are humble and hardworking at the beginning. No one wants a Know-it-all assistant. You’ll be responsible for making coffees, organising or even making lunch, polishing glass, ironing bedlinen and packing/unpacking lots of boxes. This maybe dull but its your apprenticeship. Soak up all you can and remember it’s all about making good contacts, so don’t piss anyone off. And no you can’t leave early.
At some point it’s a good idea to team up with a photographer or photographers assistant and do your own shots for your portfolio or instagram feed. This way you can credit the images as your own work which you can’t do with jobs you’ve assisted on.
Start going to press events and keeping up with the latest trends. You’ll need to be on the PR’s radar for this so its essential that you get that blog readership going or start making a name for yourself as a freelance assistant.
Room designed by Lucy Gough for Marks and Spencer
It’s been a while, some 20 years, since I started out with my passion and drive to be an Interior Stylist and the ndustry has changed alot in that time. But one thing rings true, you get to work with some of the nicest and most talented people in the business, and you always seem to have fresh flowers in the house!
For further research here are some good blogs written by professional stylists.