MY FIRST DAY AS AN INTERIOR STYLIST ASSISTANT
After going freelance towards the end of July, I pretty much spent the whole of August trying to make contacts any which way I could, which included harassing my friend Nicole (whom I went on the Walthamstow tour with) to share some of her juicy contacts with me. As a producer of some of the most iconic fashion shoots for Burberry, I knew she would know the right kind of people that I could assist on shoots, doing styling for still life or interiors shots. Turns out, I was right and she managed to refer me on to someone who referred me on to someone else. To keep it brief, I ended up with a great contact. I'm never one to act too big for my boots and I knew that being an interior stylist assistant was a great way for me to learn the ropes of the styling trade. Here's how I got on in my first 2 days as a stylist's assistant on a shoot for DFS.
*If you're thinking about interiors or still life styling as a career, read my 5 step guide to becoming an interior stylist!*
I wake up, feeling pretty smug as I've woken up before my alarm goes off. Glance at my phone. SHIT!
I didn't wake up before the fucking alarm, I didn't set the bloody thing!
It's 8.11am, and I'm meant to be on set at 9am. OMGGGGGGG I am about to cry. This is my big chance and I've fucking blown it. If you know me you will know how much I hate to be late. Was there any point in me going? Surely I've messed this up before I've even got there.
Go to bathroom. Look in mirror. Tell myself to get it together, tell the stylist the truth and make my way over there anyway.
Luckily the stylist is chilled about the whole fiasco and tells me to take my time. I rush to shove on a bit of makeup, brush my hair and leave the house feeling like I reaaaaaaally need to shower. Whatevs. I'm gonna be extra helpful today to makeup for being such a dickwad.
I arrive on location - an absolutely beautiful converted school in Battersea. It's HUGE. It's bright, airy and classic, with a few modern additions such as floor to ceiling glass panels at each stairway landing that overlooks the lower level. It's really bloody fancy. It's a dream house.
After a few minutes ogling the place I'm put to work straight away unpacking the many props and accessories that the stylist has bought in for the shoot. Myself and another assistant lay them out for him to have an easy view of what he wants to use in the shoot. We make sure to keep tags and wrapping carefully to one side so that we can wrap them all up properly after use.
The first look is a dining room scene. I set about steam ironing the table runner, placemats and napkins. Then I help to move things out of the way of shot, lay the table, put thing on table, off table, on table again. The images that I start to see on the photographers computer screen are amazing! WOW!
The way the look really comes to life in an image is what it's all about for me and what I find so inspiring about interior styling. You'd think things would feel more exciting in person but actually, for me it's on screen. I love hearing the photographer say things like 'that napkin looks just beautiful'. To most people that may seem totally unimportant and almost frivolous, but I smile. It makes me feel at home! This is where I fit in.
The crew start with the most full on look, as in the most accessories and props. Then they slowly start to pare down the look, and as each prop is removed we make sure to package it back up and label where it's going after the shoot, so that the pickup guys know where to send it to. We are shooting tomorrow so some props are going back, some are staying on and it's important that they know which is which.
We're using a chandelier in shot but it doesn't have any lightbulbs. I run out to the local hardware store to pickup some bulbs. The shopkeeper looks totally baffled when I tell him 'it doesn't matter which fitting or wattage, they just need to look nice'. Run back, bluetack in the lightbulbs.
Then we break for lunch where I get to know some of the crew. The crew is about 10-12 people each day and consists of brand reps from DFS, creative agency heads, an art director, the photographer, her assistant, a digital operator, shifters (who build / move the furniture and larger props) and of course the stylist, me and the other assistant.
While everyone starts to wrap up lunch we move upstairs for the next look and the final look of the day, which is a bedroom scene. Not like that you dirty minded folk! We are shooting a bed, ottoman and chair.
As I head upstairs to help the stylist decide what bedding and accessories to use the other assistant makes sure that the rest of the previous set's props are packed away.
After climbing the gazillion stairs to the upper floor I am overwhelmed with how awesome the master suite is. This could actually be an entire loft apartment! There's room for two beds and so much more, plus a beautiful bathroom, dressing area and mezzanine level. Some serious work hard motivation right thurr.
Then I start to iron again!
I get a bit worried as the bedding we have chosen is for a double bed but the duvet is a king. Carl, the stylist, shows me some tricks as to how to dress a bed even if you don't have bedding that fits. He also shows me how to mock a fitted sheet and I watch as he starts to put things together that I would have thought would totally clash but end up looking great together. I'm so inspired.
The crew gather around the monitor to see how things are looking.
I now want to buy the bed!
We then repeat the process of packing down as they continue to shoot. By staying on top of the packing away and labelling up it means we can have a quick wrap up at the end of the day which is nice for everyone. I help to take the boxes and bags out to the pickup van and practice flexing my muscles.
The last job of the day is to look at the pictures that the shifters took in the morning of how the owner's house looked before everything was moved. We then set about putting it all back in place and back to feeling like their home again.
And then that's it!
On day one I learnt:
- To always triple check you have set your alarm before a big day
- To not wear a long sleeved top as you will get hot running up and down stairs and carrying things
- That a kimble gun, scissors, blue tack, marker pens, coloured paper and reels and reels of parcel tape, gaffer tape, and just about any type of tape are really useful in a stylist's kit bag
- To wear comfy shoes
- That it's not always about things looking perfectly neat in a shot, sometimes a little haphazard creates a more realistic look
Day 2 ran in the same way, except it involved me being one of the first to set instead of 45 mins late. Plus I actually got to shower that morning, yay!
This location was a house in Herne Hill that had been featured on Grand Designs. The property literally sits a few doors down from Brockwell lido and almost backs into the park. Tucked behind a church, it was once a vicarage and now homes a family of four. It's a modernist dream, clad in timber and featuring floor to ceiling glass on the lower level that overlooks the garden. The kitchen had concrete counter tops and polished concrete floors which I absolutely loved. It also turns out my sister's boyfriend did the carpets upstairs. Small world!
The owner, Rachel, was absolutely lovely and so helpful when it came to working out how to use her dishwasher and super snazzy milk frother for coffee, ha!
Here's a few pics from day 2...
Even though the first location was a lot more grand, I felt like this house was much more homely and somewhere I could definitely see myself living in. One day! A totally aspirational couple of days.
After we finally wrapped on day 2 I headed home with a couple of new goodies for myself, some lovely cosy new cushions, ready for me to drop my head on, exhausted and totally inspired.
I can't wait to do it all again :)
P.S If you're thinking about interiors or still life styling as a career, check out my video below which shares the 5 things that great stylists have in common.