Monday, September 11, 2017

Decorating vs. Styling

When I started blogging almost 10-years ago, Color Outside the Lines became my outlet for communicating with a design minded public I couldn't find in my neighborhood, or at work. I instantly became virtual friends with amazing people, all of whom had a love for interior design and decoration. In the beginning, I couldn't wait to post pictures of inspiring interiors or blog about my own home. I would log on every day anxiously hoping for a new post from my favorite bloggers, and found myself bouncing from blog to blog for hours, hoping to find a new blog to follow from their sidebar.

Fast forward 10-years, and instagram has reawakened that nervous excitement, and provided a new, more streamlined channel for inspiration with photo after photo of beautiful spaces. Whether one photo, or an entire feed of inspiring images, I can easily get lost in the instagram rabbit hole. And just like with the blog, I've met some wonderful virtual friends who love decorating just as much as I do. 

One of them is Richard Stone (@fauxrealco) who lives in Richmond, Virginia. While we are hundreds of miles apart, instagram has made us fast friends. Richard and I are both self proclaimed maximalists, and have a passion for blue and white, chinoiserie, and fabric. 

Richard is a product, textile, and wallcovering stylist, working for companies like Scalamandre and Yves Delorme, with published work for retail ads in shelter magazines and catalogs. When Richard reached out to me about possibly doing a blog about the difference in decorating and styling, I thought it was a great idea! 

As with any blog post, I try to do as much research as I can to make sure that I have some meat to serve with all the pretty sides. This was different though. I mean, I too was confused about styling and decorating. Wasn't it all the same? Aren't we splitting hairs when we use decorating, designing, styling, accessorizing? Don't they all mean "to make it pretty"? I figured the best way to tackle this particular feast, was to conduct a little interview with Richard. 

A: In your opinion, what's the difference between decorating and styling? 
R: The word "styling" is slowly becoming diminished, such as the rising popularity of phrases like artisan, bespoke, and curated. Most of what I see being classified as "styling" is simply an arrangement of decorative objects inside or on a piece of furniture, which falls under what I consider to be accessorizing. Photography professionals use the term "styling" to describe the composition of furniture and objects in a setting, most likely created on location or in a photo studio for an editorial or product photo shoot. 

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're reading that and probably counting the number of times you've hashtagged "#interiorstyling" or talked about how a vignette was curated. I know I've done it thousands of times! Heck, I have draft posts for the two rooms I am decorating in the apartment now all set to go, and I've used the words curated, and styled 6-7 times in each of them. Don't fret! 

Here, an example of styling in a photoshoot for wallpaper by Barry Dixon for Vervain. Purely decorative, with only as much of the wall papered as necessary for the photoshoot, this is the photographers version of "styling". If this had been your own home, you would have likely not positioned the chairs in this way, perhaps you would have a mirror on the wall, or a piece of modern art? You would have decorated the room, and styled the photo. 

A: How long have you been working as a stylist? 
R: After two decades of fashion merchandising, I wanted to make my visual work permanent. I grew weary of creating beautiful clothing displays, only to have them totally decimated in minutes by just one customer. One day I was flipping through a magazine and read "Styling by ..." and I realized people are actually paid to control the aesthetic of the photo shoot. With no photo styling experience under my belt, I contacted the magazine's art director and sat in on a food shoot. I was later introduced to Bill Sorrell, now the Style Director of Thibaut, who took me under his wing and trained me in his art form of textile and wallcovering set styling. I still work with him after ten years. 

A: Where have your projects been published? Who have you worked for? 
R: My clients include Scalamandre, Stroheim, and Vervain. My most recent ad campaign is currently running in several shelter publications for the new Barry Dixon wallcoverings collection for Vervain. I still work with a local magazine to style some of their shoots whose locations sometimes end up being perfect for one of my fabric and wallpaper shoots. 

A: Your secret weapon for styling? 
R: My favorite part of creating my shoots is finding the furniture to be reupholstered in the client's fabric. There's nothing more thrilling to me than taking what many would consider a hideous piece of upholstery and slightly tweaking the shape to make it gorgeous. The upholsterer I use is absolutely a master who can achieve the most beautiful and even welt cords I've ever seen. 

A: No room is complete without? 
R: Chinoisierie! Something, anything! Blue and white ceramics never go out of style and look equally as chic on an English chest or a Lucite cocktail table.

In Richard's colorful Richmond, VA condo, he packs the blue and white porcelain in. Books and blue and white pair beautifully on his midcentury glass top, brass and lucite frame coffee table, and a collection of chinoiserie is artfully curated (see what I did there) atop his Dorothy Draper inspired chest. 

Richard also has done mind blowing displays for the high-end natural pressed flowers and leaves company, Blackwell Botanicals. His attention grabbing headpieces are nothing short of stunning.

A: What inspires you? 
R: I'm definitely not a minimalist, even though some of my work requires me to put a more modern spin on my styling. I turn to my favorite maximalists when I need ideas: Celerie Kemble, Mary McDonald, and Michelle Nussbaumer. With that being said I do love the "California Cool" look of Jeffrey Alan Marks and Mark D. Sikes.

Richard also shops for style worthy finds and sells them in his store on Charish, Pawvayon, (a clever take on the word Pavillion). The store specializes in Chinoiserie with a twist, and offers up a collection of amazing one of a kind pieces and vintage items that are perfectly suited to unique interiors.

So, of course as someone who takes photos of their home for instagram and the blog, I had to ask Richard a few questions about what he's learned about perfecting shots for magazines from his years in the industry.

A: Give me some tips on getting magazine worthy photos for instagram and the blog.
R: Edit! Always lighten and brighten, unless you're going for a moody shot. Focus on one center idea or motif. I prefer natural lighting when possible, and typically use the Clarendon filter (most likely out of habit since it's the very first one to select from). I love how this intensifies bright colors and lightens up whites, which can sometimes photograph with a blue, pink, or yellow hue. 

A: Are there some common mistakes to watch out for? 
R: Keep it consistent! Your instagram page is an extension of your personal life and brand. Continue building on your aesthetic so your page doesn't read as an all-over-the-place mashup of random ideas. I'm tired of seeing stacks of fabrics on a table in the "mood board" style. Give your viewer an idea of the application ... is one on a sofa, with the other three as pillows? Keep your posts very cohesive. The pages I find myself visiting the most are the ones were I know I'll consistently see beautiful and inspiring ideas.

A: What's the most overused accessory you're seeing out there right now? 
R: Geodes! I'm over it. Geode bookends, geodes embedded into furniture, geodes on top of boxes, geode lighting - the list goes on. 

In addition to his instagram, Richard has a beautiful website where you can see some of his photographed work in interiors, floral, and still life styling. Having worked with fabrics and papers for shoots that we haven't even seen yet, I wondered if Richard might be able to share some trends he sees coming for the future.

A: Any trends you're seeing? 
R: The return of Pretty! FINALLY! Slowly but surely, chintz florals and pretty Chinoiserie patterns are replacying the null grey and beige linen rooms of yester-two years ago. Velvets are coming around strong for fall, but in calming spa blues and celedon greens instead of the typical jewel tones. 

A special thank you to Richard for sharing part of his beautiful portfolio on the blog, and for answering these questions and helping us to better define our decorating vocabulary! 


  1. This is an excellent post. The use of "curate" feels like an attempt to express that the choices shown were conscious, that editing of stuff was involved. "Styling" also is about choices, as well as an admission of "posing" a space for a photo. Bringing things together in a way that wouldn't work in daily life but that cut out dead space in a photo. Taking upholstered furniture out on the lawn. Illogical items that are added only for their shape or color.
    All of it is fine and well, but it seems like we've gone a little overboard since decorating went from magazines on paper, shot by professionals, to Instagram, shot mostly by amateurs. Beautifully decorated spaces are like works of art, but life isn't styled.

  2. Taste of France said it all. This was such an inspiring post so unusual on blogs these days.