A Stylists Guide To Creating The Anabelle Look - By Heather Nette King.
Being asked to style the imagery for your favourite homewares brand is, I’m not going to lie, a massive thrill. And to be asked to do it for a third season in a row – eep – I was utterly chuffed. It’s such an incredibly fun process from the start, and it encompasses so many elements of photographic styling that I thought I’d write this little journal piece to describe our process and include loads of styling tips and tricks to help you recreate the Anabelle look in your own home.
The styling stage usually starts about one month before we pack our vans for the shoot, when I visit the gorgeous Sage x Clare HQ in Bayswater, VIC to view the new range and to hear about the inspiration and influences behind the prints, patterns and pieces. Because there are always soooo many beautiful new pieces, it could be easy to get overwhelmed, but once you see them all (and start breathing again) you realise just how cleverly each collection is put together… but also how each collection draws on previous ones, so that you can seamlessly add new pieces to your existing Sage x Clare loot at home.
Shoot prep at Sage x Clare HQ.
HEARING THE TALE OF ANABELLE
First up, Sage x Clare’s founder, Phoebe tells the tale of her inspiration for the shoot. With Anabelle, she took us on a journey back through some of the most visually exciting times in recent history. She looked to the multi-layered chic of rural European estates – you know the ones – where every room, big and small, features a confident, un-self-conscious and unpretentious gathering of pieces gathered over the years: from family pieces, to some mid 20th century vibes and even some curvalicious seventies sofas. On top of this, imagine floral prints in both large and small scale, checks, swirls, pin-stripes and fabrics in a myriad of textures. It’s an enchanting, bohemian land of flowers, books, cakes and endless cups of tea – and I fell in love with it hook, line and sinker.
STYLING TAKE HOME TIP: Dare to daydream. What are your favourite go-to eras in history, or your holidays, or books, or films? Think about how they make you feel, and isolate the bits that linger in your memory, and have the confidence to add a little of that emotional decorating to your own home. You will notice it, and I guarantee your family and friends will too.
BED MAKING MAGIC
I think we decided on making about 15 beds for the Anabelle shoot (maybe it was more or less – that’s where the incredibly lovely and wildly efficient Erin keeps us on track with her master lists. We would all be lost without Erin!). The trick with mixing and matching so many beautiful pieces is that if you don’t have a plan, you could end up with a load of photos that look quite similar - very beautiful, but still quite similar. So, to avoid this we start with a rule that for each quilt cover we shoot, there must be a Euro pillowcase in the same design. From there we build different stories, to create some beds that are bolder in pattern, and colour, some that are a little gentler, some that are more feminine, some more gender neutral, etc. Some will appeal to lovers of blue, or brown, others to mauve and purple girls like me. This involves a load of floorspace being covered with heaps of samples, and we mix and match until we feel we have nailed the right balance.
Featured: Constance Linen Pillowcase Set.
STYLING TAKE HOME TIP: Think about using the rule above to create a certain dominant starting point for your bed.That way, when you add more colour and pattern, the look will still feel cohesive and strong.
CUSHION WORK, CUSHION MANAGEMENT, CUSHIONRY, CUSHIONAGE
We have a lot of creative words for it – that final stage of adding to the beds (and the sofas and chairs) with Sage x Clare’s mind-bogglingly beautiful collection of cushions. It’s something that I like to leave until we are on set, with the bed partially made with the sheets, quilt cover and pillowcases. I love to draw on other elements of the room before adding these final touches. Sometimes the rooms will be a little darker and moodier, and I like to roll with that by choosing cushions that will add to the drama a little. Sometimes there will be a big whopping camelia bush outside the window, or a terrific blue sky, or you’ve just bought home a bunch of yellow daffodils from the market. When you look to the surrounding environment and take inspiration from it before adding the final touches, the bed, and the room, will come together so beautifully.
Some flowers we prepared earlier and the rain that never stopped.
STYLING TAKE HOME TIP: Look around to the rug, the curtains, the view from your window, the books on your shelf, and draw on those colours when selecting the cushions for your bed. It’s a superb way of creating a colourful, yet nuanced bedroom scene. Your eyes will notice the little colour links everywhere and thank you for the beauty. This is also a great way to make sure your bed itself doesn’t fall into the trap of looking stiff, and too matchy-matchy.
FINDING THE PERFECT PROPS TO CREATE ANABELLE’S HOME
When I leave the Sage x Clare HQ after learning about the new range, my head is usually spinning, the adrenalin is running high and I usually have a massive urge to head straight out and secure a few props (just so I can breathe again). My starting point for propping is the tale and, of course, the prints. Jemma’s exquisite print designs are whirling through my head, and I try to take a mental snapshot of the new colours so my propping antenna is super-tuned. Sometimes I will head straight to my usual haunts on the way home, Hunted Vintage in Bayswater, and Waverley Antique Bazaar. Propping is a funny pursuit. Sometimes you’ll be attracted to the most random things (90-year-old concrete frog, anyone? 1950’s plastic shop flowers?). I’ve learnt over the years to trust my instincts, and to always throw in a few kooky pieces. Hell, some are even borderline weird, but given the right context, they might just be the thing that takes an image from lovely, to incredible. It’s all in the balance, and practice makes perfect.
A look inside my bedroom pre Anabelle shoot.
For the Anabelle propping, I had a bit of an advantage – well two actually. They are my two Aladdin’s cave storage cages. I have collected old floral china and plates and platters and vases for years. I am a hopeless romantic and can’t leave an op shop empty handed. So, a quick trip to Moorroom in Carnegie to load the car before the shoot had us sorted.
Featured: our three new oven mitts.
Shop the complete 'Dine' range here.
STYLING TAKE HOME TIP: If you love vintage, shop hard and shop often. I have loads of people say to me that they never find anything good in op shops or vintage stores. There is a bit of luck involved, but if you do it weekly instead of monthly, your chances are greatly improved. Also, if you love something, no matter the reason, be it nostalgia, the colour, the humour – go with it. It’s what makes you you, and your home, yours.
CREATING THE ANABELLE SETS
Having a stunning location in which to create the sets is the biggest advantage as the bones for each shot are there. A mix of large and cosy rooms with pretty leadlight windows, high ceilings, a garden outlook – these are the perfect base and The Oxford House in Hepburn Springs had them in abundance. It also had a large number of superb bathrooms – each with incredible tiles on the floor and vivid cabinetry. An enchanting garden also helped, but unfortunately the weather had other plans and we didn’t get to shoot much out-of-doors, but them’s the breaks and we just applied our imagination to the indoors instead.
After emptying each of the rooms of their existing furniture we bought in the beds and other furniture pieces sourced from Sage x Clare fabulous shoot partners like Vintage Posters Only, House of Orange, Nord Modern, Lights Lights Lights, Curated Spaces and Heatherly Design Bedheads. We lay the super soft, sink-your-toes-into Sage x Clare rugs and as soon as they are in place, it’s then time for my favourite part of being a stylist – that is the creation of the make-believe of the set. This is where I get into Anabelle’s head and heart and start to layer with art (modern and vintage, large and small, prints and graphics, etc), flowers (as many as I have vases for), and the other props gathered for the shoot. Thankfully Anabelle is a complete maximalist, so less was definitely not more and we kept layering and layering until we felt the balance was right. I always aim to create sets that support the product rather than overpower it, or worse, underwhelm it, and sometimes it isn’t until you look at it on screen that you know you have got it right. So, once I have ‘roughed-in’ the sets, I let them settle until the incredible Armelle comes in with her eye for an angle and vibrant shooting style. We play around for a little longer, pow-wow as a group to make sure everyone is happy, then we break our hearts a little and we tear everything out of this make-believe land we have created, and we move onto the next shot. It’s bittersweet with every single shot.
STYLING TAKE HOME TIP: To create the multi-layered look of Anabelle in your own home, the best trick is to keep adding and adding the pieces that appeal to you and keep taking a step back to observe the balance of the room. Is there too much near one wall, and the other wall is bare? Address the imbalance. Is it feeling too cluttered? Leave some space between your objects rather than lining things up like ducks in a row. Give your eyes a chance to rest a little in between taking in each layer of beauty. As with all styling, the more you practice it, the easier it will come to you, and the more enjoyment you will get from creating your own perfectly curated haven in your own home.
x hnk x