Experienced bed stylist, Allegra Hsiao, gives us an inside look at the trick to her trade. Hsiao's partial client list includes: Pottery Barn, West Elm, Crate and Barrel and Target. We interviewed her for the inside scoop on the ins and outs of bed styling.
What do you love about bed styling?
I love textiles and fabrics. (So much so that when just out of college, I was considering going into fashion design). Soft styling goes one step further than most prop styling in that activates the viewer's sense of touch. You can allow people to "feel" softness with their eyes! I also love how fabrics interact with light. They are so organic in the way they move creating a beautiful effect on camera.
What are the challenges?
While light is fabric's best friend, it can also be its worst enemy. With the wrong lighting, minuscule wrinkles are revealed and soft goods can appear stiff. It's very important to work with a photographer who knows how to work with you to make soft goods look their very best.
Another challenge is keeping people from touching the bed. It sounds silly, but even walking by a sheet too fast can make it move. One time a homeowner's two teenage kids and their cat slept in a velvet bed that I had styled before it had been shot! Cat hair and velvet are a stylist's worst nightmare.
What are the five most important things to consider when preparing and shooting a bed shoot.
Angle - Beds are typically shot from the side, from the foot, from 3/4 angle, and sometimes from above. Knowing what angle you are shooting from completely determines how to build a bed.
Light - Where is the light coming from? This determines how you angle the pillows and make the fabric move.
Style - Tidy bed or Loose bed. Find out what direction your client wants.
Plan - Conceptualize the bed in your head ahead of time, deciding the order that each item will go onto the bed. Then prep/iron the items in reverse order. For example, if your bed will have a sheet, duvet, and then quilt on top, then iron in this order - quilt, duvet, and sheet. When taking them off the rolling rack and placing them on the bed, the sheet, which needs to go down first, will be on top!
Time - When on location, a shot will have a time of day when the light is best. Find out when the bed will be shot and try to be finished with the bed at least 40 min prior to that. That will give you, the photographer, and the art director plenty of time to work out the kinks (pun intended).
What are the five most important things to have in your kit as a bed stylist?
Tank Iron - Never leave home without it.
T-pins - For everything!
Aluminum foil tape and/or high quality clear packing tape - To support the pillow flange. Clear tape for fabric that is translucent.
Lint Roller - No explanation necessary.
Batting - Props pillows up, fluffs bedding, fills corners, etc.
Is there something about a bedding shoot that would surprise people, sort of a “who knew,” idea?
Most everything would surprise people, I'd imagine. The mattresses are usually fake and made of styrofoam. The sets are usually fake too. The beds look gorgeous on the camera side, but on the other side look like dirty shambles of stuffing! Often times there are up to 3 comforters on the bed to make it appear lofty. Fitted sheets are rarely ever used, as flat sheets can be faked to look like a fitted sheet. Most bed stylists use TONS of pins and batting. I'm unusual as a bed stylist in that I try to style my beds as close to reality as possible. In other words, you could probably sleep in my bed without getting stabbed by a pin.
Pro Tip on how to make your bed at home look gorgeous?
(Honestly, ironing your sheets would be the best way to make any bed look crisp and fresh, but realistically, who has time for that?)
Layer beautiful textures upon one another. For example, Egyptian cotton sheets with a Belgian linen duvet and a brushed silk quilt on top with a wool throw at the foot of the bed. Textiles like these look great on a made bed, as well as in a jumbled up mess after you've slept in them. Nothing is more inviting than layers of fabrics that you want to snuggle up in time and time again.