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Before and AfterPhoto shoot styling

Vancouver stylist – How to style a Kitchen for a Photo Shoot – 3 Rules to Follow

By 08/11/2009January 27th, 201746 Comments

When the cabinet manufacturer saw the photos from this kitchen I styled, they hired me to style all the kitchens (and some built-ins) for their new website. They were interested in the high end look of this kitchen website which they emailed me to review.

Above images

My first stop for most of the accessories I needed was Fluff. They have a warehouse full of everything you need (furniture, lighting, accessories) to stage any space. There I picked everything I thought was appropriate based on the photos I had been sent (which is all I had to go by as it was a last minute decision for the client). The first kitchen had cream cabinets and the only colour inspiration in the space was the red Kitchenaid mixer (below):

1. Choose a colour scheme
I decided on a red and yellow colour scheme, because it’s french country which was perfect for this kitchen;

Fluff Rentals
Patti (the owner of fluff) brought up a good point (as I circled around her well stocked shelves waiting for inspiration to strike) I asked her if she had any casserole dishes or pots and she said she specifically doesn’t rent them because she thinks a styled kitchen shouldn’t remind anyone of work (well, cooking is work for some of us :).
Styled by Maria Killam

When I chose the items I needed for this kitchen, the photos did not include the china cabinet you see now on the left (above). When the first images were downloaded into the photographers computer I realized the left side of the kitchen looked like it was floating because there was so much dark on the bottom right of the photograph; so I ran around this clients home to find every red urn and accessory she had and luckily, she had more, so we were able to visually pull the cabinet into the photo and create balance.

Styled by Maria Killam

2. Pick a theme for the food; ie. breakfast, wine & cheese, coffee.

Remember how I’ve said in the past that it’s hard to style a kitchen so it doesn’t look contrived? In this kitchen I chose a coffee and cake theme but, I have seen everything from carrots to wine and cheese and coffee all on the same island because whoever was styling it was thinking only of colour instead of choosing a theme; very important!

The next kitchen was contemporary and I didn’t have any colour inspiration (from the photos besides the cabinet) so I selected a wine & cheese theme and brought in white dishes and a branch for a splash of green and drama:

The above platters were the only thing from Fluff in this kitchen, I didn’t know how big this island was because I didn’t have a good picture of it so I rented both sizes. In the end the larger one was perfect and it was the same light colour as the cabinets!

Styled by Maria Killam
Styled by Maria Killam
3. In a perfect world, you keep everything the way it is for consistency. In this case, we broke that rule, as you can see by the fact that the cheese and fruit tray has been moved to this corner of the kitchen. The photographer Anna Beaudry, had the brilliant idea of inserting a light in the drawer and it sure makes this shot (above) fabulous!
Since my client builds cabinets, we wanted to display the drawers open with dishes so I found the blue rolling pin and a matching rubber rim from a pressure cooker in some other drawers and managed to pull off a coordinated look with her stainless pots and bowls for this image (below).
Styled by Maria Killam

The next kitchen we styled was quite dark so I chose an orange and yellow colour scheme to add some colour and pop!


See the pendant lights in the kitchen (above) when I chose the yellow and orange colour scheme I didn’t consciously pick it based on the colour, it was only when I saw the finished images that I noticed that the colours I chose matched the lights. Whew, I love it when that happens 🙂


I don’t have the full kitchen shot here so I’ll just show the one you already saw in yesterday’s post but here you have the before photos (above) anyway:

Styled by Maria Killam

In this home they had installed cabinets in the office and bathrooms as well, so here are the before and after’s:

I only have this view of the styled bathroom but the two green urns above were placed in between the two sinks with the plant that you can see on the left, with this much brown we needed a shot of something fresh!
Styled by Maria Killam
This was the bookshelf in the office, if I had more time I would have colour coordinated the books too, because they had so many great, colourful ones, but it worked out with the accessories I picked up at fluff:

Styled by Maria Killam
Styled by Maria Killam
The books (above) I did coordinate underneath the little piece of art, Anna picked up on that immediately and got a close up shot!
When I picked up these urns (above) I took the smallest one and stuck it in a small bag (for the colour) so that I could continue to shop for other items and it immediately fell through the bottom and smashed onto the concrete into a million pieces. Therefore, it is not in the styled image below 🙂
Styled by Maria Killam
As you can see by the colour scheme in the bookshelf above, I did chose books to match the artwork and blue theme happening here!

Styled by Maria Killam
With this much brown everywhere, what is your guess that pretty soon everyone will start painting their cabinets white?
Related posts:

Styling Kitchens
Styling for Photo Shoots
Staging: Two Day Transformation
White Kitchen Cabinets

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  • rj says:

    I love it. I understand the need to stage a presentation for the customer…the photography, the buyer, etc. And, color coordinated libraries are lovely…and entirely useless for a bibliophile! I suspect I will do the same when my time comes to sell the house, but until then, alphabetical within subject for me!

  • Francine Gardner says:

    Wish you had been in my kitchen to day! My house was being photographed for a design /shelter magazine and i had styled most rooms and gardens…except…the kitchen. it looked so bare and ignored. It could have used your loving touch.

  • Linda at Lime in the Coconut! says:

    oh! That was fun! Disneyworld kinda fun! I want to be you when I grow up… Loved it!

  • Jane says:

    Thanks for the tutorial. I learned so much! Many of your ideas will definitely be incorporated into my home.

    Jane (Artfully Graced)

  • AB HOME Interiors says:

    wow that fluff place looks awesome. I dont think we have a place like that here. You did an awesome job with the kitchens.

  • Maria Killam says:

    Dear rj,
    You are absolutely right! The client immediately (so nice of her to do it for me) put the bookshelf back to the way it was after we were finished!
    Only good for show!

    • Marissa says:

      Haha … My first thought on the bookshelf before reading your caption was “I wish this was color coordinated so it looks less cluttery” 🙂

  • Tracy @ comfortandluxury says:

    Beautiful work, Maria! I especially love the bookcase restyling. Just a bit of rearrangement and what a difference it makes!

  • interiorblogging says:

    Fantastic post. What a great tutorial. I wonder if we have something like Fluff over here, might have to do a little investigating.

  • Gloria Lemay says:

    I was happy to see a book by Frank McCourt there in the photo. Fabulous author, he just died and it's a loss to the world.
    If I ever write a book, I'll get you to pick out the jacket cover so that it will coordinate with the latest interior design trends 🙂

  • Jennifer, Inside Out Colour and Design says:

    Thanks Maria, for another fabulous post. I'm a bit of a visual girl and tend to read my blogs by the photos but I read every last word and was absolutely fascinated. You make it sound so easy but I know it's not. I'll be filing this post away for future reference.

  • guylaine rondeau says:

    when i move into my dream home and finally have my “dream library”, i’ll have you come and make it look pretty like this! with all the beautiful design books i have… i know it’ll be fun!

    (and as long as my design books are together, and my business books together, and so on… i really don’t care about the alphabetical order! i can find any book any time!)

  • Design Esquire says:

    Wow, I love learning how you tackle these jobs and your thinking process while its actually going on. I love your insight. Great post!

  • Annie says:

    it's al about the fluff!

  • home before dark says:

    So glad the bookcase (my favorite part) was allowed to be organic rather than color blocked. As it is, it is a usable work of art.

  • The Changing Look of Friends says:

    Great Post, Maria!
    One thing I can't believe is that the client didn't want to keep the bookcase the way you designed it. Oh what a bad move, I loved what you did to it. Wonderful!

  • Enchanted Rose Studio says:

    Greetings, Maria. I am a newbie to your blog and somewhat new to blogging (about 2 months). I was responding in kind to a comment left to me by Annie of get-me-outta-here. She mentioned you and here I am. I have enjoyed my visit here very much and have added you to my blogroll so that I can follow your posts.


  • Rachel says:

    wow, i never knew how much went into creating beautiful interior shots. Thanks for the glimpse into this seldom-showcased world, and for sharing with us your process. Completely intriguing.

  • Anonymous says:

    Okay now you have hit a new realm of teaching! Wow. You make it seem so logical and simple. I have the confidence to try it myself!


  • Karena says:

    Love the lemon & orange juice vignette! Great ideas on decor settings!

  • mo-zy says:


    As a designer I know how important "staging" is…But when I became an Editor of a design magazine. I realized – how little I knew when you are viewing through the lens of a camera. Nice reminder to us all & great job!

  • Kelly (Arte Styling) says:

    Ahhh… the magic of styling. Thank you for this post! As an interior designer with set decorating/photo styling experience it is often difficult to get clients to BELIEVE me when I tell then how important it is to tend to the details. On my luckiest jobs, I am hired to do the styling in addition to the design. But, I can't tell you how many times I've been in a nicely designed space that just looks unfinished because it hasn't been properly styled. Magazine photos don't style themselves! Thanks for shedding some light.

  • Slices of Beauty... says:

    Great work and tips here, thank you.

  • MicheleB says:

    Lovely work Maria and great information. Great tips and a reminder of how important the "after" shots are. I would love to have a store like Fluff available!

  • jane says:

    A store like Fluff? I'd like to BE Fluff! How great would THAT be? I've been getting ready to redo my kitchen (currently early 50s) and I'm convinced the color for cabinets is white, white, white!

    Also, I borrowed a picture from your blog and posted it on MY blog as a link in my "favorite blog" section. Is that ok with you?


    ~jane ~

  • DesignTies says:

    Yet another super-informative post!! I love how you displayed the books on the bookshelves both horizontally and vertically. I REALLY need to re-do my bookcase!!

    You really put a lot of thought into every little detail in all the kitchens that you styled. And Anna is a great photographer — I love her idea to put the light in the drawer with the bottles. That's a great shot!!


  • Unique Unique Design says:

    Once again a great post with lots of info and valuable tips. You've done a great job.

  • Lauren says:

    looks beautiful!! so important to "stage" for one event- great thinking!!! you make it all easy.
    great one.

  • Ideezine says:


    That was great. For those of us who design it's a great refresher course. For those to don't realize "How'd she do that" is a great lesson in how-to-do. Always fun stuff!


  • Sedona @ MyDivineDelights says:

    Hi! I'm new to blogging and have just "discovered" you! I have to say that it's a bit of fate that you would be talking kitchens!! I love all of the white kitchens that are around today. I'm redoing my kitchen and living way down on the border with Mexico, houses are Spanish/Mediterranean. Stucco and tile. The interiors feel very spanish with reds,golds, and greens. A white kitchen would just look terrible. I'm at a loss, what do those of us with these types of homes do?? I'm not asking for specific design advice really, just frustrated with trying to do a kitchen that doesn't look dated, but doesn't look glaringly out of place!!

    Anyway, I love your blog, I've actually read nearly all of it now! 🙂

    I'll be back!

  • Maria Killam says:

    Dear Sedona,
    How about cabinets in a yellowy creamy colour! Then you still have the timeless feel of 'white' cabinets! I agree stark white in that style would be very bad!!
    Thanks for your comment!

  • Dale says:

    The light in the drawer was a great idea, really successful! (those elderberry drinks are yummy too…)
    And I loved the office staging too.
    Thanks for letting us know about Fluff, I didn't even know they existed.

  • Between you, me and the Fencepost says:

    I'm a little late on the commenting . . . I have noticed the crappy unmatching food in styled kitchens. Thank you for noticing and keeping the theme together. The ladyfinger cake looks delicious.

  • Thunder-Moon says:

    Maria… I just read an old post of yours about the effect of natural light on colour. So… does that mean that if a room (hypothetically – uh huh… yeah… right… hypothetically) has a northeast exposure, that yellow is not a good colour for that room?

    So much to read – so few hours in the day.


  • Maria Killam says:

    Dear Thunder-Moon,
    It means you can't go with a pale yellow, or something that looks like creamy beige, that's what tends to go green, it must be something like BM Dijon!

  • Sedona @ MyDivineDelights says:

    Maria, I was just reading your white kitchen post and you showed a picture of a kitchen you show painted with Benjamin Moore's OC-92 Mannequin Cream, is this what you wer thinking? I like the creamy color, maybe with a dark glaze rubbed in the crevices? Thanks for commenting on my blog! My new cameras on the way, so I'll be posting lots of pictures soon. Also, I emailed you about cost for advice on outside paint colors for our house in Houston. Not sure if you've recieved it? Thanks so much!

  • Diane Hoeptner (hep-ner) says:

    Fantastic post, thanks so much for sharing all Maria! The cabinetry looks wonderful and it is clearly the star of every shot. You have a wonderful sense of color and proportion, I imagine your client was thrilled!

  • Cote de Texas says:

    Boy, you are good! What a great job you did. love the green bathroom – loved the running water!!!!

  • Brillante Home Decor says:

    Just a super fantastic job Maria, I have also noticed, as Joni did,the water running…nice touch. Great staging and great images.

  • Vitania says:

    Really a wonderful post – great tips – love the backlighting on the open drawer. Of course your eye, is fantastic for all themes and colours


  • urbansardines says:

    Wow, I kind of stumbled onto your blog, and I love it! You do such a wonderful job, and I've often wondered how staged homes and photos look so great. It was really great to see the step-by-step brought to life by an expert! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Candied Fabrics says:

    These are fabulous! I especially love how you did the bookcase…this was truly inspired. I'm 99.9% sure those bird pieces are the work of Amy Ruppel, and artist I greatly admire:

  • Donna says:

    Maria, This a phenomenal post! I'm trying to get an idea of how decorating really is done and this went miles towards helping me understand the principles involved.

    I also had a long talk with my friend, Laurie, who (the one who didn't get the idea of A-Z filing, but is an amazing decorator. She's the only person I actually know nearby who can help…and she 'owes' me on all the sewing I do for her. :o)

    I had this sense that one of my biggest mistakes is too many little things versus a few big things. Between that, and the whole house being unified either in theme or color scheme, I really have a lot to work on.

    I am spending the whole evening…just reading your older posts and trying to pick up some of the barebones 'principles' involved in decorating.

    Thanks for this super post!

  • Donna says:

    Hi Maria..I feel so funny coming back and leaving yet another comment..but I sure do love this post! I need to feature this one! I've finally gotten the livingroom completely re-done with our new look and the new carpet and some antique rustic lamps..lots of brown, cream and navy. This will be a great post to show what inspired me! This the best how to I've seen so far on your blog..such great before and after photos.

  • Anonymous says:

    OMG that is great! I love your work! Guess I am not as up-to-date as your usual subscribers! I swear I have fallen in love with your blog… Breathtaking writing! You're an outstanding and talented person, keep up the individuality 🙂

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