More than a year ago, I was contacted by Naomi Jones, a stylist and writer, about having the house photographed for a magazine. At the time, we still hadn’t tackled the hallway, landings or garden, and had loads of little random things to finish off (the downstairs WC was half-wallpapered, for example), but Naomi reassured me that she’d be happy to wait until we were ready. Well, I suppose you’re never actually ‘ready’, but a year felt like sufficient lead time [insert sweating face emoticon] so we provisionally agreed on summer 2019.
It was the first time we’ve ever had photos taken of the house, so I had no idea what to expect. I’d read a few ‘behind the scenes’ type blog posts from folk who had been through the experience, and got a bit scared by one person who advised that obviously the house had to be scrupulously clean and tidy. Crikey, five people and three dogs live in our house, it is literally never going to be scrupulously clean and tidy…. but we did our best to chuck random clutter into cupboards and wash the dog paw prints off the kitchen floor. And of course unpack all the camping equipment from Wales and tidy it away… before packing it all again for our camping trip to the Lakes the following weekend… note to self: do not schedule full-house photoshoots between back to back weekend camping expeditions in the same week as the Love Withington Baths quarterly community meeting…!
It was a bit tricky to prepare because we didn’t know exactly what Naomi and her photographer, Rob Sanderson, would want to shoot. The kitchen, dining room and living room certainly - and a couple of bedrooms, the bathroom, and an outside shot. And possibly the hallway and playroom? I took a chance that our disreputable boot room stuffed with dozens of anoraks, hoodies and shoes probably wouldn’t make the cut, nor would the hideous toy cupboard, and that the magic of Photoshop would magically turn our as-of-yet unpainted dining room radiator from white to dark, and nudge the picture that my husband unhelpfully hung slightly off-centre above our bed.
Naomi asked me to get some flowers, fruit and veg ready to be used as props. Our kind neighbours donated pink roses and blue hydrangeas, and I bought sunflowers and lisianthus from the local shops, along with broad beans, nectarines, pink lady apples, asparagus, and radishes.
When Naomi and Rob arrived, I showed them around the house, and then we left them to it for a bit, while we both hid upstairs and made a few work conference calls from the desk in our eldest girl’s bedroom.
Naomi asked me to choose a few pieces that I’d particularly like to see included in the photos - I immediately said that I’d love to feature my grandfather’s artwork, my grandma’s Wedgwood clock, and the photos of our special family gardens that hang in our kitchen. Hopefully a couple of these precious items make it into the final photographs.
The kitchen got ready for its close-up.
What I was most surprised by was how calm the day was. Naomi and Rob were both very relaxed and discreet, and quietly went about their business with minimal fuss. It was fascinating to see a talented stylist at work. In the living room, for example, she took our big L-shaped sofa apart to create a normal three-seater sofa, added pink contrast cushions, moved it closer to the fireplace, added our pink BoConcept chair as an accent, persuaded my husband to take not only the TV, but the TV stand as well, off the wall, removed all the gubbins from the mantelpiece, and rested a large piece of my grandfather’s original abstract artwork there instead.
All the excitement was too much for the smallest member of the family.
The big dogs weren’t bovvered.
We took a quick break to have lunch outside in the garden - I made Jamie Oliver baked Italian rice for everyone along with a pea, mint and broad bean salad from his ace ‘five ingredients’ recipe book.
The girls arrived home from school, and our eldest promptly threw Naomi and Rob out of her room so she could get changed. Fair enough I suppose.
Our middle daughter likes to live in a deep litter, so we didn’t even attempt to tidy her room. Instead, we made it worse, by chucking the clothes horse and baskets of laundry in here to keep them out of the way.
Despite this, Naomi and Rob still managed to find a little corner to photograph by dint of sweeping all the random items to one side like the parting of the Red Sea.
My husband went to collect our youngest from nursery so we could have a portrait of the whole family in the garden. We tried to include all the dogs but they would only face away from the camera. “Dog bottoms, dog bottoms!” said Rob.
All in all, it was a very lovely day. A big thank you to Naomi and Rob for making our home look so amazing! Although my husband now thinks he’s getting a new TV in compensation for going to the trouble* of taking it off the wall.
*It took about five minutes max.