Lies we tell in our catalog about the rooms you're seeing

While you only see the clean, stylishly decorated rooms that are published in the catalog, the real magic happens behind the camera. Therefore, we thought it might be fun to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into making our rooms catalog ready.

Creamy, White Dining Room from Ballard Designs

Every shoot starts with a big, empty house. Yes, we really do shoot in actual homes we rent. We typically set up and shoot four to five rooms at once, which requires a lot of hands on deck, including directors, stylists, prop coordinators, photographers and assistants. And with all the stacks and stacks of props, ladders, cameras, monitors, cords and more — well, it’s complete chaos at every shoot.

So how do we manage to make every room look so good? Below, we let you in on a few tricks of the trade.

For a light, airy look, we recommend tie top curtains which have a casual feel

1. It’s kind of like a double-stuffed Oreo…

Have you ever flipped through the catalog and thought a bed looked so cozy you wished you could crawl in under its covers? There’s a reason for that. Our bedding stylist sneaks an extra goose down comforter underneath the bedding to ensure it looks as plump and fluffy as the bed of your dreams. Pssst…we also wrap pillow inserts in extra batting so they look extra full and plump!

Learn how to group art pieces together

2. Hey, where did the light switch go?

While some tricks we do on location, many others we do after the fact on the computer. To achieve that clean, uncluttered look in every room, we strip out the ordinary details you’d find in every room, such as light switches, door knobs, air vents and can lights.

Benjamin Moore's Sugarcane wall color

3. Now you see Benjamin Moore’s Sugarcane, now you don’t.

Paint colors are inherently difficult to photograph, so while we often do paint the walls of the homes we’re using to shoot, we often correct the colors to make them look more accurate to the swatches we’re sharing here on How to Decorate. There are also times when we decide later that we aren’t wild about a paint color we picked, so occasionally, we’ll change the wall color altogether!

Solution dyed outdoor fabrics

4. Who celebrates Christmas in July? We do!

When you work six months in advance of a publish date, you’re forced to shoot out of season. Shooting a Christmas tree indoors is one thing, but it becomes a bigger challenge when we have to shoot outdoor furniture in the dead of winter. With blue hands and chattering teeth, we brave the elements to create that relaxing summer vibe. But the environment doesn’t always cooperate, which is why we always use a little movie magic to make the grass look greener…and less dead.

Chandelier should hang 30-36 inches above the dining table

5. Come hang out with us.

Every Ballard room deserves a focal point, and that’s often a beautiful chandelier or pendant. The only problem is, many rooms we shoot in aren’t outfitted to accommodate lighting. So if we didn’t crop our photos, what you’d see is a light fixture hanging from a pole!

Peacock blue velvet drapery panels in a living room

6. Can we get some more light in here?

If you read our blog, you know we’re big proponents of using multiple sources of light in every room. Therefore, we love to prop rooms with lamps. But have you ever noticed they’re not actually plugged in — because there’s no cord or outlet? While many homes today have outlets in the floor or in places where you would naturally need one, we don’t use them. Again, it’s all about creating that effortlessly clean look and feel. But if you like that lamp, you will have to plug it into an actual outlet for it to work.

Mirror gallery wall with leopard print ottomans and pillows

7. Mirror, mirror on the wall, whose reflection is in the shot?

Shooting mirrors is naturally problematic in that they reflect everything behind the camera, and that’s often the photographer or an undesirable background. That’s why we use digital trickery to create an obvious reflection that’s not distracting, which may be a window or wall in the room.


8. A room with a view.

The same goes for creating those pleasant views outside windows. In reality, the view may be the wrong season, or a little too ordinary (think a driveway full of our moving vans or the next door neighbor’s garage).

Louisa metal posted bed with tie top drapery

9. Bye, bye, wrinkles.

No home will ever look as good as the one in the catalog, because stylists sweat every single detail. For example, we steam everything within an inch of its life. Drapery, throw pillows, chair skirts, sheets — you name it — we spend hours steaming it all for that picture perfect detail. Now who has the time to do that in real life?

Living room with coral color palette

10. Hmmm…maybe we’re missing something?

A piece of art can make all the difference in the room, because it can pull the color scheme together or simply add visual impact. Sometimes, when we’re reviewing images after the shoot, we decide to add in wall art for those very reasons. So what you see on the walls may not actually be in the original photo.

Have we ruined the fantasy? Let’s hope not.

For more design inspiration, visit our Pinterest Boards, or find more gorgeous rooms in our Photo Gallery

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