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Debunking the Myth of the Perfect Home

You’re probably reading this after having jumped over from Facebook or Instagram. Maybe from Pinterest. Regardless of the social media channel you spend the most time on, I bet you were inundated with imagery of perfect homes in your feed today.

Even if you put the phone down or step away from the computer, there’s no escaping these images. Every home design magazine that lands on your doorstep – or the ones you walk past on the way to work – are also covered in glossy, high resolution photographs of perfect spaces.

There’s usually a really joyous woman standing at the window in these images. Sometimes with a really well behaved toddler playing with a toy that conveniently ties into the colour palette of the room. There could also be a Boston Terrier or Pug on the sofa. As if it’s ever allowed on the sofa.

The secret I’ve come to reveal to you today is this: these homes don’t normally look like that. So you can stop feeling bad about your own interior right now.

IKEA Nipprig range - woven side table and armchair

Light and Bright can be Dull and Dreary

I’ve been in homes that have been photographed. And the spaces in-person can look dramatically different from the image you see online or on the page of a publication.

The truth is, lighting is often the main issue in when it comes to photographing homes.

A phenomenal stylist or designer can create a room that looks truly magnificent. They can also design a space that functions wonderfully for the home owner. But often that doesn’t work for a photoshoot. Sometimes rooms look dull, dark or dreary on film, when they look rather stunning in-person. And so the photographer is required to light the room a lot on the day, and light it a lot in post-production.

I only tell you this because so many of us see these light-filled homes and dream of our own spaces being as bright. So that’s my first point to highlight to make you feel better; there’s a bit of smoke and mirrors at play here. And rightfully so. I don’t want to look at a photo of a dark and poorly-lit home, do you? Homes, like models, are meant to be aspirational. So long as we know the tricks of the trade, I’m happy to go along for the ride.

industrial palette bed with ikea bedding

Look can Trump Function

Another element you might not realise is that rooms are styled and shot in ways they would never be used day-to-day. That sofa facing the window, with the home owner admiring the view, might not even be in that position normally.

Sometimes stylists also bring additional decor into homes to pad them out a little. It doesn’t happen a lot (most stylists I speak to try to keep the authenticity of the home intact), but it does happen. Sometimes the way a home is used and looks normally can appear quite bare or barren on film. And so items are brought in. Especially if it’s a style story on a particular colour or trend, the room will need to be stocked with items in that colourway.

That’s my second point to highlight to make you feel better; the home owners don’t always own everything you see in the finished image, nor does their room appear that way normally.

industrial living room with cow hide rug and exposed brick

The Styled Social Media Home

Even on social media, items of people’s ‘everyday homes’, with captions like “crazy morning here”, have been styled with an inch of their lives for up to an hour. Items moved in and out, 100 photos of the same spot taken, and the ideal image put through a dozen apps before it’s posted online.

These apps lighten the shot, can blur out or remove certain unappealing elements, and can even allow you to sharpen the image and change the colour and ambience of the photo (Snapseed is the app I use to do this in my own space, so I highly recommend it).

Trust me when I say that a lot of the images you see on Instagram are anything but instant. They’ve been taken days or weeks ago, slaved over for hours, and then posted online as if it was a spontaneous moment of magic they captured before they ran out the door.

Again, I’m all for this approach (and edit my own snaps religiously); show me that photo of the soft grey sofa with the dusty pink cushion, macrame weave on the wall, and fresh flowers perfect strewn across the marble coffee table. I love the fantasy of it all. But let’s just know that this is what that moment is; fantasy.

IKEA Nipprig range - wicket pendant light

The Moral of the Story

I work in the interiors industry, I’ve styled photoshoots myself, and been on sets with brands many times. So I don’t write any of this to put shit on the industry. I love the industry. I love the magic. I appreciate the hours and hours of work it takes to get one shot right.

The reason I tell you this so you can realise that your home is actually pretty amazing. That if given the right lighting, with things moved into a particular configuration, and with a few bonus pieces of decor brought in by a stylist and with a talented photographer… it too could be worthy of a front cover.

So get styling, snapping and editing your own home photos. It’s fun to have a play with decor, to edit the image, and to post it online for the world to see. There’s nothing better than inspiring someone else by the magic you’ve created with an image of your home (and some awesome editing tools).

Just realise that nobody has the perfect home. Just a good amount of styling, photography and editing talent behind them.

What’s your take on the homes you see styled and snapped for publications? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

All images in this post come via IKEA.

Outside of writing the TLC Interiors blog, Chris is an interior stylist and author. You can also catch him on your TV screens as a designer on Channel 10's Changing Rooms. If you'd like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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