This furniture staging inspiration guest post is from Imogen Aitchenson of Coco & Clementine. Imogen won a furniture Staging Award from the Flip Runway Awards for this project!
When I was initially approached to write this blog post, I was pretty surprised as staging and photography have always been something of a challenge for me.
‘I don’t have fancy photography equipment’
I don’t have loads of expensive fancy photography equipment and I work from a very normal, average-sized home – filled with toddler clobber and cat paraphernalia. So, my space and resources are somewhat limited!
When I bought these 4 vintage chairs, they weren’t much to look at – classic brown furniture with some pretty unpleasant stained, worn red corduroy upholstery. But the carved detail spoke to me…they had potential!
Waiting for Inspiration
Most of the time, when I buy pieces of furniture, I take a while to get started on them. I wait for inspiration to hit and ideas to percolate.
So, I finished a few commissions then started looking for material. I spent hours scrolling through www.loomefabrics.co.uk (they have some seriously beautiful designs) and then I stumbled across ‘The One’ – An Alice in Wonderland print designed in 1920 by Charles Voysey.
I paired this with subtle green and blue tones using Fusion Mineral Paint (my go-to for virtually everything paint related), Antiquing Glaze and a metallic wax distressed look finish.
I re-upholstered the chairs with flame retardant foam and had the fabric treated to ensure it was also Fire Retardant (if you plan to re-upholster furniture, there are laws regarding this). From there my ideas kind of snowballed.
Mad Hatter’s Tea Party!
Probably craving some drama after months of lockdown (I’m also an ex-Primary teacher from Oxford – prime Alice land), I decided to stage a surreal and gravitationally challenged Mad Hatter’s Tea Party from Alice in Wonderland.
I wanted all the weirdness and dreamlike ambience of the original story to come across in my staging.
Originally, I had wanted to stage the scene in Delamere Forest. But during a National lockdown with a ‘Stay At Home’ directive in place, I didn’t think hosting an imaginary tea party in the middle of a forest could in any way be classed as ‘Essential Travel’. So, it was over to Plan B.
Material & Equipment Used
I bought an Alice-esque Fairy Forest backdrop curtain and a piece of grass coloured velvet. I then ransacked the house for all the necessary props – tea cups, playing cards, a pocket watch, fluffy toy rabbit, cake stand, ‘Drink Me’ type bottle, vintage books and so on. (Sadly, my uncooperative Cheshire Cat decided to sit this one out in favour of an all-day snooze).
I decided I wanted to go all out surreal and dreamlike so I rigged up a system of invisible wires and pulleys so that some of the chairs seemed to be half floating or tilted and defying gravity.
This all sounds very hi-tech and sophisticated. What you can’t see – as I set this up in my son’s bedroom – is that only just out of shot was an array of toy vehicles, soft toys and jumbo jigsaws. And the invisible wires and pulleys were hanging off a wardrobe, cot and curtain rail!
It was just a case of trial and error in terms of what wire to place where and how best to support the weight of the chairs but I got there in the end!
Equipment-wise, I already have a backdrop frame that I bought online at relatively low cost. I also have a budget Soft Box lighting kit that has proved invaluable over the last couple of years (see below).
When presenting your furniture, lighting and staging are everything. I’m still on a learning curve but this basic lighting kit has made a huge impact on the quality of my photos.
It consists of a softbox on a tripod with the lightbulb to go with it and a case to store it in.
Shoot from all angles!
When taking photographs of furniture, it’s a good idea to shoot your pieces from a variety of angles.
Given the surreal, dream-like nature of this photoshoot, I ended up contorting myself all over the floor (whilst avoiding fire engines, Bing toys and toy food) to take photos from a whole range of angles – under the chairs, through the legs and hovering over the table).
This was very different to my usual style and I suspect lockdown fatigue had a part to play. But with a couple of hours, a few props, some basic equipment, a lot of imagination and extremely creative use of space, it was achievable.
‘I won an award!’
I’m still learning as I go when it comes to photography and staging but I was over the moon when I won the Flip Runway Distribution Shoot Out Photography Award for these pictures. And if you want a little bit of the surreal in your life, my ‘Alice’ chairs are now available to buy on www.cocoandclementine.co.uk or via my Etsy shop.
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