10 Trusted Decorating Tips from a Prop Stylist That You Can Use at Home

by Kelli Kehler


The beautiful spaces in glossy magazines and on interior design-related websites — and even trending on — can often be the places where our inspiration is sparked. We see one of these images and we think to ourselves, “that’s how I want my living room to look!” or “that’s the coffee table solution I’ve been looking for.” And behind these pretty photographed scenes, there’s someone hard at work tweaking this and that to make the room look like the one your imagination was hoping for all along.

is a prop and interior stylist based in Dallas, TX. Her client roster includes Loloi Rugs, Magnolia Home, World Market, The Container Store and others. “My job is unique in that it is completely behind the scenes,” Hilary says. “All those pretty pictures you see in magazines, advertisements and catalogs… a stylist was a part of making that happen, yet most people have no idea!”

Knowing deep down that she was never going to have a “normal” job, Hilary eventually landed herself in interior and prop styling for photography, combining her personal best of both worlds: art and design. Now it’s her job to shop for and place props, craft a room’s composition, envision the environment she’s creating, nitpick the fine details, and more. She’s picked up quite a few styling tricks along the way, and today she’s sharing 10 of her most trusted with us — and you can use all of them in your own home.

Hilary also breaks down her stylist’s toolkit for all those aspiring stylists out there, so catch those (along with her tips for styling your home) after the jump. For more from Hilary, check out her blog documenting people with unique styles and her podcast . —

Portrait above by | Styling by |Photography by and 

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1. Play up Symmetry: Flanking bookshelves is an especially effective way to arrange a space symmetrically. Whether it’s beside a fireplace, a sofa or a desk, symmetry calls attention to itself and makes any space look grander than it is.

2. Pair up Opposites: You’ve likely seen the trend of using unmatched chairs at your dining table, but did you know you can do the same thing in your living room? The key is to match two chairs of similar scale but different design styles.

3. Go Dark: Black walls, navy sofa, chocolate brown art… In a world of white walls and bright light, a deeply colored room feels unexpected, chic and dramatic.

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4. Layer Your Rugs: Nothing world-changing here. This is just a good old-fashioned stylist’s trick for creating warmth and depth on the floor.

5. Bring the Dining Table into the Living Room: This is an unexpected entertaining alternative to serving food in the dining room. Instead, gather around the living room and graze from a nearby dining table. Everyone knows it’s more fun to eat on the sofa anyways!

6. Think Creatively About Your Table Options: There are so many more options than you might expect. I’ve used storage chests for coffee tables and bar carts for side tables. Even a stack of old books can be used to hold a drink or snack!

7. Utilize the Space Under Your Coffee Table: If your table has open legs, this is a smart way to maximize on unused space. At the risk of it looking cluttered or disorganized, though, collect items such as books or throw blankets in a large tray or basket.


8. Forget the Gallery Wall: Go big and graphic with oversized artwork! Pairs make a strong, symmetric statement but one single piece can give the illusion of a mural. Either way, your walls will thank you.

9. Any Ledge Can Be a Decorative Moment: Mantel shelves are prime opportunity to make a decorative statement. Layer it with your favorite art, something organic and an interesting piece of lighting to bring an empty space to life.

10. Color-Code Your Books: Organizing your library by color can be a visually striking way to arrange objects artfully while also streamlining what can otherwise very easily look cluttered.

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BONUS – The Most Important Things in My Styling Kit

As a prop stylist, it’s ALL about the tools. Or, as it’s known in the industry, a stylist’s “kit.” Your kit is your membership card, so to speak. It’s what separates you as a professional from the amateurs. Your kit is essentially a bag of tools that a stylist brings to set in case of any given need or dilemma. It’s like a Mary Poppins bag of pins and clippers, wire and cleaners. You never want to be caught without your kit!

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Glass cleaner
Microfiber cloth
Glue dots
Floral scissors
Picture hanging wire
Goo Gone
Green Glo
Lint roller

See behind-the-scenes styling adventures with Hilary on her .

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  • Loved them all!! What’s your input about painting the ceiling a color other than white? My walls are a bright blue/green.


    • Just keep in mind that colors other than white, absorb extra light, so your rooms will look very much darker. I just painted my ceilings white after years of an artichoke green…what a difference. A wall paper pattern with a white background on the ceiling would be better in my opinion unless you have a LOT of windows and don’t live south of the great lakes where you are prone to cloudy skies even in the summer. Good luck.

  • My grandparents in England had a round dining table in the sitting room, great for reading or snacking on long winter Sunday afternoons.

  • All of the tips are very helpful and especially the Go Dark one. I think this is the best way to give a home’s interior an awesome look.

  • Great Post….! I like Your home Decoration tips and ideas. This is very helpful tips for my living room. Very unique designs feel so good. You are so creative. Thanks for share your Post.

  • These easy home decor tips are really helpful for people looking to alter the design of their rooms. There is a lot of work that we need to do in order to create the atmosphere of our home! Thanks for these tips.

  • I like how you mentioned playing up symmetry with your designs. It was helpful when you said that symmetry calls attention to itself and can enhance any space. My niece has been wanting to buy new decor for her bedroom. Thinking about these ideas when shopping could be helpful to her.

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