Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9 Interview With A Stylist: Molly Sinnett

Having Better Homes & Garden's Storage magazine pop by for a photo-shoot this summer, was one incredible experience.  It was really exciting to be on the other side of the glossy mag process.  I have a bit of a magazine hoarding problem and love to spend hours scouring the pages for inspiration, so to take a peek at the behind the scenes was really educational and interesting, and I tried to tuck a few mental notes in my pocket.

When the crew arrived, I was blessed with meeting a Professional Stylist, Molly Sinnett, who was here to ensure every photo taken would come to life within the magazine.  She used her styling skills to really tell our story and be able to "show" how our systems work within the article.  To do that, it may mean tweaking some accessories, adding some finishing touches and taking things to that next level.  It was so incredibly interesting to me to watch her do her magic, so I took advantage of the opportunity to sit down and chat with her and find out a little more about how she waves that styling wand to create the most incredible rooms.

Where did you acquire your incredible styling skills?

"I have always had a feel for it.  I grew up in a home where my mom collected art and antiques, not excessively, but she had a great eye for it.  That helped me to appreciate art, styles and shapes.  I also traveled a lot as a kid so I saw a lot of different places and had the opportunity to absorb many styles.

When I became an editor at Meredith, I had was able to work on many titles and learned a lot from the designers we worked with.  I have always been a DIYer and had an eye for it, but I have also cultivated it from the minds and talents I have worked with as well.  I actually have a degree in journalism, however, styling became an offshoot from my experiences at Meredith."

What was your most memorable photo shoot and why?

"The projects I enjoy and that stand out the most, are typically the ones in which my co-workers astound me.  I love seeing what we have the ability to create in the Meredith studio.  We recently created a kitchen from IKEA with built-ins, along with a dining room.  It was a huge project and in the end it looks just like a home, however, it is actually in a studio.  It is incredible.

Also, anything we do for the Do It Yourself magazine is always fascinating.  We talk about an idea and don't always know if it will work, but 98% of the time when it actually comes to fruition and you see it in the photo, it is a GREAT feeling.  You really never know how it will turn out since we don't use a testing center, we are just sharing what works for us.  There may be a better or alternative way to do a project, and although we do fail along the way from time to time, it's always exciting to see the ideas and visions come to life.

I have worked on everything from puppies to babies to Halloween costumes to closets and family rooms, but we always know how to make each project fun and give each one a sense of intensity."

{Molly Sinnett BHG Magazine Cover}

What are your favorite no fail color combinations?

"I find that I use a lot of wheat colored gold and I also like to use blues frequently as well.  Blues especially can look really classy, no matter the hue or tone, however, blue can also look really funky.  There is nothing that you can put with blue that is "bad", it really goes with just about anything.  I am also a warm fall color person, but if you look at a lot of my work, it is not always how I style.  We tend to style with bright and saturated colors that read well within in the magazine.

I have had a few brick red sofas, which I surprisingly use as a neutral, and I can change the colors around it and it always changes the way it looks, but it always seems to work.  I also love to use orange, based on some of the more current trends {blues and greens, oranges and pinks}.

When looking for colors for a room, I tend to select an accessory or the most powerful piece in the room, and go from there to determine the colors around it.

If you like and want color, but are nervous to go bold, try starting small and bring color in with pillows, throws and accessories."

What tips and tricks do you find yourself using frequently at each photo shoot?

"The number one thing is more is better.  Options are always better.  We like to make sure we have a way to solve any problem whatever it might be.  Extra pillows, throws and flowers are great opportunities to fill a space.  We are always trying to think of things the homeowner may not always think of.  Books can also always solve all sorts of styling problems."

What is the secret to styling perfectly pretty bookcases?

"First, books.  Simple as that.  They always work visually.  Above and beyond that, it is always about stepping back and editing.  It is always about creating a balance; ensuring that sizes and heights are visually interesting and correctly scaled.  Something big needs something small and something vertical needs something horizontal.  It is also important to create something for your eye to land on.  I really like to layer, so when doing shelves I may lean a picture in the back and place some storage in the front.  Last but not least, it is always important to consider functionality; a vase may look great, but may not hold a function."

{Molly Sinnett BHG Magazine Cover}

Where are your favorite places to shop for home goods and accessories?

"I love to get rugs and lamps from Shades of Light, Target and Chiasso.  I also like Home Decorators, 2Modern, Room & Board, Company C, Design Within Reach, Wisteria, The Container Store, Anthropologie and Viva Terra.  It typically depends on what I am working on, and I try to check out many different places so I have the option of picking through things."

What tips do you have for achieving a high end style on a limited budget?

"For me, it is all about picking a signature piece that you want to spend your money on, and then let the remaining details act as your knock-offs.  Signature pieces should be a splurge, but then you can sew your own throw pillows or recover a chair.

It is a good idea to find a look you like within a magazine and try to mimic the style by picking apart the shapes and accessories.  Select the items you are willing to spend money on that will make a strong impact.

I like shopping at Target because they are great for replicating higher end styles.  And if you constantly like to change things, as I do, it is important to be willing to DIY things.  Recover an ottoman with your own fabric, paint the walls or some accessories, make your own roman shades or window treatments etc... When shopping, keep that in mind and select items that are modifiable and can be changed over time.

Also, think about the little things that make a big impact, like taking jackets off of your books when you put them on your bookshelf or coffee table.  White vases and bowls always work anywhere, and always remember to use something that is unique to you.  It doesn't matter how much it cost, it is about finding items that have meaning.

Etsy is a really great place to find artwork, and then you can put your own spin on the piece by selecting a good frame.

A few things grouped together can also make a huge impact.  Scale gives a high end appearance as well.  A large chunky lamp looks higher end than a small lamp.  Use wallpaper on the back of a bookcase vs. an entire wall, it will save you some money but still give that wow statement."

{Molly Sinnett BHG Magazine Cover}

What are the key elements to giving a room a finished and polished effect?

"It is all about making a room feel cozy.  Curtain panels are my favorite way to make a room feel warm and comfortable, because they soften edges and cut down noise.  They can be any color, but they always make a space feel polished.

It is also important to mix and match colors and textures.  People often think that everything needs to be the same color, but I disagree.  You need to bring in things that may not be in your "color pallette" by bringing in collected items such as books, furniture pieces and baskets.  I also think all rooms should have small doses of black or dark tones to create balance {think chair legs, book spines, hardware, etc...}.

When I go on location or work on a room, I always add fresh flowers, which may not always be practical, but it always creates a comfort and an impact.  Pillows and throws are also important to bring in texture and soften the space.  It is a good idea to be careful about having too many photos on flat surfaces, and consider mixing in pieces of art with family portraits on the walls.

I like to look at a whole room in smaller bites {vignettes}, so I can focus on individual areas of the room vs. the entire room, which makes the design process a lot less overwhelming.  Also, be willing to play with furniture arrangements.  It is OK to place a chair in front of a bookcase, even though it may not feel like it "makes sense".

Lamps are always a nice addition to a space since lighting can make all the difference to the atmosphere and impacts the mood of the room.  But in natural light, they can be visually interesting and act as a sculpture as well."

I am so grateful for the time I had to spend with the fabulous Molly and the opportunity to sit down and chat all things "design".  Now, hopefully you have a few tips you can tuck away in your pocket as well!


  1. Awesome interview! I especially loved the question about styling bookshelves. I always needs tips on that.

  2. What an excellent and very interesting interview!! I have lived in the Des Moines area most of my life and Meredith company is a great place for our community! It employs a lot of people and they are a great place to work!! Thanks for all of the great info! I realllllly wanted to put a chair in front of a built in book case and I now "have permission" to try it out! Thanks again!

  3. How I would love to see my home styled! This interview is the next best thing, though, as it is great to get an expert's opinions and suggestions - thank you.

  4. Ok it is not often that I say I am jealous but today I am I so want that magazine ,there. Have said it by the way your blog is amazing really need to get mine updated

  5. Fantastic interview! I am always interested to find out what I can do to make my photos look better and there were some great tips here. I especially loved what Molly said about using high/low items and introducing things not in the color scheme. Sometimes rooms can look too done, and I love that she makes a conscious decision to add a bit mix.

  6. Love this information! Thanks for all the inspiration! Also, when you use the term "color pallet" the word pallet refers to the actual wood pallet. I think you meant "color palette".

  7. I devoured every word of this. so nice to hear what Molly had to say. I appreciated her sharing some of her favorite sources. What a dream job.

  8. No offense to New York or L.A., but I love that such a high-style career was launched in the Midwest! Great tips that lamps can be thought of as sculpture, and that family photos can be mixed with art work. I never would have thought to do that. Lots of great info here!
    -Anita Y. in southern California

  9. great post! Thanks for having her over for an interview Jenn! No matter how long I work at this DIY thing, I always feel like there's so much more to learn- keeps it fun and interesting!!! :)


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