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Studio Tour: QVC

QVC Studio Tour for Stylist's Own Blog by Joanna Thornhill - The Sets

Whether you’re a die-hard viewer or occasional stumble-upon-during-a-late-night-channel-surf casual voyeur, we all know QVC. But aside from occasionally featuring their numerous homeware products in styling shoots and shopping round-ups, I have to confess I knew rather little about the company. Until now. As part of their 20th (UK) birthday celebrations, they invited a bunch of bloggers, journo’s and ‘slebs to check out their state-of-the-art HQ in Gunnersbury, West London (having moved out of their former home by Battersea Bridge to this custom-built metropolis) to show us how it all goes down. As I used to work in TV production in a former life, and still dabble in the odd bit of set dressing, I was particularly interested to see what goes on behind the glossy veneer, so off I went, camera (and credit card) in tow.

QVC Studio Tour for Stylist's Own Blog by Joanna Thornhill - The Sets2

Arguably the kings of televised home shopping, they remain stoically unaffected by the advent of the Internet during their lifetime (whilst many products are now available to buy from their website, the majority of their sales are still generated from their TV ‘shows’). To lure in viewers in their droves, celebrity guest presenters feature regularly, and are as diverse as Trinny and Susannah to country crooner extraordinaire Dolly Parton, who presenter Miceal Murphy described as an “absolute firecracker” after hanging out with the pint-sized popstress. (New-favourite Dolly fact? Her Twitter description reads as “working 9-5, what a way to make a living”. This almost makes me as happy as teen-lit legend Judy Blume’s one-line profile: “Are you there, twitter? It’s me, Judy” (teens of the 90’s – geddit?). I’m also now considering redoing my own website, to include a giant picture of me in the middle wearing a silver sequin dress, towering barnet and jovial expression, Dolly-style. Why not?! I digress…)

QVC Studio Tour for Stylist's Own Blog by Joanna Thornhill - Live Studio

Sadly there were no Hollywood A-Listers pedalling their wares during my studio tour, but it was a most fun little visit nonetheless – despite having been on TV sets many a time, there’s still a great buzz knowing that what’s happening just a few feet from where you’re standing is also going out live on the tellybox.

QVC Studio Tour for Stylist's Own Blog by Joanna Thornhill - The Gallery

A peek in the gallery revealed the nuts-and-bolts behind what we saw on the studio floor, with live sales graphs jumping around on monitors, leading producers to feed nuggets of information to the presenters on what was nearly sold out or to recap on queried items, resulting in ever more fervent caller spikes.

QVC Studio Tour for Stylist's Own Blog by Joanna Thornhill - Curated Picks

After the tour wrapped, I was then greeted with the real-life versions of a curated product selection I’d picked out to accompany my entry on their website (above) – I’ll update this post with the link to the final selection once it’s live on QVC.

QVC Studio Tour for Stylist's Own Blog by Joanna Thornhill - Collier Campbell

A personal highlight for me was seeing this original watercolour hand drawing (above) by design house Collier Campbell – a glorious riot of flowers and unabashed girlieness, it forms the template of a best-selling cushion from their range and is also part of my curated selection. I always enjoy seeing the mark of the maker on products, and there was something super charming about viewing their original brushstrokes up close and seeing the ‘selvedge’ colour palette at the side of the piece.

Other favourite pieces included Prepology’s rather space-age looking chef’s whisks, for all the baking I do (cue chortling boyfriend in background), this quirky coral design paperweight by none other than Taupe Queen Kelly Hoppen and a rather bling-tastic peacock cushion by Butler & Wilson.

Right, I’m off to bag a steam cleaner – I do love a gadget…

{Images: all copyright Joanna Thornhill}


Behind the Scenes: Sofa Styling with DFS

Sofa Styling Sneaky Peek with DFS by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

I thought I’d do another little day-in-the-life type feature about a job I recently worked on for DFS. Sound good? Good. Right. It’s a rather clever little idea actually. Keen to show how you can transform an everyday space with relatively simple changes – such as swapping in new furniture and accessories and sprinkling on a bit of canny styling – DFS painstakingly recreated everyone’s favourite East End living room (no, not mine, silly – Kat and Alfie’s from upstairs in the Queen Vic on Eastenders) and set several stylists the challenge of transforming the space simply by changing the products within it.

DFS Products Wishlist by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

1. Bergerac sideboard with two doors and three drawers, £1065; 2. Vista four-seater sofa, £899; 3. Vista footstool, from £199; 4. Trio round lamp table, £359; 5. Sant Cruz charcoal rug, £160x226cm, £399; 6. Vista plain accent chair, £299, all DFS (all Vista items currently half price as part of the Spring Collection).

Naturally one of the stylists was moi, and I was asked to select a sofa and armchair from their Spring Collection to form the basis of the makeover. I was somewhat smitten with their Vista, with its nod-to-Great-Gatsby Art Deco styling and soft taupe colour. It also comes with an optional footstool that doubles up as a great coffee table. I was then given a virtual free reign to pick out any other furniture items from their range to accompany the piece – which I have to admit I wasn’t overly familiar with until I took myself over to their online portal, and was pleasantly surprised to see some fab nuggets such as the Utah console table and Patent foot stool.

Get the Look Art Deco Shopping by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

1. Black and cream spectacles cushion by Maria Hatling, £45, Gallery Bobbin. 2. Faceted round mirror, dia. 80cm, £175, John Lewis. 3. Vitra Poligon clock, £344, via Clippings. 4. Ribbon gunmetal lamp, from £60, Habitat. 5. Luxury bridge set by Bridge in the box, £98, Notonthehighstreet. 6. Diamond bowl, £59, BoConcept. 7. Chrome lobby phone by Wild & Wolf, £59.95, Bloomsbury & Co.  8. Santa & Cole Tripode G5 floor lamp, £435, Rume.  

So to pick up on the Art Deco elements, I decided on a fairly masculine, monochrome scheme, peppered with touches of raspberry to lift it, all with a modern lilt. Above is my props moodboard which I supplied to the lovely team at Hangar Seven, where we shot, who matched up the look by picking out pieces from a local prop house ready for me to style.

And now for Le Grand Reveal:

Before & After DFS Makeover Challenge by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

D’you like her? The decor is exactly the same and the layout hasn’t changed much, though I’d like to think it’s at least a slight improvement (though a part of me did secretly love the kitsch gold wall sconce in the before, shhh!) The raspberry details encourage the eye to flow throughout the space, and by decluttering the back wall of oddly-positioned art and replacing it with a subtle silver starburst clock, the focus is shifted down to the seating area. A large faceted mirror helps anchor the sideboard unit against the wall, whilst food and flower props give the space a bit of character. Quirky touches like the glasses cushion and  uber-cool diamond bowl (see above for credits) bring in an extra dash of personality, too. Doubling up a footstool as a coffee table is a great trick for a small space (and to conteract pesky partners who like putting feet up on the table), and this clever little Trio side table is great for storing games and throws close to hand for those chilly, not-much-on-the-telly Spring evenings.

Details1 DFS Styling Challenge by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

Details2 DFS Styling Challenge by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

I was pleasantly surprised to learn on the day that all DFS’s sofas are entirely handmade – many in the UK – by craft experts across their three factories which, as Philip Watkin from the DFS design and development team admits, is a level of quality that’s “few and far between” these days. He advises, when choosing a new sofa, to “always check for a guarantee, and ask how the sofa is made. And consider the heritage of the company you’re buying it from – there’s no substitute for a proven track record in crafting sofas that are built to last”.

Details3 DFS Styling Challenge by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

Details4 DFS Styling Challenge by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

DFS’s Vista sofa is currently half price (until the end of April 2013) at £899, along with other items from their Spring Collection. With thanks to DFS for sponsoring this post.

{Images: top two behind the scenes shots by me; all other styled shots by Matt Griffiths at Hangar Seven. All product shots as per the companies’ credited)

Styling Resources: Where I Find Cool Stuff

Easter Dining Shot by Ochre and Ocre for Stylist's Own Blog

As I’m often asked where I find fab things for features (and therefore life) and with lots of you looking to do home improvements this Easter Weekend (inbetween scoffing choc, natch) I thought I’d give you a little insight into my processes. So let’s say I’m pulling together a little story on Easter tabletop dining and decor ideas. What do I do?

Well, on receiving my brief, I initially rack my little brains and think what I’ve seen recently at press shows, in lookbooks and in the shops that might fit the brief, and start making a list of people to check out. Then as well as targeting specific go-to retailers, I generally make the following ports of call:

1a. Google Screengrab for Stylist's Own Blog

1b. Google Screengrab for Stylist's Own Blog

Yes, a bit of an obvious one, but having recently attended a talk on how to get the most out of Google, I’ve learnt a few tricks for getting a more targeted search. The two I’m currently liking best are the ‘search by colour’ option (top – type in your item, then click the Search Tools tab, then select the Any Colour tab beneath and choose your hue) and the “reverse” image search (bottom – take a screengrab/pull an image onto your desktop, select Images in Google, then drop the image file directly into the searchbar to find out what it is and where to source it). The former is a slightly slicker way of doing a colour search than just typing the colour direct into a toolbar, and is great for sourcing items for any colour-based features. And the latter is perfect for tracking down a product to its source or finding an alternative supplier (if the original link is to a website in another country, for example) as well as discovering similar items for any Get the Look type features.

2. Pinterest Screengrab for Stylist's Own Blog

Another fairly obvious one, but as well as being a land to unashamedly ogle over perfect girlie crafts and whimsically beautiful people, for me Pinterest has become an almost refined Google, where I can search for specific product types as well as styling and design ideas around a certain theme, look or colour. I’ve also set up a number of ‘Supplier’ boards in my own account and am constantly adding cool designers, quirky webshops and specialist specialists to my various categories, which forms my very own Little Black Book of design and is something I often refer back to (check out my boards here)

3. Not on the HIgh Street Screengrab for Stylist's Own Blog

With literally thousands of sellers onboard, much like Pinterest the website is almost a second Google to me when it comes to product research. Whatever weird and wonderful item I might be searching for, you can pretty much guarantee that I’ll find it here. By its nature, it’s a particularly good resource for handmade pieces.

4. Clippings Screengrab for Stylist's Own Blog

A new kid on the block, Clippings seemed to appear out of nowhere a few months ago (well, to me anyway) but it’s quickly snuck its way into my must-visit resources. Part home store, part magazine, it comprises articles on the latest homes trends and product round-ups, with a searchable product gallery linking to various retailers and brands affiliated with them. Theirs is a very carefully curated selection, however, favouring clean, modern, quirky pieces, nearly all either from UK retailers or available in the UK.

5. Press Loft Screengrab for Stylist's Own Blog

Technically a website designed to link up press with retailers, giving us ‘hacks’ an easy way to source and download high resolution images for features, nonetheless this site is still a useful resource for bloggers and ‘everyday’ users – the latter are still able to search through the site without being members (though it’s worth bearing in mind that as it’s geared towards long press lead times, not everything featured will be out in the shops yet). Numerous retailers and PR agencies sign up to the service and upload their product pics then tag them with keywords, meaning you can search away to your hearts content through their bulging image banks. Some canny PR’s, such as the ever-resourceful Zero2One, have even set up their own ‘hubs’ to showcase their various clients all in one place (a tried and trusted trick for the time-strapped journo is to hotfoot it to PR’s who have a large number of clients on their books, meaning that you can organise content from several different brands all via the same middleman. Shhh!)

So to round up, I leave you with some lovely Easter Dining-inspired products from Zero2One via Press Loft, sourced using various keywords (woodland, dining, rabbit…) which would make any Easter get-together go with a bang:

Easter Dining Products Round-up by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own Blog

1. Fauna plates by Magpie, £19.99 for four, Mollie & Fred. 2. Traditional foutas (can be used as tablecloths or outdoor throws), £28 each, Febronie. 3. LSA Mezzo hiball glass, £22.99 for four, 4. LSA Serve cake stand and dome, £52.50, Beautiful Homes Direct. 5. Dutch rabbit salt and pepper set by Quail Ceramics, £13.99, Cotswold Trading. 6. Girl’s rabbit headband, £25, White Rabbit England. 7. Anemone Scabosia vintage bottle with faux flowers, £13.50, Paper Whites. 8. Koziol Pip party picks, £16.80, Red Candy. 9. Stag stopper, £9, Just Slate.

So, dear readers – fancy tearing away from your chocolate gluttony to tell me where you turn when researching your own interiors goodies?

{Images: Opening shot: Madelaine lavender organic cotton tablecloth, £40, and napkins, £20 for four, Ochre and Ocre. Google accompanying product: Birdy egg cups and plates by Magpie Lifestyle, from a selection at Who’s It For? Pinterest accompanying product: Forest Critters wall decals, £55 per set, Love Mae. accompanying product: White Rabbit light, £68, White Rabbit England via Clippings accompanying product: Scrabble coasters, £12.99 for 54, Getting Personal. Shopping round-up all as per the credits within the main post. With thanks to Zero2One PR for supporting this post.}

Nature’s Bounty

Sigh… another few weeks pass and all of my carefully collected literature from London Design Festival still lie in their respective carrier bags under my kitchen table, waiting – mocking – for me to finally sift through them and post my highlights online. But alas, having been shooting away from home and living Alan Partridge-style in a hotel, they will have to wait just a few days longer. In the meantime, here’s a few pics of the view from the back garden of the location I’ve been shooting in over the past week, in Shoreham-on-Sea. Not a bad view, huh? Beyond the bottom of my garden lies a nondescript-looking primary school, but apparently some people have beaches at the back of theirs (jealous, moi?)

Our shoot house itself was a beautifully simple Art Deco number, which has been thoughtfully accessorised using stones, driftwood and dried flowers all picked up from its shoreline doorstep – providing a lovely link between outside and in (and a pretty cost-effective decorating device to boot)

In between shooting and eating copious amounts of food, we managed to take a couple of beachside strolls to do a bit of scavenging ourselves. Here’s what I got:

The boyf, after initially seeing the back seat of the car lined up with clumps of tumbleweed and declaring me a fruitloop, has now conceded that it does indeed look pretty special in the big vase next to the telly. Sadly no view of the southern coast lies yonder, but at least it softens our technology corner somewhat.

More flora and fauna, beautifully dried into a very Farrow and Ball natural whitewashed finish

And a few (ahem) handpicked pebbles to cunningly disguise the ugly inner pot of my hallway plant – a much more aesthetically pleasing finish. [top tip – use plastic bags or bubblewrap to initially fill in the edges around the pot before adding your stones, if trying this at home – it stops the pot turning into a two-tonne weight and means you need less stones, too]. I also found a lovely spherical pebble with a natural hole running through it which I am planning to use as a bathroom light pull, though when I went to put it up realised how filthy the cord is, so am due a date with a bottle of bleach and some rubber gloves before photographing that particular find…