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Inspiration

Talking to: Neptune's stylist, Meaghan

Talking to: Neptune's stylist, Meaghan

A photoshoot is a busy place. Between photographer and props, set-builders and models (often of the four-legged, wet-nosed variety), there’s a lot of planning, preparation and creativity that goes on behind the scenes of every one of our images. And the person that brings it all together? Our in-house stylist, Meaghan (who you may know from her how-to videos on our Instagram and Facebook). We caught up with her – over video chat, of course – to discover how there’s a lot more to her role than meets the eye and to get the inside scoop on a Neptune photoshoot.

So, tell us, what does a stylist do?

“Generally speaking, a stylist interprets the brief they get from their client (so, in my case, Neptune) and they come up with the creative ideas for putting a shot together alongside the photographer. That’s about it wrapped up in a sentence! There’s a lot of designing sets and sourcing props involved, as well as actually styling them on the day.

“My job often involves more than that though, because I’m the in-house person arranging everything to do with the shoots. So I tend to take on the role of a producer and organise the teams and locations as well. And then I do a bit of art directing sometimes too – developing the look and feel of the whole shoot alongside the team at Neptune HQ. Then, of course, there’s lots of admin. It’s definitely not all glamorous!”

By the sounds of it, you don’t have a typical day or week?

“Definitely not! But that’s probably the thing I love most about my job. One week I could be travelling all over the country on different photoshoots, and another I could be at Neptune’s HQ in Wiltshire coming up with ideas, researching locations and making lists of all the designs we’ll need to take with us. And then there’s the days before and after a photoshoot, which are mostly spent organising props (I have a whole cupboard full of them!), accessories and furniture.”

Who else is involved in a photoshoot? It doesn’t sound like a one-woman job!

“That really depends on the size and the complexity of the shoot. On the smaller, simpler ones, it could just be me, the photographer and one or two guys from Neptune’s delivery team, who’ll do all the heavy lifting (they’re the unsung heroes, helping me pack, transport and set up the furniture and accessories). Or on a much bigger shoot – usually the ones that we do abroad, like our recent shoot in Provence for the spring collection – there could be photographer’s assistants, a separate art director, a producer, set builders, models, makeup artists… Then we’ll have food economists if we’re photographing recipes for Stories magazine or The Provenist café – a little different to a chef, they not only make the dishes, but help style them too. They know all the little tricks, like drizzling olive oil on food to make it look even better! So, yes, it’s a big team effort!”

Absolutely! We’re sure you must have lots of great memories – what’s been your favourite moment on shoot so far?

“Oh, definitely the loveseat shoot. For obvious reasons: it was one we did for our eleventh issue of Stories, and involved our Olivia loveseat and seven, adorable cocker spaniel puppies!

“The spring Provence shoot was definitely a favourite too though. We had a really lovely team, the location was so inspiring, the light was absolutely beautiful and our hosts at the chateau we shot in were a dream. And everything just seemed to go to plan so well, which is always enjoyable! And quite amazing seeing as there were two different teams working at the same time on different shots.”

And your most challenging?

“Probably the puppies again! Working with models in general is always a bit trickier, but especially when they’re children or animals. I loved working with the puppies, but trying to get them to cooperate was another thing! And not being able to take them home, of course.

“One of the challenges we come up against a lot on shoots is not being able to attach anything to the walls. I remember there was one time when we were trying to photograph our Edinburgh coat rack but the location didn’t allow us to drill into the walls. So Mark [long-time Neptune driver, set builder and all-round lifesaver] built a freestanding wooden frame on set to stand just off the wall and support the heavy coat rack laden down with coats and hats. It was an effort, but so worth it in the end.”

We'd love to know, where do you get your inspiration from?

“A lot of the time it’s interiors magazines. I don’t think there’s much that’s better than flicking through a new magazine on a Sunday with a cup of coffee. And travel is a huge inspiration too, especially when it comes to colour palettes. In Provence, it was all about the earthy green tones of the surrounding landscape, whereas trips I’ve taken to Morocco have inspired warm terracotta palettes.

“Other stylists and photographers are endlessly inspiring as well, both the ones I’ve worked with and others I follow on Instagram. I recently did a shoot with Sally Denning, who I’ve admired on Instagram for ages [@blackshorestyle]. And I always make sure to keep an eye on what Amber Lewis [@amberinteriors] is doing. She’s an interior designer in America who always perfectly mixes old and new styles.”

So, last but not least, what would you say is the key thing to styling the ‘Neptune look’, if we’d like to recreate it at home?

“Whenever I’m styling, whatever it is, I’m always thinking about creating a moment. We want our photographs to look as if whoever lives there has just stepped out for a sec. It’s never only about making things look pretty – we want there to be a story. Obviously, at home, you’re house will naturally feel lived in anyway, but I’d think about how you can tell a story about you and your family. A console table display could hint at a memorable holiday you’ve taken, for instance, with pieces that remind you of that time and place. And if you have a collection of objects, if they’re precious to you, then make a thing out of them by including them in your styling. Even if it’s just a collection of pebbles from your favourite beach.

“The ‘Neptune look’ is also never just Neptune designs. Part of that lived-in, timeless, slightly eclectic feel that we’re always aiming for is including pieces from other eras and styles, whether they’re vintage or antique. At home, it could be pieces you’ve inherited.

“And plants, always plants! Nothing adds more life to a room.”

Quick-fire round

Favourite Neptune design?

“I love Chawton because of its versatility, and because you can really make a very personal statement with it. And I love a good storage idea. Oh, and Edith – I just love linen sheets.”

Favourite kitchen?

“It’s got to be Henley. Personally, I think all the deep pan drawers are genius, and it’s a different look to the usual cupboards. Like a lot of people, Henley’s that perfect middle ground between traditional Chichester and pared-back Suffolk for me. And I like that you can have it in both painted and oak too.”

Favourite paint colour?

“Ink. Or Moss. It’s a tough call between Ink and Moss actually! I’ve always loved blues and greens.”