|Our kitchen, Photo: Scott Hargis|
Before I came to the US, I didn't know much about these home tours. People pay between $45 to $85 to tour five local homes. Ticket sales, together with sponsorship from local businesses and the professionals who've worked on your home, go directly to help disadvantaged children in the East Bay. Last year the tour raised $186,000 for disadvantaged local children and a total of $2.7million has been raised since 1986.
|Our entry, Photo: Scott Hargis|
|Our entry, Photo: Scott Hargis|
I realised now our priorities were quite un-swoony. With four kids and all their friends running around, I wanted the house to clean up easily. To look fine after ten minutes of a quick-and-dirty pick up before six adults and five kids arrive for dinner. I always want to feel free to invite people over on the spur of the moment but sadly I'm the quintessential idle hostess - I don't want to spend hours on cooking, arranging or cleaning up.
So everything had to be easily wipeable and washable: the Philippe Stark lucite Ghost chairs, the Australian Spotted Gum wood floors - which shows no sins - and the (relatively) inexpensive white Caesarstone recycled kitchen and bathroom surfaces. Anything precious had to be out of the way or on the walls.
|Our dining area in the kitchen, Photo: Scott Hargis|
At the risk of sounding horribly pretentious, in the end I've realised I didn't want a definable style. I know the word "eclectic' is overdone, but I love modern chairs, ethnic art and colour. A huge Tongan Tapa (flax) cloth in the living room with a cardboard Frank Gehry chair. And purple, orange and always chartreuse green (everyone noticed in the photo shoot I was wearing all those same colours too - does that happen to you?) Still we had to define our style - I came up with the phrase "Kiwi Coastal" for all the tour literature. It feels familiar with a friendly palette, loadsa light and a touch of quirk or kitsch. I never wanted the rooms to look "done' or designer-y.
I fully realised the magic Scott weaves when I took my own photo of the living room. (We've just replaced our our old sofas with new white ones....) See the differences: his photo is soft, rounded and twinkling. After reading Scott's five tips below I see that my photo has contravened every rule: it's taken from too high, it's too wide and with nothing in the foreground - resulting in a flat, dark cluttered shot. Phew!
|Our living room, Photo: Scott Hargis|
|Our living room, Photo by me|
1) Keep the camera low. Although we're accustomed to viewing rooms from our normal standing height, the camera prefers to be more like four feet above the floor. Take a knee when you're composing your shot and it will look more natural!
2) Hold the camera perfectly level. The most common mistake people make is being too high (see #1 above) and then tilting the camera down towards the floor. This causes the walls to lean in from the sides, in a very disconcerting way.
3) Remember the things you learned in art class. When composing your shot, keep in mind the Rule of Thirds, and use Leading Lines and Perspective to your advantage. (See these Google Image searches of Rule of Third, Leading Lines and Perspective for some dramatic examples of these concepts in practice.)
4) Don't show everything. Most beginners shoot VERY wide-angle, and their shots suffer as a result. Zooming in will make your images much more powerful. Zooming in so that only half of a lamp that's near the edge of a photo gets included, for example, will still tell your viewer everything he/she needs to know about the room. Professional photographers will almost always use the longest focal length lens they possibly can, when shooting interiors.
5) Include a foreground object. Compose your shot in a way that includes something up close, with your room arranged beyond it. You don't have to show the entire object, and it shouldn't take up too much space in your "canvas" - but it will really help develop a sense of depth in your shot, and draw the viewer's eye in.
How about you? What matters to you most about your home?