What makes a home magazine beautiful? Local photographer and interior stylist duo Anna Batchelor and Tamineh Dhondy take us behind the scenes
We’d all love our home to look beautiful enough to be featured in a magazine, but how do people achieve such immaculate-looking homes? It helps if you have some professional help, like the very talented Anna and Tam.
Anna Batchelor, a photographer who has worked for the likes of The Guardian, the Discovery Channel, Brompton Bicycle and Wanderlust magazine, and Tamineh Dhondy, a former art consultant turned interior stylist, are both East Dulwich residents who met through work. They became friends after coming together on a number of projects and when Tam – after giving birth to her first child – opted to pursue a new career interior styling for private clients, they decided to join forces. Together they picked out a few local projects – friends’ houses and independent traders – to style, photograph and showcase on a new blog.
And herein lies the power of the internet; the blog garnered a lot of attention, especially when The Guardian tweeted about their photo story on the General Store in Peckham – a charming throwback to the days of the general store of old with good conversation and carefully sourced produce. Now the duo are regularly commissioned to style and shoot homes for glossy magazines, as well as creating brochures and lookbooks for homeware brands like Bococo and Vitra Lux. They’re about to shoot the lookbook for West Dulwich homeware and outdoor lifestyle brand Anorak, and Tam is currently designing the interior for Donostia Social Club’s new tapas bar at Pop Brixton, a mini city created from shipping containers opening soon. The variety of projects they work on means there’s no such thing as a typical day.
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‘A brochure shoot is completely different to shooting someone’s home,’ says Tam. ‘When we’re working with a brand we really try and understand the brand first and we storyboard the shoot before we do anything to be sure everybody’s happy. It’s quite a creative process. Turning up at someone’s house, on the other hand, we don’t really know what to expect!’
‘We’ve usually done a recce,’ says Anna, ‘but sometimes it’s just photos of dark corners that people have sent you and it’s really different when you arrive. But I like the unknowingness of turning up at someone’s house and just working with what you’ve got.’
‘When we do people’s houses we want to portray their style,’ says Tam, ‘so we try and keep the styling minimal. Really it’s just arranging people’s possessions so you’re telling the story of how they live. I take a lot of things off the shelf and just leave the most notable things there to showcase their style and to keep the photos clean. A lot of it for me is just tidying up! You do have to set the scene though, we use props to bring a scene to life – a cake or a bunch of tulips – but you don’t want to turn up with a prop basket to restyle somebody’s house!’
Anna and Tam find themselves drawn to creatives. Take Mima and Stef, whose Scandi-style flat in Denmark Hill they recently photographed. Mima studied textile design, while Stef works as a 3D workshop tutor. Their flat has an incredible contemporary feel to it with a carefully curated selection of colourful, mid-century modern influenced pieces.
Then there’s Suzie, an upholsterer and decoupage artist who lives in a Tulse Hill flat kitted out mostly with ‘stuff found in skips’ and lovingly upcycled. She’s tried to be as sympathetic as possible to her Edwardian flat, exposing the brick walls, reviving the original wooden floorboards and uncovering period fireplaces.
So what makes a beautiful home?
‘It’s different with every house you go to,’ says Tam. ‘It’s not that we just like simple styling or really over-the-top houses, we like telling people’s stories.’
‘For me,’ says Anna, ‘it’s nice clean graphic lines. The light can be really difficult when you’re photographing interiors. When you’re shooting into a window everything sort of bleeds out and you have to spend a lot of time in post-production, so I’m always looking for a corner where the light fills it nicely.
‘I’m drawn to colour as well,’ continues Anna. ‘All-white minimalist spaces can be tricky, so a few colourful props are usually strategically placed to bring it to life. I’m always looking for strong shadows as well to give you edges. And with really busy houses it’s about creating a bit of space.’
But nobody really lives in a constant state of stylish perfection, do they?
‘Ben Adams does,’ says Tam [Ben’s mid-century modern home featured in the February issue of Living South Resident]. ‘We love his shop in Crystal Palace, Designs of Modernity, so we approached him and asked if we could shoot his house.’
‘We do see a lot of mid century houses,’ says Anna, ‘but we’ve never seen one that precise and uncluttered.’
When it comes to styling their own homes, access to such beautiful properties seems to breed indecision: ‘We change our minds with every shoot,’ says Tam, ‘Seeing so many amazing houses opens your eyes and makes you want to change your style a lot. But I absolutely love styling and designing other people’s houses. I often work with people with good style but no time, so I help them to source furniture or do up rooms in their style.’
Win the chance to have Anna and Tam style and shoot your home for theresident.co.uk. To enter, simply take four photos of your home showing off its best features and email them to email@example.com (please write ‘Anna and Tam competition’ in the subject line). Final date for entries, Monday 8 June. Click here for T&Cs