Ever fancied seeing your home featured in a homes and interiors magazine? UK Locations is collaborating with Beautiful Homes in the North, who provide real home features for national magazines. Writer/stylist Karen Wilson explains what’s involved and tells us more about the business.
What is Beautiful Homes in the North?
Beautiful Homes in the North is a collaboration between myself and photographer Katie Lee, and together we provide real home features to national homes and interiors titles like 25 Beautiful Homes, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Style at Home, Your Home and Homestyle, amongst others. We cover the whole of the North and sometimes further afield.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves?
I previously spent 13 years as a features writer for The Journal, Evening Chronicle and Sunday Sun in Newcastle before launching Beautiful Homes in the North. Covering everything from health and human interest features to celebrity interviews and comedy reviews, no two days were the same, but it was always property and interiors that fired my interest.
Katie has worked as a professional photographer since graduating from Napier University in 1998 with a BA Hons in Photography. She’s an editorial photographer who has worked for a variety of newspapers and magazines such as The Sunday Times, The FT Magazine and now a variety of national interior magazines.
How did the idea for the business come about?
I first met Katie when I worked at The Journal as a features writer. My team had been tasked with launching a free what’s on/lifestyle magazine called City Living and Katie helped us out with freelance photography. She seemed on the ball, confident and had loads of creative ideas, and of course her photographs were amazing.
The magazine didn’t last but I stayed at the paper until I decided to take voluntary redundancy in 2013 with no clear idea of my next move. Then I had a lightbulb moment and decided to use the contacts I’d built up over the years to move into freelancing for the national homes and interiors magazines.
At that point I had no idea if they even used freelancers or if everything was done in-house by staff, but after speaking to an old friend from my NCTJ journalism course in Portsmouth, I managed to find a staffer who’d worked across many magazines who agreed to let me pick her brains.
I quickly realised two things; I needed a great photographer to team up with and I needed to become a stylist as well.
That’s when Katie popped into my head. I knew she’d be good at making people feel at ease and I could really imagine working with her. So although I hadn’t seen her for several years, we met for a chat and starting throwing ideas around.
Although I’d always been into interiors and an obsession with Sarah Beeny’s TV show Property Ladder led me and my partner Warren to tackle a couple of property developments, my background is in journalism so learning to become a stylist was a new skill that I gradually picked up on the job.
When that first commission came in from Ideal Home magazine and the commissioning editor told us how delighted they were to find some new freelancers up North, we really felt we were onto something. Now we’ve established ourselves, we’ve built up good relationships with editors on many magazines.
What can be expected on the day of a shoot?
A home photoshoot normally takes a full day. Although the main focus is on the interior, usually we would need a few shots which include the homeowners too, normally in the main living room and kitchen. We usually bring a few extra accessories to style the shots such as cushions, flowers and food where needed, but we always make sure it suits the personal style of the homeowner and is in keeping with the home.
The main lead shots take longer to set up. Katie will work out the best angle and tweak the lighting, then we’ll ’work up a shot’ by moving things around slightly so the image looks well balanced and nothing is obscured. Sometimes we’ll take out a few items if the shot looks too busy, and sometimes we’ll add one or two pieces in.
We also do makeover features focusing on just one room, such as a kitchen, bedroom or bathroom. This doesn’t take as long, and we would need a ‘before’ picture from the homeowner to show the transformation.
What about the interview?
Afterwards I normally interview the homeowner over the phone about the work they’ve done to the property and how they’ve put the look together. Some magazines require a rough breakdown of costs – ie. how much you paid for the house, roughly how much you’ve spent and what it’s worth now – but this isn’t always necessary. It’s always useful if you can have to hand names of paint colours and where key pieces of furniture, artwork and accessories are from, so we can include this information in the captions. Those featured would always get the chance to read the wording before publication so they’re 100% happy with the article too.
What do you love most about your job?
Getting to meet so many different creative homeowners (and renters) really inspires us. The photoshoot is always have fun and we end up chatting about all sorts – not just interiors. It’s also satisfying to see our work in print, especially when we get a front cover. As self employed freelancers, we also love the freedom and flexibility our jobs give us, and office politics is a distant memory!
Give us a brief snapshot of a typical week at Beautiful Homes in the North?
When we’re not on shoots together, I’ll be interviewing, writing, pitching home suggestions to commissioning editors or borrowing styling items for future photoshoots. Katie will be editing photographs and updating our Instagram account and we’re both constantly looking for gorgeous homes that could make great features.
What are the benefits to an owner of having their home featured in a magazine?
If you have a business, particularly if it’s related to property or interiors, it can help to generate publicity. Key pieces of furniture, homewares or artwork can also be credited in captions.
If you’re proud of your home, there’s also a certain amount of prestige in seeing it featured in a magazine. After styling and high quality photographs have been taken, many people find their home has never looked so good and can’t wait to see it in print as a lovely keepsake for the future. And if you ever decide to sell your home in the future showing your prospective buyers the magazine spread is a great marketing tool. For those on Instagram, having high quality photographs to share can help boost follower numbers too.
What does the collaboration with UK Locations mean for your business?
We were really pleased when UK Locations got in touch with us as we’re both in the business of beautiful homes so it seemed like collaborating would be mutually beneficial. We knew that many of the homeowners we’d met over the years would love to be involved with UK Locations, so we’ve been able to put forward a few suitable homes. At the same time, UK Locations have given us contacts from their amazing portfolio of homes too.
How can UK Locations owners be involved and what do you look for in a location?
We’re looking for a wide variety of homes of all ages, sizes and types for different interiors magazines. However the key requirements would be a consistent and coherent interior design scheme with lots of creative ideas that would inspire others. If you’ve carried out significant works such as an extension or major re-configuration, this will make it a stronger story. The homeowner would need to be comfortable with being photographed too.
Although the magazines don’t pay homeowners who are featured, Beautiful Homes in the North would give you high res images of the shoot free of charge to say thank you. This is normally a couple of months after the feature has been published, as the magazines require an initial exclusivity period. These photographs can be used on the UK Locations website to help maximise your chances of being chosen for location work, and you can use them on social media too.
Finally, what’s in the pipeline for Beautiful Homes in the North throughout 2019?
We already have lots of shoots booked up until March and can’t wait to get back out on the road. Our blogging efforts have gone up a notch since the website was redesigned at the end of 2018, so we’re writing a weekly interiors blog and hope to grow our subscriber numbers. We’ll also continue to grow our Instagram page (23.3k followers and counting) and our Facebook page which is lagging a little behind at almost 2.5k followers, with help from marketing expert Emma Slater.
Katie’s planning a photography workshop and the second annual Northern Quarters Interiors Festival in November to champion the wonderful interiors community in the North, and we may have an exciting video project up our sleeves too.
To find out more visit www.beautifulhomesinthenorth.co.uk, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07717742667.