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My New Prop Room At The Farm And Why I Hold On To So Many Beautiful Things

This post is best read while listening to the problematic The Little Mermaid song “Part of Your World,” which I will, unfortunately, get stuck in your head right now by even prompting it. But seriously, look at this stuff, isn’t it neat? Chefs might have a lot of different knives and painters a lot of different paintbrushes. As a stylist and content creator, having an inventory to pull from is not a requirement but it sure does make you better at your job, and honestly, it is simply part of the reality. At this point, I really only buy and keep (and move states with) anything that is A. Not replaceable – i.e. vintage B. Sentimental or very special to me (most vintage, handmade, or from travels) or C. So good for whatever reason that I use it over and over and over (like a good soap dish, tray, or vase). Most of this stuff I’ve had for years and years. Right now the inside of our house is not accessorized at all – I can’t bring myself to put one hole in the walls except the guest room but I’m sure much of this will end up inside when I’m ready. I gave away SO MUCH when we sold our house in LA and moved up here, but still! Look at this stuff!! Unpacking it really was like Christmas because so many of these things I hadn’t seen in 2 years and they brought back memories as well as hope that our home will, if nothing else, be full of pieces we have collected over time and love. The spiders occupying this building must have been highly entertained as I did my one-woman show, squealing, narrating each thing and where it could go, etc. I always loved show-and-tell as a child (which fits well into blogging).

Wait, Where Is This Room?

Our property has a few outbuildings and one of them is the original farmhouse from the 1850s that I’ve barely shown you. It’s SO CUTE (as you can see) but yes, totally falling down, mostly dirt floors, super wonky, no electrical or plumbing, etc. We aren’t even letting ourselves think about it until we wrap up the landscaping so we aren’t sure to what extent we’ll fix it up and use it (but likely we’ll invest in it for long-term purposes once we have the budget for it). We did have a meter installed, the sewer line extended and a water line trenched for the future. So, in the interim we are trying to use a few of the rooms for our current needs – a prop room for me and a writing space for Brian (away from us shooting inside).

This room was full of boxes for a year, so we recently unpacked everything to really understand what our needs were. I had that big shoot at Anne’s bay house the following week so I was desperate to see what I had to bring so I didn’t overbuy for it. So I quickly ordered these shelves that would arrive in two days and then hired a few guys to put them together. Speaking of which – I cannot find PAs in Portland (people to do heavy manual help). So I basically had to hire a moving company to come and help me rearrange furniture (from the garages into the house, put down rug pads, take furniture upstairs, etc). They were hourly (so expensive) but I had them put these shelves together while I was running an errand. I came back to realize that they were super janky as they just kinda rest on the vertical pieces (no screws or anything) which makes them super hard and wonky to move into place. They threw away the packaging so I couldn’t return them. If I could go back in time I would buy IKEA shelving that is wood and pretty at least. I did want 24″ deep to maximize the space and now that they are all in place they are TOTALLY fine.

Choosing The Paint Color

Before we brought them in, I hired Renee from Some Kinda Landscape to paint the whole room a fresh color. I know that there is still a huge likelihood of spiders and dust in here, but at least a fresh coat makes me feel like my pretty things are going to be kept a bit cleaner – they deserve a fresh room! I couldn’t decide what to paint but figured it was a great time to test out a color that I’m excited about, without committing to it in our house.

We knew we couldn’t go too dark because it literally doesn’t have any electricity right now, which is fine because I mostly pull during the day but when I want to play at night I have to bring a flashlight. And I’m so obsessed with our mudroom color (SW 9641 Dew Drop) that I wanted to try another version of that sweet pastel. I chose SW 6211 Rainwashed which has more green in it (not minty- but not not minty). We had to of course wipe down everything before painting. She painted the walls and ceiling (including doors/windows and nob and tube wiring). The goal was fast and dirty, but it still took a day to prep, a day to prime, and then a day to paint.

We kept the floors unpainted as it didn’t bother us at all. We organized everything in a visually pleasing way – not necessarily by room or even by function…

Before we left the mountain house I packed up a small box of my favorite things from that house that I would be super sad if they got broken or disappeared (my leather-wrapped rock, my MQuan sculptures, etc).

In case you are wondering why you need so many “props” for photo shoots, here’s why. For instance those wooden dice – like what do you do with those? Well, our children’s toys look like garbage – plastic pieces of garbage that they love and there is no shame in that. But when we go to style and shoot their rooms I don’t necessarily want the nicely designed room to be filled with ratty-haired plastic horses and pokemon cards. If you don’t have kids you might think this is monstrous – but moms know that the garbage that they accumulate on their shelves (and legitimately love) is simply not photogenic. And that’s ok. I’ll show you that on stories – I’m not trying to pretend we are somehow cleaner or cooler than others, but no I’m not going to keep old pokemon tokens in shots where I’ve invested in a photographer to professionally shoot, and will be all over the internet. So these are kinda the runway accessories that you wear to walk during the televised fashion show, but not necessarily the ready-to-wear.

Having these photos on the internet is actually fairly helpful to shop my own prop closet before or during a shoot. We don’t have anything “inventoried” so these photos could be helpful if something isn’t working while we are shooting. I’ve really got to figure out how, in the future, to bring thrifting or vintage into our business more. I could either have a booth in an antique mall or produce fun quarterly flea markets…I went shopping last week at the Rose City Flea market and at a thrift store and saw so much that I loved, but so few things that I knew I would put in the house so I passed on a lot (I did get some stuff I’m excited to show you, though). Anyway, that’s my show and tell for you 🙂 I hope you like my stuff. xx

*Photos by Kaitlin Green

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1 year ago

I’m not a stylist, but I could do with one of these rooms myself for all the things that I’ve bought over the years. I’m hoping to get stuff out of storage soon, that I thought I was putting in for a few weeks when I moved across Australia – ten years ago!! That’s life and the unexpected for you. I really hope I get to enjoy that same Christmas feeling as you. I can’t wait. I’m really looking forward to the unboxing. Meanwhile, I’ve accrued more things (because my stuff was in storage and too difficult to get too) but I love them too as I only buy things I really really love. Some things I will give away once I see it all but Iots I want to keep and rotate. Hence my need for a prop room to move things around and ‘freshen up’ at will.
I think your prop room and the goodies inside are awesome!!

Roberta Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  Sally

I was thinking the same!

1 year ago

What a fun post! Thanks for sharing. It was fun catch glimpses of so many familiar items from your shoots. I’m excited to hear about the plans for the sweet original house down the line.

1 year ago

I’m not a stylist but I have a “prop closet” too. It’s about 1/10th the size of this lovely room but I fill my prop closet with stuff I like and don’t have room to display at the moment. One of the things I’ve learned from EH and this blog is that part of the fun of designing your own home is changing things up. Sometimes I wonder why I bother since, half the time, I’m the only one who notices. But I’ve come to realize that “styling” my home is how I express my creativity. It’s not just fun, it’s mentally stimulating and really satisfying, especially in troubled times.

1 year ago
Reply to  LouAnn

Right there with you! I have a kitchen cabinet that I rotate things in and out of, and it’s so true that a little end table with “new stuff” on it can give a nice little mood boost. 🙂

1 year ago
Reply to  LouAnn

Yes, same here! I rotate things in and out throughout the year since I have a lot of things I’ve collected (we used to always find a fun vintage item on trips) and there isn’t room for all of them! Who doesn’t like a little no-cost refresh!?

1 year ago

My only suggestion would be to put the linens and pillows into clear sealed totes to keep mice from using them as a bathroom and chew toy/nest. I know it would be a long shot, but wouldn’t it be fun if you did videos going over each piece in your inventory, telling us where you got it, why its special to you, and some styling tips on how you’ve used it in the past. That would be very informative to us in case we have something similar, or are just looking for one ting to complete a room or vignette and you could spark that idea! I am fascinated with this little farmhouse and looking forward to hearing what you may have planned for it in the future.

1 year ago
Reply to  Amy

I was wondering how animals are kept out of a building like that. Not just mice but squirrels and raccoons will fight their way in given any opportunity.

1 year ago
Reply to  Amy

Oh Amy that is a great idea!! 🙂
That would be very helpful and informative, maybe a few times a year featuring 10 items at a time? The posts could be bookended with a paragraph or two about what the video is going to talk about (story too!) and a few still photos showing the items for clear viewing/studying.
It would be so helpful (and so interesting!) in the same way that the Rose Bowl shopping posts (other vintage shopping posts too) and the posts pointing out the cool design choices other designers have made, like some recent posts from Ryann and Jess. Also the design history posts posts like Caitlin’s Murano Glass (next big thing) and chair designs are so wonderfully helpful for training my eye (beautiful things) and brain (information & history)!

Thanks Emily and EHD Team!

1 year ago

Do you keep your seasonal/holiday items in your prop room too? Or do you have another storage are for those?

1 year ago

I had to downsize from a three story four-bedroom house to a two-bedroom condo. All my storage space disappeared. I’m down to half a closet that also holds our wine. I envy you so much I can’t stand it. You have such cool stuff. I’m looking forward to seeing it in different shoots.

1 year ago

For metal storage shelves, I’d highly recommend these Ikea BROR ones
Very sturdy and still pretty visually appealing.

1 year ago
Reply to  Maddy

Those are cute! And if anyone needs super-sturdy garage shelving (strong enough to climb on), we’ve had our Whalen Industrial shelves for 10+ years. We removed the bottom shelves on two units (doesn’t affect the sturdiness at all) and use them for extra shelving/storage over a garage sink and our trash and recycling bins.,-77”-x-24”-x-72”.product.100178373.html

1 year ago
Reply to  Kj

Ditto. They are indestructible and reasonably attractive.

1 year ago
Reply to  Maddy

Thank you for these recs! Didn’t know that BROR came in white–awesome!

1 year ago

So fun. I’m voting for the Craigslist (or facebook marketplace) posts to make a comeback!

1 year ago

Thank you for sharing- that looks like absolute heaven! As someone who moved from the valley to the Bend area, I’d suggest putting a dehumidifier in that space to prevent mildew from growing on your gorgeous treasures.

1 year ago
Reply to  Mindy

But there’s no electricity in this building.

1 year ago
Reply to  Io

They make moisture absorbers that just need to be emptied and refilled

1 year ago

Looks like a great place to come and rummage and admire. Can’t wait to see what you choose for your house. I’m curious how you will protect your fabric, prints and books from mold in the wet climate.

1 year ago

I don’t have a prop room, but I do have a frame room. It’s really a 4ft X 5ft room in the basement of my 100 year old house. It has a couple of shelves built in and hooks. I have been repainting frames and switching out pictures for years and have quite a collection by now.

1 year ago

What I would do for one hour of shopping in this room. 😍

1 year ago

I’d love to see more posts highlighting how spaces look normally vs styled for shoots. Especially when you show the kids’ rooms. So often when I see designed kids’ rooms, I struggle, because where is all their stuff? I’d love to see real, styled but not necessarily magazine-worthy rooms.

1 year ago
Reply to  JJ

we try to do the balance right in between – but when we’ve done it in the past it just kinda ruins the overall design which is counter productive. so i show real life on stories, but styled out so you actually enjoy the design when I hire a photographer. I wish our kids wanted to put wooden dice on their shelves but they really just want nerf guns and pokemon cards. most of the time we try to put them in bins so they are there, but not ruining the design 🙂

🥰 Rusty
1 year ago

“I always loved show-and-tell as a child (which fits well into blogging).” That’s so cute! 😊

The whole place looks uber-well organised!
What a treat to see your ‘old friends’ again and to feast your eyes on your treasures!

1 year ago

I remember before I had kids when I thought we would only have wooden toys and beautiful things for the to play with AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. The deeply loved plastic toys are very real, and very all over our house.

1 year ago

So many lovely items! Thank you for sharing.

1 year ago

Speaking as a interior designer who owns a vintage shop (Sound and Vision Living in Olympia WA. Please come visit us!), I would not suggest delving into the in-person retail market space. The pressure to keep up inventory levels is intense! And it is often hard to see a piece you have searched for, haggled over, drove miles for, and probably cleaned for hours, just march out the door after a two minute transaction. Part of me loves sourcing, discovering and admiring all the things, but I have definitely had to figure out a way to not get too attached to stuff.

1 year ago

What a charming, vintage-y looking room for your props!
I accidentally started a staging business by renovating and moving a few times – I have bags of fresh white towels, mirrors, vases, platters, etc. also enough extra tile for 3 or 4 bathrooms at this point. And I think we all have the ‘sentimental items that were gifts/hand me downs from relatives’ that don’t fit into our decor but we still have to hold onto them. Someday my garage will be cleared of all this stuff, or else I will have to move it again.

julie | Julie Caron Art
1 year ago

Oh, I soooo need a room like this for my painting studio. As it stands, I share the finished basement with the TV room. I really like the calm colors you used in there

1 year ago

So lovely to see all these items together! I can see how inspiring it would be to walk into that space and pull what you need to style a vignette or furnish a room. Your objects tell a pretty cohesive design story too. Interesting. Did you unpack and find any voids in your collection? Things that you wish you hadn’t given away or new colors / items that you want to add?

1 year ago

The little cup of toothbrushes cracked me up! It was really cool to see your inventory all in one place, can’t wait to see it all styled out in the farmhouse!

1 year ago

Hi Em and Team!
Would you guys ever do a post about things to buy when you’re trying to style up each type of room? Sometimes I’m like, I just want to refresh this bedroom!!!!, and it would be amazing to know exactly what a prop stylist would bring for each kind of room shoot. Not sure if this would be valuable to others, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a post like this (sorta similar things, but not like, I’m styling a kitchen, if you want to style your own kitchen, just go buy all this random stuff).

Monique Wright
1 year ago

That’s a lot of throws! Ha. And a leather-wrapped rock?! I dream of an inventory room at our next house. For now I’ll just look at my collection and think “isn’t it neat?” Also – try Thumbtack for labor! I’ve used it several times in PDX in a pinch!

1 year ago

This was really interesting to see but I was struck by a phrase you used and have used before to describe the old house: “totally falling down” which must be a bit of hyperbole. If this house was really falling down, you wouldn’t be setting foot inside, let alone storing valuable props in it…

1 year ago

What a fun space! Free shopping in your own backyard. I do agree with others about the textiles – I’d put them in clear bins to keep out the spiders and other creatures.

1 year ago

Not sure if you’re looking for a recommendation but, at work, we have a TON of props because each client requires on-brand props for their photos and videos. We implemented the Sortly app ( a few years ago, and while it took time to get everything logged, its been a lifesaver before we shop for a shoot, especially for our producers who are virtual and not in our studio to sift through the closets. Occasionally, employees will borrow props for their personal use and we’re able to tag it in Sortly so when we go looking for it we know who has it. Highly recommend!

1 year ago

Might want to be careful of the windows. Sometimes linens and blankets etc put right in front of a window will get faded by the sun over time! Just fyi. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way on may things 🙁

1 year ago

This must be such a fun room to be in! Wondering where are the furniture pieces stored? Or is this really all of it?

I do think it would be worthwhile to hire someone to inventory all your pieces, that way you could have a searchable database (even just an Excel doc). Wouldn’t take more than a day or two to do. I imagine it would help make your styling much more efficient, so you can focus on the creative part!

1 year ago

I will forever be obsessed with the wavy wicker table