guest blog

Interior stylists: women who make it look easy!

by Grace Bonney

Today… I want to showcase two incredibly talented and inspiring stylists. The first, Clair Wayman, is someone whose work I pour over every day and she never ceases to amaze me with the clever ideas she conjures for Real Living. The second is Australia’s stylist extraordinaire, Megan Morton, who needs little introduction. I have to say I was incredibly nervous when she agreed to style my tiny apartment (a week after she’d done a photo shoot with Nicole Kidman for Vanity Fair!) – check out the pics on my blog – Daily Imprint.

Burst of inspiration: Clair Wayman

Interior stylist; Real Living Melbourne style editor

Image courtesy of Tim James; taken at Home Furniture On Consignment in Melbourne

With a fashion designer mother, it’s no wonder Clair is a queen of creativity. After studying textile design, painting and print-making at uni, she turned to interior styling on illustrious UK mags such as Living Etc and BBC Good Homes before relocating to Australia and settling in oh-so-comfortably with the Real Living team.

How and why did you start working as an interior stylist?

I’ve always loved to draw, paint and sew. When composing a painting, I’d group collections of vases, fabrics and plants, anything that caught my imagination. Growing up, I can remember opening cupboards stuffed full of exotic fabrics that my mum had collected from her travels. Now I’m a self-confessed magpie myself, and love nothing better than hunting around fabric stalls, vintage clothing shops and antique markets for hidden gems. As a stylist I spend a lot of my time visiting quirky boutiques and designers, which seems to fulfill my inquisitive nature.

At art college I discovered screen-printing and dreamt of becoming a fabric designer, but then read an article about stylists, and thought it sounded like a creative, fun occupation. I didn’t realise quite how hard I’d have to work until I became an intern on various publications in London. Working as an assistant stylist for some of the best interior stylists in London, I became involved in creating imagery for interior books, magazines and catalogues, often shooting in beautiful country houses around England.


Image (right) courtesy of Real Living and Derek Swalwell. Image (left) courtesy of Modern Retro by Neil Bingham and Andrew Weaving (Ryland, Peters & Small).

What lessons have you learnt along the way?

I’ve learnt to inject personality into my room schemes and have fun mixing and matching styles. I love playing with pattern, form and colour for dramatic effect, such as this room (pictured) which I styled for Real Living. Now, my primary goal is to create rooms with character and comfort. Mismatched dining chairs, quirky artworks, deep sofas, and colourful, vintage cushions all help to create a comfortable, welcoming environment – a relaxing space that feels homely and organic. The best interiors evolve over time. I’ve also learnt never to underestimate the power of colour – used in the right proportions, it can really uplift you. Above all I choose what I love, follow my instinct, and don’t follow the crowd.

What’s your favourite decorating style?

I love the interiors of the 50s and 60s – designers at this time completely rethought form, structure and materials. The moulded plywood and bright plastic furniture had a fresh, innovative look. Warm orange, brown and yellow colour palettes had an optimistic feel.

I’ve also always been attracted to country interiors with robust battered leather armchairs and faded spriggy floral print sofas where energetic children, pets and adults alike can happily co-exist in the space. White painted floorboards, rustic trestle tables and logs stacked up by the fire conjure up a cosy feel, which I love.

Swedish homes always look light and elegant. They’re spacious and modern, yet decorative. Simple window treatments such as translucent muslin drapes, white, grey or pale pastel walls, candles and blonde wood furniture in curved shapes are the main elements. I love the combination of natural fabrics in delicate floral prints, checks and stripes in a fresh palette of blue, red, yellow, white or cream.

Image courtesy of Real Living and Sharyn Cairns; styled by Clair Wayman.

What’s the most common mistake people make when decorating their home?

Trying to combine too many colours and styles – creating a confused look is a common mistake. At the other extreme, playing it too safe is another pitfall. Getting the balance just right is the key to creating a relaxed space. Trust your judgement – you’ll soon know when something isn’t quite right.

Designing a room scheme is really easy, if you follow some simple guidelines. I generally hunt out a beautiful wallpaper, fabric or artwork and use this as my starting point. This pattern will act as the main focus of the room and all other ingredients should complement it. Finally, I add some quirky details to add an unexpected touch, such as vintage ceramics.

Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need a lot of money to create your own perfect haven – being resourceful and imaginative is often much more rewarding. You can unearth some real treasures in second-hand shops. Quite often, once vintage furniture is covered in fresh new fabric, or given a lick of paint it comes alive and looks amazing. As long as the basic structure and shape is good, you can’t go wrong.

Image courtesy of Derek Swalwell; styled by Clair Wayman.

Where do you look for inspiration?

I feel most inspired when traveling and exploring other cultures. By the time I arrive home I generally have a huge collection of photos and souvenirs to delve into whenever I feel the urge to get creative.

For me India offers a never-ending patchwork of possibilities – their vibrant textiles, elaborate architecture and luxurious style is a constant source of delight. I’d love to one day work with Indian craftspeople to design my own range of hand-dyed, embroidered fabrics.

I also often scour magazines for images, which fuel my imagination, and collect them in scrapbooks. It’s heaven for me to visit old-fashioned haberdashery stores – buttons and braids spark my imagination!

When watching films, I often become distracted from what the actors are saying by the beautiful interiors. Films like Something’s Got to Give, starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton is set in a rambling Hampton’s-style beach house. Another film called Evening is mainly set in 1940s America. The house is lavishly decorated with beautiful fabrics and wallpapers – a visual treat!

Image courtesy of the Design Museum


Image (left) courtesy of Vivienne Westwood, Images (right) courtesy of Designers Guild.

Who inspires you?

I love the work of fabric and furniture designers, husband and wife team, Lucienne and Robin Day who were at the peak of their careers in the 50s and 60s, but have been part of the design evolution ever since. (Robin’s best known for his injection-moulded polyprop stacking chair). Their Chelsea home could easily be mistaken for a contemporary interior, but it’s barely changed for over 40 years. It’s as if the rest of the world has finally caught up with their love of simple, pure materials and design with soul.

I’ve always loved clothes and have long admired Vivienne Westwood, the undisputed grande dame of British fashion. Her designs are outrageous and flirty. The exaggerated tailored shapes, inspired by crinoline gowns and plus fours, are brilliantly tongue in cheek, which is what fashion should be all about. Vivienne doesn’t care what people think, and, in the process, has created a unique legacy that people will always remember.

Another favourite is Tricia Guild – I always felt excited visiting her Kings Road showroom Designers Guild when working as an interior stylist in London. She created the most carefree, joyously feminine fabrics I’d ever seen. Over-sized flowers would float effortlessly across swathes of fabric in delicious pastel shades. I have all her decorating books at home which I escape into every now and then.


Images courtesy of Real Living and Dan Magree; styled by Clair Wayman.

Which features or projects that you’ve worked on are you most proud of?

There’s always going to be the element of surprise when collecting together props and creating a room scheme from scratch. The final look is generally quite different to the original idea. One of my favourite projects has been the storage feature that I completed for the March 08 issue of Real Living magazine. I relished the chance to find unusual and practical ways to tackle clutter. Let’s face it, most of us need help in that department!

One of my favourite jobs is a recent feature I did called Small Space Treatments. I tackled a problem that many of our readers face, living in tiny apartments and houses. The trick seems to be to make the most of the space, however small – hang bold wallpaper, paint a mural, create stripes, put up plywood sheets – the list is endless. Having a deadline to meet really made me focus on the job and I surprised myself with the amount of ideas I came up with in a week. I think the end result shows I had fun and as a bonus readers don’t have to spend a fortune to get a similar look.

Another favourite is a furniture revamp feature which was very time-consuming, but rewarding. It was surprising how good the furniture looked after it had been covered or painted or changed in some way. Getting up at the crack of dawn on a Sunday to go to Camberwell market was a little hard though!

Images courtesy of Real Living and Sharyn Cairns; styled by Clair Wayman.

How has your own personal interior style developed?

As my look evolves I’ve become more interested in creating warm, comfortable spaces that incorporate eco-friendly materials. To me comfort is a spiritual as well as a physical sensation. For a house to feel like a home there should be a powerful relationship between the building and the land it sits on. I love big, simple windows that offer tantalizing views of the landscape, making a connection with nature. Houses that co-habit, rather than compete with the landscape, are the ones that move the spirit.

I’m developing a deeper appreciation of natural materials such as wood, linen, stone, wool and leather for a calm, natural look. When choosing art to adorn the walls of my interiors I tend to be drawn to naturalistic imagery of plants, flowers and animals.

Being conscious of the environment, and our effect on it, is so important. I try and incorporate “green” products wherever I can, such as cushions made from climate neutral fabric or “eco-ware” biodegradable cork placemats. A favourite book at the moment is Cool Hunting Green by Dave Evans.


How would you describe your home?

I live in an open-plan 1960s beach house in a leafy suburb of Melbourne. My home is a constantly evolving canvas as it often gets used as a location for my decorating shoots. Walls change colour and furniture gets moved on a regular basis.

To suit the era of the house, the overall look is “laid-back retro” – junk shop finds are mixed with designer classics and contemporary pieces to create an eclectic feel. A simple veneer wood 60s sideboard sits happily next to black leatherette chairs with chrome swivel bases, that look like they’ve come straight from the set of a James Bond movie. A pebble-clad open fireplace forms the central focus in the living room and, when lit, creates a cozy atmosphere on cold evenings.

Colourful retro ceramics and glassware, mainly collected from Camberwell Market, fill every available space. It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that my favourite colour is orange – so many pieces have this colour running through them.

Being a girl who loves pattern, wallpaper is another weakness. The most recent addition is a bold pink and grey Flamingo design by Cole and Son that adorns a feature wall in our bedroom. I’m yet to find out what my partner Nick really thinks of this new look!

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about interiors, friends, family, art, fashion, animals, the environment, organic food. I’d love to build an eco-friendly country house, complete with solar power, where I could live with my family and a menagerie of animals. Being able to design and build a house from scratch would be an amazing achievement – a fantastic legacy to leave behind!

Burst of inspiration: Megan Morton: Stylist

Yes, she’s one of the busiest stylists in Sydney if not Australia. Yes, she’s had her work feature in international publications. Megan’s also the life of the party whenever she walks into a room as I found out when she styled my apartment for a Real Living feature. Ah, if only she could come back and sort out my front room!

How and why did you start working as an interior stylist?

Nine years ago.

What lessons have you learnt along the way?

Money and style have nothing in common.

Images from Creative Homes edited by Karen McCartney (Harper Collins); photography Con Poulos.

What’s your favourite decorating style?


What’s the most common mistake people make when decorating their home?

Sticking to the rule book.

Where do you look to for inspiration?

Music and books. I read everything and anything.

Images courtesy of Thames & Hudson and Published Art and Vanity Fair.

Who inspires you?

Tadao Ando, Millie De Castonet, Iain Halliday, my florist

Which features or projects that you’ve worked on are you most proud of?

A Vanity Fair cover, a skyhome in the city and a wine bar we designed for fashion week and Dita Von Teese and a Christmas lunch for the homeless.

How has your own personal interior style developed?

It’s pretty much been the same my whole life.

How would you describe your home?

A ramshackle mess (with outrageous potential!) where my most favourite people and things happily co-exist.

What are you passionate about?

Living with only what you need.

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  • this may be a stupid question – but how does one become an interior stylist?? i’m an interior designer, and this sounds like a cool career!

  • I love reading design sponge, especially the guest blogs. Great to see Australian Creativity featured, and Clair who’s work I love. She also has a blog, stylingwithfriends.blogspot.com. looking forward to reading more……

  • Great posts but is there anywhere where we can see these images at a higher resolution? (Linked to a Flickr account perhaps??)I know DS has limited space and some quality must be sacrificed to make page loading time reasonable etc. but there needs to be some sort of compromise too… some of these images have been reduced to such small & low quality files that they actually look pixellated and quite blurry. :(

    I’m a big fan and long time reader of this blog but the poor images have become more noticeable over the past couple of months. Sorry.

  • Great post. There’s such an art to what stylists do. I have lots of respect for their art. It’s much more difficult than you would think to take someone’s room and figure out what it needs to make it more interesting. IF we only knew , when we look at magazine photos, what the stylists added!

  • We have had the pleasure of working quite closely with Claire for quiet some time & we would like to say that she is a joy to work with, her personality is just as amazing as the work that she produces. We are glad that her talent is recognised across the world.
    Look forward to seeing you soon Claire.

    Forme Australia Team :)

  • Fantastic to see such bold use of colour in Clairs’s work. Its really motivated me to mix different styles and be adventurous with wallpaper. It also shows that you can make a room look fabulous by reinventing new furniture! Thanks for a great interview.

  • Great interview. Always exciting to get an insight into the life of stylists you admire.
    I work as a visual merchandiser but have always wondered how one gets into interior styling? Any tips? Suggested courses?
    Many thanks.

  • I am doing an interior design diploma which requires revit and building structure knowledge. I like the idea of interior styling more, but is it even harder to get in to than design?

    My question is similar to kasey’s, as I came upon this great page from searching the web for an answer to this very question!
    Thanks so much!

  • I came apon this website thourgh Ask.com I wanted to know how do i became an interior stylist? This article has been very insightfull, iI have recently quite my job and decided to refurbish my flat which i enjoier doin and would love to ture it in to a full time job. I have an degree in Textile Furnishing and would love to become A interior Stylist. How do in do this? Please help. Thank you so much

  • Hi there! I am a textile designer/mum, and I have accidently come across you in an attempt to gain inspiration…..so thank you. My question is also how does one become a stylist? I would greatly appreciate some direction….adios.

  • Hello,

    I wanted to ask if you might have information on a distributor for that flamingo wallpaper? I’m currently reworking my living room and would love to be able to run that along one of the walls. Any info would be appreciated, I love it so much but am struggling to find anyone who can put a source to getting some of it.


  • Hi

    I’m sure you’ve been asked this question soooo many times!!!!!! What is the best way of breaking into a career as an interior sylist and what qaulifications do you need?
    Many thanks

  • hey! i have a beginner’s question for when on interior shoots …how do you deal with pesky pillows to remove creases and have them evenly perfect?

  • Hi, thanks for the great interviews.
    Do either of your featured interior stylists offer ‘Interior Styling’ workshops?!
    And/or can they or you refer us to any hands on interior styling workshops in Australia?!…
    Other than the $3000 course which runs for 5 days with Coco Republic.
    Thank you!

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