Industry Insight from a Field Scout + Stylist

Monday, January 14th, 2013

I’ve always been fascinated by the magazine business, by the editorial side, the styling side, the photography side too.  When a magazine scout wants to come look at your home, it’s flattering of course, but for me the thing I value is the opportunity to gain some insight into the industry.

Each time I have the chance to work with professionals in the business, they always teach me something new, and it’s had a profound impact on the way I take photographs of everything.  Like all of us, I’m drawn to the pretty and I love to see how real spaces, ones that people actually live in, come alive on the pages of a magazine.

Last week there was a two day photo shoot at my house, and I’ll share all the details when it comes out in May.  At the end of the process, I sat down with Sarah of Albaworks, the regional field scout and stylist who found my home through the blog.  After watching her work for two days, I asked if she’d be willing to answer some questions so I could share with you all some insight into the industry from the perspective of a field scout and magazine stylist. 

Enjoy my Q & A with Sarah, and these lovely images from her portfolio! 

albaworks logo


Q:  Let’s start with your background Sarah, tell us what you do.

I’ve been a location scout, field editor and stylist for national home magazines for the past ten years.  I’ve been fortunate to work with a variety of magazines that run the gamut from ultra modern to traditional design, and from high-end to budget-savvy. Everything from Traditional Home to Better Homes & Gardens, California Home & Design, This Old House, Kitchen and Bath Ideas, Do-It-Yourself, etc.   My job changes all the time, which I love.  Some days I’m scouting a home, on others I’m styling a shoot, or I’m interviewing a fantastic homeowner.  Whatever it is, I’m constantly learning something new.

As a regional scout, I serve as the eyes and ears for these magazines on the West Coast and beyond.  It’s taken years to distinguish the “It” factor, but I know it when I see it.  It’s my job to match the right location with the right editor, without wasting anyone’s time.

As a stylist, my job to enhance what’s already present, so I come in to put the icing on the cake.  Styling for magazines is all about maintaining the integrity of the home and complying with the rules and requests of the individual magazines down to the exact angle and detail.

mod table and window seat albaworks


Q: What do you look for when scouting a home to be featured in a magazine?

I’m always on the hunt for a great kitchen or bath, or an entire home.  Typically a solo bedroom or living room will end up on the cutting room floor.  Kitchens and bathrooms tend to be the first spaces homeowners decide to remodel, so it makes sense why so many magazines will feature them.

seaglass tile bathroom albaworks

In general, I’m looking for everything the magazines are looking for.  Kitchens and bathrooms should have a unique element to them.  We’ve all seen the head-to-toe white kitchen, so we want to see something new that makes a kitchen or bathroom special.  Does it have clever storage, interesting mix of materials, color, or even a great floor plan? Is it “green” or tech savvy?  Is there a historic twist?


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In the Spotlight: Stephen Saint-Onge

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Hello all, I’ve invited a special guest here today!  From time to time, I ask stylists and designers I admire to chat with me here, and today’s guest is Stephen Saint-Onge, also known as “Designer Dad”! 

Stephen is the Contributing Home Editor for Family Circle Magazine and his expertise is in creating comfortable and livable spaces for families.  His practical and budget conscious designs help us all bring beautiful, easy-to-attain style into our homes.  Stephen is the husband, father, and homeowner that reminds everyone to appreciate the simple things in life: home, family and friends.  Please welcome Stephen Saint-Onge and enjoy our Q & A.  

stephen saint-ongeQ:   Hello and welcome Stephen!  Share with us a little about your background and your work.

First off, hello to all the readers of your blog!  I’m a big fan of yours so it’s a true pleasure to get to talk to you this way.  I’ve done makeovers on television and in magazines for many years now.  I love that design can change someone’s life.  I have seen how simple changes can make an impact on a homeowner’s outlook and feel for their home.

In recent years, especially during the personal time of writing and photographing my first book, I realized that my focus is truly on the family focused home and lifestyle.  That’s what I’m all about, so the focus became about all things ‘Designer Dad’.   However, my blog is not solely about home design – it touches on my love of photography, food, culture, family, music, film.  As a creative person, I wear many hats so that place is the home base of all that I am doing or connected to.

A great deal of the work that I do is in the media or seen in the public eye, for example, my work as contributing editor to Family Circle Magazine or other makeover projects that I do.  At the same time, I’m also doing private client design work as well in the New York City Metro area.  It’s a good balance between keeping what I do in touch with what real families want because that is who I am designing for.  As a husband, dad of two boys, and a homeowner, I use those things as my touchstone towards reminding me of what I’m bringing to the creative table. 

Recently, my love and interest in photography has come into focus.  I now shoot all my own design projects and also launched a canvas collection of my photography and artwork targeted at the everyday home.   Photography is also going to be a bigger part of my next book project which is currently in the early stages. 


Q: From reading your recent book No Place Like Home, it’s clear your philosophy is focused on family friendly home design. Tell us where you begin when you work with a family to create a comfortable and stylish interior that reflects the needs and personalities in the home?

I start every design project with a private client the same way or even just someone coming up to me and asking me to help them figure out their home style – "What movie or TV show have you seen that has a great house featured in it that you just love?"  It is amazing how it takes people a second but then their faces light up. 

slipcovered chair stephen saint onge

They start remembering great houses they loved or ones that caught their eye.  For those that have no idea where to begin, that is great starting point.  What is your favorite movie home? is a great question to ask.  For me it would be: Something’s Gotta Give, Out of Africa, and It’s Complicated

summer white stephen saint-onge

Though you may not do a whole house exactly as you see it in the film, you get the essence of what you are moving towards.  I did a behind-the-scenes visit on my blog to the homes of the series on NBC’s Parenthood  – there was a huge response from fans because they connected with those homes and loved them.  Same with my visit to the set of The Good Wife on CBS.   You are entertained but you can also be educated and empowered by design! 


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