The Messy Truth About Those Shelter Magazine Photo Shoots

Joni Webb’s Den, from Houston House and Home Magazine

Ever wonder how come all the folks featured in shelter magazines get to live in such perfect, pristine interiors — when your place is such a wreck? Well, maybe they’re not really so different from you.

Cote de Texas’s Joni Webb, this month’s Houston House & Home magazine cover girl (well, actually — her dogs are on the cover; she’s on page 50) gives a picture of what really goes on behind the scenes:

I had exactly one week to get my home “photo ready.” I was totally overwhelmed by this news, but my family was ecstatic and promised to help me clean it up, which I knew would be a lie (it was.) . . .

The list of rooms that couldn’t be photographed was growing: my office is such a disaster even I hate to go in there, my daughter’s room is a typical teenage mess, the kitchen, with it’s outdated appliances, has new pewter hardware clashing with the brass plumbing fixtures which are awaiting their turn to be replaced. This same problem affected all the bathrooms. My decorating crises didn’t leave too many rooms “photo ready”so I had to get the rest of my house in tip top shape and fast. Like most people whom I sure don’t have “photo ready” rooms, my house is filled with the clutter of everyday life: piles and piles of unopened junk mail, back issues of unread magazines stashed everywhere, an overcrowded garage — not that they would want to photograph my garage, but after the grease-stained headboard cover story, who knew? In other words, my to-do list was very, very long, so long that I dreamed of calling the magazine to cancel. My suddenly publicity hungry husband threatened me with divorce if I did. And so, I proceeded on to d-day.

After the jump, what to do with junk mail and electrical cords: A Houston design blogger reveals how to make your home ready for its close-up . . . in a jiffy. Plus: more pics from the shoot!


More from Joni Webb:

In order to make it “photo ready” I did major spring cleaning in the fall. I moved my televisions, phones, radios and anything with a vile electrical cord into the garage. Bookshelves which have remained the same for years were rearranged. Stylish vignettes magically appeared out of scattered nick-nacks. In short, every inch of my house was cleaned, arranged, polished, dusted, or painted in order to become the dreaded “photo-ready.” God forbid Houstonians see my house and how we live with any degree of realism. At a mad, frantic pace, I stuffed my already overloaded garage with the flotsam and jetsam of every day living. Baskets of throws and magazines were banished there, along with computers and work files and anything else that wasn’t “designer.” My guest room got a HGTV instant redo with the help of Restoration Hardware, my daughter was forced to hang up her clothes, I had a bench and chair slipcovered overnight in Chappell Hill via a series of stealth maneuvers that the Army would envy. I had my workroom rush a pillow order for the den, only to loathe them on sight. Thankfully Daniel at Area provided the backups I needed. With all this work going on, I didn’t sleep much that week.

And there was more. My “regulars” disappointed me: the window washers managed to clean the outside of the panes, but vanished before doing the inside. My gardener promised to bring me fresh annuals for the patio, only to show up the day after the shoot laden with a gorgeous array of fall flowers. I moved around every accessory I owned and discovered such dust that even my housekeeper was disgusted. And finally when I announced I would be kenneling my two dogs for the big day, I was told: No, don’t, we LOVE dogs! How true I would find this to be.

Joni Webb’s Living Room, from Houston House and Home Magazine

Joni Webb’s Dining Room, from Houston House and Home Magazine

Photos: Miro Dvorscak