Guest Interview with Fabienne Miler – Property Stylist

Sep 21, 2023 | Photography Client Guest

“Show Notes”

Fabienne is a property stylist who works with Airbnb owners.
she loves to create an original, playful property. She helps their AirBnb stand out
online. She loves to go crazy with paint and then build on the “fluff” from there.

Fabienne has to think not just about the look of the property, but she also has to
ensure it works. Once a visitor arrives it’s vital the property works for them.
Fabienne is finding that AirBnb has got so competitive in the last year that property
owners need to stand out much more than they needed to before. Even in the last
year Liverpool Airbnb properties have more than doubled. Fabienne’s mission in life
is to avoid the use of grey in these properties.

For Fabienne the photography of the property is vital as that is what is used to get
the property on AirBnb. Choosing the right photographer for this work is essential.
Just seeing which photographer is available is not the way to go. Property
investors need to choose the right photographer for them. Without the right
photographs most of Fabienne’s work is wasted. Fabienne thinks that lots of
photographers want the photographs to look clean and fresh, while Fabienne
usually wants photographs to make the property look warm and welcoming.
Marcus explains this would mean using natural light and lights in the room, rather
than using large bright flash lighting. Fabienne has had some poor experience with

For example the colours in the room being altered or almost lost.

We discussed what is the best way for someone to choose a photographer in this
case. She thinks a conversation with the photographer and being able to view their
past work are key. She explains that also a great photographer amplified her work

‘making it look amazing due to the photographers skill
Fabienne does have some clients using their phone not a professional
photographer for the photographs, but this is quite unusual. Most do use a
professional photographer.

Properties for sale often use very wide lenses to make rooms look large. Fabienne
thinks this can also work in an AirBnb. But it needs to not make the room look too
big, as it has to match the reality for when visitors arrived. But, Fabienne said she
has never seen a negative review where a visitor complained about the size of a
room compared to the image.

The wording used for the property is vital. The wording must include lots of feeling
about the property.

Fabienne explains that there are many property investment groups on Facebook

and these are a great place for property photographers to be. Fabienne has her
own group which you can find here.

But don’t just sell on these groups. Add value and help people.

You can connect with Fabienne here.

“Show Transcription”

Sam: Hi, Marcus. How you doing?

Marcus:  I am very well, Sam. I’ve just come back from holiday, so I’m wonderfully. Refreshed? Well, sort of. I’ve got a bit of jet lag, to be honest, but I’m good apart from that.

Sam: Excellent. Good to hear. Well, today we’ve got a really exciting guest, somebody I speak to a lot, and I think she’s going to be able to share a lot of really interesting things with us. So, I’m going to let her introduce herself. So, Fabianne Miller, welcome of the show.

Fabiene: Thank you very much for having me. So, I am Fabian Miller and I’m a property stylist. So, I specialize in investment property, particularly Airbnb type. And for me, my kind of philosophy, and I think a bit why I’m more kind of known for the work I do is the colorful and joyful and playful aspect. So, I love color, I love creating properties that are different, and especially in Airbnb, where creating an experience, creating something original, especially, has become so crowded, therefore being unique is becoming quite important.

Sam:  Amazing. So, you’re kind of helping Airbnb owners get seen. So as people on Airbnb are scrolling thought hose properties, you’re helping their property to

Miller: Exactly. Standing out is the first thing. And usually this is where I go a bit crazy with paint because for me, it’s the best tool in the box, concerned to do the job. And then once they’re in, it’s all about the atmosphere, it’s all about the styling and the fluff, basically within the property to kind of appeal and lock the booking, basically.

Sam: Cool. And then is that also to kind of also about when they’re there so they like it and they come back, as well as the kind of look for just when they’re searching?

Fabiene: Yes, exactly. Reviews. Because as much as you can stand out, it’s not the end of the story. And as much as I love to think that the look is everything, it’s got also to function. So, as I design, I’ve got to make sure also that the flow, therefore the layout of the property works. Got to make sure that everything is accessible. I mean, I’m sure we all have stories of going to a hotel or an Airbnb where you can’t plug your phone because the lead is too far or something like that. So, it’s just thinking about the experience not only visually how they feel, but also obviously how it works for them.

Sam: Okay. Amazing. So quite a holistic service. So, when do you normally come in and help an Airbnb person? Is it kind of before they’ve got on the market or after they’ve done it for a while or is it kind of.

Fabiene:  I usually tend to be involved too late in the process. Usually what I always recommend is to get me involved as soon as possible. Because even choices like the flooring or the kitchen, the kitchen color, you want already this to be integrated within the scheme. So, the earlier I come in, the better. And it depends the type of project, because I can come for someone who’s been refurbishing, therefore doing the wall, getting input on flooring and tiles and everything, where I’m getting much more requests. Now, this is why I can see the market getting so much more crowded. I get requests for refresh. So, people who even like a year ago were doing so well, suddenly there’s so many more people that they’ve got to change the way they were doing things. And they start with the interior. I mean, I was talking to some people about the market and the numbers. And in Liverpool, for instance, on Airbnb last year you had only 2500 Airbnb. Today there are 4500. the scale. Exactly. So, this is why within a year. Within a year and this is why you’ve got it’s not even an option anymore. You’ve got to stand out.

Sam: Yeah. So, has it been growing like that for a long time or is that a recent phenomenon?

Fabiene:  I think, I mean, just through my experience with the request I have and the clients I have, I can see it’s, within the last year he has exploded. There’s so many I think he has become typically you’ve got your landlord that is starting to kind of hear about and things are changing, the cost of electricity and all that. So, people are looking at different avenues. And Airbnb has been so successful. I think landlords are moving towards that. People doing property investment, they’re moving new people getting into investment start as well. So, yeah, it’s booming.

Marcus: Fabio, may I ask, do you work exclusively for properties on Airbnb or do you work for any other vendors as well?

Fabiene:  Yeah, I think because of what I produce, I think it’s because it’s so I wouldn’t say out there, but let’s say I use Color. It works particularly well for Airbnb because of what we just discussed. However, I work also for HMO, so that’s more your student accommodations, same principle, and a bit less on people who basically try to sell their property, but always in investment. So, if you’re doing a flip or if you buy to sell, that’s where also I get involved. But in this market, because it’s a different type of market you’re trying to appeal to, you try to tone it down a bit. So, I’ve got to kind of refrain myself just to again appeal to your market. So, I use the same color, it’s just I go down, down in kind of vibrancy.

Sam: But you’re still not recommending beige on all walls?

Fabiene: No, I mean, my big fight, my mission, I think in life has become to stop people from using the look you see a lot. It’s a look that has become. So, you just go on Airbnb of a look. It’s gray the easy way in. And I think because people are still a bit afraid to use color, so it feels like the safe thing to do. But if there’s something you need to do when you’re doing investment is not being safe when it comes to interior, because being safe is blending, and that doesn’t work anymore.

Marcus:  That makes sense. I must show you. I mean, obviously for our listeners, they won’t see this, but I must show you this, Fabian. It’s one of my favorite ball. Massive paint swatch. You’ve got the same one.

Sam: Hang on. If you both get a picture,

Fabiene:  I’m showing as well, all my collection.

Marcus:  It’s a thing of beauty, isn’t it? I mean, their colors are just so spot on.

Fabiene: Yeah. Farine ball is always a go to, especially if you’re a bit unsure. If you go with them, you can’t go wrong. But also, as I always say, and this is something also, I train property investor in that field, if it’s done with harmony, if it’s done with cohesion, and it’s done with intention. So, you know why you’re doing things. I think you can pretty much mix any colors because it’s how you then bring everything together.

Sam: Yeah, okay. It feels a bit like us designing a website, really, with the colors and yeah, you’re thinking about which ones come together and which don’t and how it works and getting that look and standing out. But obviously you do a lot of work, Fabiana, and getting these properties looking amazing. Obviously, this is a photography podcast, but photography is presumably then absolutely key because it’s through the photographer’s eye that then this property gets onto Airbnb.

Fabiene: Exactly. And it’s funny, because I’ve done this job for now, four years, and I was completely new to it when I started, and I thought it was just down tome, movie ignorance or yeah, I thought it was my job to make things look amazing, but actually, very quickly, I realized that it wasn’t at all. And the photography has got as much importance in the finished result, in one way or in another, which means that my expectation always for them to elevate even more what I’ve done. But also, I had experience and I don’t have to go far.  It was a couple of weeks ago, one of the best projects I had the chance to be involved in, and the photographer came and he kind of brought the work I’ve done for me, is kind of reduced the quality of it. So, I was asking earlier, can I say also, the stories are not as good, unfortunately. That’s the reality of it. Absolutely. Photographers have the last word. They are the one who are capturing, or not the atmosphere.

Marcus:  So, in this case, you’re talking about you commissioned the photographer to shoot it. Are you saying you weren’t happy with the work?

Fabiene:  No. For me again. I train property investors and in the last module when it comes to kind of okay, let’s get now the photography and let’s make sure basically the photo capture completely all the work we’ve been doing. I talk also about. Okay, you choose your photographer. So just to make sure. So that you just don’t look for who’s available. Right. I’m in Liverpool and I’m looking for a photographer who’s here that is not. But if you are on property group, you will see that’s a question that comes up a lot. So, I have a bit of due diligence around that. But the most important thing is when I start a project, for me it’s always, okay, who are we trying to attract? So, who’s the target market? And from that I move to what atmosphere do we want to create for them? How do they want to feel? So, when it comes to the end of the process, when the photographer comes in, that is what I want to share with them, okay? That is what we’re trying to achieve here. And for me, usually it’s welcoming, it’s warm, and this is why I’m a big fighter against gray, which to me is cold. It’s the opposite of that. I don’t do modern stuff, I don’t do striking, not striking kind of contemporaries. For me, I found that the default position. Often when I deal with a photographer, they want to make it clean, they want to make it fresh, they want to make it kind of that look. And for me, I want it warm, I want it soft. Therefore, that message has to be conveyed to the photographer because they’ve got to bring that into the mix because they’re the last piece of the puzzle, but they are one of the most important one. So, all the work that’s been done before, they’ve got to be aware of it to make sure they capture it in the right way.

Marcus:  Yes. You obviously work closely with a photographer. How do you do that? Do you have guidelines? Do you be there on the shoot with them? Tell me.

Fabiene: Well, the difficulty, it tends not to be a problem. So, I work remotely with pretty much all my clients. So, everything I do is just through floor plan videos and just understanding where’s the sun compared to the property. So, I manage to do my work like that. And it’s the same with photographers. So, when it comes for my clients to kind of make the work happen, it’s for them to purchase, it’s for them to source, even like, the decorator, for them to basically manage the whole thing. So, I spec everything, same with the photographer, where I talk to them about, okay, this is basically the atmosphere we want. So, this is welcoming, this is fun, this is playful. Tell that to your photographer. So, this is my brief to them to give to the photographer. So, my input is very limited when it comes to on the day, if you want, I’m not there. But what I tend to do is that just prior to the photo shoot, I’ve got like, a video around the room to make sure that the cushions are in the right place because this is a crucial, lights on and things like that. So, I have a last look on the property and I’m happy. I give the message to the client and basically then I wait for the photos.

Marcus: Got you. Yes. So obviously you’re relying on the skills of the photographer. I mean, I’ve done quite a bit of interior photography myself and so when you say you want it to be warm looking, I sort of know how you do that. But for listeners who are new to the game, maybe you could explain what you mean by a warm photograph and inviting or a warm environment and how they can do that.

Fabiene:  Well, I’m not a photographer, so I’m not going to kind of go into the specificity of what they meant to do. For me, what it means is almost as opposed to the cold, not cold, the clean and fresh look. Right. I don’t do clean; I don’t do fresh. Doesn’t sound good, does it? I do it so that it’s softer, it’s softer to the eye. So, for me, I expect to see more yellow than blue in the can of how it comes up. It’s just it’s got to feel cocoony. Right. I hope that makes sense.

Sam: That makes sense, totally.

Marcus: So, I guess, yeah, you would do that by using more ambient lighting than flash lighting, by going more for the tungsten lighting, which is the lights in the room, and keeping those on and keeping it warm that way. As opposed to putting a big hard flash in there and making everything bright and sparkly.

Fabiene:  Exactly. And this example I was talking about, it was like a duplex, what do you call them, a duplex in London. Amazing view. And it was just a refresh. Loads of cushions on this massive sofa brought loads of cushions. So basically, it was all about softening, this place. Right. And the photos came back and the cushions, the color completely changed. That’s the first thing for me, my job is about bringing color in a certain way. And I had like an orange, like a rusty orange, and I became almost red and again, it was very bright. Very bright.

Marcus: Saturated.

Fabiene:  There we go. I mean, I wouldn’t know exactly what’s going on there, but the walls, it was a white room and it just became very clinical. And for me, it’s such a disappointment because when I left that room, the feel was so good. And I look at these photos and personally, it’s not at all the intention that was behind the design.

Sam: Yeah. So, if you’re choosing a photographer, I’m wondering, do you think it’s most important I don’t know, from your experience, that you sort of choose a specialist photographer, like a property photographer. They’re really experienced in this. Or do you think it’s more important to talk to the photographer almost? You kind of see if they seem to be understanding what you’re trying to get across. I don’t know if you’ve got experience of which approach is better.

Fabiene: Yeah, so I think I had this conversation with clients, property investors, when it comes to it, and it’s exactly that it’s having this is what we’re trying to achieve here. Is this something you’ve done? Is this something you can do and show me photos, right? So, I had clients sending me photos before of the photographer they were using and I’m like, yeah, this is perfect. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I work with people who are absolutely amazing and in fact they elevate what I do, which is always a pleasure because I rediscover the rooms through their eyes and it’s just amazing. And this is why I always say, look, there’s always an investment also, but this is property investment and for me, this is why I always keep talking about if investment is right to the end. And I include people like me who create the rooms, but also photographers. So, this is part of the investment and you’ve got to commit to that last part of the project, which often for property investors, they just especially after a big refurb, run out of time, run out of money, they just want the property out. This is the last piece of the puzzle which is the most important. This is the marketing that they’re like, yeah, let’s just get the listing out and let’s get the money in.

Sam: Yeah. So, do you sometimes have difficulty persuading to use a professional photographer? Do you end up people literally going iPhone?

Fabiene: No, I had people doing iPhone photos, which I have almost like an agreement for them because also it’s my name on this thing, right? And it’s like, look a good photographer because if you’re going to take iPhone photos of the work that doesn’t work. So now you still have people doing that. I think this is something I certainly promote ideally, I think, yes, property photographer, because I think they’ve got the experience and you’ve got some people in the business and they are there lots of amazing people out there, I’ve seen their work, I see what they do, so it’s just, again a mix. But for a client, I think it’s important to do your due diligence to make sure that especially you’re going to spend a bit of money on that, get the best results you can.

Marcus:  Do you have any sort of stipulations Fabiana to the lenses that are used? For example, the reason I say that is that traditionally in property photography, the estate agents use very wide lenses to make rooms look massive, but you get really big distortion as a result of that. Do you have any sort of stipulations about how the viewpoint of it wide lenses?

Fabiene: No, it’s not that level but you see, I don’t have an issue with a bit of distortion.

Marcus: Good.

Fabiene: I think as long as it’s not extreme, I think it’s different when you’re going to sell in investment. I think when you’re going to sell, I think you’ve got to be cautious not to go over the top how much you distort, because ultimately, this is their home, they’re not going to get food, you might get them in. But again, Airbnb just kind of enhancing, which is also the job I do with paint, to be honest. Because for me, one of how I choose paint when I first start a project is also is there any issue with any rooms? Have we got a low ceiling? Have we got a room that is too narrow? And then I just play with the paint to kind of change a bit, that feeling. So, again, I don’t mind the photographer to, again, enhance tiny bit the look of the room.

Marcus: Gotcha. Yeah, that’s very good. i mean. Yeah, I think it’s really important. I mean, I use Airbnb properties every now and then and yeah, you look at the photograph, that’s how you that’s how you book it really, isn’t it? So, it is a very important thing.

Sam: It is.

Fabiene: Sorry, I’ve never seen any on reviews. I’ve never, ever seen anyone kind of complaining about, okay, the third bedroom was smaller than on the photo. So, you see, it’s not something if the experience is there again, functionating, all that, they’re not going to pick up on that, it’s going to attract them, but I don’t think it’s going to be something negative at the end.

Sam: That makes sense. And then you talk to them at all about the description they use of the property. So obviously you’ve kind of set it up with how it looks and how it feels. And then the photos you’re involved with, do you get involved at all with the text they use as well? Because that’s presumably quite important too.

Fabiene: Yeah, but again, it’s back to this atmosphere. So, the description exactly in the listing has to capture again, that feeling because then you loop the loop in the experience you’re providing. So not only visually, but even in the description. So exactly, Sam.

Sam: So, the description is less this room and there’s two plates and four forks. It’s more about this is going to be you’re going to feel really welcome here. It’s a very comfortable place. The atmosphere.

Fabiene: cozy break. Cozy break. Like chill. The wording has to kind of really convey the emotion because ultimately, like many purchases and Airbnb is another way of spending money, a lot of it is emotional. So, the wording again, has power in the wall game, part of your marketing. Again, so it’s just this is why the refurb and I see this part of the process being missed, as I explained earlier, where they reach a point where they spent so much money and time, they just want it out. But actually, last bit, the photos, the interior, the listing, this is what’s going to make the business successful or not.

Sam: Yeah.

Fabiene:  Without it, it completely grasped.

Marcus:  Yeah. I mean, to me it sounds like fascinating niche for photographers to get into Fabian. and you have just mentioned some way show you find photographers and some Facebook groups. Maybe you could just give us our listeners, a few key pointers about how they might get into this type of photography.

Fabiene:  Well, if I was new to photography and I’m thinking passionate about it, that sounds interesting. There are many investments so property investment groups on Facebook. And again, you just have to go if you’re familiar with Facebook, just go in one group and just put photographer and just see how many times someone is saying, yeah, I’m in Sheffield, I need the photographer. Any recommendation. So, I think it’s a good way to get out there. I myself. It’s called property staging. Group for investors. There’s 5000 people on there and

Sam: It’s we’ll pop a link for you in the podcast chat so people can see that.

Fabiene: Thank you. So, the vast majority are property investors, which is great, and I would say 20% of the people on there were professionals in that sector. So, there is all the design people like me and also photographers. So, again, it’s always a way to kind of showcase what you do, but don’t showcase it. You’ve got to bring it with some value in terms of, okay, I’ve done this job and I use the stuff you were talking about to keep the warms. I kind of did that. So always kind of bring some kind of value at the back of that rather than just selling indirectly. Very kind know, look how great I am.

Sam: We’ve talked about that a lot about social media, haven’t we, Marcus? Using it to engage a community rather than using it as a place to sell. Cool. That’s really interesting, Fabianne. Yeah, loads of cool stuff. There. Loads of interesting stuff for our listeners, photographers, and it sounds like you have a lot of fun,

Fabiene:  you know, that apart from when it comes to the it bit.

Sam:  I help Fabianne with her website. So, yes, we have lots of fun together with Fabian’s crazy ideas and we try to work out how to make them work. It’s always fun and games. Cool. Right. We do have a newsletter for the podcast. If you want to sign up to the newsletter, go to website for photographers that’s with the number 4 Co.UK Forward slash Podcast. Sign up and you get a weekly newsletter so the podcast arrives with you. You get a bonus extra to the podcast, so you get little bits of extra nuggets of information from our guests or from us, and you get to suggest future topics and stuff. So well worth signing up. Website slash podcast. And Fabian, it has been amazing having you with us. It is always entertaining talking to Fabianne. There’s never a dull moment. So, thank you so much.

Fabiene: Thank you.

Marcus:  Thank you, Fabian.