Nathalie Priem contacted me recently because I had featured her photographs of the London home of florist Nikki Tibbles on the blog. And then once I had looked at this lovely lady’s portfolio I knew that I had to know more about her. And particularly, what inspires her. Nathalie doesn’t only photograph interiors. Her website features many of her beautiful landscapes, her product shots and her portrait work too, so although I have used some of her interior shots below, pop over to her website and feast your eyes. But, before you disappear, I asked Nathalie a few questions about herself and her work.
Can you tell my readers a bit about yourself and how you got into shooting interiors?
I live in East London with my husband, my dog and soon-to-be-born baby boy. It’s a great place to live as there is such a creative buzz in the area. I first got into interiors photography about 9 years ago. At the time I was working for a small start-up tailoring company, which was a lot of fun and filled with variety, and I was mostly shooting as a hobby – landscapes, macro, and travel photography mostly, alongside the occasional paid for events photography job. A friend mentioned that a position had opened up at the little company he worked for to shoot interiors on a freelance basis. Before that I hadn’t really ever thought about doing it as a career, as I had always presumed I would have required a degree or some sort of formal training to do it as my sole source of income. I’ve always been a creative person, loving to make things with my hands and have always preferred being out and about, doing my own thing so I just bit the bullet and thought I should give it a go and get involved. It really was a life changing decision and although a bit scary to take the plunge it was the best thing I could have done, as I really found my passion working as a photographer.
What do you love most about photographing the inside of someone’s home?
As soon as I started shooting interiors I fell in love with it and found the whole process really exhilarating. I have been very fortunate to shoot a vast array of differing homes over the years, from mansions to town houses and architectural renovations to eclectic little flats. It’s so exciting to see the immense variety of homes people live in and also the huge variation in what, from the outside, looks to be similar buildings but inside can vary enormously. It’s amazing how differently we all use the spaces we live in. I think, in part, my favourite aspect is being inspired by what you see in peoples homes. From pieces of art, to colour palettes used, to clever little design features and concepts people have employed to maximise the use of the space. And it’s also really nice to have the variety, within my job, of meeting new people, being somewhere different and seeing something new on a day to day basis.
What’s your personal favourite style of interior?
I don’t know if I could pin point a favourite style, probably as I’ve seen the best (and on occasion the worst) of most styles. I’m quite a dichotomous person and I love some totally contradicting styles, from minimal to eclectic.
The two things, I feel, probably tie the spaces I really connect with together, are a well thought out colour palette/ colour scheme and using this to let your personality shine through. Colour is such an important factor in really getting a space and its contents to gel together seamlessly and once you have it right you can really show off your personality whether that is minimal or eclectic, modern or traditional. The overarching colour scheme sets the theme and essence of the space and from there it allows you to harmoniously place a wide variety of different pieces together beautifully, including reclaimed, bespoke and high street items, not to mention all the little things we pick up from travels abroad.
Who are your main clients, and is your approach different for an architect say, to an interior designer?
I work with a variety of interiors-related companies, including both companies who design, build and renovate properties along with companies that furnish, decorate and style the interiors. So the shoot focus and approach is often heavily adapted to the clients needs, focusing on what they brought to the project.
Classically, architects love to see the bare bones of a building and focus on the flow of a space along with the design details; including period features that may have been restored, the variety of materials used and clever joinery aspects and the finer points that affect how the space is used. Often this is achieved by not having the distraction of too many superficial items in the way, a well placed piece here and there is often the preference to a fully filled space, so future clients can really focus on the work they have done in creating the space itself. More recently however, architects I work with are buying and developing their own projects. Then the scope for a shoot changes quite radically, as they also use interior designers to dress and style the spaces with a view to marketing and selling the properties. This adds an additional lifestyle aspect into the shoot, with an aim of giving potential buyers and future investors a real feel for the space in a more homely sense so they can imagine living in the space, so then I’m looking to cover both bases. It can involve a lot of things being shifted in and out of shot – I call it the moving experience!
For shoots with interior designers the focus is often on the aesthetic and tactile aspects. Vignettes of textures, bespoke pieces of furniture, carefully sourced trinkets and fixtures, and styled sections of the room are the main focus, as this shows off their skill set and what they brought to the project. Through shots of linked spaces are also important to show how colours and styles work together from room to room along with broader room shots, showing how everything ties together to give the viewer a frame of reference for the the details.
What’s the most unusual interior you have ever photographed?
I photographed a crazy house, nicknamed the Rainbow house. It has a giant spiral staircase spanning 4 floors, with steps that spanned through the colours of the rainbow from the basement in purple to the master bedroom at the top in red. Each floor had a different colour theme, with a large portion of the house being kitted out with Richard Woods printed floor panels of various colours! The kitchen floor featured a yellow and black flower sketch design and there was even a kids metal slide linking it to the master bedroom above, coming down over a huge built-in padded yellow play area that occupied a good 10m squared. It was quite something. A very bold and brave design concept. Too much for all but the most eccentric person to live with though I suspect.
What’s the style of your own home and have you ever photographed it?
Haha, well my own home is a work in progress! We are currently renovating it so unfortunately it’s not yet in any fit state to be photographed. My husband is also in the interiors game, coming from an architecture background and he owns a joinery and design company, so he has done most of the design work himself. I don’t know if I could pin point a style as we’ve drawn on our favourite aspects of various projects we’ve seen and worked on. The kitchen /dining is open plan and quite minimal spanning the whole of the ground floor. We used white Corian and larch, along with dark patinated metal splash backs to tie in the dark floor to ceiling window frames at both ends of the room. We wanted to keep the space feeling airy so we avoided any overhead storage and opted for two low runs of units along either wall and a full height storage section in a recess to the rear. We added bifold doors at the back of the house along with matching tiles in the garden to keep the flow of the kitchen when the doors are open in the warmer months. Its a very peaceful, bright space. The main bathroom also has a light feel to it, with grey veneered joinery, white walls, brass fixtures and marble floor tiles. The upper parts of the house are still under construction, including the living room, bedroom and en-suite. The joinery in the living room will be a bluish black to match the dark sisal stair runners we have throughout the house and also the colour of the windows including a large double height period window which is a prominent feature of the room. The colour scheme gets more moody as you head up the house and to the bedroom. Having had a bright white bedroom prior to the renovations we decided that it would be nice to change to darker colours, which are so on trend at the moment anyway, and make the bedroom really more about winding down and relaxing into a less active state of mind. This will be filled with hues of grey and a few accents of soft pastel colours. It’s been a lot of fun working on it, gathering samples together and visualising the end result. We’ve ousted quite a lot of our old furniture too and I definitely have the final photoshoot in mind when I am making my selections and styling choices so watch this space for the results!
Do you hang your own photographs on the walls at home?
At the moment we don’t have any artwork up, but yes, there will be some of my images up on the walls once the works are complete. I think a number of prints I had previously had up may be relegated due to the new colour schemes, but its exciting to look through my archives and select new images. The whole printing process is actually really fun in terms of getting test strips done on various papers and seeing the effects on the colours and how the texture of the paper affects the overall feel of the image. So it’s been quite exciting for me on that front. We’ll have a selection of my large scale landscape prints, some of which have already been decided and some which we are still up for “debate” and also a few smaller prints to sit alongside some paintings and prints we already have from other artists.
Of all the interiors you have ever photographed is there one that gave you serious ‘house envy’?
Ooh that’s a tough question. I definitely have some favourites. I think one house I particularly loved was an architect renovation/ new build in Kensington. They basically demolished the whole building leaving just the period facade and then rebuilt the inside. The interior was heavily focused on long corridors that spanned the house from front to back (a plot of around 26m in length) and an understated but epic staircase that also spanned the length of the house in one straight run over 4 floors! They also created a courtyard on one side of the building on the interior, which spanned around a third of the house. Both the ground and first floors featured a long run of glass walls/ doors that surrounded the courtyard in an L-shape. It was spectacular. To have a space of that size to allow for such dramatic corridors and walkways is very unusual these days and mostly the reserve of country mansions. It really gave separation to the different parts of the house and you could imagine being able to fit a large family in the space all noisily doing their thing, whilst still feeling a sense of calm and isolation.