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May 7, 2021 —

How to run a location house and live in it

Could your home rent out as a location house? And how does it work? Alena Walker talks to three people who know all about running a location house and living in it
Alena Walker
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As Instagram’s prevalence continues to grow and more homes are designed with the image in mind, the lure to transitioning your home into a photoshoot location can be tempting. 91 contributor Alena Walker finds out what is a location house? And is it easy to live in one?

Photo: Rachel Whiting / Peagreen Locations
Photo: Rachel Whiting / Peagreen Locations

“A location house is a fabulous inspirational space used for lifestyle and fashion photography or filming,” says Ruth Taylor, who set up Peagreen Locations, a photoshoot agency, alongside her business partner, Madeleine Ashley, in January 2021.

Peagreen Locations now manages a growing portfolio of 22 locations with a speciality in modern rustic and contemporary country locations across England and Wales. With a combined two decades of experience working for Liberty, Harvey Nichols and the Retail Visual Identity Team at the National Trust, Ruth and Madeleine are front-runners in curating beautiful spaces for lifestyle shoots.

“The pandemic has changed the locations industry,” says Ruth. “There are a lot of new agencies on the block and there’s a bigger call for out-of-London locations and an increased demand for imagery due to the growth in online business.”

To them, the likelihood of a house being chosen as a shoot’s location extends beyond mere aesthetics. “A location house should have an easy and practical workspace for the crew and this can include storage space and use of kitchen facilities,” says Madeleine. “Shoots can be great fun, but the crew are doing their job and need the space to get it done, so a practical approach and flexibility are super helpful.”

Photo: Rachel Whiting / Peagreen Locations
Photo: Rachel Whiting / Peagreen Locations

Photo: Rachel Whiting / Peagreen Locations
Photo: Rachel Whiting / Peagreen Locations

When it comes to flexibility, home owners need to be comfortable with adjustments being made at the creative direction of the client. “Location houses are hired out to the client for the day,” explains Ruth. “This means furniture can be moved or, if agreed, production can repaint and decorate.”

The practicalities of production aside, Ruth and Madeleine are drawn to houses with good natural light and rooms big enough for a photography team to rearrange if needs be. Distinctive accents are a hallmark of many popular location houses, including wooden or Crittall windows, fireplaces, wood burning stoves, walls with raw brick, peeling plaster or panelling. Feature furniture and props are ideal, too.

Above all else, “a location house should be well presented and uncluttered,” says Ruth. “At Peagreen, we’re looking for locations with at least three good principal rooms – kitchen, living and bedroom spaces – but we also love unique features, like stunning staircases, laundry rooms, outbuildings and fabulous gardens.”

Photo: Rachel Whiting / Peagreen Locations
Photo: Rachel Whiting / Peagreen Locations

For those contemplating renting their home for shoots, Madeleine encourages having decent imagery of the location and a clear description of your offer. “Instagram is super helpful to get an idea of the look and feel of the space,” she says.

One of the biggest tips they can offer to prospective location homeowners is considering your speciality and then teaming up with an agency who can represent your niche and connect your home with clients searching for your specific interior style.

For Peagreen Locations, their team will firstly visit a site to talk through what the location means to the owner as well as explaining ‘hosting recces’, where clients can come to view the property for their project and discuss the shoot process.

“If we feel the location is a good fit, we’ll make sure the house is ready for the crew and that it’s clean and tidy,” explains Madeleine. “Then we’ll greet the crew on arrival and leave them to get on with their job until the end of the day.”

Photo: Jon Aaron Green
Photo: Jon Aaron Green

Picture-perfect living might sound high maintenance on paper, but in Laura Sawyer’s case, location home living at her property, The South Wing, is just normal living. “It’s just like home,” she says. “On the days that I have shoots, I just like to make sure it’s as clean and tidy as possible.”

As an Art Director & stylist, Laura entered the location house market with a clear vision in mind. “When renovating the flat before moving in, I had it in mind to be a calling card for my work as well as useful as a location house,” she says. “It was a good way to be able to justify the extra details as I’d be able to recoup the cost in the hire.”

Based in South Croydon, Laura opened the doors of her home to photoshoots in 2018 and has hosted productions across beauty, lifestyle, food, fashion, interiors, high street names, independent brands and influencers.

Photo: Jon Aaron Green
Photo: Jon Aaron Green

For anyone considering turning their home into a shoot location, Laura echoes Ruth and Madeleine in the need for a strong portfolio. “The first thing you need to do is get some beautiful images of your space and show these to the agencies.  You can start with phone pictures, but you’ll need professional photographs taken by an interiors photographer, who have a way of making your space look its absolute best.”

Pre-shoot preparation at The South Wing includes cleaning from top to bottom and Laura advises taking into consideration pets or children.

“I have a house cat and that means taking him elsewhere on a shoot day so he doesn’t get accidentally let out onto the street,” says Laura. “Shoots generally go until 5pm or 6pm, but they can run into overtime, which is paid for, but it does mean there will be people working in your house when you’d normally be having dinner or watching TV or putting your kids to bed. You can choose to stipulate a hard-out time, so there’s no possibility for running into overtime, and you can also choose to have smaller crew sizes.”

Photo: courtesy of Otter Barn Interiors
Photo: courtesy of Otter Barn Interiors

For Tracy Head, location house living at Otters Barn Interiors is made easier by removing personal items before shoots begin and prepping dinner in advance, so she’s not rushing to cook when production ends.

“Day-to-day, it feels like living in a normal home,” says Tracy. “It’s actually trained us as a family to be much tidier as often shoots can be booked at short notice.”

Having hosted shoots for Emma Willis, Dunelm, Matalan, Marks & Spencer and editorial shoots for lifestyle products, Tracy has walked the tried and tested path of what location house owning means. “Being organised is key to taking away the stress of a shoot,” she says, “and don’t underestimate how long it takes to get the house shoot ready.”

Photo: courtesy of Otter Barn Interiors
Photo: courtesy of Otter Barn Interiors

Tracy’s advice for getting the family on board includes paying her sons ‘room hire’ for their bedrooms, which gives them an incentive to tidy up their spaces, and having a gardener to take the pressure off any outdoor maintenance. She suggests using robust materials to handle wear and tear, particularly in choosing paint colours which are easy to touch up, and having plenty of storage space for keeping important items when shoot time comes.  

For those with a beautiful home, a keen sense of organisation and an eye for detail, renting your home as a location house could be a great source of income, but also a fantastic way to connect with vast creative networks.

As Laura says: “It’s a really interesting way to earn some money. You meet some interesting people and get an insight into another world.”

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