Tahnee Carroll was destined to work in interiors and design, she just had to work out exactly how. “As a kid, my room was never in the same layout for more than a month, I changed everything all the time! Whether I knew it or not, the creative within had found a direction.”
Beginning her career in interior design for a luxury firm in Sydney, it wasn’t until two years had gone by that she realised it wasn’t the direction she wanted to go in. “Interior design wasn’t quite perfect for me career wise, it didn’t stimulate my creative side enough to warrant staying, but I loved interiors. I just needed to find another outlet and found photographic styling to be the perfect role for me.”
Approaching Real Living magazine for a week’s work experience, Tahnee instantly fell in love with the fast-paced, creativity-fueled world of photographic styling. Following that work experience, she was offered a role as a styling assistant and worked alongside some of Australia’s best, including Glen Proebstel and Sarah Ellison.
Assisting at Real Living for two years, she did everything from searching far and wide for that one perfect prop, unpacking products, painting and building sets and moving furniture and accessories. “You won’t need a gym membership, let me tell you that!”
Yet while she loved her job, a six-month trip overseas gave Tahnee the inspiration and confidence to step out on her own: “I decided it was time to give assisting the flick and show the industry what I could do! I created a number of moodboards of shoot ideas and put them to the editor of Real Living, Deb Bibby, who then gave me my first job styling the Weekday Meals food segment. Safe to say it was a hit and I’ve been styling the food and entertaining stories ever since.”
Since that first job being published in Real Living’s March 2014 issue, Tahnee has progressed in leaps and bounds, styling a whopping 17 pages in this month’s issue of Real Living and being a contestant in Inside Out magazine and The Home’s Search for a Stylist contest (you can vote for Tahnee’s entry here). The competition has seen wannabe stylists pitted against each other to create a mock Inside Out cover (between you and me, Tahnee’s is my fave!) with the winner getting the chance to style a real Inside Out cover and become a senior stylist at The Home.
“We were given a small number of products from The Home to select from and use in our cover shot,” explains Tahnee. “Then we all had to design and build sets which we believed would stand out to the Inside Out readers in order to get them to vote for us. On shoot day, it was all very secretive, closed studios, tight-lipped editors and hovering stylists. The contestants weren’t allowed to see each other’s sets and everyone was watching you as you tried to create the winning cover. I had so much fun, but it’s so nerve-racking waiting for the results!” (You can vote until 23 July).
While Tahnee’s assisting days are now behind her, she is very grateful for what that time gave her, recommending the experience to all budding stylists. “As an assistant, be prepared to go the extra mile,” says Tahnee. “If the stylist wants blue hydrangeas that are out of season and the only florist in Sydney that has them is an hour and a half away, well then you’d better start driving if you want to beat the traffic!”
Tahnee is proof that if you do the hard work and soak up all the knowledge and skill around you, you can make it as a stylist. Just don’t be afraid to take a chance: “Be outrageous,” says Tahnee. “Sometimes you hit, sometimes you miss, but that’s all part of the learning process and developing your skills.”