So, what’s it like at the prop house?

10 tips on visiting a prop house for the first time

Have you ever been to a prop house? They’re pretty amazing places full of random homewares, all kinds of furniture and every conceivable style of china, glass wear and cutlery.

A few weeks ago I bumped into a couple of stylist friends who’ve just gone freelance and they were telling me that they had never been to a prop house and were asking me what the set up is before they get their first big commercial shoots. Shooting as a freelancer as apposed to the way you work in-house on a magazine is very different. It’s funny how quickly you forget about those scary emotions when you first go it alone. I remember how petrified I was on getting a fantastically big job a few months after I left Woman and Home. I was commissioned to style a pull out magazine for The Mail. It was all homeware offers and it was a massive 10 day shoot covering most rooms in the house. I was nervous about the styling aspect but the prop hire was one of the things that was freaking me out most.

The budget is HOW MUCH?!?!?!

On being told I had a budget of £6,000 – yes £60000 I had no idea how I was going to finance this. I must add that this was the first and last time I was given such a whopper of a budget. Having never done this kind of shoot before I thought I had to lay out for the props myself but it turns out I should have asked for an advance – something I didn’t find out till later and once I had put it all on a credit card. (They did pay me the advance quickly so my credit card would be cleared in time after the shoot – thank goodness!)
Up until this point I’d paid for prop hire on a credit card. I just assumed that was how things were done. They are not.

Get an advance or get them to pay!

Now I don’t pay for prop hire at all. I always ask the client to pay. It’s so much easier and makes the expenses on a shoot much more simple.

So, back to my conversation… my friends were asking about how you hire from a prop house- as that was where I was headed after our catch up. I’ve been asked this a few times over the years by other new freelancers. It can be a kind of a confusing place. There’re so many forms to fill out, payment to organise, couriers to be booked and that’s not even mentioning how you actually get the products you want. I thought it might be useful to do a video while I was at the prop house. A kind of walk around so you know what to expect when visiting for the first time. You can see that at the end of this post. So here’s what you need to know.

10 tips on how to hire from a prop house

  1. Get an account : The first time you visit a prop house you will need to set up an account. This is pretty simple. They just want to know who you are, what your company name is (ie Emma Morton-Turner – thank you very much!) address and contact details. They may ask for all of this on headed paper. You have to sign their T&C’s form which is basically once you’re set up and hiring you’ll be asked ‘Who’s the hirer for these props?” and you can just say your name rather than the company you’re hiring on the behalf of as they probably won’t have an account.What's it like at a prop house?
  2. Sign in. When you arrive at the prop house don’t forget to sign in – and then out. It’s a safety thing. You can then walk straight past the reception desk and have a look at the props.
  3. Trolley’s: Most prop houses have trolleys or baskets for you to put your props in. It’s a bit like shopping where everything you need is in once place and you have to give it all back again afterwards. At Superhire there are trolleys that you fill. Once you have selected everything you need you park up your trolley near the desks at the front where the guys who organise the loans sit. On their desks are stickers. Write your details : Name, job reference, company hiring from(client) and the all important collection date on it and place it on your trolley.There will be a LOT of trolley’s. Park up then bring your props to the attention of one of the staff. They need to know that you are there or they might not realise there’s a new loan to be arranged. Usually, they’ll just acknowledge you, ask which trolley’s yours, ask who the hire is for (you/client) and when the collection is for and then you can leave.What's it like at a prop house?
  4. The paperwork: Once you’ve left the prop house the staff will go through your hire and list every item on a hire sheet. This is then emailed to you and you can see what the loan is going to cost. This is where you agree to it or ask for items to be removed. I have had to remove super expensive items in the past as they’re cheaper to buy. Ask for an updated invoice if you remove items.What's it like at a prop house?
  5. The payment: Once you’re happy with your hire list the prop house will need a PO on headed paper to be sent. This is an example of a PO. It needs to say who you are hiring from, the date you are collecting and the date you are paying and the total amount including any credit card charges. The client must be the one who sends this on headed paper. It is basically the hire company’s  t&c’s saying that you will take care of the props and are insured and if anything gets damaged you are responsible for repair or replacement. This is why the client MUST be the one to send the PO. They must be responsible otherwise that £1000 antique vase that gets knocked off a shelf is your responsibility to pay for.
    Once the PO has been sent the hire can be paid for. This is usually done over the phone with a company credit card. Most prop houses will charge £5 for paying with a credit card. Payment can also be made by a BACS transfer but make sure that it will clear before your collection date. 
    It’s also good to know that there’s a minimum hire fee of £25+VAT so if you only need an item or two it can be less expensive to buy it – especially when you take into consideration the courier costs.What's it like at a prop house?
  6. Get your timings right . You can hire props for the next day (or even the same day if there’s only a few items and you’re taking them away with you) but the guys who check it out won’t be very happy with you. Always try and leave at least 2-3 days between selecting the items and collecting them. You can organised loans a week before your shoot. Stylists who set up TV programs book whole room sets months in advance.
  7. Be organised: Make sure you have a list. Pretty obvious I know but in the past I’ve gone with a long list with everything I need for each shot on it but now I put everything into sections so all the china, furniture, accessories, random stuff I need in one list not all jumbled up. That way it’s easier to walk around and find things without it taking all day. I learnt the hard way.
  8. It takes time: Expect to be at the prop house for a few hours. Prop houses are like time warp machines. I don’t think I’ve ever borrowed something and it hasn’t taken me at least 2 hours to get it sorted. If you’re borrowing furniture AND accessories it will take some time to plan and organise travelling between different floors. 
    Hiring furniture will often mean you will need to source from one floor then go and physically get someone who will organise your loan from another floor, take them back to the furniture so they can label it up then go back to their desk to see what it costs to hire. There can be a lot of to-ing and fro-ing!
  9. Returning props: Most prop house loans are for a one week hire. Go one day over and you have to pay the whole hire fee again. I’ve negotiated discounts on a second week’s hire fee when props were returned on the 8th day but it was tricky!
  10. Share the costs: Make sure the client knows what the courier fees are going to be. Clients who are new to prop hire are often surprised buy the additional costs. As a very rough figure on a recent shoot my couriers recently charged £475 to collect from Superhire prop house, hold overnight, deliver to a london location in the morning then collect from the location later that day and return to the prop house the following day.What's it like at a prop house?

A word about Superhire

Superhire is one of the bigger prop houses. It houses a number of prop hire companies under one roof :-

  • Furniture hire : Anything and everything from pub stools, vintage school desks, sofas, beds, dining tables dressers etc
  • Small hire: Anything not furniture from seasonal items, china, glassware cutlery, bar accessories, candles, office equipment, old bicycles, Christmas, everything!!
  • Modern props – Super modern styled furniture and accessories including on trend vintage/industrial items, backdrops
  • Old Times: Think antiques roadshow
  • All clear images (within Modern Props)  : Works of art that are cleared for photography and filming. Some are really large.

Hiring from any of these companies will require a separate PO and payment. I will often hire from 2-3 of these companies for any one shoot.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to return the props to the correct department. Although rogue vases destined for modern props that end up in small hire should find their way back to the correct floor this rarely happens and it will end with a ‘lost prop’ invoice for the replacement of that item at full price. Been there done that! Don’t like it!

So I hope that gives you a clear idea of what a prop house is like and how to navigate around one and hire your props? The last time I was at Superhire I did a quick video walk around so I could share it with you so you can see the different departments. Have a look at the video. I hope it’s useful.

Till next time

EmmaMT x


5 reasons to spend new year at Aldeburgh – even when it’s cold and foggy

Happy New Year 2017

Happy New Year 2017

How was your christmas and New Year? I’m not quite sure where those two weeks went. I had so many plans for the school holidays and the time just flew by. What did you get up to?

We always get together with friends who have kids similar ages to our girls and we take it in turns to host a New Years Eve dinner. This year we decided to do something a bit different. We all went away together. Our friends – let’s call them ‘The Smiths’, have been telling us for years about their holidays to the beautiful town of Aldeburgh in Suffolk, so it made sense to find a house for us all to stay in there for New Years eve. Now we know exactly what they were talking about. Aldeburgh is lovely. So here are five reasons you should visit Aldeburgh whether it’s for the new year or not.

1. It’s Beautiful

The colours and designs of the architecture make it a really fascinating place to walk around. It’s an instagramers dream. Each street has more colours and design details to see and as it was Christmas there were plenty of stylish decorations on show too. I wanted to take snaps of all the front doors. The fishermen’s cottages are so tiny. Literally one room on each floor. I got a bit obsessed with those little clutter free houses.

2. It’s unspoilt


Even in the fog this untouched seaside town was beautiful. We walked along the sea front wrapped up in a lot of layers and we couldn’t see the sea as it was masked in fog. There are stretches of pebbly beach without an ice cream shop, cafe or arcade in sight. It made for a very peaceful walk. All you can see are fishing boats and fishermen’s huts.

3.  It’s just up the road to Southwold

which is a place we have been to before and already loved. There’s tons of great vintage shops mixed in with gift shops that have unusual finds along the high street as well as a lot going on to do with Adnams brewery and distillery – possibly why Mr MT liked it so much! We had Adnams Welsh Rarebit for lunch and it was amazing! And of course you can’t miss a walk to the end of the pier with it’s old fashioned arcades and two penny games.

Anywhere that has this many coloured beach huts – with one called ‘Jabba” has to be a winner in our Star Wars obsessed daughterling’s eyes. As well as Southwold, Thorpness and Snape  (and not of the professor kind) are also just up the road making it a great place to venture off and find treasures.

4. It has one of the best fish and chips shops in the UK

On the night we arrived The Smiths headed into town to pick up Fish and Chips for everyone. Every time I mentioned to anyone that I was heading off to Aldeburgh I was met with “Oh you must try the F&C from one of the best chippies in the UK” That kind of puts a lot of pressure on a meal but it didn’t disappoint. That batter!!!

There were lots of great places to eat in Aldeburgh. The day we arrived we had lunch in a really great place called Delphine’s Diner. It was a completely authentic 1950’s American styled diner with furniture, cutlery, serviette dispenser and the waitress’ uniform and hair styled all just perfect. I loved the mirrored ceiling. The place was tiny but the hot dogs were not!

Happy New Year 2017There was also one other place on the hit list. The mini Smiths wanted to take the girls for milkshakes at The Ice creamery on the High Street. The whole weekend was spent building up to choosing your three scoops of local ice cream and then having a whole bar of chocolate whizzed up with milk to make the biggest most sickly milkshake ever. I don’t think the kids could have been happier! Happy New Year 2017This was the window display at Delphine’s diner. Anywhere with original Sindy dolls is going to be an instant hit with me.

5. It’s bursting with culture

As you walk along the beach you come across The South Lookout. At first it just looks like an old building from the days of the fishermen but on closer inspection you see that it is an artists haven. Art dealer Caroline Wiseman has created a place for artists display their art and engage with others. The now famous Pebble Homage which is a participative art installation was brought about to coincide with Antony Gormley’s sculpture on top of Aldeburgh’s Martello Tower. Although the sculpture was removed in May 2016 people still flock to the lookout to write their thoughts on a pebble. The pebbles are to be scattered along the beach for others to find and read.

The giant shell sculpture by Maggie Hambling was the first thing we saw when we arrived in Aldeburgh and it’s to remember Benjamin Britten who lived in Aldeburgh during his lifetime. His words are cut into the scallops.

Nearby Snape Maltings is where Benjamin Britten created some of his music and it is now a music centre and has some fantastic galleries as well as some very good shops – especially if you’re an interiors nut. I couldn’t get enough of the vintage furniture they were displaying the homewares on.  Just look at that peeling paint below! Gorgeous! Happy New Year 2017

So, in all we had a fantastic time. We walked down to the beach for the fireworks at midnight on New Years Eve, had lots of walks and sea air and lots and lots to eat and drink and spent loads of quality time with our friends. It is definitely one of the best ways to spend new years.  We kind of fell in love with Aldeburgh just that little bit. I think a mini break in one of those fisherman’s cottages is on the cards for the summer months.

My last word has to be about the daughterlings who for much of the year are on a device or watching some random duo on YouTube in their own bedrooms but who on these few nights away were often found walking arm in arm together as if no one else was around. To say my heart melts every time I see them like this is an understatement. Happy New Year 2017

And on that note I wish you a happy, happy 2017.

EmmaMT x


Christmas 2016 with Talking Tables

It’s about time I shared with you some of the shots I styled for Talking Tables Christmas shoot.  The ranges are fantastically diverse so there’s something to suit all styles. If you want to see some behind the scenes shots from this shoot check out the last post

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Styling: EmmaMT

Photography: Oliver Gordon

Stylist Assistant Stella Ajao 

Products: Talking Tables 


EmmaMT x

Want to see what it looked like behind the scenes at this shoot? Check out this fun post here