A prop stylist's tips for more personal home décor

By Christy Johnson, founder & CEO of United Goods

If you've been with us for the long haul, you know we used to do lots of Q&As with creatives we felt were doing fabulous things. We went back to our roots to do this interview with Libby Hegtvedt, a veteran stylist assistant (and, as of recently, full-on stylist!).

We had a blast chatting with the Minnesota-based style, art, and vintage lover in late 2023, and that conversation is below. We think you'll enjoy getting to know her and learning a few things at the same time.

We especially loved Libby's expert tips for working small and personal items into your décor to make a room feel more intentional and special. You know we love both mini and nostalgic art, and if you're here that means you likely do, too!

When you're done reading, let us know in the comments what you learned or appreciated most about our talk with this stylin' superstar.


Hey Libby! Tell us about you.

I grew up on a farm in Park Rapids, Minnesota. I went to St. Catherine University in St. Paul for Studio Art and English with a Writing concentration. I got into styling initially because I was a visual merchandiser for a chain of local gift stores and was successful doing that. I met a photographer and did a test shoot, and he was really encouraging. I had the talent but just needed to learn the ins and outs. Then a local blogger friend who worked for General Mills brought me in to pull props for recipe shoots, but I wasn’t styling on set yet.

I moved on to helping open a vintage store and did all the merchandising. A stylist shopping for props noticed my displays and asked if I had ever considered photo styling. I started assisting her and other stylists. I also continued merchandising, styling the Walker Shop, and selling vintage. For a time I was also decorating weddings and doing floral design with a friend. I wore a lot of hats! 

Other clients I’ve worked with are Periscope, Regis Corporation, Carmichael Lynch, Bush’s Beans, Sleep Number, The Pioneer Woman Magazine, Target, Manhattan Toy, Highcroft Fine Linens & Home, 14 Hill Gift Shop, 3M, Best Buy, and Penguin Books Australia.


Which type of styling do you do? 

Mainly prop styling, but I’ve assisted wardrobe and soft goods stylists as well.



What’s your process for styling a shoot?

I’m really just starting to transition from assisting to styling. As an assistant we support the stylist. That means we are usually sent before the shoot to pull props or go shopping (with a provided list), unload and organize all props for the shoot at the studio, set up a workspace, and be on hand to support the stylist throughout the shoot. That includes prepping props (cleaning, de-stickering, unwrapping, etc.), grabbing the stylist options while they’re working, or running out and buying something that's needed as fast as possible while the shoot is happening.

Keeping props organized throughout the shoot, whether it’s merch provided by the client or props purchased, is important. Always trying to work ahead to the next shot to have everything ready.

Lastly, after the shoot, comes the most important job for an assistant: returning props.


Do you have any trademarks you tend to sneak into your styling?

I usually try to sneak in a vintage item if it’s appropriate. I use a lot of vintage and found pieces, which makes the shots unique because you can’t go out and buy that item in a store.

I decorate with vintage and love how it tells a story and oftentimes lends just the right touch to a shoot—or a home. My personal value centers around repurposing and reusing as much as possible. 



Do you have any favorite types of item to style?

I like to do flat lays the most. That's arranging an assortment of objects to be shot overhead. My brain likes thinking in these grids…I might have played too much Tetris growing up. I love the negative space between objects and adjusting everything so it’s perfectly lined up.


Do you have any favorite shoots?

A recent one I worked on was my favorite so far because it was all about gift wrap, boxes, and bows. I consider myself somewhat of a gift wrapping expert and love hiding seams, making crisp corners, and perfecting ribbons.


Have there been any unfortunate incidents?

Once I assisted on a shoot for a big brand and they ended up not knowing what they wanted and called off the project in the middle of shooting! Their team was new and didn’t really know how a shoot worked, and they weren’t on set. It was a disaster and, in my experience, a really rare occurrence.


How do you dream up unique ideas for each shoot?

You have to factor in many things: The product, the client’s vision, the season, the budget, the audience, and more. The sky isn’t usually the limit so there are always parameters to work within. Usually it’s taking someone’s vision and bringing it to life. Paying attention to trends and patterns, and knowing places to shop for just the right items that support the product being sold or that tell the story. I draw inspiration from everything, including movies, nature, art, and music. 



What tips can you offer people trying to introduce small art like State Icons into their existing décor? What are some creative ways people can bring personal items into their spaces to make rooms more “them”? 

Small art is easy to layer, especially State Icons, because the frames can either sit or hang. Placing one on a bookshelf in front of your books or layered in with another piece of art is an easy way to start. They are just the right fit for tight spaces where otherwise you’d be looking at a blank wall. Like the space under a kitchen cabinet or an awkward space on a gallery wall. 



What else can you share when it comes to decorating a home in a meaningful way?

Try finding things that aren’t available in a big box store. Whether it’s an original piece of art or a vintage vase, don’t try to match everything too much. If you like it, you most often can make it work. 


Where can people learn more about you and/or follow you?

My website is libbyhegtvedt.com, and you can find me on Instagram at @rankandfilestyle and @rankandfilevtg.

All photos in this blog post are courtesy of Libby Hegtvedt.



Follow United Goods on Instagram and Facebook, and sign up to receive our emails.

Leave a comment

Please note: Comments must be approved before they're published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.