10 White Lies We Tell In Our Catalog

Lies we tell in our catalog about the rooms you're seeing

Lies we tell in our catalog about the rooms you're seeing

While you only see the clean, stylishly decorated rooms that are published in the catalog, the real magic happens behind the camera. Therefore, we thought it might be fun to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into making our rooms catalog ready.

Creamy, White Dining Room from Ballard Designs

Every shoot starts with a big, empty house. Yes, we really do shoot in actual homes we rent. We typically set up and shoot four to five rooms at once, which requires a lot of hands on deck, including directors, stylists, prop coordinators, photographers and assistants. And with all the stacks and stacks of props, ladders, cameras, monitors, cords and more — well, it’s complete chaos at every shoot.

So how do we manage to make every room look so good? Below, we let you in on a few tricks of the trade.

For a light, airy look, we recommend tie top curtains which have a casual feel

1. It’s kind of like a double-stuffed Oreo…

Have you ever flipped through the catalog and thought a bed looked so cozy you wished you could crawl in under its covers? There’s a reason for that. Our bedding stylist sneaks an extra goose down comforter underneath the bedding to ensure it looks as plump and fluffy as the bed of your dreams. Pssst…we also wrap pillow inserts in extra batting so they look extra full and plump!

Learn how to group art pieces together

2. Hey, where did the light switch go?

While some tricks we do on location, many others we do after the fact on the computer. To achieve that clean, uncluttered look in every room, we strip out the ordinary details you’d find in every room, such as light switches, door knobs, air vents and can lights.

Benjamin Moore's Sugarcane wall color

3. Now you see Benjamin Moore’s Sugarcane, now you don’t.

Paint colors are inherently difficult to photograph, so while we often do paint the walls of the homes we’re using to shoot, we often correct the colors to make them look more accurate to the swatches we’re sharing here on How to Decorate. There are also times when we decide later that we aren’t wild about a paint color we picked, so occasionally, we’ll change the wall color altogether!

Solution dyed outdoor fabrics

4. Who celebrates Christmas in July? We do!

When you work six months in advance of a publish date, you’re forced to shoot out of season. Shooting a Christmas tree indoors is one thing, but it becomes a bigger challenge when we have to shoot outdoor furniture in the dead of winter. With blue hands and chattering teeth, we brave the elements to create that relaxing summer vibe. But the environment doesn’t always cooperate, which is why we always use a little movie magic to make the grass look greener…and less dead.

Chandelier should hang 30-36 inches above the dining table

5. Come hang out with us.

Every Ballard room deserves a focal point, and that’s often a beautiful chandelier or pendant. The only problem is, many rooms we shoot in aren’t outfitted to accommodate lighting. So if we didn’t crop our photos, what you’d see is a light fixture hanging from a pole!

Peacock blue velvet drapery panels in a living room

6. Can we get some more light in here?

If you read our blog, you know we’re big proponents of using multiple sources of light in every room. Therefore, we love to prop rooms with lamps. But have you ever noticed they’re not actually plugged in — because there’s no cord or outlet? While many homes today have outlets in the floor or in places where you would naturally need one, we don’t use them. Again, it’s all about creating that effortlessly clean look and feel. But if you like that lamp, you will have to plug it into an actual outlet for it to work.

Mirror gallery wall with leopard print ottomans and pillows

7. Mirror, mirror on the wall, whose reflection is in the shot?

Shooting mirrors is naturally problematic in that they reflect everything behind the camera, and that’s often the photographer or an undesirable background. That’s why we use digital trickery to create an obvious reflection that’s not distracting, which may be a window or wall in the room.


8. A room with a view.

The same goes for creating those pleasant views outside windows. In reality, the view may be the wrong season, or a little too ordinary (think a driveway full of our moving vans or the next door neighbor’s garage).

Louisa metal posted bed with tie top drapery

9. Bye, bye, wrinkles.

No home will ever look as good as the one in the catalog, because stylists sweat every single detail. For example, we steam everything within an inch of its life. Drapery, throw pillows, chair skirts, sheets — you name it — we spend hours steaming it all for that picture perfect detail. Now who has the time to do that in real life?

Living room with coral color palette

10. Hmmm…maybe we’re missing something?

A piece of art can make all the difference in the room, because it can pull the color scheme together or simply add visual impact. Sometimes, when we’re reviewing images after the shoot, we decide to add in wall art for those very reasons. So what you see on the walls may not actually be in the original photo.

Have we ruined the fantasy? Let’s hope not.

For more design inspiration, visit our Pinterest Boards, or find more gorgeous rooms in our Photo Gallery

Did you like this post and find it helpful? Rate it below and share your thoughts in the comments.

Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.


  1. Reply

    Diane Quigley

    April 22, 2016

    In picture #5, “Come Hang Out With Us”, what color are the table legs and top! Need to be ready to order on your next sale, that’s MY dining room! LOL!

    Thank you!,

  2. Reply

    Popcorn Carroll

    March 22, 2016

    Omgosh!. I have loved your catalog for a hundred years and order lots of Christmas gifts from it. It is really fun to read the your Instagram captions! And now this hilarious catalog confession!!! I love you Ballard Designs, whoever you really are behind the screens and catalog pages. The voice of your business sounds like all of my friends, of which i consider you one. Thanks for the your honest, funny commentary and your beautifully curated offerings.

    • Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      March 23, 2016

      Thank you so much for this comment! We love hearing from our customers and are so glad you have loved shopping with us over the years. Keep the feedback coming!

  3. Reply

    Patricia Fornario

    February 25, 2016

    I am a perfectionist! I go to great lengths to hide cords, steams bed linens and curtains the first time they are put on the bed or hung on the windows. I have painted a room and repainted it because the color was not quite right. I have gone out and bought plumper pillows to create “the look.” Yes, I am a person with ODD (obsessive decorating disorder). I have used Ballard catalogs for inspiration and have been a customer for many years. Thank you Ballard’s design team for helping me to create beautiful homes and thanks for the great article.

    • Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      February 25, 2016

      Thank you so much for this comment, Patricia! We love hearing from our longtime customers about their homes. Sounds like you have a beautiful one.

  4. Reply


    February 22, 2016

    Love this article! Thank you!

    • Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      February 22, 2016

      Thanks Vel!

  5. Reply

    Jeff Spader

    February 19, 2016

    So…just to be clear. You are telling me–“hey, we are lying to you. your room will never look like this photo. So in turn, your purchase with us is useless.” I am concerned that if I choose to purchase a type of bedding, it will not be as comfortable as your stylist makes it seem. I agree that this article is to be ironic and “alternative.” But it seems like a little bit of a miss.

    • Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      February 22, 2016


      Our purpose in photographing and often photoshopping our products is never to mislead any of our customers. There are simply things that cannot be done while we are shooting that have to be done later. I can assure you our products are every bit as comfortable and well-made as our catalog makes them seem. In fact, the most common feedback we get from customers is that our products look even better in person than they do in the catalog.

      In terms of the way our bedding is styled, we totally understand how this can be a disappointment. Who wouldn’t want to have a bed that is perfectly fluffed and ironed all of the time? I will say this is standard practice in retail stores, department stores, online retailers, and other catalogs.

      Sorry if we disappointed you by pulling back the veil on how the beautiful rooms in catalogs come together!

      Please let us know if you have any other concerns,

    • Reply


      February 23, 2016

      So, if I buy the curtains in the room, it won’t give me the pretty view outside, and the pillowcase won’t make my pillow fluffier, and my lamp will have a cord, and I need to iron and steam stuff to get the wrinkles out because your product doesn’t come that way? Charlatans!

      I still like the products I have purchased even though they didn’t magically turn my room into a room from your catalogue.

  6. Reply


    February 11, 2016

    Love this article. I knew obviously the things are “unrealistic” but I never even considered some of these points! Thanks for keeping it “honest”!

  7. Reply


    February 11, 2016

    Absolutely beautiful. Ballard is classy and homey at the same time.

    • Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      February 11, 2016

      Thanks Irene!

  8. Reply


    February 11, 2016

    Glad you shared this. That every home is not perfect all the time.

  9. Reply


    February 11, 2016

    Its unfortunate that your banner is so large that it covers half the picture, making it necessary to scroll through the picture instead of seeing it all at once.

  10. Reply

    Debra Cogis

    February 8, 2016

    Wow! A stylist for Ballard. That would be my dream job. Where do I sign up?

  11. Reply

    Neta B

    February 6, 2016

    I’ve loved the Ballard catalog (and used it for inspiration) for years, and I really enjoyed these behind-the-scenes details. I think it is admirable that you’re willing to admit that as gorgeous as the catalog pictures are, they aren’t reality. I can cut myself some slack if my home doesn’t live up to the catalog ideal!

    • Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      February 8, 2016

      Neta, exactly! Gorgeous catalog and magazine images are great to aspire to, but if your home isn’t just like the pictures, you should still be proud of it!

  12. Reply


    February 6, 2016

    I would like to thank you for keeping it honest!

  13. Reply


    February 5, 2016

    Are those orchids real in the clam shell on the dining room table? Beautiful!

    • Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      February 8, 2016

      I believe those orchids are not real, but you could certainly plant some in a clam shell just like this. Just be sure to add some rocks or drainage holes to the bottom.

  14. Reply

    Linda Snyder

    February 5, 2016

    I love the styling in all of the photos. I’ve gotten some great pieces from Ballard’s over the years. Kudos to your buyers and stylists!

  15. Reply


    February 4, 2016

    Well done, could u give paint colors that are on the walls. Tks m hardy

  16. Reply


    February 3, 2016

    Hey, ya gotta do whatcha gotta do….and you do it extremely well! Love the talent at Ballard’s!

    • Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      February 4, 2016

      Thanks Kim!