'Let them eat cake'

by Carys - Stylist for The Prop Factory

Friday 13th December 2019 15:15:21


Are you looking for some Rococo styling inspiration? Look no further for extravagant, luxurious event decor that shouts 'Let them eat cake!'

We were very excited last year to create an over-indulgent, Rococo-inspired set in the grand music room of Powderham Castle, near Exeter. Powderham has a history dating back more than 600 years and has been greatly expanded with each generation adding touches in the fashion of the day. The music room is a late 18th-century architect-designed delight with elaborate architectural features that were the perfect backdrop to our shoot.Our first set was created around the historic chamber organ which is painted the same striking turquoise the rest of the music room and has magnificent gold pipes and ornate plasterwork. We created a seating area using some of our vintage and very eclectic furniture. Our powder blue Emily three seater sofa made a lovely centrepiece - and a contrast to the turquoise walls. We surrounded it with some of our fancier small pieces of furniture including our rococo cream side drawers - all in pretty soft creams with gold detailing. We filled the surfaces of this furniture with tall occasion cakes made by Claire at Claire's sweet Temptations and fake cakes made by us especially for the shoot. One of Claire's particularly fabulous cakes was iced in turquoise with intricate gold detailing - directly inspired by the beautiful music room decor.We made a variety of fake cakes using glass jelly moulds sprayed baby pink and adorned with fake cream and cherries. Real cream wouldn't last the day without melting all over the tables so we needed to create a fake mixture that could be used for the shoot. After a few trials we ended up making the cream out of corn flour and hair conditioner which I piped through an icing bag on to metal trays to set. The cherries were tiny plastic apples that Prop Factory director Carmen had collected and we gave them a respray in a fresh and shiny cherry red. I added some twig ends from a tree outside our warehouse as stalks, and they were good to go - I was amazed at how well this worked!We had boxes and boxes of vintage doilies that Carmen had collected for our popular doily bunting and I borrowed a few of these to lay on the table tops before adding the delicious sweet treats. We used a selection of cake stands to hold the jelly moulds and filled delicate glass bowls to the brim with pink and blue bonbons. We also filled white vases with a mix of faux flowers from our warehouse stash of styling bits and pieces.We sprinkled petals all over the floor and added some satin sofa cushions for extra texture. It was one of those photoshoots that you could just keep adding to as it was of such an indulgent nature. The beauty of Rococo styling is that it can be extravagant and elaborate but with a light and almost frivolous touch. The more fluffiness the better was our motto for the day which was a bit of a treat. I find it's easy to overdo it with props on most photoshoots so it was nice not to have to hold back for a change!Our models, Gemma and Rebecca, are very talented makeup and costume designers and were busy getting themselves ready in the library - a very grand changing room! When they emerged they were head to toe in delicate lace with gold detailed bodices and extremely big pearly hair. They looked like two grand ladies who had been interrupted part way through their dressing ritual with all the complicated hoops and petticoats that 18th-century aristocracy wore under their dresses on display! They used styling decor as props - holding a teacup or cake to add to the theatre of the photos being taken.Photographer Alistair works with Gemma and Rebecca a lot, so they know his style of photography and the snaps were fast and professional with no faffing around to get that money shot. Gemma runs Valerian Entertainment an entertainment costume and costume company and Rebecca is a freelance makeup artist.Our second set was just as elaborate, with the music room's fireplace as the backdrop. The white marble surround told its own story whilst our hot pink and gold three seater sofa in centre stage really made a statement. We focussed on the gold detailing here - adding the gold iron cart and rococo style side table to complement the immense gold picture frame hanging above the fireplace.We filled the cart with more of our fake desserts and a high tea. We happened to have some pretty turquoise tea party sets that matched not only the wall colour of the music room, but also the three-tier occasion cake made by Claire. Our models posed elegantly with a few lighting adjustments from Alistair making sure the camera captured all the beautiful details. Their hair was layered with trinkets, teapots and vintage-style jewellery, so unique and pretty - but quite ostentatious even by Rococo standards! The ostrich feathers added extra height to the wigs and a final touch of wealthy flamboyance to the characters.The end of the shoot was near and we could happily offer around tea, coffee and some of the real sweet treats that we had used to bulk out the fake dessert tables. We had so many cakes that we even left a tray of goodies for the Powderham Castle team, making sure we didn't confuse our fake cream for real edible cream! See all the props used in this shoot together here or our full collection of Rococo style props here.

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