Female Hands Holding Smart Phone Displaying Photo of House Interior Living Room Behind.

Consider natural light and don't forget to bring in some color when taking an Instagram-worthy photo of your home. (Getty Images)

Everyone wants their home to look good. But in the age of social media, “good” has taken on a whole new meaning. It’s not just about finding the right color scheme or showing off a beautiful couch – you want your home to look photogenic so when you snap a photo of your family on game night, your living room stands out as much as everyone’s smiles.

[See: 10 Home Renovations Under $5,000.]

But how do you make your kitchen or dining room look like Joanna Gaines arranged it for you? And how do you take a photo for Instagram that doesn’t highlight the crumbs left on the table or toys scattered on the floor?

Here are 10 tips for making your home look Instagram-worthy:

  • Clean up.
  • Tell a story.
  • Style a spot that will make people want to pose.
  • Focus on natural light.
  • Bring in more color.
  • Add life to the space.
  • Pay attention to angles.
  • Strike a balance between real and curated.
  • Get people excited to visit your home.
  • Save the fun items for photos.

Clean Up

No matter how hard you try, you can’t get your living room to look as neat as the home design photos you save for inspiration on Instagram and Pinterest. But you may be relieved to know that those homes aren’t as neat as they look, either.

“We’re moving shoes and laundry and cords,” says Justina Blakeney, founder of Jungalow, a home design company based in Los Angeles that aims to “bring the good vibes home,” according to its Instagram account, which has more than 1.2 million followers.

Blakeney’s business started with a design blog in 2009, where she honed her craft of taking a photo of a room that makes others want to live there. As a result, she’s used to not just cleaning up a space before she takes a photo, but also rearranging furniture or decor before snapping a shot to make the details look perfect.

Tell a Story

A photo posted on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter represents just a single moment in your life. But what draws people in is when that photo manages to “tell a genuine story – an authentic story,” says Mary Cook, founder and president of commercial interior design firm Mary Cook Associates in Chicago.

In an apartment building that’s designed to look midcentury modern, for example, Cook’s team will include details that help bring that theme into focus – whether it’s a vintage radio or chandelier with pendant lights. In your own home, a family room that evokes a Swiss chalet tells others that comfort is a priority for you. Or a dining table set for 16 shows that you love having people over.

To help give your story life, Blakeney recommends giving the photo caption some thought as well. If you post a photo of coffee and toast at the breakfast nook in your kitchen, include a story about how your morning routine sets you up for the day.

Style a Spot That Will Make People Want to Pose

You know your house is the stuff of Instagram envy when others want to snap a photo as well.

Cook’s firm works with apartment community developers to include places in communal areas that are designed for Instagram photos – a classic car set in the bar area of a building is one plan in the works. Residents and guests won’t be able to stop themselves from climbing in to take a selfie. Plus, it helps evoke the time period and fun-loving feel of the community.

Of course, classic cars don’t fit in most residential living rooms. But a bench in your garden framed by colorful flowers is a spot friends will always want a picture. Similarly, a swinging chair with colorful pillows in your living room will make it hard for guests to resist striking a pose.

[Read: 5 DIY Backyard Renovations on a Budget.]

Focus on Natural Light

Lighting is key to any good photo, but achieving the look many home design Instagram accounts have comes by “turning off all the artificial light and maximizing the amount of natural light,” Blakeney says.

Pull back curtains all the way, raise the blinds and even opens doors, she says.

Save the Fun Items for Photos

When it comes to taking a beautifully staged photo of a room, how do you keep individual items from looking shabby? The trick may be to simply use them less.

In the kitchen, shelve your bright, floral tea towel until you want to take a photo, Blakeney says, and let the “boring, functional one” get all the use that may leave it looking worn out. Similarly, the cutting board shaped like your home state may not always be the most useful for chopping vegetables, but pulling it out to prop against your backsplash can make for a fun detail in an image.

Pay Attention to Angles

You don’t need to be a professional photographer to take great photos for social media, but some pro tips will help.

For example, make sure to line up the frame properly. Blakeney uses the example of taking a photo of a room with a coffee table as the focal point: “I want to make sure that the top of the coffee table, where I can see a horizontal line, is straight.”

Similarly, any vertical lines, such as on a bookshelf or floor lamp, should be straight up and down in the shot.

Bring In More Color

A monochromatic or neutral look may appeal to your tastes, but if you want people to stop scrolling when they see your photo, add some color. Then add a little more.

Swap out muted throw pillows for some with bright patterns. Create an accent wall in the room with a color that makes you happy. Or embrace wallpaper that helps highlight other colorful details in the room. “That goes a long way to grabbing people’s attention to the screen,” Blakeney says.

[Read: 7 Bathroom Remodel Ideas on a Budget]

Get People Excited to Visit Your Home

One reason to make your home Instagram-worthy is so your friends and family will want to spend time there, if not copy your interior design style.

Hosting a holiday party? Use social media to draw attention to the event so guests will look forward to it. If your Instagram posts a couple days prior show that you having a great time getting your house ready, you may have fewer no-shows.

Incorporating friends and family members with infectious personalities helps as well, says Josh Kassing, vice president of design development at Mary Cook Associates. For example, if you're trying to get your entire group of friends to attend your holiday party, he recommends posting an Instagram shot or story “making Christmas cookies three days in advance, and (your) most popular best friend helping (you).”

Add Life to the Space

Give any photo a boost by adding a living subject. “Plants and flowers or a pet, even a baby – adding a bit of life to your imagery will go a long way,” Blakeney says.

Even without pets or kids, plants can help a photo feel more alive – Blakeney refers to them as “social media darlings.” People enjoy seeing them and often want to replicate the look by making plants stand out in a room.

Strike a Balance Between Real and Curated

If you manage to master the curated, professional look in your social media photos, don’t forget to occasionally post a "real" photo to show you’re still human.

“People actually like seeing a little bit more of the real life than the super-curated – or even sterile – look,” Blakeney says.

You might post a photo of your kitchen cleaned to perfection with all the ingredients for a smoothie perfectly placed in a bowl. But also consider posting a picture when that smoothie gets dropped on the floor and your dog starts lapping it up. Combining aspirational with relatable can make your Instagram account one that people want to follow.


7 Home Design Rules to Break

Go ahead, think outside the box.

Modern interior of living room with sofa, armchairs, scandinavian style

(Getty Images)

When it comes to interior design for your home, some rules are made to be broken. Whether it’s mixing fabrics or introducing an oversized piece of furniture, it’s possible to achieve a good look when you’re not following all the classic rules of interior design. Thinking outside the box is becoming even more accepted in home design: “Overall, I think there’s just less rules,” says Lee Crowder, design gallery and model branding manager for Darling Homes, a subsidiary of homebuilder Taylor Morrison Inc., based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Here are seven home design rules you can feel empowered to break.

Furniture has a specific place in each room.

Furniture has a specific place in each room.

White luxury bedroom interior

(Getty Images)

Traditional design and the rules of feng shui may tell you to create a U-shape with living room seating or place your bed on a wall opposite the door, but not every space makes following the rules so easy. "Don’t be afraid to break tradition in order to make the most out of what you have,” says Lauren Makk, home editor for Yelp. “Measure the length and height of each wall, and take note of windows, plugs, air ducts and any unusual architectural feature so these features accentuate the furniture you have and vice versa.”

Keep the room looking uniform.

Keep the room looking uniform.

Contemporary  lounge / living room with sofa and ornaments in front of large window with curtains

(Getty Images)

There are those who dislike mixing furniture styles from different decades, but an entire room of midcentury modern can also make it look like you’ve transported back to the 1960s. Don’t be afraid to put a more modern side table next to a traditional armchair, especially if you’re showcasing unique pieces. An antique chair or a coffee table made by a local carpenter may not fit with a uniform design aesthetic, but these pieces offer variety and invite conversation. A survey commissioned by high-end goods online marketplace 1stdibs, released in January, asked 630 interior designers about trends and expectations for 2018. Forty-six percent of respondents said they plan to buy more furniture from artisan craftsmen rather than big-name furniture designers.

Every home needs a dining room.

Every home needs a dining room.

Apartment with white brick wall, sofa, table and pattern rug

(Getty Images)

Even in the age of the open floor plan, many people assume they need to make room for all the traditional spaces on the main floor of a home: living room, dining room and kitchen. But Crowder says in new home construction, builders are encouraging homebuyers to choose a layout based on their preferences and needs. If you never entertain and typically eat in the kitchen, why waste space with a dining table for eight? Instead, that space can fit your interests and needs, whether that’s a home office or study area, a reading nook or spillover seating when you have people over for casual get-togethers.

Keep most walls neutral, but add an accent wall for a splash of color.

Keep most walls neutral, but add an accent wall for a splash of color.

modern living room interior design. 3D rendering concept

(Getty Images)

Longstanding practices often tell homeowners to stick to a neutral wall color, then introduce a fun pop of color on just one wall. While neutral walls may be best for a house on the market, it’s not something you have to stick to while you’re happily living there. “Painting is the quickest and most affordable thing you can do to change your space, but it takes guts to commit to an exciting new shade,” Makk says. “I say take the leap and commit to painting all [four] walls of your space.”

Fixtures and finishes should match.

Fixtures and finishes should match.

Monochrome kitchen detail of black gooseneck tap set in a white marble counter top

(Getty Images)

The trends for metallic lighting fixtures and plumbing hardware throughout the home change every few years, just like preferred color palettes. One year brass is out of style and the next it’s in, but you can’t reasonably be expected to change out all your fixtures to keep up with the times. Instead, embrace the mixed-metal look. “People can step out and do a few more eclectic things than they felt comfortable doing before,” Crowder says. Black or nickel plumbing combined with chrome lighting fixtures work well together, she says.

Don't mix patterns.

Don't mix patterns.

White interior of living room with colorful pillows

(Getty Images)

A decades-old rule that can still be hard to break today is mixing patterns, which some people think looks too busy, particularly when textiles are mixed. But when paired with complementary colors or similar styles, multiple patterns can actually result in a more dynamic look. Mismatched pillows of different patterns that go together can be a simple way to incorporate more than one print into a space, or you can make a bigger statement with printed fabric on a chair or couch, rugs or wall art.

Keep current with trends.

Keep current with trends.

sofa of tissue in a modern living room. 3d rendering

(Getty Images)

While you may be in love with the current design trends you see on HGTV, embracing a style that's uniquely yours will have more longevity with your home design. Designers who responded to the 1stdibs survey reported that clients too often try to follow trends and would be better off diverting from whatever rules are currently en vogue. Makk agrees, noting that “good design is about curating a timeless space that transcends trends and truly reflects your personal aesthetic.”

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Tags: real estate, housing, renting, home improvements, Instagram


Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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