03. Styling.

This is where people usually want to start, but as you’ve realized, there’s so much more that goes into understanding your property and what you’re actually designing and buying for before you go out and do it.

I want you to work from a place that knows styling is another way you get to tell people your house story. I also want you to believe that it’s absolutely a science — replicable because beauty is a mathematical formula (a fact well-known by artists and mathematicians throughout time). Which means, if you know the science and rules to styling, you can style. Anyone can. But what will make yours iconic and penetrating is when you shape it from your story.

All of that to say, I know it can still be so very overwhelming when you start. What to buy? What to do? What’s the point? That’s why we’ve already done much more of the heavy lifting than you realize — getting sorted on your house story and negotiating all that planning will save you thousands in time and unspent dollars. So trust you have your map and you already know your north star (your story) and let’s begin. In the industry, you know, no matter if we’re styling a bookshelf or a whole house, this is the same process we go through.

A few things to know…

I’m confident when I say you’ll be able to do your own styling so much better than anyone you could ever hire because it’s you who knows your house story. After teaching so many people face-to-face, this is one of the standout lessons: if you have the rules, and you follow them, you will do well. You know what you prefer visually and you do not need a stylist to understand what looks beautiful. Trust me.

You may be saying, yes but I just don’t know what to buy. And, again, you do. You know what to buy and you know how to put it together it’s just that, up until now, you haven’t been taught the method behind it. So, don’t worry, stick to the steps and follow the process. I promise your home will reveal itself.

Let’s get organized.

Below I give you Three Steps and 10 Rules for styling. Together, we’ll go through each, explaining what they mean and how to apply them. Click for examples of each and, by the end - with plenty of practice - you’ll be calling yourself a stylist.

This week, your homework is even more crucial than normal. Do the exercises and make sure to practice, photograph, and share your work. When you post, that’s how I get to see what you’ve been creating and how far you’ve come.

Oh! And, of course, have fun!

Let’s begin with our video overview.


03. To ponder.

I am going to make everything around me beautiful, that will be my life.     

- Elsie de Wolfe


03. Lesson: the three steps.

Step 1

Create a mood board so you can see your house story in pictures — this is a critical step in the translation of theory to practice. It doesn’t really matter what the platform is —- you can use Pinterest, a word document, or a folder of magazine pictures at your desk — it’s simply an exercise to critically think about what words mean to you in images. Creating a mood board will help you stay true to your house story, not to design trends or your own personal aesthetic.

Use your mood board as a reference when you’re shopping and selecting items as it is the cornerstone of a clear visual direction for your entire project.

When working, try to find an image (or images) for each aspect of your house story. Know that they won’t all be pictures of interiors, and shouldn’t be. For those of you looking for a number, I encourage you to select at least 20 images.

{ Go to your workbook and find Exercise 3.1 - Make a Mood Board From Your House Story. }

Step 2

It doesn’t have to be fancy, but roughly draw out your house and its rooms. By doing so, this create a sort of shopping list for what you’ll need in each. A little tip from me: I try to imagine myself walking through a house, asking what I would want to see, where I would want to sit, and what I would want to look at on the walls. Know that your mud map doesn’t have to be neat or perfect, it’s just a sketch to form your shopping list. With a list and a plan, you’ll feel far more strategic organised when you fit out your house.

{ Go to E3.2 - Make a Mud Map & Draw Out Your Rooms}

Step 3

The third step is styling. I know, it may seem funny that the third step is when we actually begin to do, but all the planning and dreaming and learning you’ve done til now is what makes a considered and professional space.

Something to consider, a little tip from me to you, is that this is a holiday property and your guests don’t need everything a normal home does. There’s no doubt you want them to be comfortable, but you’re also inviting them into a world for a short stay and, when there, they probably don’t need everything.

03. Lesson: 10 rules of styling.

Styling is about understanding the rules and practicing them to feel confident. A key part to this week is not just the learning, but to go and play and continue to practice throughout the duration of this class in your own home. Make a commitment to yourself to do this — check the hashtags below in Community to follow other people’s work because it could trigger some key learnings for you (or your for then).

  1. For every straight thing, use a round thing. — How this works: for every straight edge, you need to add something round because humans always lived somewhere that didn’t have anything soft and round. By having something round, it starts to feel comfortable for a human to live in.

    Consider round rugs and round coffee tables. Old books and old paper. Round lights. Flowers and leaves. Linen. Round creates harmony. Click here to see the rule applied and not applied.

  2. Make triangles. — What you’re trying to do is make a series of triangles. It doesn’t have to all be a simple, basic, straight triangle. You want to create high points and low points and make everything feel beautiful. It’s also about pairings – high and small things with anchoring points, about creating rhythm so your eye has something to follow around. Click here to see the rule applied and not applied.

  3. Use old as well as new. — Get stuff no one else has. The key to memorable things is the triggering between eye and mind, it’s not about vintage, its about having stuff no one else has. It doesn’t have to be something old and expensive, it can be a dog! It’s about one offs. Click here to see the rule applied and not applied.

  4. Textures and layers. — I always work in odd numbers: three, five, or seven textures or layers. That’s about not getting bored in a space. its different to look at a space and to be in a space. you want to create somewhere that people want to stay in. they want to holiday in the space. not somewhere that they’re just staying for the night. Click here to see the rule applied and not applied.

  5. Hang everything unexpectedly. — It creates something memorable. It creates a strong memory and makes it high photogenic. Click here to see the rule applied and not applied.

  6. Everything tells the story. — It all plays in to telling the story, from whatever you decide  your story is, you make choices based on the story. Make choices not based on what other people would like, or what you want the house to look like, make it based on the story. It’s a gradual evolving process and making edits as you go.

  7. Balance. — Positive and Negative space 50/50. Start with stuff and no stuff because the eye needs release. Busy areas and quiet areas. Look to your story: if it’s a busy story, maybe you go 60 / 40 but if you have a quieter story, then you need to make it softer and give it space for balance. To make photos beautiful, it’s often about taking things away. Negative space is just as important as positive space. Click here to see the rule applied and not applied.

  8. Hide the ugly stuff. — Hide the fridge, TV, appliances, all of it. It’s about hiding anything that isn’t attractive. Put things in cupboards and behind doors. Hide kettles and toasters. Anything that isn’t beautiful, it goes away. Anything you’re touching everyday, make it nice (like light switches). There are areas you can never hide, so just don’t take photos of them. It has too strong of an impact on the space. sometimes it is knowing that you like it or love it but you don’t know why. Through a camera, you can notice more than in real life. You don’t care if people can tell why they love entering your space, just that they like it. Don’t forget that creating the perfect world includes inside the cupboards and bowls, too. Have cupboards and drawers that are locked off for everything you need. Click here to see the rule applied and not applied.

  9. Remove any offensive colors. — I love this one. It’s officially called the ‘eyelash’ test. Squint your eyes a bit and look around. Which colours pop out? Take them out and see what a difference it makes. Reds and yellows are usually offenders, and funny enough, they are colours in nature that signal danger.

  10. The biggest secret I could ever tell you…

    …really, the biggest secret I could ever tell you is that I style through a camera lens. I like to work out where the house will be photographed from, set up a camera, and base my styling through the frame of the camera. Know that people are only ever going to purchase a stay at your property through photos so it’s crucial they look perfect. In this situation, real life is just slightly secondary. Click here to see this rule applied and not applied.

{ Go to E3.3 - Write Down The 10 Rules in Your Notebook.}

How to make decisions when you are planning, buying and styling

So, here is where people get stuck. They tick off their house story, they moodboard, plan, understand the science of styling, practice a little bit, get the gist and are really proud. But then, when they get to the actual doing, they get frightened and reach for outside help or advice, going down a steep (and deep) spiral of indecision, landing in the murky waters of mixed aesthetics or, interestingly, a very bland result that’s hoping to please everyone.

What I want you to do — or what I would do if you had hired me — is to make decisions based on your unique house story and moodboard. Make sure you are completely happy with them before you start and take them everywhere with you, on every sourcing and shopping adventure. They are your touchstone.

So…what does actually using your house story to make decisions look like? Well, if you’re considering lighting options and one of your key house story elements is ‘humble,’ you wouldn’t choose a shiny, modern pendant, or a chandelier, or antique crystal — you would look to a bare bulb, cords, wire, maybe old ropes intertwined, very aged fittings you found that would have been cheap back in the day.

Another example: perhaps you’re looking at tiles for the bathroom and your home is a beach house and your story is ‘relaxed.’ You wouldn’t go for a pattern or black and white checker, or even subway tiles, or something even more formal. Perhaps the solution is a basic concrete tile that’s been tumbled or aged, something very unfussy.

One more: if you have a cottage and your story is ‘Victorian.’ You wouldn’t select the sort of black tap-ware that is so popular right now, you’d want to choose traditional fixtures that speak to a by-gone era. You’d forgo a big, round, modern bath for an old clawfoot. You see?

Write this down in your notes:

When I need to make a decision, I look at my house story and ask what fits.

Try to not worry too much about the end result, I promise it will all come together perfectly. Trust the process.

A few final thoughts on styling ….

Every single person I have talked to or met, whether they’re a student or an expert in the industry, has self-doubt when it comes to styling so don’t let this stop you because everyone will have it. It’s so important to practice and play. Also remember that it’s going to be successful if it comes from you because it’s going to be authentic and yours. It’s also important to get comfortable with this feeling of self-doubt because no matter how successful you are or however much you’ve done, it will always be there in some form or another so it’s up to you how you want to use it.

03. Just so they’re all in one spot: your exercises.

E3.1 - Make a Mood Board From Your House Story.

E3.2 - Make a Mud Map & Draw Out Your Rooms.

E3.3 - Write Down The 10 Rules in Your Notebook.

There’s a lot of very hands on homework this week so be sure to do it, take before and after photos, and share.

03. Ponder this.

"You’re never going to kill storytelling, because it’s built in the human plan. We come with it.”

- Margaret Atwood


03. Case Studies: click on each to check in.



03. A Graduate Story: Sheepwash Bay.

Jenene’s story really inspired me. Her shack is quite close to where I was living at the time so I got to watch her progress and visit often (I know, lucky!). I wanted to share her journey with you, because, like most people, she was stuck in what she felt was expected and what everyone else was doing rather than who she was and what she had to offer, which was magical so why was she fighting it! So, dear reader — I hope her story inspires you write your own too.

Dear Student,

It felt really brave three years ago to open our property up to strangers on Airbnb. It was a bit of an eyes half-closed leap... just another thing to add to an already time-poor, organisationally challenged life..... living on a small island is a romantic ideal.... but oh my, with kids and three jobs the logistics can nearly break you.

So we did what we thought was “required”. You know. White sheets. Table and chairs. Rolled towels on the end of the quilt. Make it clean and tidy and more like a hotel.... because after all, it was an out of whack wooden shack with a drop toilet..... quick disguise it!! 

Charging $145 on Airbnb we did pretty well. In fact, we were stoked! The 30k it took to do it up ( reroof, deck on, windows without holes, etc) came back to us year one! Awesome right. Then year two and three we stayed at exactly 30k gross. No growth. Bookings sitting around 50%. 

Then on the eve of my midcenturian celebrations, I recognized that my energy for continuing in the health field was really waning, and my desire to do more of “me” was a bubbling volcano...... where was my time in my garden, at the pottery wheel, in nature ..... so how can I do more me and still pay the mortgage????

Holy timing batman..... a mate said ... oh you should see how Sarah Andrews does with her place Captains Rest ..... so a quick internet stalk and up pops “ The Hosting Masterclass”. Hmmm a lot of dosh I thought.... but hey if I needed to get better at rehabilitating a knee I’d do a rehabilitating knees course..... why should this other sort of profession be any different ...... and also there was a bit of “hell yes I deserve a few days doing something nice.... sounds like in the least I’ll get to sit about and drink wine!!!”

Well, it was fun, and there was wine but oh my I can’t believe how it changed me ... my eyes were opened to the science of telling a house story through styling. 

I really thought I couldn’t do styling.... have always joked I don’t do style ...and here I was. 

Lightbulb.... my house story is my story... my style is what I like.... as long as it all flows with authenticity it will tell it’s own story clearly. I can do this. I do know what I think and what I want to share... Sarah’s cleverly crafted course teases this out of you and then gives you frameworks for confidence. I still can’t believe there are “rules” to styling that can be followed..... love it. 

 ... and I wasn’t on any social media ..... that’s a whole other chapter where a few little tips and tricks where shared and boom you can do it!!!

So home I went, backed up the trailer and threw out all the ugly stuff...I always believed that people want a different experience to home when on holidays ... so here goes... no plastic tables and chairs instead we included wooden stumps and hand made daybeds, colored earthy linen sheets, and flowers... oh the flowers....lots of pottery from my studio, beautiful dried things we found washed up on the shoreline out the front. We embraced sharing our dog and our family, our veggie patch and our love of home-baked sourdough with our guests and it just took off! 

Then the crazy bit... I increased the price to $205. Within 6 months a real change was afoot. I still only use Airbnb, but most bookings mention finding me via Instagram. Instead of looking for accommodation on Bruny Island and finding us by accident.... we are now the destination and just happen to be on Bruny. People come from all over the world to our little shack on the beach. So bookings are more likely 2 or more days rather than one. Guests are so so friendly and happy — just damn good types. 

Oh, and did I mention our bookings are now around 80% occupancy and climbing like crazy?!?! In winter!! Time to keep putting my price up! We are also opening a second shack! I laugh, they even love the ‘long drop’ which is an Aussie toilet that is basically a hole in the ground!

So that’s my story typed with one finger in a cafe between jobs (not for long because I’m expanding to another cabin and intend to retire from healthcare).

I can not understate how amazing the hosting masterclass was at opening my eyes to my own abilities and style. And for me, I finally learned how to embrace my story, and boy did the world respond back.

Sarah asked me to share three things that really propelled me forward to share with all of you, so here they are:

  1. Think through to the bare bones of what your theme truly is. Your story is powerful, no matter what it is. This is why people will choose to stay with you over every other bland or on current trend stay. 

  2. Be authentically YOU (Because you’ve got this ). And besides, it's just more fun that way! 

  3. Anyone can be their own stylist, really! Be brave, play, change things. Follow your story and Sarah’s rules and it's you that will be on the pages of your favorite magazine next. There is no difference between the worlds best stylist and you, they just have the confidence to pretend you need to be talented or special to do it. You don’t!

Best of luck with embracing who you really are! Jenene — @sheepwashbay

03. A Graduate Story: Before The Hosting Masterclass

03. A Graduate Story. After the Hosting Masterclass

Photos by wonderful and talented Anjie Blaire & Zoe Morley.

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03. Your homework for this module.

  • Watch this TED talk - The Power of Vulnerability

  • Pick a room, or a corner of a room, and practice all the rules. Be sure to take before and after photos. Instagram your work using #thehostingmasterclass and tag @thehostingmasterclass.

  • I challenge you to re-do your desk exercise from Chapter 00 now you know a thing or two about your story and styling. Id love to see how this changes! You could even do a swipe through before and after, whatever makes you feel comfortable and creative.


03. Q and A with Sarah Andrews.


Q. What if my home is already styled?

Go back to your house story and maybe start by adding elements of it to your home — just as important: begin to remove elements that don’t fit. Next, I’d work room-by-room, changing and modifying as budget allows.

Q. All your gorgeous examples so far seem to be of spaces where the entire unit is being rented to guests privately -- a situation that lends itself really well to creating a kind of fantasy stay for guests where everything is curated to be more lovely than practical. But I'm really struggling because my situation is a heritage home where I live full-time and have one guest room and several shared spaces. Can I successfully employ your strategies? I can't hide all the ugly in every space a guest might see because I need some of it to live! Do I need to make myself a part of the house story?

Great questions and, I’ll be honest, you have a MUCH harder story to sell than if you were thinking of your whole home as a story. Why? Because you’re targeting the next rung down of travellers on a budget. I suggest a slightly different approach if you are renting out a room. 1. Make the room perfect, let it tell its story; do your best to make it as absolutely self-contained as possible. Think: coffee, tea, water station, maybe a mini fridge, perhaps even a hidden TV, books, etc. I know myself, and others I know that are just renting rooms, want to hide away as much as possible. 2. Focus on making your listing amazing, invest in incredible photos, beautiful words, and treat guests so well so that you have great reviews. Your travellers are mostly going to come via Airbnb searches, so this is where to invest. As for your own and shared spaces, make these as good as possible without ruining your own life by living in your own hotel!

Q. How do I know if I have done a good job?

Always photograph your space before you start (even those at the top of the game do that), then, photograph again once you have had a shot at styling. Compare the two. Show your friends. Ask your audience on Instagram!

Q. What if you want a different vibe in each room? There's a nature theme running through the whole house, but each room tells a different part of the story. Should my mood board reflect these different moods? Or is it better to have different mood boards for significantly different rooms?

That’s cool! I love this! As long as it all goes with your story, which it does, have fun with it. I would have one mood board for your whole house and perhaps some key words for yourself regarding each room to play on and with. In-depth room-planning comes in The Storied Home workshop, but you should have plenty of tools to take a solid crack.

Q. With the workbook work, do we show anyone or is it just for ourselves?

Hello! It’s just for you. Essentially, it’s your business plan. I do love to see your work on Instagram, though! As class is self-directed, it’s a chance for me to pop in and around, seeing what you’ve been up to.

Q. Hi Sarah, I'm hoping to build a studio on my property to airbnb. If we are starting from scratch and looking at furniture layout, window size and placement etc etc do you have any hot tips to make the space feel great? Or any no nos? Thank you

Hello, massive question, but it all boils down to house story. Have one, then make every single decision from it. You can’t go wrong. That’s how I work — I make every single decision from the story. The only time a space goes wrong is when it copies from something outside itself, mimics current trends, or is created to be what everyone else is doing / expects. Throw away the rules and go to your story. Here is an example: Q. Should I have big windows? A. Is your story about the natural world? Or is it a cozy story about reading books, or poetry, or going inside in some way? X


Hey, have a question? Found a spelling error? Have a total breakthrough revelation and want to tell me about it? Use the form below to submit your questions and feedback.

Ideas or gaps in knowledge that benefit this classroom as a whole will be integrated in, so make to review our chapters again before you head off into the wide world. Your question just might be featured and wouldn’t that be fun to see?

Name *


03. Community

This is very much the time to be posting your work! Be proud of what you’re doing and enjoy exploring your classmates’ work. Use #thehostingmasterclass as well as the tag #thm03 for any of your specific styling work.