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Secrets of the “Better Homes and Gardens” Pros

Tips from the BHG pros

Better Homes and Gardens magazine has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. It was a fixture on my mother’s coffee table, and has held the same place of honor in my own home since I was a bride. :-) So it’s no wonder the magazine (and its’ online counterpart – BHG.com) has had a huge influence on my home and garden over the years.

Tips from the BHG pros

Needless to say being invited to attend the BHG Stylemaker Event in New York City last month was a thrill. The day-long event brought together home, food, fashion, and lifestyle bloggers from around the country, to share with each other, and learn from BHG editors and stylists.

While the day was geared towards bloggers, it was jam-packed with so many great ideas that ANYONE could appreciate, I decided to share some of my favorites with you!

So here are some of the “secrets” of the Better Homes and Gardens pros! Tips and tricks that YOU can use in making your own home & garden “better.”  :-)

Tips from the BHG pros
All photos by (c) Avi Gerver Photography

Flower Arranging Tips

The “Photo Shoot Worthy Flower Arranging” workshop led by BHG Contributing Stylist, Matthew Robbins taught us how to create and photograph our own arrangements.

Here are Matthew’s top floral arranging tips:

  • Cut stems to varying lengths to add height interest.
  • Create a criss-cross grid within your container by overlapping the stems which will help keep your stems in place.
  • Turn the container as you go to keep the arrangement balanced if it will be seen from all sides.
  • Use an odd number of your “hero” blooms. (The showstoppers of your arrangement.)
  • When using dark florals be sure to add lighter blooms or filler for contrast.
  • Use wispy fillers last to add interest to your arrangement.

Some unexpected fillers are:

  • Eucalyptus
  • Hosta
  • Dusty Miller
  • Geranium leaves
  • Rosemary
  • Berries or fruit
  • Jasmine or other vine

Tips from the BHG pros

BHG used the arrangements from the class as the centerpieces on the tables for the evening’s cocktail party. Absolutely gorgeous!

Tips from the BHG pros

Food Styling Tips

The “BHG’s Favorite Food Stylist’s Secrets to Amazing Food Photos” workshop was taught by some of the magazine’s leading food stylists. Their main message was “there is beauty in the mess.” Food styling has moved away from polished perfection and more towards a realistic and imperfect look.

How to Create the Perfect Non-Piped Whipped Cream Dollop

Libbie Summers, author of Sweet & Vicious Baking with Attitude, taught us how to make the perfect whipped cream dollop for a piece of pie, a brownie, a bowl of fruit, etc. Although she is using fake whipped cream for demonstration purposes, she was very clear that this works (and tastes) best with real whipped cream.

To make a perfect dollop, take the back of a large spoon and run it lightly through your bowl of whipped cream, creating three distinct lines. Next, take your spoon and scoop across the lines to lift-up a dollop of cream. Next, gently drop your dollop onto your food. As the cream falls off the spoon it will have those lovely lines of dimension in it. (Might take a few practice runs…but you can eat the evidence!)

Tips from the BHG pros

How to Style a Salad

If your aren’t going to photograph your salads, these tips can also be applied to entertaining. Serving your food in a beautiful way helps your gathering feel special!

Jill Lust’s salad styling tips:

  • Think in pockets and pools instead of sprinkles and drizzles.
  • Arrange your salad in the bowl for a “pre-mixed” look.
  • To make a salad feel more modern, use a monochromatic color palette. Swap out red grapes for green, scallions for red onion, and add an herb to your dressing to create 5 different shades of harmonizing green.
  • Instead of drizzling the dressing on the salad beforehand, display the salad with a large ladle of dressing in the bowl ready to go.
  • Don’t try to make everything look perfect in your bowl. The back of a leaf and the seeds of a tomato are all beautiful.

Tips from the BHG pros

Table Styling Tips

Eddie Ross, BHG’s East Coast design editor and producer, did a great workshop on “How To Set the Perfect Holiday Table” and came prepared to show us some amazing pieces. We were all all thrilled to find a copy of his new book Modern Mix in our gift bags at the end of the day! This book would be a wonderful gift for you or a friend!  

Tips from the BHG pros

Eddie is a pure delight! He really lights up a room! :-)  Here are some of his table styling tips that you can use for the holidays or to make your everyday entertaining a little more special.

1. Start with a colorful tablecloth

From a vintage tablecloth to fabric remnants to an old handmade quilt, use linens to add color and provide the foundation for your tablescape.

2. Mix and match pieces

For a one-of-a-kind look, use treasured pieces and fabulous vintage finds alongside newer purchases. Cutlery doesn’t need to match either.

3. Simple changes can create a whole new look

Eddie showed us how to transform tables from elegant to rustic with a simple change in dish ware. Color and pattern can enliven a place setting or make it more serene.

4. Add something quirky

Eddie found a brass camel on one of his antiquing trips. He had no idea what he would use it for, but ended up repurposing it as a salt cellar. It brings a touch of whimsy to the table and is a great conversation piece!

Tips from the BHG pros

And after an awesome day of listening and learning we moved to the rooftop of the Hudson Hotel for the BHG cocktail party! The tented area was beautiful but the view trumped it all!

Tips from the BHG pros

But for me the HIGHLIGHT of the day had to be when my celebrity “girl crush” Brooke Shields showed up! She was the “cover girl” of the September issue of BHG, and shared a tour of her beautiful home.

Tips from the BHG pros

I kind of had a fangirl moment as I Periscoped her interview with Eddie Ross, and then stuck to her like glue until I got my photo op with her.

Tips from the BHG pros

I have to laugh at this photo of me gazing adoringly at her while she chats with Stephen Orr, BHG’s new Editor in Chief. And I have to agree with someone at the party who said she must be “drinking unicorn tears” because she doesn’t look like she’s aged at all!

Tips from the BHG pros

OK, I know I said the highlight of the day was meeting Brooke Shields, but that’s not entirely true! The thing I like MOST about attending events like this is getting together and networking with other content creators.

It is so gratifying to see the recognition that bloggers have received in recent years by magazines and television. Most of us don’t have anywhere near the resources that a magazine like Better Homes and Gardens does. It’s pretty wonderful that BHG is recognizing our work and helping us to improve our overall skills. Thanks BHG!


Photos by (c) Avi Gerver Photography

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Homekeeping Tips

  • The way your ‘inside’ glows and accents the beauty of your ‘outside’ adds the core of value when I read your posts. Additionally, seeing you hobnobbing is really a pleasure. I too have always admired Brooke Shields..and if you do find out she’s drinking unicorn tears, perhaps you can find a DIY for the rest of us.

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