Catherine and Michael Bains own 3 Light Locations: Ross Road, Hopton Road and Elmbourne Road, all of which are busy and popular properties due to their understanding of what makes a versatile photo shoot location. We asked Catherine and Michael what it’s like to have lives which revolve around looking after them.
When you started out, did you envisage that it would become a full time job looking after your shoot locations?
Not at all – I was working full time as a freelance interiors stylist and it just grew. Magazine work was diminishing too so it seemed like a good idea to style my own houses for our location business. Michael kept finding properties and managed to borrow the money to buy them and the business just developed from there. However it has entailed a rather hefty mortgage.
We know what it is like dealing with a busy diary. How do you manage all your enquires/bookings having so many busy locations and being with multiple agencies?
It is a full-time job and sometimes my head feels like it is going to explode but we manage it all most of the time.
Do you ever get time off?
We do go away a lot (which usually entails suitcase loads of props from the country we are visiting) but I will have the diary with me at all times as well as weekends as we get lots of enquiries for holiday rentals seven days a week.
What has been your most memorable shoot and why?
Bumping into Pippa Middleton at the bottom of our stairs when she was shooting scenes for her book “Celebrate”, not to mention Twiggy who swapped her autograph with my daughters for the chance to hold their newborn baby bunny rabbits. There have been so many but these have stuck in my mind.
Have you had any location disasters?
A pot of tea all over the pale bedroom carpet that had to be replaced/ smashed glass ceiling lights/ flooded dining room (oak parquet) floor when someone tried to move the freestanding bath in the bathroom above – the list goes on and it is extensive……
Do you and Michael have your separate roles in the running of the locations?
I take the bookings and Michael does the accounts/invoices and lets in the crews etc.
You both have creative backgrounds. Who had the visions for each property?
I tend to do the traditional interiors whereas Michael does the architectural spaces such as the modern kitchen extension at Elmbourne/ the new roof light space at High View and the summer house at High View.
Where did the inspiration for each property come from?
They are a blend of my favourite styles – particularly French and touches of ornate Moroccan designs – all painted white. I take inspiration from hotels/ houses/ books and magazines. The decorative shelf wall for plates in the breakfast room at Ross Road was inspired by the breakfast room at the Lime Hotel in the New Forest/ the library shelves at Elmbourne from an apartment we stayed at in Paris/ the pink bedroom at
Ross Road from a French chateau.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about utilising a property as a photo shoot location?
It is a good business that pays well but it is hard work and you are giving away your home for that period of time. The house must be kept immaculate at all times which can be tricky during the school holidays with two teenagers. The crew don’t want you hanging around either so having somewhere else to go is vital.
It might be like asking which is your favourite child – but which of your 3 locations is your favourite?
I have favourite parts of each house – at Elmbourne I love the dressing room and master bathroom / at Ross Road I love the breakfast room with the wall of plates and The Dormitory (with four single beds) and at Hopton Road I love the master bathroom and the wallpapered children’s room. I bought the flowery wallpaper from Cath Kidston many years ago and never got around to using it in my daughter’s bedroom.
Is 3 properties enough or do you have plans for anymore!
The final property we have just bought and it is a wreck about an hour from Barcelona. We are currently refurbishing it to create an eight bedroom/ seven bathroom house with pool and lovely gardens. We bought it very cheaply as it had not only be trashed by burglars but also run as a marijuana farm and still has police tape around some areas. So it has an interesting history to put it mildly and is known locally as the Flower House! We are going to rename it Casa Blanca (white of course) and it will be decorated in a modern Moroccan style. I am in the middle of making all the soft furnishings and painting all the furniture as well as sourcing furniture and props from all over the world. Dealing with builders and buying stuff online in Catalan is slightly challenging. Hopefully it will be a success but also somewhere we can spend more time too. And that really will be the last one……………?