Colin King is the go-to interior stylist for many of the world’s leading brands and publications. He is a regular contributor to Architectural Digest, T, Ark, and Rum magazines and collaborates regularly with West Elm, Anthropologie, Zara Home, Crate & Barrel, and Roman and Williams Guild.
The New York-based stylist is now sharing his wisdom and insights for cultivating beauty in everyday surroundings with his debut book Arranging Things, published by Rizzoli. Through a series of visuals and essays, King unpacks his intuitive process while meditating on scale, proportion, palette, and texture.
To celebrate the book’s release on March 14th, we spoke with King about his journey as a visual storyteller, experimentation, collaboration, and more.
In what ways do you believe your classical dance training informs your work as an interior stylist? Is there a certain rhythm/choreography to how you view and arrange objects?
I'm constantly uncovering new parallels between the two art forms. Growing up as a kid in Ohio, I really took to dance because I was able to find this freedom of expression without having to say anything. I do the same thing today with these pictures that I am able to style and capture–I feel like I get to find ways to storytell without actually putting words to it.
I also think dance gave me this ability to see light in a different way. When we were on stage, we would always be lit from the side. It’s similar with side lighting and interiors. There's a depth and dimension that exists once it's lit from the side. There's also a motion to how one object communicates with another as you play with different planes and formations. There’s something kind of rhythmic and very meditative about styling.
Why was the transition from one visual art form to the other natural for you?
I don't know if any of it makes sense. Having grown up in Ohio and then coming here to dance school in New York and seeing designs like I’ve never seen before ignited some sort of interest in design. Or maybe it reminded me that I had an interest in design. As a kid, I was always collecting things like rocks and mementos from different occasions and I would display them around my room. It just felt like a natural transition to go into interiors. It's all about how we experience space.
How do you believe your approach to styling has evolved since the beginning of your career?
I’ve learned to trust that I will be prepared, but ultimately leave room for that magic that happens on set. Because It's never going to go according to plan. I'm leaning into that approach now, finding that pocket where I feel inspired but also prepared.
I’m constantly pushing myself and asking my intention for each project because my biggest fear is just becoming too stale or one-note. Experimenting is really important as well.
Other than making something aesthetically pleasing, what else do you hope to achieve in styling a space?
I hope to challenge the viewer to see something in a new way or see that something can be used in a way they wouldn't have used it before. My favorite design not only evokes an emotion, but it also convinces me to like something I might not normally like. I think that's when a stylist wins. Even just using a stool as a side table and then putting a lamp on it and someone's like, “I would've never done that because it's a stool.” That’s what makes a home feel unique to its owner.
In your upcoming book, you show how interior design is not about buying new items but seeing old favorites with fresh eyes. Do you think the industry at large encourages overconsumption? From your perspective, do you think this has been better or worse in recent years?
I think there has been an over consumption and over collection because a lot of people's resources were put into their home recently when they were spending so much time there during quarantine. Even I had that challenge when moving into my new space. I wanted to put more stuff in it because it was a bigger space than I had before, but, what I realized is it is not about putting more things in, it's actually about scaling up. I needed the same amount of things, they just needed to be bigger. I think that's the trap that a lot of people fall into. They want to fill every corner, when really, there's so much beauty in having restraint and having a little bit less, because then each object holds that much more importance. I love the idea that you can transform a space without buying anything.
You’ve been in this industry for years now. Why was now the right time for you to create a book?
I had been head down in the sand working for four years, really relentlessly. I was on set 180 days of the year one year. Then one day I actually got stopped in my tracks by a literary agent who asked me if I was working on a book. So, I pulled together a dream team. I really let them take the lead through the process because I had never worked on a book before. They helped me find vocabulary for a process that was so intuitive for me.
You wrote the book with Architectural Digest features director Sam Cochran. How did the collaboration start? What was that process like?
Sam was such a fit for me because we had a natural rapport. I love the way he can cut out the extra and really get to the point. We had these long working sessions of sorting through images, figuring out which projects to use, and building thematic chapters that we thought were really helpful, but not too prescriptive–because ultimately it is an art form that's beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.
What is the biggest takeaway you want people to have after reading your book?
There’s a few things, but I wanted to empower people to see their world in a different way. Ultimately, I hope it demystifies styling and helps people create space for beauty by arranging the objects around them in an unexpected way.