The Business of Boudoir »

Thrifty shopping for your studio

I left you last time waiting for more info on how to plan out and outfit your boudoir studio of your dreams! After being in my commercial/industrial studio space for more than a decade, I leased a new loft-style studio space this summer. This is part 2 of my studio–all about how I’ve found the props and sets for my studio.

Clients want classic decor that lets them shine

I think styling our studios will always be a work in progress with us creative types!  We always get bored with the same props, so through the years, I had rotated through quite a few different looks.  To outfit a new boudoir studio, it takes time, planning, patience, and money, lots of money.  Even doing this on a budget and scouring craigslist all the time, looking at and going to every discount type store in my city, it still costs quite a bit to outfit a studio.  It is kind of like having a second home.  And actually, my studios look nicer than my home. Everything I buy for my studio, I honestly would love to have for myself.

Your clients just want simple classic decor, a neutral decor that will compliment them, not take the attention from them. So don’t worry too much, keep the design clean, and just focus on timeless furniture that will give your images that upscale look.

The first step is to get the space.  I discussed in part one how long I looked and how I searched online and found the studio I really wanted.  After you find the space you love, with magic light, and all the gorgeous wood floors you have dreamed of, it is time to draw out and plan out what you want your studio to look like! I am going for the loft apartment look in my studio.  So I planned out my living room look, bedroom, and then of course, I wanted to make sure I had a sweet dressing/makeup room!

Make a list, check it twice

I would start by listing out key items you need in a studio. From past experiences and what I currently have in my space, I will make a simple list here:

  • Couch
  • Cowhide rug
  • Coffee table
  • Chair or two
  • Chaise
  • Non-personal wall decor
  • Chandelier
  • Lamps
  • Full or queen bed with gorgeous headboard
  • Rugs, including  a fuzzy rug for the makeup room
  • End table
  • Large mirrors for changing and makeup table
  • Makeup table lighting
  • Shoe rack or shelf
  • Wardrobe shelving or closet
  • Many canvases and prints of my work for the dressing room bathroom and anywhere that isn’t a shoot space

I live on craigslist and second-hand stores

For myself, I always start with Craigslist. I had scoured craigslist for maybe a hundred hours of my life so far. I just keep my main search terms handy, and search often.  Be picky. Look for what you want, and when it shows up, get it quick.

Craigslist has been my source for my main grey tufted couch, my gorgeous ornate bed, my red antique sofa, many other sofas and headboards that I have already passed along to others, and many chairs as well.  I recently found a woman that paints gorgeous antique dressers and I love her work, so I got my most recent makeup table that way!

I’ve also found great pieces at second-hand stores, thrift stores and antique stores.

Craigslist rocks, but of course BE SAFE, and careful with it!


And, I go to discount stores

The next place I have found most things I have would be Home Goods, and Marshall’s and TJ Maxx.  All three stores are owned by the same company. They have amazing taste, amazing deals. But the problem is the best stuff is probably only available in low numbers, meaning if you walk in and see it, GET IT.  Don’t leave it, because it won’t last!  I have found many of my ornate mirrors, fluffy rugs, chandelier lamps, end tables, decor, bedspreads, all the towels and bathroom necessities at these stores. I’ve also found many amazing deals on lingerie and simple undies to keep in the studio for that one client that doesn’t seem to remember underwear for a boudoir shoot. What?  So for $1.99 I save the day!


And then there was online shopping

I also search a lot online, and here and there you can find pieces that you may love and can’t live without! By knowing reasonable prices for things locally, you can tell if the online pricing is a good deal or not. Don’t forget shipping!

I have found though, that has great items, but these items may not be the best most sturdy quality. We purchased a $200 white “leather” bed, the type that is the frame and headboard together.  This bed quickly broke, and we had to rebuild the base for it to be used.  I would never purchase another bed with frame there, it just isn’t worth the trouble! But I bet a stand alone headboard would be just fine.

The main websites I frequent are,, — I love to look, but so far haven’t purchased through them.  I have purchased a few of my crystal chandeliers from The prices are right, but you do have to totally assemble the chandelier.  I had my husband help with electrical and assembly and the savings was worth it! Now and then I will search for that special piece, usually just wall art or decor, as furniture would be expensive to ship. I also love looking at my local antique stores for small items that may add to the urban apartment feel of my studio!


As you start out, you may have to make due with a few items that aren’t your dream items. But do not worry, soon enough, with more shoots flowing in, you can sell your items on craigslist yourself, and buy the dream items! It is always a changing environment!  I went from an antique find green tufted headboard, to a white leather headboard, to a metal scrolling headboard, and now to the wood ornate headboard that I had wanted for many years. It just took time to find one, a little luck and a little obsessive checking on Craigslist!

Start out with searching local used, then local at the discount stores, and then when you still need a few things, try the internet stores. I would always plan it out with the staples you need, as I had listed above. From there, you can decorate here and there.

Happy thrifty shopping!  If you have any specific questions on shops or  online stores, just ask!

Heather Walker

Heather Walker, owner of Columbus Boudoir, in Ohio, has shot boudoir exclusively since 2008. She has been working as a portrait photographer for many more years, but once introduced to boudoir and how you can make women feel amazing about themselves, she was hooked! Heather now operates a very successful boudoir business and teaches other photographers the art of boudoir through one on one mentoring classes at her studio.

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  • August 13, 2014 - 2:11 PM

    Petra Herrmann - OMG! You got a new chaise! It’s GORGEOUS!

    You know I love your studio, it truly is an amazing spot and you’ve done so well with styling it. Glad to know that I’m not the only girl that does the CL thing… I’ve got at least 3 pieces that I picked up at a flea market for less than twenty bucks and one that ((ssshhh, don’t tell anyone)) I got on the side of the road… all vintage and now all stunning with a little bit of love and a lot of oil based paint!

    Mattresses though, that’s one thing we don’t buy used. Ick factor. *shudder*ReplyCancel

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