Interview - Glen Proebstel

Lucy Feagins
Lucy Feagins
29th of October 2010
Glen's brand new prop store for stylists - Prop.d!
More beautifulness at Prop.d!
'Pattern' trends spread for Inside Out Magazine styling by Glen Proebstel
Photos for Food Safari, shot by Sharyn Cairns, styled by Glen Proebstel

Ok so I know I am easily excited at the best of times.... but truly and honestly I am not exaggerating when I say that I am SO SUPER EXCITED about today's interview!  Mainly because I have waited a really looooong time to interview the enigmatic Mr Proebstel!  Aside from being one of Melbourne's busiest stylists, Glen is just basically more of a behind-the-scenes-do-er than a blow-your-own-trumpet-er sort of guy, which I think is the main reason why this interview has taken so long in coming!  After around 6 months of arm twisting and subtle email nudging, it wasn't until the recent launch of Glen's brand new props hire business 'Prop.d' that I managed to really pin him down for a Design Files feature! ...nothing like the launch of a new business to encourage some friendly self promotion!  Yippee!

Glen works on a freelance basis for a huge variety of advertising clients and print media, and also maintains his role as Style Director for Inside Out Magazine.  This guy is seriously busy.  Possibly (probably) Melbourne's most in-demand interiors stylist, I reckon.  Glenn's favourite collaborator is Superstar Melbourne photographer Sharyn Cairns, and together this prolific pair create the most incredibly deep, rich, layered images - no one does 'moody' better that Sharyn and Glenn!

I am so grateful for Glen's extremely generous and detailed responses below... I learnt many new and unexpected things - including Glen's plans for a head-mounted torch to stay one step ahead of the early morning fossickers at the Camberwell Market!  Ha ha, now that I would like to see!

Huge thanks to Glen for his time and all the incredible images!  If you're a Melbourne stylist, set dresser, photographer or interiors guru you really need to check out Prop.d for all kinds of hire-able proppy gorgeousness! Prop.d Warehouse 56 Dockland Cotton Mills 56 –91 Moreland st Footscray

Tues, Wed and Fri 10.00am – 5.00pm (03) 9687 6708
Rabbit Terrine - photos for the Food Safari book, shot by Sharyn Cairns, styled by Glen Proebstel
Tell me a little about your background - what path led you to what you’re doing now?

I distinctly remember the first time I thought about what would be the next evolution in my career from visual merchandising, about 12 years ago when I was dressing the Summer Home Catalogue launch windows at David Jones in Market St, Sydney.  Staring vacantly across the street to the Elizabeth St store, I noticed the latest cover of that same catalogue hanging in the window and it only just struck me then, ‘Who creates these images?’. I had never even heard of such a thing as an interior stylist! The seed was s0wn....

Then, in 2001, I began working at Empire Homewares in Sydney. I merchandised and styled windows, changing the store on a weekly basis to accommodate the large volume of stock moving through the store. Every month, we would have meetings to discuss and develop ideas that focused on new trends and showcased the latest design products. It was here that I was introduced to the world of styling through stylists such as Donna Hay, Vanessa Holden (now Editor in Chief at Martha Stewart Living) Marcus Hay, Jean Wright and style Goddess Sibella Court, who would come in and loan products for editorial purposes.

My work in the store caught the eye of Sue Fairlie-Cunningham who was Food Editor for Inside Out Magazine at the time, and she was the bridge that connected me with the editor Karen McCartney and the rest was history. It was the perfect fit really: I was working with a team of extremely talented and passionate creatives and Karen allowed me to develop my style until I was able to produce large merchandising and trend features. I also felt very much at home there, we were like a family and, in fact, we still are!

Since 2006 I have been mainly working as a freelancer. I maintain my role as Style Director for Inside Out Magazine and outside of that I work with advertsing clients and other News Magazines titles.

Can you list one or two favourite shoots / creative projects you’ve worked on recently?

Sharyn Cairns - what more can I say really!   There’s something to be said when you find someone you work with who sees things just as you see them. Sharyn was one of the first photographers I was teamed up with when I moved to Melbourne.  I think we were both as apprehensive as each other on that first shoot, but we were both quite excited to be able to work together, but this soon dissolved and our strong working relationship began.  Since then our shared passions have created a distinct signature style - when people want a dark and moody shoot, they give us a call!

Photo by Sharyn Cairns for Inside Out Magazine, styling Glen Proebstel.
Photo by Sharyn Cairns for Inside Out Magazine, styling Glen Proebstel.

Sharyn and I have done a number of great shoots over the past few years, but there are a couple that really stand out for me. There was the 'Fold' Homewares Trend shoot for Inside Out, as well as a 'Fabrics' feature that we shot at Abbotsford Convent. Who would have thought that we would be shooting on a 46 degree day in an old part of the convent that was like an oven. The person I felt the most for, was Ian, from Blues Removals. Imagine moving an entire truck load of furniture on a 46 degree day!  Thanks Ian.  Then there was the shoot we did for the 10th Anniversary Birthday Issue... We were truly in our element!

Images for Inside Out 10th Birthday anniversary issue - photos by Sharyn Cairns, Styling Glen Proebstel
Images for Inside Out 10th Birthday anniversary issue - photos by Sharyn Cairns, Styling Glen Proebstel

There was also another shoot that I was quite close to, and that was a shoot that I did with Lucas Allen (another Melbourne photographer) in Kangaroo Valley in Southern NSW. There was a small shack at the back of a writers home that enabled us to set the scene for the story. Lucas, who is now a star in the Big Apple, was a phenomenal photographer to work with. I hope to shoot with him again at some point.

Kangaroo Valley - photos by Lucas Allen, styling Glen Proebstel

Over the past 2 years, I have been focusing on food styling. I shoot tests where I can, and make regular visits to Camberwell Markets and auction houses to collect props for ‘prop.d’ (propped), the props house that I have just opened with my business partner and friend Rachel Hart.

We have only just launched onto the Melbourne food styling scene and already we are causing quite a stir!  There are fabulous props houses in Sydney such as Major & Tom, Prop Stop, The Propery and China Squirrel, though Melbourne really didn't have one to speak of.   I remember when I first arrived that it was a struggle to find a 'one stop' prop store marketing specifically at food so we decided to start prop.d. It was about a year in planning but it didn't take too long to get off the ground once we decided what we wanted. We have also teamed up with Matthew Collins from Art and Interiors. He shares our warehouse space with us, creating beautiful, unique hand tailored surfaces. It's really quite an inspiring place to be - come visit....!

More pieces available to hire through Prop.d

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

Recently, I have taken to stopping off at De Clieu in Gertrude St for my caffeine hit on the way to work.  Inbetween navigating the streets of the inner suburbs of Melbourne, I take whatever opportunity I can to catch up for a run through with my agent, Katrina.

Katrina keeps me in check, and basically manages my life.  I would be lost without her and the team at KHM.  We have daily chats about up-coming shoots and current jobs that are in production.  There’s always something going on, so we are never short of a good natter and a laugh over the phone whilst I’m in my car headed for the warehouse.

The warehouse is such an inspiring space to be. We all really enjoy coming in to work and our creative projects are so diverse that it allows us to share ideas and look out for each other. From showing people through the prop.d showroom to hanging Matthew's handmade bespoke wallpapers, there is no shortage of activity or interest.

If I’m not storyboarding or working on briefs, I’ll be on the road, visiting showrooms, stores, suppliers and wholesalers or rounding up furniture, textiles and props for jobs that I am shooting for that week. Organisation is the key. Before a big shoot, I have to co-ordinate furniture removalists, couriers, assistants and set builds, before we’ve even taken the first shot!  But the pay-off comes when the beautiful images finally show up on the photographer’s screen.

How would you describe your interior decorating/styling aesthetic in your own home? How does this compare with the aesthetic you bring to your commercial styling work?

My aesthetic at home is a little bit of street find with market and garage sale treats, mixed with the occasional designer piece, just to bring it all together. When you do interior styling, you pretty much move house every week!  I feel as though my life is one big cardboard box and a roll of packing tape so my home is very much a place to relax.

I am constantly collecting and editing, either for the props store, shoots or for home. Some of these justifications for shopping blend into one another at times, but I’ll always find something to put into the boot of the car. There was a period in my life where I saw myself as a hoarder just having ‘stuff’. This came to an end when when I had my sea change in 2005 and moved to Byron Bay.  I sold everything or gave it away and spent a year living with what I needed to be comfortable. Now, I tend to pass on a lot of my pre-loved belongings to friends and family.  I figure if I haven’t used something for more than a year, there will be someone else out there that could benefit from it.  However, there are some things you just can’t part with. I have a set of cast iron pots that have travelled around with me everywhere, go figure!

When I’m styling for work, there are definite boundaries. I usually start off with a defined colour palette and a clear brief or theme. From there, I storyboard what I see. This helps to contain my ideas and ensures that I don’t 'over prop' or call things in that aren’t integral to the shoot.

Amazing rustic gourmet traveller spread - photographed by Sharyn Cairns,  styling Glen Proebstel.
Gourmet Traveller spread - photographed by Sharyn Cairns,  styling Glen Proebstel.
Photographs by Sharyn Cairns,  styling Glen Proebstel.

Which designers, artists or creative people are you inspired by?

I am constantly inspired by Stylist Christine Rudolph. She brings such captivating imagery to our world. Her style and visual aesthetic is truly something else. She has just released a new book with photographer Ditte Isager, Noma.... I become breathless each time I view it!

Karen McCartney deserves special mention here. She is an incredibly generous, warm hearted woman and I see her as a mentor. I have great admiration and respect for her as an Editorial Director and more than that, she is a great friend. A true visionary, Karen has a very intuitive style, coupled with incredible knowlege of the industry.

Margot Braddon is another person that holds dear to my heart.  She does vintage like no other stylist I know.  You’d better watch out when you hit Rozelle markets with her... She has this phenomenal ability to see things that others would normally skip over. Her natural style and eye for colour create jaw dropping images.

One of the stand-outs for me at the Milan Furniture Fair this year, was Erastudio’s apartment gallery. Tucked away in the Brera, this space really resonated with me. The crumbling walls, the dark moody rooms paired with pieces designed and curated by Marco Tagliafierro made from reclaimed materials, it was in a way... perfect. To be able to create simplicity with such profound impact in an interior is something I admire.

Erastudio’s apartment gallery in Milan

Where else do you find inspiration – ie books, magazines, your environment, travel, your family and friends?

I subscribe to Elle Decor, Italia and Elle Decoration UK.  I visit The Design Files periodically, to find out what’s happening ‘out there’ (thanks Lucy) and circumnavigate through various design blogs and websites, scouring and searching. My partner, James shares a similar passion to myself, so we tend to flick each other emails when we come across things that we find inspiring or completely hilarious. James is a You Tube professional. I am often dumbfounded at times with the things that people post....!

I discovered Merci last year in Paris and was swept off my feet in Astier de Villatte. Whenever I am in London, I always stop at Liberty as well. I love their furniture floors.  I’m not sure whether it’s the way they put things together, or the stunning architecture of the space. Perhaps a combination of both?! The other place I always seem to walk out of with a shopping bag is ABC Carpet and Home in NYC.  It’s always a great place to start when you hit the city. I can easily lose myself for a couple of hours there.

Merci in Paris
Liberty of London

Inspiration, to me, is around all the time. You just have to be in the right frame of mind to receive the message. It can be the smallest, seemingly insignificant texture or object that can cement an entire concept or idea. Somehow, intuitively, something just sparks and then the idea branches out bringing all that I have looked at, researched or collated, together.

What would be your dream creative project? I’m looking forward to the day where I can collaborate on a feature for Elle Decor, Italia. Composition, austerity and location, location, location.
Craft spread for Country Style, styled by Glen Proebstel.
Craft spread for Country Style, styled by Glen Proebstel.
Craft spread for Country Style, styled by Glen Proebstel.
Craft spread for Country Style, styled by Glen Proebstel.
What are you looking forward to?

Going home to NZ. I haven’t been back for 2 years now.  I love it because it’s very much removed from my everyday life.  I get to really switch off. Surrounded by nautre, with no mobile reception and a good dose of family, I always top up when I am there.

Melbourne Questions –

You favourite fossicking spots in Melbourne for unique furniture and home accessories?

Wednesday night, you’ll find me at Leonard Joel auctions. Just don’t outbid me! I’m often at Camberwell Markets painfully early on a Sunday morning. I haven’t quite got to the stage of investing in a hat with a torch attached to it, but I’m not far off. I’m forever stopping at Salvos, Vinnies and other opp shops. Recently, I discovered a fabulous place outside of Clunes in country Victora, but telling you would reveal all my secrets!  I love creamics, so I’m often passing through Craft Victoria. Most of my other bits and pieces I order online.  You may find me ordering from but going to one of their stores in New York is even better.  One of my favourite Melbourne stores that I visit on a regular basis is Izzi and Popo in South Melbourne.

What and where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne? Pandora’s Box in Prahran. A killer dirty martini and sensational tapas. Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

At the warehouse catching up on things. There’s always something to do. I really enjoy coming into the studio on a Saturday. It has a different vibe. Somehow, you get more done. By the afternoon, I’m usually up to date and James and I will catch a quick bite out somewhere, or download a movie from iTunes and settle in for the night.

Melbourne’s best kept secret? Matthew and Rachael will kill me for this.... but, the Lost Ark in Williamstown is worth a visit!
Food spreads styled by Gleb P for Toby Puttock's new cookbook.

Food spreads styled by Gleb P for Toby Puttock's new cookbook.

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