When we catch up with Hilary Walker, she’s driving home from a magazine shoot in Waco to Bedford, a community northwest of Dallas where she and her husband have lived for two years. She’s been commuting the 100 miles from her home to the Magnolia headquarters for the last three months, since she started working for the burgeoning company owned by Joanna and Chip Gaines. But that won’t be for much longer, she says. The couple is relocating to Waco at the end of July — the move is scheduled for Hilary’s 31st birthday.
Originally from Tennessee, the sprite-like brunette with the pixie haircut was working as a freelance prop stylist in Dallas-Fort Worth when she did her first job for Magnolia, a shoot for the line of rugs and pillows that Loloi created for the Magnolia brand. “It came together beautifully,” Hilary says, and it led to more and more work in Waco.
She freelanced for Magnolia until a few months ago, when she got the call for a full-time job with the company.
Hilary is currently working on a lot of different projects and she loves that she’s engaged with a business that’s breaking ground. “It means that we get to do things differently,” she says.”
Styling, staging, setting up props — whatever you call it — Hilary is in her element now. But it’s not like she started out that way. The home page of her blog states, “I was never going to have a normal job.” But it’s not like she started out knowing exactly what she wanted her career to look like. It was quite the opposite, in fact.
Hilary says she spends a lot of time thinking about the whys and hows of life, so we asked her why and how she became an interior prop stylist. The answer: not by accident, not without hard work.
Hilary’s Challenge: Figure out what she really wanted to do for a living.
“I slowly meandered into something that is really fulfilling and that really suits me,” she says.
Why: She did not like working a corporate sales job.
“When I first moved to Texas, I had a job at Haverty’s as a retail salesperson. It did not suit me. I learned quickly that I wanted to work more independently, to be my own agent. I realized that a big priority for me was to work in a situation where I could stretch my creative muscles. My degree is in interior design, and I wanted to be designing things and creating things and making things beautiful,” she says.
How: Purposeful networking, building relationships, taking risks, learning new things, paying attention to what made her heart sing.
“I knew no one in Dallas. I was a total newbie. I started searching online, learning about local designers and cool people doing cool things. I would just reach out to them via email. I don’t even know what I said that made me interesting enough for them to even bother meeting with me, but a handful of people did, and I slowly started building connections,” she says. “I look back and think about just how much happened because I reached out to people and made connections — not just meeting people for drinks but real friendships with fellow creatives outside my actual line of work.”
Before moving to Texas, Hilary started a blog, which she also credits with helping her find her path by keeping her inspired and showcasing her design sense. “My thought was that I would create this website and put my portfolio online, so that when I was job searching I could direct people there. I also had the idea that it would show that I am a self-starter and display a curation of my aesthetic. In the absence of having paying creative work, I poured my creative energy into my blog. I was making something really beautiful, and other creative people noticed that. They could see that I had a taste level and an eye.”
While at Haverty’s, Hilary also began working for textile designer Bonnee Sharp of Studio Bon Textiles. “It gave me a taste of working in a place where there’s a lot of creativity and an elevated aesthetic. Eventually, I got a social media management position for Arteriors Home and started doing contract work for a few residential interior designers. I was slowly working my way to what I thought I wanted to do: residential interior design. But when I got into that work, I realized I didn’t love it.”
At this point, Hilary had been in Dallas three years, and she’d built connections with people from many different fields. So she emailed a group and told them that she was looking for a change. She asked what they thought she should be doing. Fashion stylist Christine Visneau suggested she look into styling. “I thought, ‘Cool. I love fashion.’ She set me up with an agency, and I started out as an assistant on fashion sets and then found my way into interiors sets. And then I realized, ‘Oh, hey! I love this! This is totally up my alley!'”
The rest, as it’s often said, is history. Though it sounds to us like a very bright future!
In addition to her busy new role at Magnolia, Hilary still has her blog, Our Style Stories, where she writes about her life as a stylist and publishes interviews, photographs and podcasts with stylish people she finds fascinating. We encourage you to check it out — and to come hear more of Hilary’s story at our Summit in September.
Photos: Emily Stoker