Carley Summers is anything but a one-trick entrepreneur. As an interior photographer, stylist, designer, and soon-to-be-published author, she’s cultivated a creative career through multiple art forms and an unwavering faith in her purpose. “I said to myself, ok girlfriend, if you’re going to do it, let’s just put yourself out there. So I practiced my craft, took photos every day, and eventually was able to build myself up in the industry as one of the top interior photographers.”
As a design guru, Carley often finds inspiration and creativity through florals. We spoke about our latest collaboration, floral styling, and her favorite tips for making any house feel like a home. Spoiler, it’s flowers!
How did you get your start in photography?
I began shooting photos on the mission field in Haiti. I’ve always been a storyteller, but that’s really when I picked up a camera. After I found photography, I’d photograph anything you’d put in front of me.
How did that pivot into interior photography?
I realized after I got married that home was very important to me. I started curating, thrifting, and styling. Eventually, I made a website saying I was an interior stylist and photographer, and people believed me and started hiring me!
Where do you find inspiration?
Books. I collect and probably have one thousand or more interior design books dating back from the 50s. I’m constantly flipping through those pages. I also love Pinterest and looking at other great designers. A lot of inspiration also comes from flowers! Flowers are a really big deal to me.
What’s your favorite flower?
What’s your best tip for choosing florals for your home?
Think about where you’re putting them. For me, I’m always looking for the wildest and most creative-looking flower. If it’s going to go in my house, I know I love a good whimsy. My style is bohemian and french and eclectic, but always with a touch of whimsy.
What’s your best tip for styling florals?
Have a pretty vase. It’s so easy to get a small, simple cylinder, which is lovely, but a unique vase can really make your florals pop.
What’s your best tip for styling dried florals?
It’s all in the whimsy! You can get so creative with dried flowers. Whether it’s a bunch of dried florals hanging upside down in your kitchen or dried daisies in an old-aged terracotta vase. I even have my wedding bouquet on display that’s been dried over time. They can be styled anywhere and everywhere because they’ve already lived their life, and now they’re living on in their afterlife.
Why go faux?
There is so much flexibility with faux florals. That’s the thing about faux is that you can really manipulate them to do whatever you want.
How do florals play into your work?
I can remember ten years ago; I could have never afforded flowers. Styling with flowers now has become a treat for me. A lot of inspiration comes from my travels, lavender fields in France or flower markets in tiny towns. And always, the common denominator on all of my trips is flowers. Even if I’m staying at an Airbnb, I’ll make sure to buy a little bundle from the local flower market to style in my space. It’s become a small, little luxury for me that’s really blessed my visual creativity.
What advice would you give anyone entering a creative field?
Always listen to your gut. I’m presented with a lot of opportunities; however they’re not all for me. Learning to say no so that you can say yes to the right thing has been so vital for me and my business. It has allowed me to sleep at night and have peace of mind. Make sure that you’re saying yes to the things that bring you joy and no to the things that will steal it.
What’s the most rewarding thing about being a creative entrepreneur?
The passion that comes from it! The finished product of what your passion has produced is pretty incredible. I don’t think you can be a creative entrepreneur without a passion. When I die and go to heaven, all I want is for people to say that she was passionate.
Can you describe a moment you felt proud of yourself lately?
I was recently in Morocco, Africa, photographing someone who is going to be in my book. I was looking at the photos afterward and I just got teary-eyed. I really love what I’m doing, and I’m proud of my pictures. I remember ten years ago when I wasn’t proud of anything I did.
Any final words of inspiration for the Afloral community?
No matter what your past, or your world says about you, you have a purpose. Fight for what you love!