Paula Sutton is the queen of cottagecore and country living. In her popular Instagram posts @hillhousevintage and now her book, Hill House Living: The Art of Creating a Joyful Life, she shares her daily life at her home in Norfolk, a county in the East of the UK.
From her love of vintage furniture to a passion for flowers, her love for classic British country house style and a sweet spot for sponge cakes and her chocolate labrador, Paula shows how she has created a life filled with beauty, style and happiness – and how you can, too.
She wasn't born to a life of privilege, and swapped a successful career working on fashion magazines in London, for rural living with her family. Each month, she'll be writing about what's happening in her world and sharing her ideas for decorating, styling and enjoying her home.
In her new monthly column, the stylist, influencer and writer introduces us to her ‘perfectly imperfect’ home and her life in the Norfolk countryside.
The 'perfectly imperfect' home
'In pursuit of the perfectly imperfect home! It’s a phrase that I often use, and one that has left those on the receiving end with an expression of puzzlement. It’s quite simple to explain when it comes to home furnishings – I like to use vintage decor and textiles with faded colours based on traditional patterns, from ticking stripes and antique velvets to checks and floral patterns, used on pre-loved and reused furniture. If there’s a patch here and there, a small tear that’s been sewn up, or simply a bit of mismatched beauty, then so be it. It all works together to create a mood of relaxed living and joyful nostalgia.
'But what does it mean to pursue a ‘perfectly imperfect’ life or home, and why would anyone choose to do so? Well, to me it’s all about seeking out the joy in simple living and letting go of what you think your home ought to be by accepting a new version with all its bumps and variations. It’s relaxing into the ebbs and flows of change, and allowing yourself to act instinctively, even when that means stepping towards an unknown.'
Swapping city living for the countryside
'I remember when that moment happened for me. I had a successful career in London, but after almost 20 years, and with three young children, I had reached a stage where I was feeling pulled in multiple directions, exhausted and generally burned out.
'I longed for the children to have a simple childhood climbing trees and running about getting muddy in the open air with a dog. But above all I wanted to experience all of that with them, in a home that I got to spend time in – even if that meant giving up city life.
'The question of whether we should leave London was a defining time in my life. Born in London, I had always had a passion for country houses and interiors – inherited from my Grenadian mother, who had indulged her romance of the English countryside with a literary diet of Jane Austen before immigrating to London in the early 1960s.
'She never fulfilled her dream of country living, but she did pass on her love of open spaces, old buildings and a perhaps idealised version of what life in the English countryside might be. And so in 2010, we made the move from London to rural Norfolk.'
Creating a joyful new life
'The first few months were a rush of excitement and organising, leaving no time for potential regrets. However, once my family was settled into their new life, I realised that I’d forgotten to plan what came next for me. With a sudden sense of isolation, plus a lack of spare cash left after the move for decorating, I was left to try to find inventive and affordable ways to furnish the house in an attempt to turn it into the warm and happy country home that I had envisaged for so long.
'I started documenting my new life in a blog covering my vintage finds, a bit of DIY and my early attempts at baking and gardening. The blog gave me a creative outlet, plus an introduction to a kind and supportive online community that made me feel part of something. At the same time, I slowly redefined what happiness meant to me as I learned to slow down and fall in love with an old house and a garden that revealed a new element of seasonal beauty every day.'
Look out for Paula's column next month. You can also follow her on Instagram @hillhousevintage (opens in new tab) and read her book, Hill House Living: The Art of Creating a Joyful Life (opens in new tab).