Paula Sutton's Easter @hillhousevintage Instagram posts are as eagerly awaited as chocolate eggs and fluffy bunnies. Her mix of aspirational but accessible decorating, combined with her joyful celebration of living in the countryside, makes her the ultimate feelgood style influencer – a person we're happy to walk through the seasons with.
In her monthly column, she brings a deeper insight into her world, and what it's like to live in Norfolk, a county on the UK's east coast. Here, she shares the rituals, traditions and Easter decorating ideas – some new, some passed down the family – that bring happiness and hope at this time.
'As with many things in life, there were two sides to the coin when it came to celebrating Easter during my youth.
'There was the strict convent school side, where ever-present nuns would guide my moral learning towards the strictest of the season’s sensibilities, attempting to ensure that we schoolgirls understood the "true" meaning behind this most important of Christian festivals – in short, making sure that it didn’t begin and end with thoughts of cakes, feasting and the giving of chocolate eggs.
'Then there was the other side. This was the fun part that happened at home and sat side by side with the gravitas of, well, cakes, feasting and the giving of chocolate eggs!'
Braving the Easter weather
'These days my Easter celebrations at Hill House are a mixture of ceremony and celebration. There’s the joy of being among family and friends, and a feeling of gratitude for the imminent onset of spring and the burgeoning beauty that comes with this time of year.
'Easter marks the point at which I begin to consider garden party ideas and eating outside – tentatively so, as it’s often a period marked by a complex mix of weather fronts. I remember arriving at my parents-in-law one Easter weekend in the midst of a sudden and unexpected heatwave. We woke up the next day to see large flakes of snow descending from innocently clear blue skies and settling heavily on the East Sussex countryside.
'Easter weather is rather like a pick and mix – you never know what you’re going to get, so there’s no point assuming one thing or another. If that means two toffees in a row (or rainy holidays, in this case) then you just have to get on with it and allow for all weather eventualities.'
Making an Easter wreath
'I cannot help but be drawn to the gatekeeping of traditions at Easter. Wrapped up in my love of home and homely pursuits, our traditions are repeated year in, year out, and have often been passed down, albeit slightly distorted by age and memory, and perhaps readjusted to accommodate changing times and altered tastes.
'It starts with making an Easter wreath, usually using items gathered and foraged from around my garden. The children all still expect their eggs to be deposited outside their bedrooms by the Easter Bunny – the only difference being that the cocoa content has increased with age!'
The Easter day feast
'There are all sorts of delicious Easter recipes to feast on. We are sticklers for a roast leg of lamb, cooked in red wine with a liberal sprinkling of fresh rosemary and garlic from the garden, cloves from my parents in the Caribbean, and honey from a local farm shop, all inserted or slathered pre-roasting to flavour the meat.
'Perfectly roasted potatoes are my husband’s speciality (although he conveniently forgets who taught him the fluffing technique). The aim is for fluffy and crunchy at the same time, making them the perfect craggy carrier for mint jelly (me), mint sauce (everyone one else) and gravy. Honey-glazed carrots and seasonal spring vegetables are a natural accompaniment, as are Easter table decorations and vases filled with daffodils and snowdrops, or aged pots of crocus and hyacinth.
'My seasonal baking also goes into overdrive during the Easter season. I bake a Simnel cake of light fruitcake topped with its 11 balls of marzipan. Then there are the novelty cupcakes slathered in vanilla buttercream, sprinkled with a nest of chocolate and completed with a handful of mini chocolate eggs in an assortment of pastel colors.'
The big Easter egg hunt
'Games are essential. I have written riddles for an Easter egg hunt in the garden since the children were little. Often with their cousins of a similar age, they have hunted through my cleverly arranged booby traps and red herrings, arranged artfully around the garden, in pursuit of the numerous hidden chocolate eggs. As the years have passed, the fun has come increasingly from the Cluedo-like pursuit of victory rather than the desire for more chocolate.
'It’s a delight that these traditions stay with us, and I imagine that my children will do the same things with their own children in future years. For there lies the comfort of tradition and ritual. They are ever present, yet revised, renewed and reborn over time, which is a particularly poignant thought at Easter.'