By Lucy Searle
Paula Sutton has dominated Instagram with her Hill House Vintage feed this year. Her posts are filled with inviting images of her beautiful home in rural Norfolk, where she moved in 2010 from south London with husband, Duncan and their three children. Often, she's posing in the pictures in a gorgeous vintage outfit, too – a hint at her past career.
Paula makes no bones about the fact that she found the transition from urban life and a full time job on a fashion magazine to the countryside really difficult and, at times, lonely. 'I was a lost soul,' she posted recently. However, she galvanized herself into action, using her blog and Instagram to create a whole new career for herself as an influencer, describing the virtual world as one that 'reignited my joyful spirit as well as my creativity. It also gave me – a woman of 51 – a platform on which to unexpectedly carve out a new career and independence,' she says on her feed.
We find her inspiring – and were delighted to discover that her joyous, one-of-a-kind style has led to a collaboration with Wayfair for Christmas – and beyond. Featuring pieces in her signature style: scalloped dinnerware; mix and match glassware; a nostalgic red and green palette; brilliantly 'British' baubles; a glamorous cocktail station; and plenty of pattern clashing (think gingham, candy stripes and polka dots), the range is available now.
We talked to Paula about Christmas, how she decorates and how 2020 has affected her. You can see more on her Hill House Vintage feed.
Q: What is the inspiration behind your Christmas style?
I had a nostalgic, slightly retro country Christmas in mind. Greens, reds and golds, cocktails and vintage sparkle. It’s a joyful celebration of color and fun, harking back to the vision I had of a glamorous Christmas when I was growing up. My favorite piece is the vintage style drinks' trolley (above). It’s a fabulous combination of retro and modern and is the perfect addition to a room when you haven’t got space for a drinks' cupboard or cocktail bar.
Black and white gingham throw (on sofa arm), Wayfair
Q: Do you have any Hill House family Christmas traditions?
I have three teenagers and since they were younger they would start Christmas morning by waking us up early and opening up their Christmas stockings on our bed. The stockings are laid out in front of the fireplace on Christmas Eve, and they still put out a glass of sherry and a mince pie for Santa and a carrot for Rudolf. The stockings are ‘mysteriously’ filled with presents by Christmas morning and only crumbs and an empty glass remain of everything else!
Lea Christmas bauble sets, Wayfair
- See more: Christmas traditions from around the world – a look into the rituals we love
I am the mistress of the Christmas lunch which is quite funny as my husband is in charge of the Sunday roasts throughout the year. I’ll set the table the night before and we spend the day eating, drinking, playing board games, listening to music and watching nonsense on television. The biggest change this year is that it will be unlikely that the grandparents will join us, which is an awful shame but I suspect that there will be a lot of video call action!
Q: What are your top tips for Christmas tablescaping?
Each year I tend to work with a certain color combination or a particular theme that I use throughout the house during the festive period. This look was inspired by the 1950s – all out glamour with red, green and gold.
My advice would be to decide on your color scheme first and once you have this the accessories can follow. Napkins, plates, glassware and decorations can all be chosen with your palette of choice in mind; I advise sticking to a three color combination so that it doesn’t feel too overwhelming. Also don’t forget that you don’t have to be too strict; the important thing is to be surrounded by treasures that you love and that bring you joy, after all it’s meant to be the happiest time of the year!
Rosado gingham tablecloth in a range of colors, Wayfair
- See more: Stunning Christmas table ideas – from the world's greatest designers
Q: What would you love to find wrapped up under the Christmas tree this year?
Under my tree this year I would love to find a beautiful vintage oil painting to add to my gallery wall or a Hugo Guinness print for my growing collection. Failing that, I would ask for a futuristic teleportation portal that I could step through and hug all of the loved ones that I’ve been missing this year!
Q: What are your thoughts on the cottagecore trend?
I think that the basics of the cottagecore trend are actually timeless – and because they have always been around, they will be here to stay. At the heart of cottagecore is a return to traditional skills and crafts such as cooking, gardening, foraging and the enjoyment of a simple life.
The trend is certainly a romanticized interpretation of rural life, but it stems from a comforting need for nostalgia and a slower pace for everyday life. Until earlier this year I had no idea what cottagecore actually was! I was just living my normal life which just so happened to be so in tune with the movement all by accident.
- See more: The cottagecore trend – what it is and how to get the look
Q: What do you think are going to be the interior trends for 2021?
Due to the events of 2020, I think that cottagecore, nostalgia and the need for comfort are all here to stay. Cottagecore is something that started off as very simplistic but I think it can also be mixed with touches of glamour to create a luxe traditional style. Elegant vintage style barware, gilded cutlery and statement gold accessories are all ways to get the look whilst staying on budget and touches of British quirk will keep the look feeling grounded. There are also many people who have missed the freedom to go aboard, so I predict a return to a global inspiration within interiors, where our spaces reflect our travels, the sea and distant shores.
- See more: Interiors trends for the year ahead
Q: How would you describe your interior style in a nutshell
My vintage look is heavily influenced by classic English country house style. Overstuffed sofas filled with cushions, faded textiles, chintz, color and mixed pattern. It has a faded grandeur vibe, carefully weaving in ‘new’ pieces so that Hill House still feels comfortable and eclectic – as if it’s all been there for years.
Q: What are your style tips for mixing vintage with new?
It’s definitely possible to mix contemporary and vintage, in fact for me that’s a perfect combination which adds personality to an interior. I love buying vintage and using things that have been loved before, but I’m not a slave to recreating a certain period in time. My ideal is to achieve an eclectic layered look that includes vintage ‘inspired’ contemporary pieces, such as glass candlesticks or scalloped dinnerware, for a clever nod to a past time without recreating a stage set.
Q: What are your favorite ways to unwind at Hill House and make the most of the changing seasons?
I am three things: a baker, a forager and a gardener! I love to create extravagant multi layered sponge cakes stuffed with whipped cream and seasonal fruit jams. I love being in my garden and flowers are a big passion of mine but I also have a magpie habit of collecting things to use as styling accessories and ornaments for the house. Pine cones, conkers, dried leaves and branches can all find their way into a wreath or vase.
Q: How has your style changed as your children have grown up?
My style has evolved to become more ‘elegant with a shabby twist’, than simply just shabby! My love of vintage and all things faded and floral was a wonderful interior style whilst the children were growing up as it meant that nothing was too precious. Now that the children are older I’m able to introduce more luxurious elements into the mix such as beautiful fabrics, luxe accessories and decorative pieces.
My first job was writing a DIY column for a magazine for the over 50s (which seemed a long way off back then). I then moved to a DIY magazine as deputy ed, then freelanced my way around the homes departments of most women's magazines on the market before working on Your Home and Family Circle magazines as homes editor. From there, I went to Ideal Home magazine as associate editor, then launched 4Homes magazine for Channel 4, then the Channel 4 4Homes website before going back to freelancing and running a social media business (you can see where I had kids from the freelancing gaps!). I was tempted back to the world of big business by the chance to work with the great team at Realhomes.com, where I was Global Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years, taking it from a small website to a global entity. I've now handed the reins of the website to our American managing editor, while I take on a new challenge as Editor-in-Chief of Homes & Gardens.
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