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Posted by Lucy H on 15th Oct 2021

Q&A with Paula Sutton, author of Hill House Living

Hill House Living cover photoYour Instagram has a huge following (almost half a million viewers!) and is a delight to watch. Was it as much fun writing the book and taking the photos as doing your Instagram posts seems to be?

I would say that I made a decision several years ago that everything I do has to have an element of fun. I know it’s a cliché but life is far too short to do things for the sake of it, to do things to please other people. So yes, my book was just as fun to devise and photograph as my Instagram account. I think authenticity always shines through and I wanted to be as authentic as possible.

What made you decide to write this book? Did it feel like a natural extension of your online work?

Writing a book is something I’ve always wanted to do, I get so many dm’s and comments saying that they want more, they want more details, they want to know how to live a positive life, how to find those pockets of happiness, and this book was to answer all of those questions and also as a thank you to the people who have followed me along the way. I’m just sharing what I’ve learned about how to inject positivity into your life.

You moved up to Norfolk in 2010 and have clearly settled in very happily. Do you think you’d have moved up there if you hadn’t had family already in the area? Where else might you have considered? (Wiltshire’s lovely!)

My family had moved out of the area at that point, so when we moved we moved with no network or support system there. But we did know the area vaguely. We had a list of criteria that we needed to fulfil, we wanted peace and quiet, we wanted it to be different to what we knew, we wanted an escape, and we needed it to be affordable. Norfolk ticked all of those boxes.

What’s the biggest change since you moved? Do you miss the amenities and bustle of London?

I definitely don’t miss the bustle! We were lucky that the internet exploded shortly after we moved, so in terms of shopping and amenities so much is available online now. The only thing I’d say I’d miss is the accessibility to some of my oldest friends, but they are always up for travelling up to see me for a long weekend or vice versa.

Hill House is a gorgeous period building, and you’ve used traditional furniture to great effect. Do you prefer antiques to more modern pieces?

I love furniture with a story and a history and I love the timeless nature of period design and architecture, and that tends to come with antiques and vintage pieces.

Cookery, gardening, interior design, furniture upcycling – you’re clearly a creative person. What’s your favourite activity?

The problem is I genuinely love them all, and there are times of the year where one has more appeal than the other. From Spring to mid-Autumn gardening is wonderful as the weather tends to be better for it and from Autumn onwards baking becomes even more alluring as it’s cosy and heart-warming. So my favourite activities ebb and flow in a seasonal way, which fits in with the book I suppose!

Do you have any advice for someone trying to find bargains at antique sales or vintage stores?

Take a note of the things that you are drawn to, take photographs even if you aren’t going to buy them, and at some point you’ll find a pattern emerging with your style and taste. You’ll see if you’re drawn to a certain era, shape or colour, and you didn’t realise until you saw it all laid out.

Your fashion sense is fabulous – your collection of floaty dresses must be huge! Are you also a dressmaker, or would you be if you had the time?

I am drawn to shapes and period silhouettes, and I think that I would end up with the same dress or skirt if I made it myself, so I love exploring other peoples takes on those shapes and silhouettes.

Thanks to TV shows and online content, we’re all getting a bit more adventurous with our homes. What’s the most complex or difficult thing you’ve found about design and staging?

In the early days when I was beginning to furnish the house, I realised that layering and filling in spaces is not easy to do without making things either look cluttered or too sparse. So there is a balance to get and I love a lot of things, but it’s a real art to stop that looking messy or unintentional.

Would you consider participating in TV interior design shows? If so, which one would be your choice?

I like narrative design shows where they are talking about the evolution of a type of style. I’m less keen on competitions as the implication is that someone’s style is lesser and I don’t believe that anyone’s style is inferior.

What have people discovered from watching your posts, and what do you hope they discover from the book?

That even though we live in a troubled world it’s ok to live joyfully, to seek out beauty and to carve out moments of happiness for ourselves.

Do you have a favourite type of decor or domestic styling?

I’m very much into the country house aesthetic which traditionally falls between the later 1800’s and the early 20th century, overstuffed chairs, lots of cushions, faded fabrics, solid and polished wood. It evokes a feeling of comfort and familiarity.

Who do you think is your typical reader, if such a person exists? Who would you love to read your book?

Beauty hunters who don’t mind a bit of faded fabric and shabby edges, and they must love dogs!

Do you have a favourite genre or author? What books or authors would you say were significant influences on you?

Throughout my life, Jane Austen, I love Persuasion, and all of her books. More recently, I’m interested in books that challenge me and challenge my thinking. I used to shy away from books that weren’t pleasant, and now I enjoy learning, I feel like I’m going through a very learning period.

Virtual socialising in lockdown has been invaluable. Now that were allowed to meet up in person again, who would be coming to your fantasy dinner party?

Audrey Hepburn, Josephine Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Maya Angelou and Katherine Hepburn.

What would your perfect day look like?

It would involve lots of food, I love my food! Flowers, a farm shop, eating, and wine at the end of the day in front on an open fire. Maybe walking around a National Trust property during the day.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading Sista, Sister by Candice Brathwaite and I’m about to start reading Misfits by Michaela Coel.

What was your favourite book as a child?

It would be a toss-up between The Magic Faraway Tree, all of the Mallory Towers books and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Thank you very much for speaking to us, we wish you every success with the book.

Order your copy of Hill House Living HERE