Interiors expert and author, Paula Sutton (of Hillhouse Vintage) on all the art of collecting objects for your home. Paula gives us a flavour of her slow and considered approach to dressing her Georgian home in Norfolk and celebrates her love for the many objects that make up the tapestry of her home. From the small and battered to the grand and eccentric - each one says something about who she is and what brings her joy.
Talk us through the process of curating objects for your home?
I’ve always been what I consider to be a ‘slow and considered decorator’. I take time – sometimes months or even years, to accessories and ‘dress’ my rooms in order to find the perfect piece for a space. It creates a beautifully layered and individual set of spaces that feels comfortable and nicely matured over time. It also means that once things are in place, they stay in my home for years. I know what I like as soon as I see it – I’m not a ditherer when it comes to finally spotting things and bringing them home. Usually once I find things, they will look good in several rooms, so my way of ‘re-doing’ a room is often just swapping pieces of furniture around to redirect the colour scheme or general vibe.
Are you a ‘casually browse to see what’s out there’ or ‘hunt high and low for the exact thing in my mind’ kind of vintage shopper?
I’m actually a combination of both things in that I will see what’s out there and I love a good vintage rummage, however I’m quite happy to return home empty handed if I don’t find something that I love and will continue to hunt high and low in search of the right thing.
What type of object do you have most of in your home?
Tables. I have a circular vintage pedestal dining table that I found on ebay for £50 when we first moved to Norfolk. Everyone thinks that it’s an antique, but it has no particular providence whatsoever – it was simply the right size and shape – and after spending most of our money moving out of London, something I could afford at the time!. Then, I have a vintage French farmhouse table in the family room which is long and rectangular. I also have side tables galore in all shapes and sizes, although scalloped, curved and circular are my preference. In my defence, side tables are one of the most practical things that you can have in your home – after all, everyone needs somewhere to rest their cup of tea or glass of wine, and I hate seeing crockery on the floor or balanced on the arm of a chair.
How would you describe the art of mixing vintage objects and modern pieces for your home?
It’s the perfect curated style and is an essential interior mix for reflecting your personality and individual style throughout your surroundings. If you mix vintage pieces in with your modern ones then the end result tells the story of YOU, rather than the story of a department store, everyone else on social media or a once popular trend.
Museum curators have to make a ‘case for acquisition’ before bringing a new piece into the museum. What is the weirdest and most wonderful object you’ve made a case for bringing into your home?
Oh gosh! I have lots of weird and wonderful things dotted around the place. I love mini collections like a set of decorative brass seamstress irons in a row, or a silver Victorian egg coddler that sits on a pile of books and is filled with toffees. I often fall in love with shapes and patina and think about practical use afterwards. I have an old leather RAC kit bag in the sitting room flanking one side of the sofa whilst on the other side there is a brass hunting horn. Neither serve any particular use, but they look battered and interesting and add a bit of ‘rough’ next to the prettier, softer things in the room. It’s an example of a slightly eccentric, textured and layered feel that I love.
Marie Kondo recommends ‘does it spark joy’ as a mantra for deciding which things deserve a place in your home, do you have your own mantra or rules for curating objects?
I too believe in only having things in your home that bring you joy, hold a good memory or perform a practical purpose but with great beauty. However, that’s where my similarity with Marie Kondo ends. I choose passion and beauty in my interiors over streamlining for the sake of practicality – unless that’s the style that makes your heart sing. Apart from that I have no rules. Any way of living is wonderful if it brings you immense pleasure.
The word curate derives from the Latin curare, meaning ‘to care for’, which we think is kind of lovely. Is there any piece of homeware or furniture you’ve found over the years that was a real diamond in the rough? How did you bring it back to life?
My 99p original Victorian Chesterfield sofa springs to mind. Beautiful bones, fabulous shape, incredible heritage, just waiting for me to find it, love it and give it a purpose again.
Greatest vintage find:
The tulip painting that hangs above the fireplace in my sitting room.
Most prized possession:
Goodness me – I love it ALL!
Oldest object in your home:
Possibly an inherited Georgian chest of drawerss
Newest object in your home:
A set of striped candle shades.
Antique hunting in real life or online:
In real life, although I love online too!
An object you’re currently on the hunt for:
I’m always hunting for more artwork.
Best place for vintage homewares in the UK (that you almost don’t want to tell anyone about):
My lovely friend Katherien’s shop C’est Tout Interiors in the Cotswolds, although she sells online via Instagram too.
Follow Paula: @hillhousevintage