You may know London-born fashionista and home blogger Paula Sutton by her Instagram nom de plume @hillhousevintage, where she joyfully documents daily life at the 19th century Georgian home in Norfolk she shares with her husband and three kids for her 500,000 followers. What started out as a way for the ex-city dweller to chronicle her move to the English countryside and the redesign of a new family home soon morphed into a destination for the design-obsessed—and most recently, her very first book Hill House Living: The Art of Creating a Joyful Life.
From throwing al fresco dinners in the garden and arranging freshly-picked blooms to hosting cozy cocktails by a roaring fire, the ex-fashion editor and newly minted author is a fount of stylish inspiration—which is why we are so thrilled about bringing her on-board as our newest columnist! Keep your eyes peeled in the coming months for exclusive pieces on everything from entertaining to decorating.
In the meantime, enjoy our recent interview with Sutton in which she tells us about her impressive background, her love of old houses, why she refers to herself as a ‘slow decorator,’ and reveals a few of her favorite things.
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Tell us a little about your impressive background and career.
I started my career as the press officer for Elite Premier Model agency in the days of the Supermodels which was incredibly exciting and glamorous despite being extremely challenging as a first job! After working in fashion PR and as a model agent, I went on to work at Elle magazine where I was Bookings Editor, producing all of the fashion, beauty and cover shoots for eight years.
What made you give up on city life and head to the country?
We moved to the Norfolk countryside after years of living in London to enjoy a slower pace of life and to give our three children what I hoped would be an idyllic childhood of climbing trees, running through fields—and hopefully keeping their enjoyment of innocent pursuits for a tad longer than if we’d stayed in London! It came at a time when I was feeling burned out from trying to juggle a busy career and three young children, and a desire to try to find a work-life balance that suited all of us. We chose Norfolk as we were married here and we had always loved how rural and rustic the area felt. It’s very agricultural, not too polished and has a lot of handsome Georgian architecture in the towns and villages (which I love).
Why did you start your blog, Hill House Vintage?
It started off as a way to record my new life in the countryside. Initially, I wrote about my vintage finds and the plans that I had for decorating our home, but then I began talking about interiors and designers on a larger scale. I’m an avid watcher of period dramas and literary adaptations and, until lockdown, you’d most likely find me roaming around National Trust houses and gardens every other weekend! I love to submerge myself in the cocooning comfort and nostalgia of old houses, and I found that other people shared that love too and so my following began to grow. The blog expanded into Instagram and then YouTube and now a book. It grew into what could now be considered a lifestyle brand.
Let’s talk about your interior style. How would you describe it?
I would call it vintage classical with a colourful twist. I am so inspired by traditional English country houses from the 1920’s and 30’s and love to update little historical design elements that I’ve seen in period dramas or read about in Jane Austen novels. Interiors should be individual and quirky—and always with a bit of humor. I call myself a ‘slow decorator’ meaning that I enjoy the process of deciding and choosing over an extended period of time. And when I finally make a decision it usually stays that way for a long time. As a result, some of the room schemes at Hill House have been used before in previous houses—when I know that something works, I stick to it! Buy what makes your heart beat a little faster and choose the colors that invigorate and inspire you.
What about fashion?
Fashionwise, I adore classic shapes and tend to pair block colors with fresh whites, checks, stripes. Although some of my outfits could be classified as quite preppy, I do love to have a touch of quirkiness and drama. It helps if there is a retro fit to the shapes—particularly a nipped in waist and a flared skirt. Above all, I want to enjoy my clothes and feel vibrant as well as glamorous in them.
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Did COVID and lockdown inspire you to think about interiors and fashion differently?
Pre-lockdown I used to be mainly focused on interiors, but now the balance between interiors and fashion is almost equal. I didn’t envisage it at this stage in my life, but it makes perfect sense. At seventeen I wanted to be an interior designer and then an architect, but I didn’t follow either dream and went on to work in fashion for twenty years. Where I am now is a glorious mix of all of my passions under one umbrella and it’s a joyful experience. Rather than feeling held back by the lockdown restrictions, I’ve learned to be bold and have fun and enjoy the ebbs and flows of life more. I’ve had some of the highest highs and a few deep lows – particularly losing my mother – over the past year. It’s a cliché, but life is far too short not to grab opportunities and live to the fullest. If there’s anything we all know now it’s that we’ll never know what’s lurking around the corner, so wear the dress, make that move, and don’t put off those dreams!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My father always used to say ‘Do unto others as you would have done unto you’, and it’s stayed with me throughout my life.
Is there a business icon you look up to?
A cocktail mix of the best bits of Martha Stewart’s lifestyle-entertaining-publishing brand plus Oprah Wifrey’s positive thinking and determination.
Do you have favorite piece of furniture at Hill House?
I have an original Victorian button back chair that I had reupholstered and recovered in a cheerful peony check. It sits alongside my modern version beautifully and is just as sturdy and strong. It has a beautiful voluptuous shape that begs to be sat in and with its curved feet and broad frame, it’s comfortable and functional yet still elegant.
Where do you go to relax and unwind?
My kitchen garden or if I’m out and about the Cotswolds for a nice weekend away.
When you have a free moment, do you have any favorite hobbies and pastimes?
I love puttering around my kitchen garden, playing the piano (badly!) and visiting historic houses with wonderful gardens.
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What’s part of your daily routine you positively cannot miss?
The dog walk. It clears away the cobwebs and allows me to think, plot, and plan in peace and quiet.
Who would you say is your style icon?
The two Hepburns: Audrey and Katherine. The were both so chic, classic and elegant without looking as though they tried too hard.
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