Six Things I Have Learned in 2016
So we've reached the end of 2016. And what a year it has been! From an interiors point of view, we've seen the rise of the glitter ball, a flurry of festoons, a macrame overload, a neon frenzy and more sheepskins than would be needed to clothe an entire community of Eskimos. But it's been SO much fun.
There have been quite a few things in the last year that for me, have made it one of my most eventful yet. My husband's opinion of me as the worst driver North of Watford has been confirmed as I had not one, two, but three car accidents (mostly involving our driveway). I've broken my mobile phone twice, only once under the influence of alcohol (the second involved the loo). I've left Buddy, our Lhasa Apso, abandoned at the school gates after forgetting I'd taken him to pick up and then driven 20 minutes home. And I have discovered the joys of Aperol Spritz in huge goldfish bowl glasses which I think I can drink endlessly but actually cause memory blanks.
But despite these traumas, I have managed to list out six things that I've learned this year that have, I hope, made me a more rounded person than I was last year. Personality wise, that is, not porky wise although the Walkers Chicken Sensations have played their part. Here you go.
1. Thrifting Is My Middle Name
I've realised this year that my thrifting obsession has reached new heights. Aside from the odd IKEA piece, my home is filled with second hand bargains and charity shop finds. This is a good thing on many levels for the following reasons. a) I am perpetuating the recycling process, b) it's economical and budget friendly, and c) most importantly, it enables me to constantly change my surroundings without being bollocked for it by my husband. My style is constantly evolving and change is my best friend. eBay and Gumtree are the perfect outlet for selling furniture I have bored of. Sell it, get the cash, buy something else. Simples. How can Joe complain if I am not actually spending any money? He can't.
There is seriously nothing better than the excitement of picking up a really good second hand find. Not only can you feel smug about being an active recycler but you can also pick up pieces with actual history attached to them. Sometimes this history means that they are surrounded by an aura of piss but this situation is easily remedied with Flash bleach spray and some Pledge. My vintage glassware obsession is so out of hand that I had to find a vintage display cabinet in order to store them. And the best thing is you get to satisfy your interior cravings with minimum outlay. Plus you are buying individual pieces that no one else has got and you are not helping the big High Street stores take everyone's spare cash. Everyone's a winner. One thing I really wish that we had here in the UK, however, is Yard Sales which appear to be the source of amazing finds over in the States. I might start a new trend although am not sure Joe would be happy with strangers rummaging in his garage (insert double entendre emoji).
2. Colour Makes Me Happy
So this is something that I have only realised this year and it has had a big impact on the way that I live. After visiting The Imaginarium in York (if you haven't been, you need to), I was obsessed with painting a room in Downpipe and immediately recruited Miles The Worlds Best Decorator to come and put my plans into action. I had no idea that The Imaginarium decorating was actually Miles' handiwork until I met him so in my mind, that was fate. I went for the whole shebang, every wall dark, something I previously hadn't done. One end was the bar and the other end was the sitting room. However, I soon realised that we weren't using this room during the day at all. It was like the Marie Celeste. The Downpipe felt gloomy and this infuriated me as I was totally convinced I was a dark side girl. I'd booked on to the Abigail Ahern Masterclass and everything, for God's sake. So one day, I switched the rooms - the room next door was a white dining room so I swapped the furniture around and made the white room the sitting room and the dark room the dining room. And it's worked brilliantly. I love my dark grey room and it's perfect for evening entertaining and socialising with low lighting (lots of it) and candles. And the white sitting room is light, bright and therapeutically calming.
So my conclusion is this. Dark interiors are beautiful. They are moody, cocooning (in the words of AA) and unbearably glamorous. But for me, I need colour. I need light. I need lots of tat/shit on pale walls. And I need these things to make me feel happy. In my hallway I have Cole & Son Palm Deco wallpaper in pink and gold and every time I walk into my house, my heart lifts and it makes me feel good. That pop of bright madness, for me, makes my day. It's like the best of both worlds. It's taken me time to realise this but now I know in which direction my style lies, I'm quite pleased.
3. It's Your Life. Live It.
I've always been passionate about interiors but my day job as a freelance transcriptionist never quite hit the spot. Since I had my last child, Leo, seven years ago, I decided I needed a home based role as with three kids, the cost of childcare is absolutely bloody outrageous. Plus there is always some major trauma involving teeth, diahorrea or after school activities taking place ten miles away that would balls up your plans. I am totes in awe of all women who juggle kids and a full time job. So I started working for an agency transcribing books and interviews. Aside from the odd fun one (best ever was the feudal history of the Gypsy Weddings cast) this could be unbelievably monotonous to a point where I literally wanted to chop off my own hands so I need never type again. In order to combat the boredom, as a sideline I was running a Not On The High Street store importing, designing and selling shopper bags.
In February of 2016 I started posting styling shots of my home to Instagram. By the time I visited my sister in Singapore in March, I had 800 followers and by May it was in the thousands. The recurrent theme of my feed was doing it on a budget and I was always being asked how I did it. So in June, after doing Sarah Akwisombe's webinar tutorial, I wrote my first blog post. I set up my own website using Squarespace and pushed on by my sister, decided to start offering an E Decor service to style rooms and source products for people who didn't have time to do it themselves, a far cheaper and more economical alternative than employing a traditional Interior Designer. This immediately took off, as did the blog and I now write weekly on subjects that inspire me and about things that I love.
My point is is that lots of people would be afraid to put themselves out there. But they shouldn't be. If it makes you happy, if it inspires you and you love it, you need to bite the bullet and just do it. Sarah Akwisombe recently did an Instagram post pushing everyone to realise their career ambitions and not settle for average, and got a massive response from people who wanted to change their lives. Don't expect everyone to support you. I've got lots of friends who never even acknowledge my business or blog as, an archetypal British personality trait, they feel that by putting my home and my passion in the spotlight I am almost 'showing off'. To these people, I say, whatevs, girlfriend. I honestly don't give a toss (see Point 4 for back up). As Oscar Wilde said, there is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
4. Life Is Full Of Huge, Massive WTF's
Brexit. Trump. The voting public excelled themselves this year and everyone went into a decline. There was widespread trauma, countless voices of doom and a rush buy of St Tropez as the realisation kicked in that getting that foreign holiday glow will cost way more than it does at the moment. Personally, Nigel Farage himself is enough to give me palpitations, let alone a Farage and Trump combo which is akin to an international version of Cannon & Ball. WTF was a phrase uttered so regularly it should be in the New English Dictionary.
Lots of amazingly talented famous people died. Alan Rickman, Caroline Ahern, Prince, Terry Wogan, David Bowie - we could only stand by and watch as one by one we lost the faces of our generation. George Michael FFS!! My best ever memory was being 13 and chasing George and Andrew who were travelling through Central Hong Kong in a rickshaw (possibly the last time I actually ran). I cannot begin to tell you how much I loved them. I queued from 5.00 am outside the old Wembley Stadium for Wham: The Final and threw my knickers at them (needlessly, as it turned out). George Michael was literally the voice of my youth. My friend Kate had been stalking George's London home for years posting fan letters through his door and she was the first person I texted when the news broke.
If we are to take one positive out of 2016 it's proved the point that NOTHING in this life can be taken for granted. Four years ago when I was 41 I had treatment for cancer. Finding out that I might not be around for my children was the biggest WTF possible but one positive that came out of it (amongst others) was the fact that I now quite literally don't give a fuck. And that has been totally liberating. Every day I am just so bloody happy to still be here. NB: I am not recommending serious illness to inspire you to follow your dreams but it definitely does help.
5. Social Media Is A Game Changer
This year, I have virtually stopped buying interiors magazines. The Evening Standard recently wrote that Instagram is taking over from Pinterest as the most creative and inspirational social media that there is and I absolutely believe this is true. The introduction of UK interior hashtags has created feeds that quite frankly surpass any interior magazine that you can buy because they are REAL. They are not just aspirational, they are achievable and styled and furnished by people just like you and me whose only qualification is that they are passionate about their homes. And through these feeds there are communities building. Now, if you don't do Instagram you will think that I am completely mental, cult hypnotised or being groomed. But these feeds are introducing like minded people who in normal circumstances, wouldn't have the chance to meet. It's like the interiors version of Tinder but without the romance. There are regular meet ups and chat groups, real people who are bonded by the fact that they are all interior mad. And it's not restricted to the UK. The Americans had cottoned on to the hashtag scene way before us and our styles have merged, along the way creating real friendships and networks that go way and beyond the USA and the UK and as far wide as Australia, New Zealand and China.
For the small business community, Instagram is an exceptional platform. Take print design duo We Are Amused as an example. They promoted, launched and marketed their brand purely via Instagram and have achieved huge success. With the supportive network around them, small businesses can collaborate on feeds to help them build their customer base and raise sales off the ground. And in our post Brexit 'times are tough' mentality, anything that helps maintain small business is good. And it works. Instagram rocks.
6. I Have No Stop Button
This is the last thing that I have learned this year but it's probably the best thing. I have no stop button. And this doesn't just apply to my wine intake. Every day, I am working more and more on my new business and less and less on my previously uninspiring career and it's fab. I'm busy with my E Decor commissions. As of this month, I will be running monthly Styling Your Home workshops with my Insta bestie, Dee Campling, focused entirely on making your space your own and not being influenced by trends or fashion. Doing it for yourself and being your own inspiration. I'm doing a Pop Up collaboration with We Are Amused here at my home in York which you can register for via my website link. Dee and I have plans to expand the workshop into practicals. It's all going on.
So I've realised that this is the freedom that comes with not giving a fuck. Sometimes I have doubts and feel like I'm not able to achieve but then I think, why not? Why not try? This time last year I had 80 followers on my Instagram account. On Christmas Eve, I hit 20k and was so excited I was dancing. Mostly because we'd been drinking Prosecco since 2.30 pm and I was totally trollied (no stop button). I am gobsmacked and grateful every single day that so many people look at my pictures and think that I'm worth a follow. Every time I look at my blog analytics and see hits to my site I do a mini cheer and feel honoured that people read what I write. And to all of you who do, you've enabled me to start on a career path at the age of 45 that I never thought I would be able to tread.
So that's what I've learned this year and I am so excited about what 2017 may bring, I can barely breathe. I hope that you've all had a fabulous night and have celebrated in true Instagram interiors style with glitter balls, festoons, fairy lights, sheepskins, the odd light box and a huge amount of Prosecco. Happy New Year to you and your families and may 2017 bring you everything that you want.