My Memory Book: Two Years In The Life Of A Transient Decorator

Ever since I can remember, I have always loved change. For me, nothing is static - as a child, we moved houses and locations fairly regularly. From Ruislip to Northwood, from Somerset to Pinner, from Hong Kong back to the UK. I went to three primary schools and two secondary schools and it never phased me, not one bit. As I got older, my average work span in a job would be two years - itchy feet would overcome me and I’d need to jump on to the next role. This generally worked in my favour - I left school at 17 and worked my way up the ladder super quickly, experience being valued over qualifications in the industry that I was in at the time. When I met Joe, we became compulsive movers (I’m talking houses, not dance routines) and managed to pay extortionate stamp duty a total of nine times over the course of 14 years.

Why we bought our house. Check out the early Insta filter.

Why we bought our house. Check out the early Insta filter.

Our dream was always to move abroad but every time we had the opportunity to go, something would scupper our plans. Once, Joe was offered a job in Egypt - two days later, there was a Military coup. At one point we were off to Singapore, a position that fell through at the last minute when they decided to recruit someone locally. Then, when Leo was two, bastard bloody cancer hit me and by the time I’d finished treatment and all the reconstruction malarky that went with it, my eldest was at secondary school and our ship had sailed. Or rather, it hadn’t sailed. It had docked, indefinitely, with no chance of even a room only deal, let alone a sea view, upper deck suite, all inclusive package. We were confined to the UK watching ‘A Place In The Sun’ and being infuriated that no one ever bought anything.

Then Joe was offered a job in York. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t the dream. There was no 365 days a year sun, no expat lifestyle, no last minute weekends away to Bali, no after school sunset dinners on the beach. Unless you counted a forty minute drive to Scarborough for fish and chips in your anorak. But we’d been in Caversham for 12 years and my feet were seriously itching. Also, when you’ve had cancer or any sort of life changing event, it’s nice to go somewhere where you’re not looked at sympathetically every time you’re buying a French stick in Waitrose. So despite my tears of fury that it was North Yorkshire rather than South East Asia, we went. And to be honest, we’ve never looked back.

We sold our Victorian semi in Berkshire and bought a Georgian house on the edge of the City, built in 1759, that had been completely renovated by a property developer. In our previous house, there’d been internal stuff that needed doing - knackered kitchen, rotting sashes, damp infused downstairs loo, all of which needed money spent to improve that we just didn’t have. This house had been white (well, cream) washed throughout, neutral carpets and flooring, new (although not lovely) bathrooms. It was a blank canvas with so much potential I could barely breathe with excitement.

I’d always loved taking photographs. Long before the birth of the selfie era, I was always dropping my spools into Boots (less painful than it sounds), always the one at school who could be relied upon to have photographic proof of Liebfraumilch drinking, copious Silk Cut smoking house parties. In January 2016, I started posting photographs of the rooms in our new house on to my Instagram feed, a domain previously reserved for pictures of the kids, food and random sunsets. And once I started posting, I couldn’t stop. It was completely and utterly addictive.

One of my first posts. I may have looked amazing but my photographs didn’t.

One of my first posts. I may have looked amazing but my photographs didn’t.

This week, I spoke on an Instagram post about how much I enjoy posting good content on my feed. There’s a real buzz that comes from styling the perfect shot, using your own creativity to make it work and then sharing it with others. You always know when you get the ultimate composition - I can take 100 shots that don’t work, but then I take one and it’s like, boom. Perfect. When I started posting on Instagram, it was so exciting to be able to post something I loved and receive feedback from other people who felt the same. Since that first interior post, I’ve shared around 1200 shots of my home on my account and when I looked back this week for the post, the early ones literally make my eyes bleed. Honestly. Paddington Bear could have taken a better photo with his eyes closed. And the filtering! Argh. My feed was full of the old classics - Gingham and Sienna abounded. The longer that I post, the more I realise that for me, there is no point taking an interior photo without it looking precisely as it does IRL.

Trawling through my feed for the post, I realised that my inherently transient personality is displayed in no better way than it is in those early photographs through to the current day. I move EVERYTHING, all the time. And if I’m not moving it, then I’m decorating it. Painting it, wallpapering it, restyling it, repurposing it. Changing it all around. We’ve been in this house for four years now - longer than any other home we’ve ever lived in - so naturally I don’t like to keep a room the same for long. I’ve gone through a fair amount of trend based accessories - copious mirror balls, flamingos, pineapples - you name it, I’ve had it. Been there, done that, changed it. In an attempt to be intellectually technical about it, I’ve worked out that moving things around, changing things, is my way of coping with the fact that I’m staying in the same place and not living the expat dream in the sun with a glass of cold rose.

So here’s a quick look at how my rooms have changed over the last two years. Spot the trends. And if you can’t tell me that my photography has improved over this period, then please unsubscribe RIGHT NOW. My eyes, my eyes.

The Living Room

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The Sitting Room

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The Dining Room

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The Kitchen

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The other week, I spoke at a conference alongside Dom of All That Is She. She said words to the effect that her feed was like a memory book. It’s not about taking photos that you think others might like and posting, waiting for likes, follows and approvals. That’s not what Instagram is all about. It’s about posting pictures that you really love, connecting with similarly creative and likeminded people and feeling great about producing your very best content. The algorithm is unpredictable, but the community and the fun that can be taken from it still remains. My Instagram feed is full of fabulous memories, new ideas, career benchmarks and most of all, thousands of buzz moments where I took my perfect shot. A shot that, in my mind, was perfect at that precise moment in time. And I’m pretty sure that Paddington would agree.

Lisa DawsonComment