Make Life Beautiful With Paula Sutton
Paula Sutton creates a magical world of her own that inspires us to live beautifully.
As an interiors-obsessed mother of 3, Paula was brought up in London and worked in the fashion industry for many years before moving with her family to the English countryside and starting her blog, Hill House Vintage.
Paula is a lover of traditional English country interiors, finding bargains at auctions, carboot sales, vintage shops, and is an avid hunter at local flea markets and antique fairs.
Today, she writes about country interiors and gardens, lifestyle, and fashion on her website and Instagram account @hillhousevintage. Her passion is an interior decoration to suit all budgets, vintage finds, traditional British design, and English country house inspiration.
We’re so excited to introduce Paula as our latest guest for our “Make Life Beautiful” Q&A series and share our conversation about her creative process and more!
What was your very first job — ever?
My first job ever was delivering newspapers every Thursday evening by bicycle. My Mother claims that at least one week in every four she would have to take over and do it for me, but boy was I grateful for that £5 pay packet at 13!
My first proper ‘grown up’ job after university was as a Press Officer at Elite Premier model agency in the days of the original supermodels such as Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer and Christy Turlington. It was a very exciting time to be in the industry.
Photo via @hillhousevintage
Tell us about your journey into the creative industry, when did you realize that you could turn your passion into a career?
We left London for the English countryside just over ten years ago. I left my job as Bookings Editor for Elle magazine where I had produced all of the fashion, beauty and cover shoots for eight years. I loved my job but it was a job where I helped to bring to life the creative endeavors and artistic vision of others.
When I arrived in Norfolk and started blogging, it occurred to me that I could finally start creating the sort of images and content that I truly loved. I was able to become photographer, stylist, creative director and eventually model on my own terms.
At first it was purely a creative outlet. A way of not letting go of an art loving part of me that wanted to express myself through beautiful images and photography. I had no idea that it would take off and that other people would be interested in the things that I featured. When I started, it was more about gathering a little community of vintage interiors lovers as a way of combatting loneliness after leaving London. It’s turned into so much more than that and I am eternally grateful.
Even when it’s not a style that you would necessarily adopt yourself, just seeing the beauty and enthusiasm in other people’s choices is wonderful. We must learn to trust that in ourselves too.
If you could go back in time and give your young creator self one piece of advice what would it be?
Stop the self-criticism and never doubt your own individual style. I’m a born optimist, but even for me there were times when I felt old fashioned, and as though I wasn’t interesting enough, or trendy enough. The thing is that having your own idiosyncratic style is the most interesting thing of all. It’s a joy to see creators and creatives who have a unique sense of style that permeates everything that they do.
I love to see people’s personalities shine through. Even when it’s not a style that you would necessarily adopt yourself, just seeing the beauty and enthusiasm in other people’s choices is wonderful. We must learn to trust that in ourselves too.
Paula via @hillhousevintage
A view from Paula’s beautiful yard.
Where do you find the most inspiration for your work?
I am a total history buff, so old books, old architecture and old stories. Period dramas on television and houses kept alive by the National trust in England are all sources of inspiration. I love the traditional old fashion country house style as epitomised by the doyenne of English country decorating Nancy Lancaster of Colefax and Fowler. I love a bit of faded grandeur and elegant comfort. Never too precious though. My version of a stylish home needs to accommodate the needs of teenagers and dogs.
Photo via @hillhousevintage
What does your creative process look like?
I am drawn to colour, but like an artist with a blank canvas, my backdrop is often quite neutral. I am what I would call a ‘slow decorator’ meaning that layers of colour and texture evolve over time to give a time worn and comfortable look. I accessorize with things that are more delicate and pretty, but on the whole, I love to use items that feel as though they may have lived in one position for a number of years with a few pops of jazzy colour to add vibrancy and life.
Sometimes the best decisions come about when your back is up against the wall.
What was the most significant business or creative challenge that you have encountered and grown from?
I left London assuming that I would take a few months away from work and then start up an online homewares store. I had a ridiculous amount of ideas circling around in my head, but I hadn’t laid any groundwork to implement them. I didn’t have a business plan and as we’d poured all of our money into buying the house, I didn’t have a budget to start a business or even to buy lots of furniture.
Being forced to think creatively to not only furnish my home beautifully, but also to start earning my own living again by selling vintage items enabled me to forge a new direction and identity. It was a total accident, but sometimes the best decisions come about when your back is up against the wall. My husband is a great fan of the saying “Necessity is the mother of Invention” and in this case it really was.
Paula and Coco via @hillhousevintage
What has been your biggest achievement? When was the last time you thought “wow, I can’t believe I just accomplished that!”
Well, I have to admit that there are two things in the pipeline that make me think that on a daily basis. Frustratingly, I can’t announce either of them right now, but I can hand on heart say that I have a “wow” moment daily at the moment!
If I were to go back to last year, then appearing in Vogue, The New York Times and Town & Country magazine all in the same month was definitely a ‘pinch me’ moment!
Which upcoming project or endeavor are you most excited for?
There are currently two projects that I’m extremely excited about, the first being a dining room revamp at home. When we first moved into our home the dining room had a very ‘serious’ dark green damask wallpaper. It was absolutely beautifully done but darkly austere and Victorian and like something out of a Charles Dickens story. I tried to live with it, but it simply didn’t suit my love of all things informal, light, and elegantly pretty. I’ve spent quite a few years trying to work out the exact shade I want it to be. We painted it in a white undercoat and sat with it for a while but finally it’s being done and I’m delighted.
The second is my garden office and kitchen garden. I designed this from scratch on what was a tired patch of garden that used to house the children’s trampoline. I’ve always wanted to grow more vegetable and flowers, and I’ve dreamed of having a little oasis of calm in the garden that I can write in, style and do yoga, and it’s near completion as I write!
I’m also very excited about returning to YouTube at some point this year. I used to dabble in making little ‘how to’ films a number of years ago, and I think that the time is ripe for me to return.
A beautiful scene from @hillhousevintage
To learn more about Paula, visit her website hilllhousevintage.com, and keep up with her on Instagram @hillhousevintage.
What a fabulous read! Thank you for sharing!
I love everything about Paula! I’m particularly fond of her country walks.
Paula is my absolute favorite Instagram follow! As someone who lived in Amersham , close to the English countryside, as an expat child, my mom and I now LOVE sending Paula’s vignettes to each other! So happy to see her featured here ♥️