There are those who love a design style like English cottagecore, and then there are those who live it full time. Paula Sutton falls firmly into the latter camp. Her 19th-century Georgian home in Norfolk is the stuff of Brontë novel dreams and Wordsworth poems — grand yet still welcoming, luxe but lived in. Followers of her account, Hill House Vintage, savor the tastes of the English countryside she delivers, along with her vintage finds and walks with adorable dog Coco.
We spoke with the London-born Sutton about her style inspirations as well as how she creates an enviable environment that she loves. And if the English countryside isn’t in your immediate future, be sure to check out her curation of charming Chairish picks.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
I love a sense of relaxed and colourful elegance with a bit of faded vintage glamour mixed in. Nothing too perfect or prim. Just a bit elegantly cluttered, lived in, and loved.
Was there a favorite room in your home to decorate and if so, which one?
I love my drawing room. It’s the more formal seating area in the house, and it’s where I have the most fun decorating and styling.
What’s your favorite way to create a statement-making moment in a room?
Lots of artwork. Artwork can define the colour palette, can add splashes of colour and interest, and can liven up an otherwise neutral scheme. Also, a fabulous statement sofa should be the basis for any sitting room. If you get the sofa right, then the rest will follow.
Do you have any favorite advice when sourcing art?
It may sound overly simple, but always buy what you love first, rather than follow a trend. Never be swayed by what you feel you ought to like over what you are genuinely drawn to. Unless you are buying for purely business purposes, I don’t think that you should overthink art. It should feel instinctive, visceral, and evoke positive emotions.
What are your tips for making a table setting really special? Do you have “go-to” tricks?
I enjoy mixing up patterns and colours to create schemes that are full of colour and abundance. Fresh flowers in some shape or form are always a good addition, and if you don’t have room for vases on the table, then a flower bud or cutting slipped in between a napkin ring can add a delicately pretty touch. Pay as much attention to the placemat style and colour as the beautiful crockery that you put on it, and mix up modern and vintage to create your own unique style.
What’s your favorite cheap decorating thrill?
Using old French armoire and bed pediments above doorways. I paint them in chalky light colours and they add an architectural detail to otherwise nondescript doorways and entrances.
I also love finding and hunting down a vintage bargain or a statement piece at auction. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than creating a stunning interior that has a mix of prices, including the surprise bargains that were found for pennies!
What type of things do you gravitate towards when on the hunt for vintage pieces?
I love the shape of a curved cabriole or Queen Anne leg. I love button back and tufted upholstery. I like solid furniture — nothing too delicate that looks as if it could snap under pressure. My home is loved and lived in and nothing should be too precious. I want people to be able to relax back into the furniture as well as find it beautiful.
What do you find most compelling about Chairish?
The fact that I can see the most exquisite examples of furniture and standout accessory pieces from any vintage or modern style in one place. It’s like walking through the best auction house showroom that I’ve ever been to — but from the comfort of my own armchair, which incidentally I now want to swap for one I’ve seen on Chairish!
What are your three favorite pieces on Chairish right now?
A Schumacher Regency Style Yellow Tufted Chaise Longue – I am addicted to button-back tufted upholstery — and the yellow shade just pops out and delights me!
I collect cabbage-ware, so any time I see it, as with this delightful salad bowl, I grab a piece!
Tablescapes are an absolute passion of mine, and I can never have too many sets of linen napkins in various colours and designs, so this set of 10 original Art Deco monogrammed dinner napkins is a keeper.
What’s your favorite iconic piece of vintage design?
The classic Howard armchair. Classic, elegant and comfortable, they have just enough ‘slouch’ factor to work everywhere, from the grandest of houses to the most humble — which is the perfect test of good design. It should be able to work against any backdrop, whether traditional or modern.
All photos courtesy of Paula Sutton