I was walking along the canal last night after dark, all the apartments lit up and on full display, like one of those illustrated cross section books where you can see inside huge ships and the Empire State building, except far more interesting because these were occupied by real people just going about their everyday business – making dinner, sitting at their computers, the ordinary stuff of life that I find so comforting (I wasn’t being creepy spying from the bushes with a telescope – these homes are on full display to a very public walkway, with benches for optimal viewing comfort!) Seeing all the different interiors, different lighting, colour choices, artwork or lack of it, I was mesmerised by the sight and for some reason it made me think of that much quoted scene in the film American Beauty, where Wes Bentley’s character talks about how he filmed a plastic bag ‘dancing’ in the wind for 15 minutes. (When I looked up the scene just now for accuracy, I read that it’s pretentious and unoriginal to reference it, so I guess sometimes I’m just a basic bitch!)
Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.
Excuse the clunky segue to interiors, but this is often how I feel when I see how many different styles of home exist in the world (or in this case, on one stretch of canal in East London). There are so many beautiful ways to create a home, sometimes it feels overwhelming. That sounds ridiculous to write, but I’m talking really about the lives lived there, not simply the way they’re decorated. On my many lockdown walks and bike rides over the past 12 months (see last post) I’ve fallen in love with one house after the other, all in varying styles and representing completely different ways of living – luxurious canal side loft conversions, Brutalist high rises, curved Art Deco apartments, Georgian townhouses, bungalows by the sea, converted pubs and on and on. And with the many trips I’ve taken to photograph and style homes for my four books, I’ve been lucky enough to see the way people live all over the world. I often joke that I feel equal parts inspired and depressed when I leave these gorgeous homes. (I really ought to know a lot more about the history of architecture considering how much I am obsessed with it! In the same way that I should know a lot more about wine considering how much I enjoy it 😉 )
I feel this same beauty overload when I browse interiors on Pinterest, making board after board of imagery on different interiors styles and loving each of them equally. Sometimes I’m left feeling overwhelmed by choice. Which one is my style, I still find myself wondering, even after all these years as an interiors stylist and author! How can I like the frayed beauty of vintage floral curtains but also the clean lines of polished concrete floors? How can I be obsessed with the modern eclectic sophistication of a New York Townhouse (Jenna Lyons‘s place, swoon) and the charm of a French cottage where every surface is whimsically hand-painted (Natalie Lété‘s country home)?
The question of how to find your style is one I know many people struggle with – I get asked constantly. I think what it boils down to is a feeling rather than a defined look. Your taste will change over the years but there will probably always be a thread that links it. What’s the thread that is woven through all the interiors and homes that I love? I think it’s a sense of creativity and authenticity rather than a particular trend or colour palette. As I write in my book Life Unstyled, I fall in love with the sense that people actually live here. Their heart and soul and creativity are on display through the choices they’ve made with their home design. I may be attracted to many different styles of home, but at their heart they are the same. If you analyse the interior styles to which you’re always drawn, I bet you’ll find there’s a common thread. That’s your style.
I think I speak for many when I say that this year has prompted a great deal of self-reflection. All our plans vanished, our way of life changed overnight and it left many thinking, what do I want my life to look like when things go back to ‘normal’? As an interior stylist/set designer and writer, for me it always comes back to the home. Where do I want to live? When I’m not working on a shoot, where do I want to spend my days? This was the case before the pandemic, but now even more so. I wonder how has your view of your home evolved this year? Do you feel like making a big change, seeking a life you’ve dreamt of but never had the courage to take the leap? Perhaps you’ve fallen back in love with your home and vowed to make it a place you want to stay for years to come? Or maybe you’ve given up entirely on the idea of a permanent home and can’t wait to travel the world once we’re allowed. Tell me, tell me. I’d love to know what home means to you now x