What I learnt from my home being in an interior design magazine photoshoot

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Some time last summer, I was contacted by a friendly interiors stylist who had seen photos of our home on my Instagram. She sent me an email, along the lines of: "We love your home! Would you consider being in a magazine?" 

At the time, I'd only been on Instagram for a short while and I was flattered. I had, back then, started getting things ready for opening my lifestyle shop (I had absolutely no idea what I was doing) and was sort of thrilled that someone had noticed. So I said yes. When she first got in touch, I was pregnant with Jude and after a little back and forth we settled on a date for her to come to our home with a photographer for after he was born. I briefly thought about whether that would be too soon, what with a new baby and all, but I shrugged my shoulders with the nonchalance of a third-timer and said yes, thinking it'd be fine.

The stylist and the photographer were nice and polite, and worked efficiently in and out of our rooms; they even made all their own cups of tea, many of which were placed just so on the coffee table and photographed. I barely had to do a thing. Anything they moved, they put right back. Once or twice, I glanced in at our small kitchen and our bedroom and did double-takes, a little surprised by the addition of extra more-colourful-than-I'd-choose-myself throws and tea towels and trinkets styled in. But I was just happy that Our Story Time was getting noticed. In my very basic understanding about setting up a shop, I thought being mentioned in a magazine, even one I'd not heard of before (so much for “know your audience”), was probably a good thing, too good to say no to.

But I was exhausted. Jude was seven weeks old. Which is to say, not very old at all. So what was I thinking, agreeing to all this? Honestly, in the fuzz of those newborn days when nights blur into day and you move without purpose in a fog of what feels like permanent jet-lag, when your eyes are numb from fatigue and there's a constant dull ache at the side of your head, my answer is: I have no idea. The decor of our home was the furthest thing from my mind. And it probably wasn't the best time to have had strangers in the house for the best part of the day, making polite conversation when really I just wanted to feed Jude and nap with him. It was, with hindsight, a mistake.

After they left, I slept and forgot about it. And then, a couple of months ago, I got sent a copy of the magazine in the post. I flicked through it, took one look at the spread and quickly, secretly, put it in the recycling bin. 

To be clear: this wasn't anything to do with the interior design magazine, the stylist or the photographer. They were both nice, and the magazine was just filling a brief (although I should have done my homework first and considered if it was the kind of magazine I’d read myself in the first place). But there were two reasons why I threw the magazine in the bin. Firstly: how I looked. And secondly: how our home looked.

Let's start with the first thing (me). I know - I know - that it's the most amazing, unfathomable thing in the world to grow a tiny person inside of you and then get said tiny person out - but seven weeks postpartum is not a time to be doing a photoshoot. I was big and bloated and bloody exhausted. So when I saw the magazine, I felt my cheeks burn inside-out and I very quickly decided I didn't want to show anyone the piece. It sounds shallow and superficial, because it is. But I guess we all feel like that from time to time.

Next: my home. I cringed a little when I saw our home and the "get-the-look" section following on from it. Looking it at as objectively as I could, none of it really felt like me. It was just so… poppy. However, it was also an important lesson for me to see our home in print because it confirmed to me that going the intentional route of interiors means far more to me than following aesthetics alone.

Our home now doesn’t look anything like the one photographed a year ago in the magazine. At some point, we swapped the bright, childlike painted logs in the fireplace for simple, natural ones. Despite everyone on Instagram telling me not to, we sold the overly colourful rug that gave me a headache and annoyed Richard with its fluff, and instead bought a simple jute natural rug (I have always loved the texture of jute, the way it feels earthy and grounding) which we all love. We took down the wall prints that were just filling up space and didn’t mean anything to us and the blank space has given our rooms a little clarity, a chance to think about what we really want around us.

During the last year, we have had big serious conversations and decisions to make about staying or moving out of London. In the end, we realised we wanted to stay. We love the bones of our home, but it simply has to work harder in order for us to make it last.

And so, having made that decision, we have then spent a lot of the last year making a lot of changes to make our home work for us in practical, purposeful ways, as well as trying to fill it with a steady sense of calm (because if life can't always be calm, then at least our home can try to be). Our home is not about stuff I may have bought or liked once upon a time, or stuff we’ve been given and not known what to do with, or stuff that’s just been here because it always has. Our home is just about us, and how we live here.

So if that means taking artwork down to put up a big blackboard instead because the kids need somewhere to practice their words, then so be it. If it means adding a fly screen for the long hot summer, then so be it. If it means editing our belongings and decluttering more frequently than most people, then so be it. There was a time I looked at a wall or at the floor and saw it as a gap to be filled, quickly at that. Now there’s been no such filling just for the sake of it, and there hasn’t been for over a year.

One of the biggest changes in this approach is that we are doing this together because we’ve decided, together, that this is where we’re settling down. We have shared books about the meaning of home and we’ve thought about how we picture our kids growing up here, what they’re going to need from us both practically and emotionally. We talk about how we want our home to feel (not look) and what steps we need to take to get there. Doing it together means I’m less likely to be hasty or make impulse, identikit purchases. It is no longer about the end, visual result. Instead, it’s about how our home works and feels, with all of us in it.

I doubt our home is magazine-worthy now - it’s probably far too simple with one too many baskets for toy storage or shoes. But I don’t mind that at all. In fact, I prefer it. I like it so, so much more than the home I saw in those magazine photos. This version feels like us, because it is.

So my advice? Make your home real. Don't get somebody else’s look. Find your own. Feel your own. The chances are it's just waiting for you to unearth it. 

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