Paula Sutton is the most recent luminary of cottagecore, a nook of the web immersed in transcendent scenes of rural life. On Instagram, the place she posts as @hillhousevintage, the 50-year-old influencer chronicles the pleasures of entertaining, adorning and gardening from her dwelling in rural Norfolk, England.
Now, with many individuals caught in less-photogenic environment and glued to their screens, her way of life has change into the stuff of quarantine fantasy.
Speaking by cellphone earlier this month, Ms. Sutton talked about her newfound fame, the challenges of leaving a metropolis for the nation and discovering pleasure in attempting occasions.
As the remainder of the world adapts to a brand new regular, one thing tells me you’re not precisely new to social distancing.
Absolutely. I’ve at all times been very comfortable in my very own firm and have by no means been massively sociable. I’m chatty and engaged throughout sure events, however in any other case I’m virtually a sociable recluse. I’m very comfortable in my very own firm. It’s not that uncommon for me to spend time within the backyard, alone alone for the day.
You’ve change into this type of unintended star in a method that’s very attribute of social media: One second you’re dwelling your quiet life, the subsequent your cellphone goes loopy with notifications. When did you notice one thing was afoot?
Before this all began, I already had a little bit of a following on Instagram; I’d been preferred and shared by folks earlier than. But a couple of week in the past, it appeared that each time I checked out my cellphone, there have been one other hundred followers on my Instagram web page. I assumed, clearly somebody with a giant following had shared a photograph from my web page. I used to be considering, oh my goodness, is it Oprah?
In the start, it was fairly pretty — oh, all these followers, I assumed — however then it turned a bit tense. I used to be gaining followers too shortly, and I knew it wasn’t regular. Someone despatched me a direct message, saying, “If you’re questioning why you’re getting all these followers, it’s since you’re the middle of a Twitter war.”
Many speculate that this online backlash was because you aren’t white. Cottagecore is dominated by influencers who are. Any thoughts about this?
When I started in this community, it genuinely did not occur to me that it was not a place for me. My mother was into country houses and country living. I didn’t think it was out of the norm.
My parents arrived to England from Grenada without a penny to their names but were able to eventually build a lovely life for themselves. They instilled in us that we could achieve anything. So I didn’t think that a lovely lifestyle and a nice house couldn’t be mine. But at the same time, making it sound easy would be unfair. I know life isn’t as simple as wishing.
The situation last week has opened my eyes a lot. But I also believe that people should live their dreams and be unafraid of what other people think.
On your page, you insist that your life is very ordinary and mundane. What would we be surprised to know about you?
People always ask if I have gardeners or cleaners, but it’s me scrubbing my floors and ironing all the clothes, and picking up all the dog mess. The only bit of me that is glamour is the snapshot I take because I enjoy creating an image — for myself and for other people.
How did you get into cottagecore?
We moved from London to Norfolk 10 years ago. At the time, I was burned out. We had three young children. I had gone back to work when my youngest two were months old. I’d always worked in media, and at times I’d be at the office until 9 p.m. I’d miss bath time with the babies and I quickly realized that if I wasn’t careful, I was going to miss them growing up.
Our first few years here in Norfolk, I was exhausted. It was all about making sure the children were happy. I wouldn’t even take a photograph because I was so tired. I called those years the invisible years.
I’d been posting casually about our new life on Instagram, but I hadn’t been posting much of me. I would pop up maybe once a year on my birthday, to say, “Hello, this is who I am,” and I’d disappear for another year. But whenever I did post a picture of myself, people would say, “Oh, I want to see more. We want to see who you are.” So things got a little more personal, and that’s when I discovered there was a joy in writing captions.
I started dressing up and doing my makeup like I used to when I would go to work in London, and it started making me happier. When I put my red lipstick on — and I’m never without my red lipstick now — I felt happier.
I had stayed hidden for so many years and used to hide my smile, so I wasn’t a massive fan of being in front of the camera. But as you start to get older, you start caring less and less. Now it was such a beautiful feeling to just grin, to just show my teeth. But it’s all about the creation of an image. It was something that gave me joy.
Finding joy seems to be a theme you live by, but how are you able to sustain it, especially during a pandemic?
In February, I lost my mother to leukemia. She and my father were the most positive people ever. My mother’s answer to things was always: “It will be fine.”
I think about her words often. It’s not about taking the pandemic lightly or not being sympathetic to the things happening to the people around us. Sometimes it’s about finding the strength to fight your way through the misery. I’m still grieving but actively seeking beauty and joy has helped me.
Take me through your home. What’s your favorite thing inside or outside the manor?
Well, first, the truth is that I don’t live in a manor. That’s a misconception. It’s a big house, certainly, but I’m not living in Downton Abbey. It’s a Georgian house that sits very nicely in the center of this land, so I think that makes it look bigger than it is. I’m not going to pretend — it’s not a small house. It’s just a nice house.
Well, I live in Brooklyn, where almost everything is tiny. What’s your favorite part of your home?
My favorite room is the one most seen on Instagram, the formal sitting room. It’s full of color and symmetry; Georgian architecture tends to be very symmetrical. It’s warm and cozy and homey. The high window and ceilings, the wooden shutters. It’s my calming, happy room.
What advice do you have for those looking for joy and beauty in an otherwise uninspiring space?
Personalizing things can bring you joy. I have this Victorian button-back chair that I reupholstered that has moved with us from house to house. I chose the fabric because it brought me joy. Every time I see it, it makes me happy.
Pick something — it can be anything — and make it yours. It can be the simplest thing. A bunch of fresh flowers in a space does wonders, too.