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Spotlight on... writer and stylist, Joanna Thornhill

I've been meaning to feature Joanna Thornhill's excellent budget-savvy interiors book, Home For Now, ever since it came out, earlier this year. 

Worth the wait, I think: I quizzed Joanna all about the project, her surprising Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen love, her own "home for now" – and rinsed her for lots of clever tips for style on a shoestring. 

The beautifully designed and photographed book, pictured next to Jo, above, and published by Cico, is all about how to spruce your rented pad without incurring the wrath (or damage deposit) of your landlord, as well as how to make your first owned property look lovely even though buying it has probably bankrupted you. (And do look out for this fabulous flat, which you may remember reading about right here).

Below, Jo answers some questions – but first, here's a little teaser from the book, in the form of five of her favourite tips...

1. To get the look of open shelving in a kitchen with wall-mounted cupboards, without doing a refit, simply remove the doors and stash them out of the way (under the sofa or round the back of the bed) until you want (or need) to reattach them. Run a strip of colourful Washi tape along each shelf ledge too, for good measure.

2. If you don’t have space to store oversized items, like a tall ladder for example, try instead to incorporate them into the your decor. An old wooden one leant in a corner could double as a handy receptacle for toiletries in a bathroom or even act as a towel rail. 

3. For an alternative feature wall, cover one entire surface in ephemera, such as postcards or even pretty tea packaging. The key is to really go for it, and layer up from corner to corner for added impact, so it looks eclectic-chic rather than student-digs.

4. If you’re scared of adding colour to your walls (or your rental restrictions prevent it), add it to your furniture instead! If you’d rather keep it reversible, decoupage a piece with wallpaper offcuts, securing with double-sided tape so you can remove it in the future.

5. If your workspace is in a living area or in your bedroom, enlist an old bureau to house your computer and work paraphernalia, or even customise an old armoire or wardrobe by fixing a few shelves in it.

That way you can literally shut up shop at the end of the night, or if you work in your bedroom, you won’t wake up in the night confronted by the sight of your bulging in-tray!

Now that we're all feeling inspired, tell us a bit about yourself ...
Well, for my 'day' job I'm a freelance interiors stylist and writer. I pull together features and photoshoots different magazines and websites, from House Beautiful to Woman's Weekly and many in between. I also style and write for commercial clients. I started out ten years ago as a TV runner before moving into art department and props roles, and eventually ended up involved in the wonderful world of styling!

And what you do when you're not working?
I've been busy doing up my own home for the past two years (a busman's holiday!) and when I'm not stripping woodwork I do enjoy getting out and about in London to make the most of the cultural and foodie delights it has to offer.

Where did the inspiration for the book come from? 
I was a serial renter myself until recently and always tried to personalise space without spending much money or upsetting landlords. But I always dreamed of the day I'd finally own my own place and be one of 'those' people with bi-fold kitchen doors and a co-ordinated colour scheme. When I finally got on the property ladder in 2012 it came as something of a shock to realise that I had no cash left to really do anything major. Increasingly, I found myself turning to decorating tricks I'd used in my rentals and collecting ideas on Pinterest and figured there must be plenty of other people in a home-for-now, looking for ways to make the most of their space...

What's your own place like? 
A work in progress: it's a tiny two-bed Victorian terrace, which would be very pretty from the front if it wasn't blighted by ugly pebbledash and unfortunate glazing. It had been very crudely 'modernised' when we bought it (basically, they'd sloshed white paint over everything and put down a cheap laminate flooring throughout, apart from the stairs, which were carpeted in dirty beige and smelt of wet dog). 

It's been a real labour of love restoring it all: we've stripped floorboards, freed up the fireplaces and are stripping all the woodwork, too. I'm naturally drawn to vintage and retro styles, but with so many period features to contend with, I've tried to sneak in the odd splash of bright colour or modern piece, so it doesn't look like an actual granny's house! 

What's your fantasy home? 
I do love a period property, though perhaps saying "a bigger version of what I already have" is a bit boring. Maybe fantasy-wise I'd go for converting an old commercial building of some sort, but retaining as much of its original character as possible, even the rubbly bits.

Do you secretly lust after extravagant, luxury interiors? 
Ha. Well, although I can appreciate that style, and it's a (rare!) treat to stay in hotels with that aesthetic, I have to say that for my own home that really just doesn't do it for me. 

If you have a heap of money to throw at a property then yes, it can be easier to get a stylish finish but for me, that's not what makes a home. Those personal touches are something money can't buy. Having said that, if money were no object there are a few design classics I'd love to treat myself too, like a Saarinen marble table and an Eames lounger for the boyf's man cave (I'd have to also actually build him a man-cave first). 

Fave shops? 
I love a trip to Anthropologie, for the displays as much as anything. And when I'm out propping, you don't need to twist my arm much to get me in to Liberty, Zara Home, Heal's, Habitat and The Conran Shop. I'm also a vintage addict and feel my heart a-flutter whenever I pass a second-hand/charity shop or reclamation yard. 

Fave blogs and websites? 
Shopping-site wise, Rockett StGeorge, REfoundobjects and Cox & Cox for their beautifully displayed collections and broad range of stock. Etsy and Notonthehighstreet are often my first ports of call for handmade or vintage, though I find they're best used when you know what you're looking for, otherwise it's easy to lose hours to them. 

I don't have as much time to read blogs as I'd like so I tend to just follow my favourite bloggers on Twitter or Instagram so I can dip in sporadically. Though I do always enjoy reading My Friend's House for their refreshingly witty and honest posts, and Junkaholique for the beautiful photography and general-lifestyle-envy (plus this fab blog, of course!!).

Your best interiors bargain? 
You can't really get a better bargain than a freebie, and I've been known to lug street finds home and take stuff BACK from the tip on more than one occasion – fave free finds include an original 1950s pin-up girl tray, a vintage spice rack and a beautiful old Victorian table base, which I've repurposed as a pot stand. 

Your interiors idol? 
I actually have a lot of love for Laurence Llewelyn Bowen – growing up watching Changing Rooms was what first made me want to get into the field myself, and one of my career highlights to date is still working as a runner on one of the shows, circa 2004, which he was presenting. His style is very different to mine but whatever you make of it, he is insanely knowledgable and passionate about the subject and its history, which is admirable. 

Did you learn any memorable tricks you used on your own place while researching the book?
There are quite a few I still want to try out Рmaking macram̩ plant pot hangers, above, and upping my collection of house plants generally) is next on the list.

Also I'm hoping to do something with my kitchen and dining room next and really like the idea of cladding some shelving fronts with patterned fruit crates [below], which also features in the book – it looks so striking yet is simple (and practically free) to do yourself.

What was one of the most inspiring spaces you saw when writing the book?
There were so many, but I think the home of Finnish blogger NinetteBahne had to be the one that really stopped me in my tracks. What she lacks in funds she more than makes up for in creativity. She pretty much made, repurposed or upcycled everything in her home – from her kitchen worktops to her patio paving bricks.

There was an old dress lying in her fabric pile when we went to photograph her place, and I used it in one of the shots to throw over a bedside stool. She liked it and vowed to sew it into a proper fitted cover. She did it, like, the next day. I'd have years of I've-got-no-time procrastination, despite the fact it probably only took her an hour or so. When I got home, I genuinely felt inspired to rethink a few of my own projects and came up with some crafty workarounds rather than simply outright replacing things I wasn't happy with. I still have little "what would Ninette do?" moments now before I resort to buying new stuff for my home. 

Check out Joanna's own blog at Stylist's Own and at her styling website – and, of course, buy a copy of the book! Home for Now, £16.99,  is out now, published by Cico Books.

1 comment :

  1. beautiful interior decoration and interior furnishing.