The rural lifestyle blogger tells us where country life meets digital life.

Ten years ago, Paula Sutton was at the peak of her stellar, if frenetic, career as head of press for modelling agency Elite Premier. But despite all the glitzy trappings of life in fashion’s fast lane, she was facing burnout, as well as the prospect of missing out on the day-to-day of her three young children growing up. Despite her world having hitherto been wholly London-centric, a decade ago she decided that enough was enough. In pursuit of giving her children the longed-for Famous Five-style childhood that the urban life precluded, she swapped her high-glamour, high-octane metropolitan life and the Suttons decamped the rural wilds of Norfolk.

Stumbling across a picture-perfect East Anglian Georgian house with all the attendant perfect proportions and original shutters suddenly made the dream of ditching the Victorian terrace in the capital in favour of the life bucolic seem real and within reach. The Suttons had their decorative work cut out, gradually dismantling the existing formal interiors they found in situ in favour of Paula’s own preference for the charmingly eclectic, the relaxed pastoral and the unabashedly pretty as a complement to this seriously handsome house. But what Paula hadn’t bargained for was that the sheer romance and joyful beauty of what she created would strike a chord with hundreds of thousands of strangers and in the process, earn her a second career as a star of Instagram, under her new name: @hillhousevintage.

Paula’s vintage style, gorgeous home and chocolate Labrador Coco all ooze charm. But for us, and we imagine for many of her legion of 426k followers, it is her resoundingly positive attitude and her active decision to find delight in the micro and macro of her life that we love so much. She is often found literally jumping for joy outside her home, always clad in gloriously romantic attire and red lipstick and flanked by, variously, Coco, her children and occasionally the vintage cars that her husband deals in. Paula’s is a truly infectious attitude to life, and we salute her wholeheartedly for it. There is nothing overly earnest or studied to see here: just a someone delighting completely in and often giggling about the new life she has created. Plus, she has a subsidiary Instagram account dedicated to her love of cake. Seriously, what’s not to adore?


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I was goofing around shooting something for a campaign today and I suddenly said to my teenage daughter - “Do you ever feel embarrassed about your fifty year old, arthritic Mother prancing about in dresses requesting to be photographed?” She said that she loved the fact that she had a Mother who didn’t take herself too seriously and the fact that we have serious amounts of fun whilst doing it. Plus my shoots usually end with bountiful amounts of feasting on cake - so what’s not to like! It made me think about the moments that I cherished and missed the most with my own Mother. My Mother and I were never able to get through a conversation without guffawing and snorting at some sort of nonsense like giggling schoolgirls. We loved to laugh with each other, (and also with my Aunt Helen - also now departed, who would add to the cackling gaiety whenever she was with us - not unlike the hurley burley of Macbeth’s three witches!) I miss that comfortable laughter with two of the women that I loved the most - although my sister and my daughters are all doing a seriously good job of slowly stitching up and repairing that mirth filled gap in my heart. They say that laughter is the best medicine and I quite agree. My heart will now always have a little patch that is slightly more fragile than the rest - but as long as I can have fun and my dodgy knees will allow me to keep leaping about in my garden for my pictures then I’ll keep on smiling and attempting to find joy in the everyday. This leap is for you Mummy. ????????????????xxx • • • ????: @phibb_ Dress - Ad/Gift @linennaive #joyseeker #seekthesimplicity #findingjoy #findinghappiness #joyafterloss

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My favourite website...


Sheerluxe. My life is usually full of vintage, dogs and gardening, so this is for my fix of glamour!

My favourite app...


Definitely Instagram! After years of telling my children to spend less time on their computers and gadgets, I find that I am the guilty culprit due to this addictive little app!

My favourite blog...


Ben Pentreath’s musings on the Pentreath-Hall website. His images of English country life, his beautiful Dorset home and garden, coupled with elegant London interiors and stunning architecture are literally music to my soul.

My Internet hero...


I recently stumbled upon Tabitha Brown. She’s a vegan chef, and although I’m not vegan, her positive and soothing outlook on life has me mesmerised! Her voice is an absolute delight to listen to and her life philosophies are wonderful – as are her ‘soul food’ recipes!


My favourite podcast...


It changes from month to month, but I’m currently enjoying The Great Indoors with Kate Watson-Smyth and Sophie Robinson.

My favourite YouTuber...


I’m obsessed with Josie from Fashion Mumblr and the incredible Cotswold garden and house that she’s recently moved to.

My most recent buy online...


A piece of vintage art from Samantha and Tamara, the ladies behind @Yourantiquesourcingstudio on Instagram.

Last book you downloaded or read...


I’ve just reread Michelle Obama’s ‘Becoming’. I absolutely adore her!


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Happy Easter to those who celebrate it! Happy long weekend to those who do not... and a huge thank you to the NHS staff, doctors, nurses, assistants, the key workers, the porters, the cleaners, the drivers, the social workers, the receptionists, the pharmacists, the supermarket staff, the firefighters, the delivery people, and all of the people I haven’t mentioned who will be working this weekend whilst others stay home in our efforts to combat the virus. Take care all of you. Stay safe. Stay well, and know that you are ALL valued. ??????????????xxxxx • • • #thankyou #grateful #easter #hillhousehouseateaster #mycountryhome #thestayingincrowd #easterweekend #hillhousevintage #vintagekitchen #countrykitchen #countryhomes #yellowtulips #stayhome

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Favourite tweeter...


Funnily enough I don’t tweet! I find the whole medium far too combative.

Favourite Instagrammer...


Food and gardens always, so Skye McAlpine for food and Willow Crossley Creates for all things floral.

Favourite tech gadget...


My iPhone. It’s basically my office.

The most useful gadget/item on your desk...


Perhaps not strictly ‘useful’, but I always have a scented candle burning at my desk. Failing that, my sausage dog stapler. I have a very bad habit of writing things down on bits of paper, so a stapler is my best friend when it comes to keeping things together and semi organised.


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Whenever I create an image like this one, I always get at least one person asking with a raised eyebrow whether I really eat strawberry’s with one arm outstretched and one leg extended for effect! ????. It always makes me chuckle because of course - while many of my images are glimpses of my everyday life, many of them also feature a fantasy version of a life that exists only in my head. I’ve said it before, but I spent most of my career in the fashion industry, organising and producing shoots for other people. I was an efficient and highly organised vessel for the creative endeavours of others and was never able to explore my own creativity. These Instagram squares are thus the culmination of a lifetime of vision boards that have finally been allowed to be set free from my mind - and I am thoroughly enjoying myself with it. There is a freedom in reaching an age where you can admit to having felt pain, to have felt duty, to have been that serious person... I have been committed to causes, I have marched for my beliefs. I have had my down years, my insecure years, my lost years. I have lost people that I have loved, and I have had to walk away from ambitions that I have harboured...and yet I have kept smiling. I am fifty years of age and I see no shame in enjoying pretty dresses, and attempting to live life as beautifully and as positively as I can. Empathy, politics and an awareness of the world issues around us can sit side by side an enjoyment of beauty... one does not negate or diminish the other, and there is a place for both to coexist. I say this not as an excuse, but as a rallying cry to those of you out there who may feel too intimidated to explore your creativity. Being a joy seeker is like therapy to a weary soul so please don’t be afraid. Show your face, show your homes, show your gardens and celebrate your version of beauty - IF that’s what makes you happy. Be the curator of your own galleries and take the vision boards from your minds and explore them in your real life. Pull that Rubenesque stance and pose like Dovima - After all - life is hard enough without feeling pressured into being self censored by the frivolity police! Happy Sunday! ????????x

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Most useful digital resource during lockdown...


I’ve loved watching YouTube videos. Apart from entertainment, there’s a YouTube how-to video for fixing or making practically anything!

Most inspirational digital resource during lockdown...


The Home Page, which is an incredibly stylish lifestyle website, has been a fabulously inspiring resource for all things interiors, style and food.

First thing/app you look at on your mobile when you wake up/in the morning...


Rather predictably it’s yet again Instagram!

Last thing you binge-watched...


The latest series of Westworld. My preference will always be for costume dramas, but as a family we enjoy all sorts of genres.

Favourite brands have you discovered online...


Skincare brand Antonia Burrell. Also milliner and designer Behida Dolic – it’s not only the most beautiful clothing brand, but she’s also an amazing and wise woman.


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Sun worshiping- when I ought to be weeding and watering! If you needed any further confirmation that my husband and I tend to the garden ourselves, look no further than the moptop at the top of our yew hedge! In a world where everyone is an expert, we’re self confessed happy amateurs and not afraid to admit it! The constant learning and self discovery that I now experience after so many years in the city is an absolute joy, and letting go of any aspirations of perfection makes life liberating, more relaxed and certainly far more fun. Thankfully due to my vintage loving nature, I like things to be perfectly imperfect and a little - err - rough around the edges - not unlike myself! ???? My friend Louisa @louisaatstarrecorner refers to it as ‘Elegantly knackered’ - which I think sums up my aesthetic perfectly! Happy Wednesday!! • • @luxeprovence dress (Ad/Gift) #countryliving #countrygarden #englishcountrygarden #englishcountrygardenstyle ????: @raphaellaphoto

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Social media allowed me to meet...


Too many wonderful people to list! I’ve made some lifelong friends because of it.

The best digital advice I've been given...


Step away from the Internet when it starts to feel overwhelming.

My screensaver...


A picture of my darling mother who we lost in February.

My standout online memory...


Gaining over 100,000 Instagram followers in one weekend at the beginning of lockdown. It showed me just how impactful the power of social media can be!

My pet online hate...


People making assumptions about other people’s lives based on a few edited images and captions. It’s good to remember that what we are shown is rarely the full story.

Do you have any online rules or resolutions...


I am gloriously and chaotically disorganised when it comes to online rules and resolutions. However, I do make a habit of ensuring that I only look at accounts and websites that make me feel positive. Life is too short for self-imposed misery. No-one forces us to look!

The Internet. On balance, a force for good or ill?


A force for good, as long as we take responsibility for our own actions, and don’t blame others for our own weaknesses!

By Nancy Alsop
August 2020

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