Paula Sutton

AGE: 51

LOCATION: Norfolk, England

IG HANDLE: @hillhousevintage

A quick scroll through our latest Muses' instagram account and you will quickly escape to another world. A beautiful sanctuary across the pond in the countryside of England. I can't remember exactly how I found Paula Sutton's page, but I know that when I made it there, I was hooked! Some years ago, Paula traded her life in London, and a high-powered job in fashion producing shoots for Elle Magazine, for the 'simple life' in Norfolk, England. We recently connected with Paula to discuss all things self-care, baking, and style.

S:

What was your inspiration for starting your @hillhousevintage Instagram page?

PS:

It started off as a visual diary of my new life in the English countryside after years of living and working in London. At first, it was mainly about my home and garden, but it slowly evolved into fashion and lifestyle and sharing my thoughts and ideas.

S:

What is your favorite part of your home?

PS:

I absolutely love the architecture of the house. It’s a classic Georgian design built in 1822, and is almost like a doll house in appearance. Each room has a fireplace, original Georgian shutters and high ceilings. It’s an incredibly flattering and elegant backdrop for my interior tastes and style.

S:

Either in your home, or elsewhere, where is your Sanctuaire (sanctuary) for peace and well-being?

PS:

My morning walk with my dog, Coco, is my time for reflection and peace. We walk through woods and fields and alongside a river - come rain or shine. It’s the perfect environment to clear my head and is an almost daily meditative experience. At home, we have a formal sitting room that has a record player, numerous books and an antique chess board. It overlooks the front garden and is a quiet and peaceful room. I always feel calm and content when sitting in there.

S:

We have recently discovered your new instagram page @cakeandcountryhouses where you share your own baking delights as well as those of others. What is your favorite thing to bake?

PS:

A classic, three tiered Victoria sponge cake filled with fresh cream, jam and real berries. That’s my specialty!

S:

How does baking make you feel?

PS:

Baking is an incredibly relaxing experience for me. I like to whisk and mix methodically by hand. There’s something soothing about stirring up a cake batter - once again it’s quite a meditative experience.

S:

What are a couple of your favorite things growing in your garden right now?

PS:

Always my roses - I love growing roses. I also love to fill the garden with great swathes of lavender. Fantastic for bees, but also the scent throughout the garden is heavenly.

S:

Would you consider gardening and outdoor dining a part of your self-care routine?

PS:

Absolutely. Everything from designing, styling and then setting the table to the actual enjoyment of the food itself is part of my self-care. Tablescapes and entertaining make me deliriously happy - as does gardening, and seeing things that I’ve planted grow - and anything that makes me that happy is definitely part of my self-care!

S:

Outside of anything mentioned above, what are some of your favorite activities for self-care?

PS:

I practice yoga, and I love listening to classical music before bedtime. I’m not great at sitting still, so both of those things center me and enable me to slow down.

S:

We can see from your Instagram that you are definitely a lady with fabulous style. How does dressing up make you feel?

PS:

Dressing up has been an essential part of my route to confidence and happiness as I’ve grown older. I’ve always loved fashion, but when I first moved to the countryside, I went through a few years where I dressed down in jeans, wellington boots, my husband’s old jumpers, and went make-up free every day. Those were my ‘invisible’ years. Having left a vibrant and hectic career in the fashion industry, it was a period of my life when I was working out what I wanted to do next, who I wanted to be, and what I wanted to achieve. I had left London feeling burnt out and tired. Those few years were a low point, but I came out of them with a renewed vigor for life and fun… and dressing up.

S:

How has your style changed from your days living in the city of London to now living and working from your country home in Norfolk, England?

PS:

The main thing that’s changed is that I rarely wear heels here. I’ve always been inspired by the style of the 1950’s - nipped in waists, flared skirts, fitted jackets, three quarter length pants, etc… The difference is that I’m more likely to wear those things with a pair of brogues now - rather than a four inch heel!
‘‘
I do however, think that I’m more confident now than I was in my thirties. There’s something rather liberating about reaching fifty and embracing one’s age and eccentricities.
’’

S:

Have you always had a positive self-image?

PS:

Absolutely - apart from the small blip when I first moved to Norfolk. I do however, think that I’m more confident now than I was in my thirties. There’s something rather liberating about reaching fifty and embracing one’s age and eccentricities. I dress for fun and for myself. I’m not too bothered about trends or overt ‘sexiness!’

S:

Do you feel that there are any aspects of your self-image that have changed with age?

PS:

Certainly a lack of self-consciousness. I used to hate my smile. In fact, I would actively avoid smiling on camera. Now you can’t stop me from grinning away!

S:

If you could go back in time, is there anything that you would tell your younger self about self-image?

PS:

Enjoy the body and image you have - whatever age you are, because you’ll never get that body back!

S:

What is a big risk that you have taken in life? Was it worth it?

PS:

Leaving London and moving to a rural part of the country - and YES!

S:

What advice would you give to a woman that is hesitant about taking a risk to pursue a life-long dream?

PS:

Trust your instincts and just do it. If finances are a problem, then test the waters slowly before embarking on the final leap, but don’t ignore your dreams.

S:

The best wellness / self-care advice I received from an elder was __________

PS:

My Mother always told me to smile myself happy, and she was right. Sometimes the smile is soon followed by a shift in mood. She also told me to slather my body in body lotion daily - now at fifty I still have soft, smooth skin and I thank her for that!!

S:

The best wisdom that I received from an elder about navigating the world as a black woman was_____________

PS:

My parents were both optimists. They told me that I could be fabulous at anything that I put my mind to, and that I should never compare myself to anyone. I lived my life not seeing barriers, and therefore I leaped over any that might have been there.

S:

How does it feel to be considered an inspiration for many women of color?

PS:

I’m incredibly humbled and honored. I’ve simply lived my life in the best way that I could and with confidence. I was brought up to believe that I was worth the life that I have. If that can inspire any other women of color to do and feel the same, then that’s amazing. We are ALL worthy of living our best life.

S:

How do you practice gratitude?

PS:

I say words of thanks before I go to bed, and again when I wake. It’s not that I’m thankful for material things, but I am thankful for being blessed with a positive mindset and a joyful attitude. Positivity is one of the most powerful attributes you can possess.

S:

Have you recognized any silver linings during this time of quarantine?

PS:

I have spent an immense amount of quality time with my teenage children during quarantine, and as they’re all at an age when they would usually be off doing their own thing, I am incredibly grateful for this slowed down pace of time.

S:

Is there any aspect of life that you hope does not return when we are back to ‘normal’ after quarantine?

PS:

Life was such a frenzied rush for so many people before quarantine. I hope that people remember to slow down in the future.

S:

What are you most grateful for?

PS:

My family. 100%

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