Over on Instagram I’ve shared a 30-second Reel video offering a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it tour of my home style and fashion sense (and choice of beverage: Hooch for the 90s win!) from the 1990s to the present day. In this blog post I’m going into a bit more detail about the influences and inspiration behind my style in each decade, with cringe-worthy pictorial evidence, of course!
This retrospective is part of my contribution to multi-award-winning housing association Catalyst’s ‘A Place of Your Own’ campaign, which is about charting people’s property history over the years, documenting how they have arrived at a place they now own.
FINDING THE PHOTOS
To step back in time, I first had to source images of the places I lived in each decade.
For the 90s, this meant unearthing a load of dusty photo packs and filtering through endless ‘gap year’ out-of-focus African sunsets and blurry pics of badly-lit Cambridge college rooms.
For the aptly-named Noughties I turned to Facebook, which is full of shots of me at my kid-free shiniest, out on the town living my best glossy magazine journalist life. There is very little pictorial evidence of the various rental accommodation I lived in across the city, from Battersea and Kennington to the Angel and Tufnell Park, or even of the two North London flats I bought with the boyfriend (who became the Pink House Husband in 2006).
It was way easier to source photos of the place I lived for seven years during the 2010s, when PHH and I moved to Edinburgh and bought our first family house. Having kids meant spending much more time at home taking photos, and then starting The Pink House blog in 2016 led to a plethora of professional pics of the various rooms.
And of course the 2020s have only just started. We finished the renovation of our London house (we moved back to the Big Smoke in 2017) in December 2019, and had it photographed once again by my favourite photographer (and great friend), Susie Lowe, in February.
Let the time warp begin…
1990s: Style-less Student
I was born in 1978, so the 1990s encapsulated my teenage years. I went to a comprehensive school in Edinburgh where there was no uniform, and where doing well in lessons, or at sport, or at pretty much anything that wasn’t wearing the right trainers or getting off with boys behind the bike sheds was deeply uncool. I was deeply uncool: I liked working hard in lessons, getting good grades and doing a LOT of gymnastics. I had hardly any pocket money to spend on clothes, and a series of dodgy haircuts – no boys behind any bike sheds for me! But I had a couple of similarly geeky friends who also eschewed the ‘trendies’ in their French Connection jeans and introduced me to the delights of alternative and pre-worn dressing. I embraced the hippy side of goth and erected a shrine to nothing in particular in my bedroom, which played host to the obligatory joss sticks and a number of necklaces – beads and CND signs featured heavily.
My bedroom also boasted a pink cat beanbag made by my mum (knowing I loved both pink and cats), and posters which ranged from my first crush (Phillip Schofield, natch) to pictures of my favourite gymnasts.
After a gap year building schools and bungee jumping in Zimbabwe, and erecting tents and seducing men in Germany, I arrived at Cambridge University, where I considered my 18-year-old self to be infinitely more worldly-wise than those clueless students who had come straight from school. I peppered my college accommodation with exotic artefacts and soft furnishings – plus the odd poster of heroin-chic Renton from Trainspotting thrown in for good measure – and considered myself quite the sophisticate!
I was much less bothered by style than I was by sport, though, so it’s no surprise I chose to decorate my second-year college room in blue and yellow, the colours of our rowing team. Our women’s first VIII was the most successful women’s boat in the college’s history, but my décor scheme was rather less successful, although it did feature a futon I’d bought especially, which proved rather useful when boys came for ‘sleepovers’.
2000s: Fashion-focused Flatshares
This decade was characterised by going out, wearing skimpy dresses and high heels and treating my apartments as a place to change clothes before heading out for the next party.
I lived in a variety of different flatshares across London and spent very little time thinking about how to decorate any of them, except perhaps the last one, a wall of which I adorned with a tasteful gold-and-cream floral wallpaper. Instead, I was working my way up various career ladders – starting in the advertising industry then moving through business journalism, a year or two as a reluctant PA (never ask me to be your PA) and a stint as a stunt woman before landing on my feet in the fabulous world of glossy magazine journalism.
This was a decade where fashion came before furniture, with the sole exception of the pink velvet armchair I bought in Primrose Hill when I fell in love with it in a treasure trove of a shop, and which has stayed with me ever since.
2010s: Discovering Colour (and kids)
Having my first child in 2010 knocked me sideways. My carefree lifestyle ended abruptly, to be replaced by sleepless nights consoling a screaming child and soul-destroying days walking said screaming child around Hampstead Heath. I could hardly remember my own name, let alone how to write articles about men, sex and relationships. So we sold our London flat and moved to a listed 5-bedroom Edinburgh Arts & Crafts house on the prettiest street I’d ever seen, to be near the grandparents AKA free childcare.
This house was my salvation; as I started decorating it, filling it with colour and pattern and things that spoke to me, I started to remember who I was again. And the more I decorated, the more I learned about my style, and how to create a happy family home. I took inspiration from the beautiful bars, hotels and restaurants I’d frequented in my child-free years, and used them to inform my own interior design choices. I wasn’t living the Noughties London lifestyle anymore, but thanks to my home, I hadn’t entirely left it all behind, either. Unsurprisingly, I allocated considerable budget to creating the gold shiny home bar of my dreams!
2020s: The Playful Pink House
We moved back to London in 2017 but didn’t finish the renovating of our ‘forever family home’ until December 2019, so it’s fitting that this house belongs in the 2020s category.
The major renovation of this semi-detached Edwardian house marks the full return of my mojo, now the kids are older and I’ve had time to regain a sense of self. It’s also testament to how much I learned during the doing-up of my house in Edinburgh, not only aesthetically (no need to completely reinvent the colour scheme in every room; instead I’ve tweaked my 3 favourites – pink, blue and green – depending on the room’s usage, and added a hefty dose of black and white through the central hallway and stairs), but also practically.
I’ve learned to prioritise renovation budget in those areas of the house that get the most heavily used – in our case, the hallway – and I’ve also learned that there’s no such thing as too much storage, especially when you have a clutter-averse husband and two sport-mad boys with enough football kit to dress the entire Tottenham team.
But perhaps the thing I love most about how I’ve renovated this house, is the fact that it pays homage to the 1990s me: uncool geek girl who loved climbing and swinging and having adventures. I’d always dreamed of having a house with a swing, full of pink and fun and things to climb on, and my dream has come true. Cheers to that!
This post is sponsored by Catalyst , a multi-award-winning housing association with a property portfolio of nearly 34,000 homes across London, the Home Counties and South East England. Catalyst are committed to building high quality, affordable homes, and they invest in their communities for the long-term, ensuring their developments are always well maintained. Which is why I’m proud to work with them on this project.