dahlias from the garden

bouquet of dahlias and greenery

I know of only two good reasons for maintaining my garden: for the view from my window of course, but maybe even more for the immediate pleasure of bringing blooms and colour indoors.

Autumn is slowly closing in around us here in Normandy.    The forest is ablaze with yellows and oranges, but in the   flower beds in my garden there are still some calmer colours this week.

flowers gathered to arrange

As I walked around the garden, secateurs in hand, I knew that I wanted to let the Café au Lait dahlias pop against a darker background.   I’ve often used these dahlias in bouquets, especially with oranges and yellows, so this was a good change.

flowers on table with hat on chair

I gathered black elderflower leaves; cerinthus; sage and blue catmint.   I even found some late flowering Jacob’s ladder, goodness knows what it’s still doing flowering at this late season.  A few darker dahlias for good measure and the deed was quickly done.

bouquet of dahlias and greenery

How about you, are you still enjoying the last flowers of the season, or maybe you are in the southern hemisphere and relishing the spring?  What kind of flowers are you bringing inside this week?


a country home – paula sutton and hill house in england

country house lit up at night

Today sees the start of a new series here, focussing on country homes of bloggers and instagramers around the world, and I  am introducing you to Paula Sutton, along with her beautiful country home, Hill House in the English countryside.

Paula has a gorgeous eye for interiors and creating a sense of home and I love following along on both her blog and Instagram. It’s not really a surprise as the mother of 3 comes out of the glamorous world of press and model management at Elite when Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington were at the top.

She moved from London to raise her children in the countryside and focus on family as well as her passion for interiors and antiques in a lovely country home. As you can see, her eye for beauty is everywhere.

I had the chance to ask her a few questions about her country home and style.

Tell us a little bit about the character of your home.
Hill House is a Georgian property built in 1822 for the ‘Maltings Master’ of a local brewery.  It is a typically Georgian country home – very symmetrical and very square, with large sash windows, high ceilings and well proportioned rooms.  It sits in the middle of around an acre of garden filled with mature trees such as copper beech, oak, pine, holly and apple. The majority of the garden is laid to lawn with box hedging adding elegant structure and a magnificent 14 foot high mature yew hedge with a ‘secret’ central walkway through it opening up into additional garden ‘rooms’.

How did you ‘meet’ your house?
My husband and I were living very hectic lives in the media industry in London, with three small children being raised in a very urban environment.  We had actually married in Norfolk not far from Hill House, as my parents- in-law had owned a Georgian farmhouse there, and we would always reminisce about how magical our country visits, especially around Christmas time, had been.  The area is very rural and not very built up, and provided a very old fashioned image of family living whilst still being in easy reach of London for my husbands work.  When we spotted Hill House with it’s dolls house like facade, we were instantly enamoured!
What started off as a typical “What If” Sunday afternoon dream, turned into reality very quickly, and I ended up leaving my career in fashion, moving out of London – where I was born and had lived all my life – and enrolling the children into a tiny village school within a matter of months!

lady and dog in front of house

Who do you share your home with?
I live at hill house with Duncan, my husband, my 15 year old son and 13 year old twin daughters.  Not forgetting our 3 year old Labrador / Doberman cross – Coco, and Moto Moto the escape artist hamster!

What is your favourite room or space?
My favourite room has to be our ‘Family Room’. It’s a large open plan living space at the back of the house, which has a more relaxed and contemporary feel than the more traditionally formal rooms at the front.  It is light filled and airy and features an informal second dining area, sitting room and garden room.  Divided off this light filled area by a large contemporary glass screen is my kitchen and pantry.  The glass serves to keep the kitchen light and to bring it into the rest of the area, so I can be fussing around the kitchen whilst still engaging in conversation with the children whilst they eat or watch television.

dining table with bay window

How would you describe your style in decorating?
I’m very lucky as I have the best of both worlds to experiment in – the more formal Georgian drawing room and dining rooms in the front, and the relaxed and comfortable family area in the back.  Both areas have the underlying themes of painted and antique furniture, vintage accessories and decorative antique items, and are an equal mixture of English country house style with a bit of French country thrown in.  For example I have three, painted antique Fench armoires around the house filled with beautiful plain white French and Scandinavian tureen or soupieres  and continental linens, but I also have a typically English kitchen dresser filled with cheerful and colourful pottery.  Similarly,  I am a cushion addict, and they range from those covered in grain sacks and faded ticking which work well with the French vintage look, to flowery chintz and check which is very Downtom Abbey / English country. I am all about the vintage style country mix, and my original Victorian Chesterfield sofas – which are very serious and English – work perfectly with my more frivolous and decorative painted tables.

red sofa in front of window with lamps

What does ‘country home’ mean to you?
To me a county home, is a place of peace, comfort and non pretension. It should be welcoming, warm, cosy and not too ‘precious’. Comfortably Overstuffed sofas, lots of cushions, piles of blankets, flowers everywhere, and the outside overlapping with inside.  I cannot take myself or my home too seriously when I spend most of my life wearing Wellington boots and my dog leaves hair all over the furniture – and surely every country home needs a dog or cat – or so Coco tells me!

Favourite season at home and how do you celebrate?
Well, I absolutely adore Autumn and the log fires and cosy evening that it brings, but I must admit that Christmas is my favourite time of the year.  A Georgian house and the Christmas season go hand in hand visually.  When I think of film adaptations of Jane Austen or Charles Dickens novels I always imagine them with a Georgian or in the case of Dickens, an early Victorian backdrop.  Period properties such as Hill House look charming in the snow, and with twinkling Christmas trees visible through the windows.  It’s all very traditional and geared towards entertaining family and friends.  The banisters and doors covered in holly and foliage from the garden, Mulled wine on tap, mince pies, mistletoe and Carol singing around the piano, and twinkly fairy lights everywhere – even on the topiary trees outside.

hallway with lights

Any special tips for creating the feeling of “Home”?
I fill my home home with things that I love and l don’t follow trends.  I spent a career in fashion thinking about trends and you always end up chasing your tail, jumping from one thing to another, and rarely feeling settled. If a trend makes you happy, then certainly, buy into it, but if not, don’t follow the style of others just for the sake of it.
As William Morris once said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” and I think that that is the key.  The important thing is that YOU believe it to be beautiful.  If you do, then it will also make you happy, and a happy house is a comfortable one and feels like Home.

table laid in front of house

Thank you Paula for sharing your home with us.

I f you want to see more pop over to Paula’s instagram page



eating pumpkin soup

pumpkin soup in pumpkin

Some of you may remember this recipe, I have shared it before, a few years back, and I’m always surprised at how many people tell me they make it again and again – it is so simple!

This year I have a glut of tiny pumpkins in the potager, and I’m having fun using them for presentation.    So what better way to serve pumpkin soup than in a pumpkin!

pumpkin soup in pumpkin

To create these little servers I simply scooped out and dried the inside of a small pumpkin .    If you don’t like the idea of your soup sitting directly inside the raw pumpkin, then it is quite easy to insert a small glass pot, that is then  hidden inside the fruit.

pumpkin soup in pumpkin with bread and cheese

This is my idea of a simple and delicious autumn lunch: home-made pumpkin soup; bread and cheese and a few walnuts.

walnuts with autumn leaves

To make this soup I use a deep roasting pan, and set the oven to fairly hot.   Cut a couple of small pumpkins, or a large slice of big pumpkin, into big cubes.   No need to remove the skin, this will soften during cooking.   Add a diced onion, a few tomatoes, a branch or two of celery and a couple of cloves of garlic.   Sprinkle with a little salt and ground pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake in the oven for an hour or so until the vegetables are all soft and beginning to caramelise.   Remove the vegetables and put one third into a blender.   Blend until smooth adding water, milk and some stock if you wish.    The thickness is up to you, and you’ll have time to add more liquid later if required.

Transfer the blended vegetables to a saucepan and repeat the blending with the remaining vegetables until you have a lovely saucepan of thick soup.   Heat gently and adjust the thickness and seasoning to taste.

Of course you can simply serve this soup in regular bowls or mugs, but you have to admit that these servers are way cuter!   Bon appetit.

pumpkin soup in pumpkin with bread and cheese