“The thing about my job, and I do think it’s a really important point to make, is that just because I may have developed a certain taste and I can illustrate that taste through my work and through Instagram it doesn’t mean I can personally afford all of those pieces in my own home...
I’d love to have a Rose Uniacke coffee table or whatever, but most of time that’s not a reality for me. I’m a fan of building a home over time. Adding layers and saving up for pieces. Not doing the whole thing in one go. To be honest I think that takes all the fun out of it.”
Wise, relatable words from interior and prop stylist, design consultant, art director and founder of interiors and fashion platform Minford, Twig Hutchinson, who puts a firm dose of reality onto the myth that having a keen eye for style equates to a bottomless budget.
The London-based mother of three not only has a knack for creating a seamlessly effortless yet utterly chic home aesthetic, but also an undeniably desirable sense of personal style, wearing the likes of Isabel Marant Etoile paired with Mango for a right-on-the-money high/low mix. When it comes to motherhood, much like her work styling and sourcing for shoots, organisation is key, and Twig is no stranger to the hustle and bustle that is juggling the demands of work with family.
“Do everything the night before. School uniform in piles with their underwear. Everything, everything sorted out the night before. Then it’s just down to luck as to whether they wake up in a good mood or not. Nothing like a pre-8am tantrum as you’re trying to get out of the door to start your day well. Teach them how to put shoes on. Forgot your violin? Well, we’re not going back.”
If Twig sounds right up your alley (let’s face it, we’re all obsessed already) then read on for more gems on interiors and style, raising three children in London and her impressive career journey so far…
What are some of your most vivid memories of your childhood?
I was born in West Yorkshire and lived there until I was six years old. I loved our life there – to me, it was the dream set up. One day you’d be sledging to school and the next my friend’s mum would pick us up with her horse and we would take it in turns riding home. My best friend lived six doors down the road from me and we did everything together.
I was really into the idea of working from a young age. I set up a car washing ‘business’ when I was eight and advertised it in the local shop. As I got older I always used to read the ‘situations vacant’ section in the local newspaper and took any jobs going. I’ve cleaned a lot of pub loos in my time! I’m very proud of my Yorkshire roots. All of my family are from there. I like to think that’s where I get my work ethic from.
What is the best advice you’ve been given about motherhood?
It’s that as soon as you think you’ve got one phase cracked it will inevitably all change and then you’ll have to learn it all over again, so try to relax and just do the best that you can at the time. I’ve been very lucky to have some close friends who were closer to my own mother’s age. They have been amazing at helping me to get perspective if I’ve ever been freaking out. I really believe you need a community to be a mother. For centuries women haven’t done it all on their own, you need to be able to share your experiences and ask people’s advice who’ve gotten to that stage before you.
What has been the most surprising part of motherhood for you?
This will sound like such a cliche but right now it really is how fast they grow up. You spend the years before they start school kind of in the war zone of baby and toddlerdom but as soon as they go to school they just start to grow up so quickly. Aurelie is 12 now and goes to school on the tube on her own. In six years time, she will be going to university! I’m trying to make the most of the time I have with them now. You just can’t imagine it when they are really tiny but suddenly it just hits you. I’m hoping if they really love home they will want to come back and visit us as much as possible. If they’re all still here when they’re 25, I’m sure I’ll feel differently though.
What has helped you to survive the difficult times? What does every mother need to get through some of the more trying stages of motherhood?
I had severe post natal depression after I gave birth to Benjamin and again but not as badly after I had Clementine. I’d had a very difficult delivery with Benjamin which had ended in a ventouse delivery and then a shoulder dystocia (basically where you’ve given birth to the head but the shoulders are stuck). They got him out safely but I hadn’t had an epidural and I realise looking back I felt pretty traumatised. I certainly don’t attribute all the depression to that but it certainly didn’t help. So, in terms of surviving those difficult times I’d say take the drugs and accept the help. I was very resistant to it all but when I finally gave in it was a big relief. If you’re struggling don’t be a martyr. Ask for help.
My best bit of advice is to try not to be a superhero. As soon as you start doing that invariably the wheels come off pretty quickly. About six weeks after having Clementine, we threw a big summer party to celebrate our wedding anniversary for our friends and all their children. I did the full on styling number with the vintage tea cups and ombre balloons garland and made an enormous cake covered in real roses. I was trying to go for the stylist’s dream party. Well, I did all that and it looked suitably beautiful and everyone loved it but lo and behold two days later I got severe mastitis, full on fever, vomiting, the works. Lesson learned the hard way.
What are your top time management tips?
Get up early and make lots of lists. Try not to put things off. I mean I wish I took my own advice but I do try. I’ve been really working on getting up before the kids. The house is so quiet and I find I get a lot done. I certainly don’t do that everyday but I’m attempting to make it a habit. The aim is to one day be one of those women that gets up at 5.30am, works out and does an hour’s work before the kids wake up: i.e a glowing, healthy, efficient, smug person.
Where did your love of interiors begin?
My earliest memory of being into interiors was creating a room scheme at primary school. I must have been about nine. I’ve always been incredibly visual and I loved art, fashion and interiors as a child. I used to cut up my parents’ House and Garden magazines and make mood boards with imaginary room schemes.
How would you describe what you do for a living?
That used to be relatively straightforward question to answer because I just worked as a freelance interior stylist, but now it’s a bit more complicated.
I worked solely styling images for interior photoshoots for about seven years and then I basically got a bit bored and wanted a new challenge, so I joined an agency with more fashion photographers and started to also work as a prop stylist on fashion shoots. I loved being around all the clothes and the energy of being with a bigger crew. I also got to travel which you don’t get to do quite so much with interiors. About two years ago, I set up an online journal called Minford which kind of amalgamated all my passions together into one – interiors, fashion and kids.
Nowadays I try to cherry pick my styling jobs and then stick to more art direction and creative consulting for brands who need help with all the aspects of their visual output and brand strategy. I’m also thrilled to have recently taken on the role of Design Editor for The Glass magazine. The juggle is a little bit intense at times but it’s certainly not boring.
Tell us about what inspired your site Minford Journal?
I’d been reading a lot of fashion blogs and really enjoying their funny and informal tone which I felt was missing from most of the interior online offerings. It felt all a bit up tight and stuffy and I wanted to be able to talk about the interiors that I loved in a more laidback way. I wanted there to be a place where I could talk to people about the high rollers and the thrifty finds all in one place.
I guess it was also a way of scratching the magazine editor itch. The wonderful thing about Minford for me is that no one is giving me a brief. I can say what I like when I like and it doesn’t need to be signed off by anyone.
Where do you source your props from?
All over the place! If you’re working on a shoot then you start at all the prop houses where you can hire the most wonderful variety of stuff. After a while though you get to a point where you’ve sort of seen it all before so you have to look further afield for the more unusual pieces. Sometimes I will hire from a shop in London or if there’s the budget I physically buy pieces from one of the antique markets like Kempton or Ardingly. If you’re really stuck or being given a particularly unusual prop request then Etsy can be quite helpful. It’s great for those times when a client is shooting in February and they want a tree filled with oranges in the sunshine.
How would you describe your interior style?
I find that such a tricky question to answer but I’ll give it a go. I guess restrained and pared back. I love to mix old and new elements – I think that’s what makes an interior really come alive. It’s all about the interesting combinations for me – like the sharp lines of the Gubi light over the old oak table in our kitchen. I really like to use muted colour palettes and play with layers of organic textures. I’m a big fan of the Wabi Sabi concept of decorating and I find it impossible to resist a good antique market. If I’m driving in France and see a sign for a Brocante or even better a ‘vide grenier’, which literally translated means an attic clearance, then it’s an immediate handbrake turn and lots of groaning from the children.
3 interior things you’re lusting after right now?
3 beauty products you couldn’t live without…
Makeup artist Kim Brown is my go-to expert on this subject and she suggested I try the Bobbi Brown foundation stick which I am now obsessed with. I would never have thought to buy a foundation stick but you apply it in really thin layers with a foundation brush and build it up as much or as little as you like. I wouldn’t be without it now.
My other favourite is Vita Liberata body blur. It doesn’t streak or stain your clothes and blurs tiny imperfections on your legs and arms and gives this amazing subtle light reflecting tanned finish.
I’m also a recent convert to Votary face oils. I’d heard so much about their products from a couple of skincare obsessed friends and as I tend to have quite dry skin I really was curious to try them. Frankly I don’t know what took me so long. I’m using the Rose Geranium & Apricot cleanser and Intense night and eye oil. My skin is already looking so much plumper and the smell is off the scale.
3 fashion items on your wish list right now?
By Far Tanya sandals in black suede
Isabel Marant Etoile Charly checked single breasted blazer
This dress from Vampire’s Wife – currently sold out but I’m desperately hoping they will restock it soon
Favourite places to go in London with your kids?
The Royal Academy.
Ice skating at Somerset house at Christmas.
What’s your favourite interiors store in the world?
Studio Oliver Gustav in Copenhagen.
What’s a typical look for you and can you share some of your favourite fashion brands with us?
During the day time I tend to stick to classic pieces and colours. My usual look is a pair of really well-cut jeans with a menswear jumper and a mid shoe that I can run around town and be on set in, maybe with a chunky hoop earring. For evening I’m much more experimental so it could be anything that catches my eye really.
My favourite brands are Isabel Marant (top in the sitting from from Etoile), Rejina Pyo (dress in the bedroom shots) and By Far and Michel Vivien for shoes. On the high street I love Mango, Other Stories and Arket with the occasional bit of Topshop thrown into the mix. I also love vintage shopping. There are a couple of little stores in the Marais in Paris that I’ve had some major successes in.
Is your wardrobe organised?
Kind of, more of a work in progress, it could be a lot better. I certainly don’t have a walk-in-wardrobe-floor-to-ceiling-shoe- situation going on.
Tips for getting out the door as stress free as possible in the morning with kids?
Do everything the night before. School uniform in piles with their underwear. Everything, everything sorted out the night before. Then it’s just down to luck as to whether they wake up in a good mood or not. Nothing like a pre 8am tantrum as you’re trying to get out of the door to start your day well. Teach them how to put shoes on. Forgot your violin? Well, we’re not going back.
When approaching interiors, what are your favourite colours to work with?
I love muted colours. Currently I’m enjoying bone, cream and grey colours and the adding in a soft pink, rust and a bit of black.
How would you describe your home?
Depends what day it is or if our cleaning lady has been! I’d say it’s a work in progress if I’m honest. There are bits of it that I love like the bathroom and then there are parts I’d like to refine and change. The thing about my job and I do think it’s a really important point to make is that just because I may have developed a certain taste and I can illustrate that taste through my work and through Instagram it doesn’t mean I can personally afford all of those pieces in my own home. I’d love to have a Rose Uniacke coffee table or whatever, but most of time that’s not a reality for me. I’m a fan of building a home over time. Adding layers and saving up for pieces. Not doing the whole thing in one go. To be honest I think that takes all the fun out of it.
What have been some of the biggest highlights in your career?
Styling the first Toast House & Home catalogues was quite a big deal for me. Aurelie was six months old and for some reason in my head I’d thought that having a child meant that my career would be over. I got a call from my friend Sarah Maingot who photographed all their fashion catalogues explaining they were launching homeware and asking if I would like to style it. That was a pretty great day.
More recently I have been working on styling a series of adverts for Plain English & British Standard. I’ve been an admirer of the brand and their aesthetic for so long so that’s definitely been a career high.
The biggest though, without a doubt, was being interviewed by Jane Garvey on Radio 4 for Woman’s Hour. I’m from a generation of women for whom Woman’s hour is vital and important so to be able to be part of that show and talk about my job and family life as a working mother was very rewarding. I took a lot of selfies grinning madly at myself in the loo before I went in. I tried to convince myself that I had managed to pull off some sort of a veneer of relaxed cool but on the inside I was definitely squealing.
How did becoming a mother change your career/the way you work?
You just have so much less time. With each child I have become more organised. The main thing is that you have to work really hard at telling yourself you’re doing a great job. There are times when you feel pulled in every direction and it’s so easy to fall into the trap of feeling that you’re crap at your job and being a crap mum.
Opening your laptop to start a boardroom pre-production meeting with Teletubbies blaring out or having to turn over the sleeve of your top because there’s poo from a nappy you just changed and there’s no time to go home is never going to be a high but sometimes you just have to style it out and keep smiling. (Both true stories by the way!)
How as an interior stylist how do you manage the home with children? How do you keep it organised? How do you approach storage?
The more children I have had the more I have realised the importance of organisation and getting some systems in place. There are so many things to remember and do in a day so you have to know where something is and be able to find it quickly. I’m trying to get the children to tidy up a bit themselves and always take their plates to the dishwasher for example. The main thing is to get it all behind closed doors and then I like to describe it as my Russian doll method. Storage within storage. I’m currently obsessed with labelling everything with my label maker. It’s seriously addictive but once you get to the point that you want to start labelling Sylvanian food types you know it’s probably time to rein it in.
What are some of the biggest mistakes people make with their interiors?
Assuming that just because a piece of furniture has always been there that it needs to stay where it is. It can make all the difference to a space by moving the bed against a different wall or changing where the sofa sits in a room.
The other mistake is holding on to hand-me-downs or heirlooms that you don’t really like. My advice is just to sell them and buy something that you truly love or have always wanted. Finally, buying rugs that are too small is a classic mistake I find people make, particularly in sitting rooms.
And what are some simple tips to transform a home?
Try to use similar tones or a considered palette of paint throughout your home.
Also stick to only a few different types of flooring. It gets a bit disjointed and bitty if there’s a different coloured carpet in every room. My other top tip is to get all your lighting on dimmer switches. I really can’t stand over bright lighting. Dimmer switches allow you to control the mood of a room and if you need it to be super bright, say in the winter, or if you’re cleaning then wack them up to full. Otherwise keep lighting soft and from multiple sources not just from an overhead pendant.
Finally you can’t beat a good declutter. At the risk of banging the Marie Kondo drum she kind of has a point.
What is your approach to health and wellbeing? Do you eat well/exercise?
I love reformer pilates and if I’m doing well and I have the time I go twice a week. I also love to run. I go in an evening and find it a real stress buster. That makes it sound like I exercise a lot! I’d love to be that person but I’m not.I had a break from running but I’m just starting to get into it again with the long summer evenings. It’s much harder to motivate yourself in the winter. But when I do go I never regret it and always feel so much better.
Eating well over the years has been a bit of battle, it doesn’t come naturally to me. Historically I would either be eating rubbish and then going on a fad diet and then start the whole thing again. I was slim so could get away with eating crap for a while but now I realise it’s about how food makes you feel. My diet is a lot healthier. I’ve given up caffeine and I’m hardly drinking alcohol which also makes a big difference to how you feel.
How do you unwind?
On Wednesday evenings I go to a pottery class with 3 of my best friends. The great thing about pottery is that it’s all consuming and your hands are filthy so there’s no way you can pick up your phone. It’s very therapeutic and relaxing. We have dinner together afterwards and invariably end up screaming with laughter about something or other.
Relaxing with family and friends is a big thing for me. The older I get the more I realise that I just want to spend time with the people that I love and that make me laugh. Life can be tough and sometimes really rubbish things happen so you have to enjoy all the good bits as much as you can.
Finish this sentence...
A home is… a place to rest, to love and to laugh and to feel safe.