I know I’m a little late with a New Year post, but school holidays happened (and, if I’m honest, so did a fair amount of lying on the sofa, necking selection box choccies and watching films with the boys). Then last weekend Mr Houses and I had a very lovely couple of nights away just the two of us (thanks Mum!) to the glorious Grantown-on-Spey where we enjoyed a final festive blow out in the heart of whisky country.
But the break has given me a chance for the first time since launching Around the Houses last May to draw breath and, over a SIRT-food rich green juice (yes it’s definitely still January), reflect on the journey so far.
The blog was in the planning ages before May but it took me a long time (far, far too long) to get up and running. There were so many decisions to make: a name for the blog, a logo, a web platform, a template… the list goes on and on.
There were loads of technical skills to learn before I could get going too. Whilst I was enjoying the process of getting to grips with my widgets and proficient with my plug-ins, it felt that I was putting in a lot of effort with very little to show for it. Looking back I’m amazed (and proud of myself) that I ever got Around the Houses off the ground at all. (If only the mighty Sarah Akwisombe’s No Bull Blog School had been around then…)
Once I got going, I found the website created a momentum of its own. I haven’t struggled to find topics to write about and I’ve loved the process of planning, researching and drafting posts.
Prior to launching the blog I was designing and decorating my home almost in a vacuum. I bought the odd interiors magazine and dabbled on Pinterest, but otherwise I was on my own. While I was passionate about interiors and aspired to create a uniquely beautiful home, I described myself as an indecisive designer, and really didn’t have a strong sense of my own style at all. No wonder I found it so difficult!
I was aware of Instagram and knew that I would need to have a profile on there to promote the blog. But it was just another task on my blog “to do” list. I simply had no idea what a creative, inspiring and supportive community of fellow interiors enthusiasts awaited me there. I put off getting started on Instagram until I launched the blog. In hindsight it would have made launching the blog so much simpler if I’d started on Instagram first.
Having posted my first pic in May 2016 to an audience of zero, I now have over 5000 followers. The support and motivation I’ve found from that community cannot be overstated. And I’ve forged some firm insta friendships too. Like-minded people who, in amongst a healthy sharing of life’s general ups and downs, seem never to bore of interiors musings.
Through Instagram I’ve started to gain a much more developed sense of my interiors style. Photographing my own home and seeing it captured in a gallery of squares has required me to cast a critical eye over my style choices and offers a sense of objectivity. I’ve found it easier to assess what I like – and don’t like – about my home decor and styling.
And then there’s the inspo. So many beautiful, creative and inspiring interiors, captured in the context of real homes. Sure some houses are amazing; cavernous or packed with stunning features. But in fact some of my favourite insta homes are, in terms of their bones, fairly ordinary. In terms of their style however they are anything but. Rarely a day on insta passes without seeing something that inspires me.
And while I appreciate and enjoy good design of all different genres, there are a smaller number of accounts I’m truly drawn to: the ones I seek out if IG’s mysterious algorithms don’t present them to me in my feed. These are the accounts that capture my interiors preferences and aspirations. This is the community that is inspiring me to define a style of my own. And I couldn’t be enjoying it more.
Time for a New Tagline?
So having starting Around the Houses from a perspective of being an indecisive designer, that tag line feels less apt as time passes. One of the reasons I started the blog was to connect with and hopefully to inspire people who might feel a bit like I did – passionate about interiors but lacking in style confidence. From that perspective I feel I have an increasing amount to offer; though of course, so, so much still to learn – and that’s the fun part.
What’s Happened Since May?
When you start a blog, you have simply no idea if anyone will ever read it, let alone enjoy it. You are taking an enormous leap of faith and a big risk with the time and energy you invest. No one has been more surprised and delighted at what Around the Houses has achieved since May than me.
Managing to post every week since I launched, with breaks only in the school holidays is an achievement in its own right. But I’ve actually found you, lovely readers, too. I’ve increased my readership month on month, sometimes doubling it. Of course from a start point of zero I have a way to go before Arianna Huffington has anything to worry about. But I have definitely exceeded my own expectations.
I’ve been approached by journalists and websites interested in featuring my home. I’ve been contacted by brands looking to work with me. I’ve been mentioned in i-on (Scotland’s largest lifestyle magazine) as an Instagram account to follow. And also on Instagram, with two of my biggest insta-heroes Lisa Dawson and Dee Campling, I launched #myhomevibe, the first and biggest UK interiors tag. Not too bad for a newbie.
Starting Around the Houses has been one of the best things I’ve ever done and everything about the experience has inspired and motivated me to carry on.
Could I have done more? Of course. But writing this blog is a part time endeavour for me, fitted in alongside my job which for four days a week takes my full time and energy. I have also tried not to let the blog eat too much into time with my family and friends. Or tried to combine the two, like when I got some pals round for an evening of macrame. (Oh yes, I lived it large in 2016.)
All things considered I think I’ve done okay and am resisting the temptation to be self critical. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. But most of all I’m excited about what’s ahead.
Goals for 2017
Of course my main goal for the year is to produce content that’s interesting, engaging and hopefully inspiring. Among my most read posts so far have been my DIY projects, like the Hanging Branch Light, the Leather Suspended Shelves and the Ombre Feather Light Shades. I have lots more of those to share, currently in various stages of progress. I am planning some brand collaborations too though only to the extent that I think they’ll make for interesting content.
On the house front, we’re pushing on with the hall project. I’m DIY-ing a chandelier for that, so if that goes according to plan (big if) I’ll be able to share the hall reveal finally.
In our bedroom, I have a plan to turn my very unremarkable IKEA wardrobes into a feature of the room with another project that caused Mr Houses to eye me askance. I’m planning the redecoration of my bathroom and shower room. Once that’s done we will have painted pretty much every surface of the house (personally, and in the case of the family room, twice! ). The house will never be ‘done’ but this might create a window to turn our attention to our sadly neglected garden.
So it’s likely that 2017 will be a busy year for me. I look forward to sharing it with you.
Have you got any home-related projects for 2017 planned? Are you thinking about starting a blog of your own? Let me know – I’d love to help if I can.