Emma Paton, founder of Finlay Fox blog, on making the move from London to Suffolk
We interview Emma Paton of Finlay Fox, a fashion and lifestyle blog aimed at style and design conscious parents. Emma is also mama to Finn (6) and Violet (4). Together with her music composer husband, Liam, she has recently made the move out of London. The family sold their house in Stoke Newington and bought a pretty chocolate box-style property in Suffolk last August. Here Emma shares the progress they have made on their new countryside digs so far.
How did you come to buy the house and what drew you to it?
We only saw one house and put an offer in! We loved the scale of it (so much space!) and the location – in a pretty village with two good pubs, a well stocked village shop next door and just a few minutes walk to the local primary school (where Finn would have nine kids in his year!). It seemed to be the right house to bring the kids up in – one where we were still part of a community and you didn’t have to get in your car to go and buy milk. They have lots of events in the village square including an annual music festival and brocante and it definitely feels like there is a bit more going on than some of the other villages and locations we looked at, not too sleepy! Also the house itself is stunning with large room proportions and a big (but not too big) garden with a barn at the back of it. We could just picture ourselves spending a big chunk of our lives here. Sometimes from the front it looks like a dolls house – I have to pinch myself that we live somewhere so unique and beautiful!
What made you want to make the move out of London?
We always knew we would leave one day as neither of us grew up in London and we weren’t that keen on the secondary schools in our area, plus the pollution in London is so bad. It was just finding the right time and place. My son was in year 1 and my daughter in nursery so it felt like if we were going to do it then now would work before friendships were too established and emotions would get more challenging! Trying to tie a completion date to the start of the school year in September was particularly challenging, the buying and selling process is so stressful! We had done all the work we had wanted to on our London house and we had it valued at a really good price, we wanted to sell and move before Brexit really hit. We spent many weekends and half terms exploring areas in Suffolk and Norfolk, trying to suss out where we could live – it was a long process over a few years to make sure we picked the right spot to settle.
What has the adjustment from city to country life been like?
Really challenging! Up rooting your life anywhere is tough but going from city to country was such a big change and there were lots of tears from me, especially leaving family, friends and the community I had built up from having kids behind. The kids have been amazing and settled super quickly. Having kids really is the best way to meet new people and everyone has been so kind, helpful and welcoming. When we moved in we had no hot water, a bees nest, mice and the reality of living on quite a busy road to deal with! It was a bit of a shock, especially as our road in Stoke Newington had been so quiet – it felt funny moving to the county and be living on a noisier road! But the rest of the house makes up for it and we need to get secondary glazing to help with the draft and noise. We had moved from such a finished house in London to one that needed so much care and work that it was overwhelming to say the least. The to do lists are pretty long but we have tried to break all the work done into a few phases. We also had to get used to driving to get everywhere which has been one of the biggest changes. We now have a big garden to tend to as well, I’m definitely going to have to find my green fingers! I am really excited for spring and summer in Suffolk – we have beaches a half an hour drive away and it really is so beautiful everywhere.
What was the house like when you bought it and are you planning any renovation work?
Structurally the house is fine but it had been left a little neglected so needs some serious love and attention put back into it which we had budgeted for. It’s a grade 2 listed house, Georgian at the front and 14th century at the back – a combination of well proportioned front rooms and smaller beamed rooms at the back. We are working with a very experienced architect who has a portfolio of projects combining old and new (plus that all important experience with the local planning office and English Heritage) to design a new kitchen extension that will link the most lived in room (the kitchen) with the garden. At the moment it is in the middle of the house where it is a little dark and not the most practical so we are hoping to move it out into the garden and make it more light-filled. We have done some plumbing and electric works and the whole house needs decorating and furnishing properly. Our old furniture definitely feels a little small and out of place here. We plan on sourcing plenty of vintage furniture and making sure we put our own stamp on the property whilst maintain the character. Sadly Scandi style won’t really work here so we are learning to embrace a bit of country house style! We have nearly completed the kids’ floor in the loft, they have such a great area all to themselves.
What is your decorating vision and where have you looked to for inspiration?
Our vision is to move away from the old yellow walls all over the house! We want to bring our own touch to it which is less traditional. We love softer colour palettes – greens, blues and greys – and have been doing a lot of research and paint testing with Farrow & Ball colours. We feel a Georgian house with all the beams will take these colours well. We have been reading Elle Decoration, House & Garden, making Pinterest boards and reading books such as Faded Glamour and Rocket St George to get inspiration. Eventually we will need to get curtains and blinds and I am definitely embracing more print in this house than our old home!
What have you done to Finn and Violet’s rooms so far?
As their rooms are at the top of the house in the loft we tried to embrace that it is a floor to have fun on and feel playful. It has low ceilings, slanted walls and lots of beams – it feels quite cosy up there now. We added wallpaper in the bedrooms and bathroom and a long play zone in the corridor that connects them. We have
replaced the old velux windows and re-decorated their rooms, we still need to put carpet down in the corridor and bathroom tiles on the bathroom floor. The wallpaper was a challenge as the walls are so uneven and wonky up there. We went with a Swedish vintage-style wallpaper from Bobbyrabbit Kids for Violet and a wildcats wallpaper from Wild Hearts Wonder (which I had my eye on for ages) for Finn! I want to make sure the rooms last well so am going to source some vintage G Plan-style furniture for Finn’s bedroom which will work into his teens and beyond. Sadly all the picture gallery walls we had in our old house weren’t going to work in this loft space so we have used print to break the rooms up instead.
And finally, which room is your favourite?
Oh I do love the grand entrance hall! We haven’t done anything to it yet but it is perfect at the moment for a party, such a blank canvas with a beautiful sweeping staircase, watch this space it’s going to look amazing!
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