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Stepping Through The Grey Door

Updated: Sep 25, 2021

It has been only 8 months since Aimee posted her first photo to her brand new Instagram account @throughthegreydoor; an image of her contemporary grey front door, with some peripheral peeks of symmetrical bay trees and modern timber clad panels.

Since this day, the account has amassed a following of over 25K dedicated supporters. British Home Design sat down with Aimee at her Norfolk New-Build home to chat about her success and interior design style. We also discussed her top tips for styling and photographing the home, her favourite places to shop homeware, and the reality of life behind the account.

Aimee Through The Grey Door
The face behind @throughthegreydoor

Firstly Aimee, congratulations on creating such a hugely successful Instagram account! Why do you think your following grew so fast?

Aimee: I am still so shocked how quickly my Instagram has grown!

I was so worried about starting my account and thought no-one would be interested in seeing photos of my home, but everyone is so kind and supportive. I think it helps to engage with other accounts, share and support them. The best thing about having a home account is the home account community.

We couldn't agree more; the home design community is a fantastic, positive and supportive bunch of people - and diverse too - ranging from DIYers through to professional design experts. Have you any top tips for budding home influencers?

Aimee: I find that trying to create content that others can create seems to work well. In photos I will try and capture an area of a room that others could then use for inspiration and create in their own homes. For example, my shelving unit in the living room is a popular photo on my grid and quite a few followers have said that they have bought the same unit and tried to create something similar in their homes.

I also think that using products in my images that are reasonably priced and on the high street and tagged in the photos helps followers know where to find items if they wish to create something similar.

I think posting regularly, tagging brands in photos and using hashtags helps as this will help your ‘reach’ and get people sharing your images. Instagram is also now pushing videos and reels rather than photos, so I create reels of different rooms and styling videos.

You have a solid approach to continuing to produce fresh and current content and it clearly works! Speaking of work, what is your day job and how does this compare to running your Instagram account in terms of time, passion and reward?

Aimee: My day job couldn’t be more different. I work for the Youth Offending Team where I support young people to try and avoid further offending and entering the Criminal Justice System. It can be a challenging job at times, but I love it, it’s so rewarding, and I get to work with amazing young people.

I am also doing an Interior Design Course with the Interior Design Institute. I am keen to learn more about décor and design and more around the history and theory behind it.

That's incredible! It's great that you have such a fulfilling day job which allows you to then step back into the world of interiors in your down time. Does your perspective as a student of interior design change the way you shop for your own home? What are your top tips for décor and home shopping?

Aimee: If you’re shopping for a room in particular take photos of the area before you go and this will help visualise it in the space. Remember that just because you like the item, it doesn’t mean it’s right for the space. If you’ve gone for a style try and purchase items that will complement the space. I often get drawn to décor when shopping, but rather than just buying everything I like, I think about how it would work in my home.

When re-styling a room I can get carried away when shopping. I am a visual person so love making mood boards with products I like, to see how they work together before purchasing them. They don’t have to be time consuming, there are loads of apps where you can simply add photos of products you like together in one image to see how they would look together in the room.

Shop around - it doesn’t all have to be expensive! Keep your eye out for ‘dupes’ of designer brands. I had been eyeing up the Ferm Living plant boxes for a while but couldn’t justify the cost, Aldi then brought out a dupe for a fraction of the price, so of course, I treated myself to two.

This is so true; I think we all can relate to getting a tiny bit carried away with home shopping, and mood boards are a great way to rein-in a focus, beforehand. Where are your favourite places to shop for décor online and in-store?

Aimee: Nordic nest is my favourite online décor store. They stock my favourite Cooee vases, which you will find it most rooms throughout the house. I have also been loving Etsy, using smaller independent brands. Zara home and H&M Home are always a favourite though.

I also really rate Sainsburys Home. They offer reasonable home décor and a great selection of candles. They also have Habitat in some stores which is another great décor brand. The White Company is a firm favourite though. We have their spa range for the bathroom, their mint candles in the kitchen and décor pieces. All of our bedding is also from The White Company, as I have got older, I definitely appreciate quality bedding and their plain white bedding is the one.

We also really rate high street shops for their afforable décor. What about furniture shopping? Where are your favourite places to shop for furniture physically in-store?

Aimee: My favourite day out is at IKEA. I love wandering around and looking at all of their inspiration rooms and could spend hours in there. Most of our furniture comes from IKEA, including our wardrobes, beds, side tables, tv unit, chest of drawers and shelving units. My next go-to home shop is H&M Home; I have been waiting for one to come to Norwich for years and this September by dreams came true! I also like to wander round department stores like John Lewis who offer a great range of quality furniture, but some can be more on the pricey side.

We're also super excited for H&M home to come to Norwich! We all love a good day out shopping at IKEA but it's such a shame us Norfolk-folk have to travel further afield! Thank goodness for the Internet; where are your favourite places to shop for furniture online?

Aimee: The main online furniture shop I use is again Ikea or following that JYSK. I am aware there are some shops in the UK, but none are local to me. Our coffee table, bench and side table have all come from JYSK, all which were really reasonably priced. I also love the furniture on LaRedoute and our console table and free-standing mirror were from here. I also really like who always have on trend quality pieces I swoon over. I also browse Maisons du Monde, Wayfair and Zara Home (only because there’s not one near me).

Is it expensive styling your home? Do you have any budgeting tips or style hacks?

Aimee: I could go home shopping every day given the chance, so do have to reign myself in. It can be hard with the pressures of social media for your home to always be better and want more but I try and appreciate what we already have.

In order to budget for our home, we wrote a list of all the things we wanted to do to and purchase for our home, and prioritised them. We have been gradually ticking them off the list. Sometimes I have to remind myself that it doesn’t all have to be done at once and that actually there’s some joy in doing it gradually and seeing it all come together.

I also find it helpful sourcing items with a mix of price points. So many of the high street brands are really reasonable such as H&M, JYSK IKEA and I find mixing cheaper items with more expensive ones can work really well. A lot of our furniture is from Ikea or JYSK which are great for getting reasonably priced items.

Also, I would recommend checking out Etsy. I have loved working with small businesses since starting my Instagram account and have realised how you can get reasonably priced items from independent small businesses on sites like Etsy.

Who doesn't love getting maximum value out of our purchases?! We noticed that you have customised some of your pieces. Do you consider yourself an actual DIYer? What are your top tips for making pieces your own?

Aimee: As our home is a ‘new-build’ there hasn’t been a lot of DIY. There is a lot of DIY flat pack from IKEA, but this is not my area of expertise and is left to my partner, although I of course take my role of ’supervisor’ very seriously. One of our little DIY projects was to hide the radiator behind the shelving unit in the living room by adding a backing and painting it the same colour as the wall.

I am no DIY expert, but I have a few vases that I loved but that were not the right colour for the room, so I sprayed them. Its super quick and effective.

So, DIY for you is more about customisation than money saving. What are your thoughts on customising your home through colour? How do you choose paint colours? Do you have a favourite paint brand?

Aimee: Most of the house is white, but I have ‘braved the beige’ in the living room and I am really feeling it. When choosing paint, I always look at lots of different photos of the paint on Pinterest, it can take me a while to choose the right one. However, the colour of the living room walls is my most asked question- and this is something I cannot even take credit for. I gave my partner strict instructions to purchase the paint colour I had been researching for weeks, but it was out of stock when she got there and she then chose the colour without me. I was scared, but it turned out well. So maybe picking from the shelf is the way to go!

Farrow and Ball is my go-to paint brand. We have it in our living room and bedrooms. It is on the pricier side, but I do love the undertones in their paint and find it hard to get this in other brands. I am also loving limewash paint and would like to introduce this into our home somewhere.

We love your style for its neutral, Scandi, Japandi vibes – did you choose this look - or did the look choose you?!

Aimee: I've always liked neutral Scandi décor, although I can appreciate other colour schemes and styles I personally like the relaxed calming feel Scandi décor brings to our home. I also think for me it will be more timeless, I love to change décor and feel if I went for a bold colour or design I would end up wanting to change it after only a few weeks.

I follow some trends, but it has to suit the house. I was on the pampas grass trend and every room would have a vase of pampas grass. However, I feel like with these trends I do gradually change my mind. I am now loving the Mediterranean style living, and have switched the pampas grass out for olive trees and olive branches. I feel this is more of a fresh style and something that has worked well over summer.

Two recent trends I am still loving though are Ribbed glass and boucle. I definitely have more glass ribbed vases that one girl needs, but I think they just add a little something different to a standard glass vase. I have also been lucky enough to collaborate with an amazing Brand Studio Gem who is a small business creating beautiful boucle cushions.

I love the Japandi vibe, its relaxing but warmer and cosier than Scandi, so I have tried to bring some Japandi elements into our home through the use of contorted Corylus and black furniture and natural textures.

So, what are your favourite home Instagram accounts right now and why?

Aimee: There are so many amazing accounts on Instagram that give me so much inspiration. One of my favourites is Loft208, the limewash walls and minimal Scandi décor is right up my street. KJG_home is literally dream home; I love her open planed living space, with the wood burner and Boucle accents. Hello_Haus is another account I have loved following for years. Her décor is calming and timeless and I have loved to watch her interior design studio develop.

What also inspires you, generally?

Aimee: I have always had a passion for décor, even since I was little. I remember when I was younger, I would ask for décor presents for my birthday and would be annoying my mum moving my bedroom round on a weekly basis. I am inspired by how a room, its décor and the way a room feels when you are in it can really affect your mood. My happy place is when everything is in its place and the candles are lit.

I am also inspired by others on Instagram and Pinterest and bringing different design ideas together. I can also get inspiration from other places like hotels, restaurants, shops; inspiration really can come from anywhere!

It's great that you've always had a passion for interiors and that staying on-trend and keeping inspired forms such an important part of the way you style your own home to this day. Do you still love moving furniture around, even now? How often do you adjust the placement of your home furniture and decor behind the scenes?

Aimee: All the time, I am a constant ‘faffer’. I just can’t help myself, I will walk past something and think, hmm, I wonder what that would look like there, and will have to immediately move it and see if my vision was correct. I have always been the same, even as a young girl I was always moving my bedroom furniture around, it must just be something in me! I think now we have almost got the house the way we like it, I rarely move the larger pieces of furniture, but move the décor pieces all the time. Especially when I am getting photos, I literally go round the house collecting all the decorative items that I could potentially use to get the perfect shot and play around the placement and then put the rest of the house back together!

So, when you compose a photo of your home what do you look for in the shot & styling composition?

Aimee: Balance– I try and a sense of balance across the photo so it’s easy on the eye. This includes balancing the colours, weight and heights. I also often style in ‘3s’ where I use 3 items of varying heights.

Point of interest- There should always be a focal point in the photo which will draw the eye in.

Lighting – I love natural light in my photos, a top tip is always taking photos with the light behind you. I also love to get natural sunlight reflections and patterns in shots, it adds interest and adds a sense of warmth to the shot.

Mix of textures – In each shot I will try and get a mixture of textures for example in the living room we have a wool sofa and rug, so I will also try and capture the linen curtains and cushions, soft throws and foliage in the shot too, to offer a contrast.

What are your top tips for getting the shot?

Aimee: I always try different set ups, take photos and move things around until I get the right shot. Sometimes I find it easier to take everything out of the area I am taking a photo of and then start styling from a blank canvas, placing different items until I get it right. I often start from the bottom and build up- so I may place a magazine or book on a table and then add from there with a vase, candle etc. If the shot is looking a little lifeless add in some foliage, a plant, or in my case- an olive tree or some olive branches.

Do you replicate styling tips you’ve seen or is each setup simply what you think looks best in that moment?

Aimee:I do a lot of ‘trial and error’, I will have an idea in mind but it will sometimes take few goes to get there. I have a few techniques I use in my styling which I will use in most photos but will adapt these for each shot. My go to styling techniques include stacking magazines or books, adding a vase with olive branches, adding warmth through throws, blankets and cushions and getting something in the background of the shot such as a print on the wall or a ladder with a blanket. I try and think of the image as a whole, rather than the separate pieces.

I try not to directly replicate others' style but definitely take inspiration from others on Instagram, Pinterest and magazines.

I am also learning a lot from studying on my Interior Design Course with the Interior Design Institute about how best to style and design a room, considering different elements.

Exactly, each home and set up is different and so it's good to understand the technical theory behind it as much as it is to play around and be intuitive. Do you prefer to style a bigger or smaller space? What are your tips for styling for scale?

Aimee: I like to style sections of a room. For Instagram I rarely do full room shots as I find it hard to capture. In the living room for example I have several areas of styling that I focus on, but then make sure they are all cohesive in one space. When styling a room however it’s important to think of the styling as a whole. If it’s a large room I would create different zones.

My tip for styling for scale would be make it proportionate. If you have a large living room and have lots of small pieces of furniture and décor it can seem disjointed. If you have large pieces of furniture with an oversized rug and statement lighting it will bring the space together. So invest in a big rug that goes right across the living space, I made this mistake with our home initially and ended up buying the same rug in the larger size a few months later.

What orientation is your house and do the natural openings allow you to utilise natural light in your photos? What do you find are the best and worst times of day to take a successful photo?

Aimee: We are lucky with the lighting in our home. Our garden is southeast facing and we get the sun until early evening. The morning light streams in through the bedroom windows in the morning and in through the patio doors in the living room and kitchen.

I know that the best time to capture the sunlight is in the mornings. I can struggle on cloudy days to get a good shot as I think lighting is so important, and I often end up chasing the sun around the house for the perfect photo when it makes an appearance.

I rarely take photos in the evenings as I find that the poor lighting can affect the quality of the photos, however if I do, I will light candles in the shot to bring a cosy vibe to the photo.

What attracted you to buying your Norfolk home?

Aimee: I knew I wanted my first home to be a new-build, I loved the idea of a blank canvas for all my décor ideas. I wasn’t set on an area, just somewhere close enough to Norwich (where I work) and not too far from my family in Suffolk. I had actually never heard of the small town we currently live in before moving here, but I really loved the design of the development and was sucked in by the grey windows and doors. I also really love the hallway, it’s so spacious and bright. I looked at a lot of new builds but there was something different about the entrance to this one that made me feel like it was the one.

What’s the most practical and impractical parts of your house? Are some rooms easier to maintain and style than others?

Aimee: I find rooms that you can add more decorative styling are easier to photograph, especially if there are side tables and console tables so you can add some books, candle and of course a beige vase. Bathrooms are more tricky as there is not a lot you can change or add and as the space is quite small it’s harder to capture photos. The kitchen and living room is harder to maintain as these are the rooms we use day-to-day. This has been even harder during lockdown when we are also working from home, so the kitchen table is now also our office.

This is true, it is hard to keep on top of those more functional rooms such as kitchens and bathrooms that are used regularly. Are you and your partner naturally tidy and neat? Does having the responsibility of taking fresh content of your home encourage tidiness?

Aimee: I think we are in general, but some days it’s easier than others. My partner is pretty neat but I have definitely opened her wardrobe and just found things she has pretended to put away. I’m the worst at pulling every outfit out before a night out and leaving it until the next morning.

I think having to capture content does encourage tidiness, we do a big clean every Saturday and I’m definitely stricter with myself about getting this done in the morning. I love photos with natural sunlight and don’t want to miss a good shot because I didn’t make the bed.

I am constantly moving things around though, and getting one room just right often means turning the rest of the house upside down.

I can definitely imagine this! On the whole, though, it sounds like you've got home maintenance and organisation sussed! What are your top organisation tips?

Aimee: Pretty storage is essential. For me, I don’t like to have lots of bits out, even some that most would see as essential, such as the remote. I have lots of pretty rattan baskets which store all the essential items, that aren’t aesthetically pleasing.

Our IKEA PAX wardrobe is also a life safer. I am a girl with a lot of clothes and need a lot of space to hide them all away. I love how with the PAX wardrobes you can design the wardrobe to fit the space and customise it to what you need. We have turned our third bedroom into our dressing room which then gives us more space in the bedrooms as I find that wardrobes can be quite dominant in the bedroom.

As with most new builds, our house does not have a lot of storage, so we have tried to make the most of the little storage we do have. We have shelving units in the under stairs cupboard with labelled drawers and boxes for all our bits and bobs we don’t want out. Although, however hard we try, the under stairs cupboard quickly becomes and shove it in and just close the door kind of cupboard. We have also utilised the loft space and used storage boxes under the bed.

Pretty storage boxes are a great way to be organised and clutter free at the same time! Do you have many 'show' items?

Aimee: My Diptyque Candle collection, which is slowly growing, is currently display only. They are the most beautiful candles I own, but pricey. I have treated myself to one or two, but most have been gifts, as I cannot always justify such a fancy candle. I use these candles, and their boxes (because when there has been so much beautiful design gone into the box it would be rude not to) for styling. However, I am always tempted to light one and will treat myself one day.

I love a display book or magazine, I will always have a flick through once or twice but predominantly they are for display. I don’t have very many other show items but I have these grey salt and pepper grinders from Menu which were on display and unused for a year before my partner moved in and actually started using the kitchen.

Ah, we wish we could smell your gorgeous candles, well, the ones you do burn! What are your favourite scents for the home and do you find different scents/brands work better in certain rooms for the size of the room?

Aimee: I definitely think certain scents work better in specific spaces. I have a few go to candles that I buy again and again. In the kitchen I like a strong candle / diffuser to counteract any cooking smells. The Wild Mint candle from The White Company is a firm favourite. I also love their Seychelles scent for the living room or hallway and the Spa collection for the bathrooms.

I’m loving candles from smaller independent companies too, recently I’ve collaborated with Hobo + Co who sent me a Bergamot, Lavender and Patchouli candle that is perfect for the bedroom. I’ve had a few candles from Woodspring Co who recently sent a Tomato Vine candle for the garden which is one of my favourites.

For me a candle has to look as good as it smells, I love the warmth they add to a room and will often light unscented candlesticks in the evening to create a relaxing vibe.

Candles and fresh coffee are amazing ways to make your house feel more homely - as is having pets; your dog is adorable! Is he a nightmare or a blessing for house upkeep? What are your top tips for being a dog owner in a tidy home?!

Aimee: Ah thank you, we would definitely agree. Honestly, he is a nightmare at times, but we wouldn’t have him any other way. Not sure how many times I’ve cleaned muddy paw prints from the cream carpet or the bed when he has snuck up on there. He also loves a tennis ball and we will often find a ball print on the white walls. The house just wouldn’t be a home without him.

It’s impossible to keep the house immaculate at all times and I’m okay with that. Some days there’s an unmade bed, some washing up or a basket full of dog toys distributed around the house. That’s reality, but rarely makes it to my Instagram. My tips would be invest in good storage options, we boarded out our loft, have storage boxes under the beds and have a “cupboard of death” under the stairs that is an ongoing game of Tetris.

My top tips would be, vanish carpet cleaner and a dog blanket that matches the décor so you can get it in those impromptu photos. We also purchased a rattan ‘toy box’ with a lid so we don’t always have to look at his squeaky pig and brightly coloured bones.

My dream house would include one of those utility rooms with the dog washing stations – one day.

We all dream of that perfect utility room! Looking forward into the future, in your next house would you go for the same style or shake it up, and if so what trends are you itching to work with next?

Aimee: I have always loved the idea of renovating a house, and on Instagram I have seen so many amazing renovations, but I am always drawn to the fresh look of newbuilds, and love how you can have an input from the start with the design and fittings with most builds. I think the type of our next home will be just depend on our situation at the time. For me the style and décor will depend on the house. I can’t ever see me having a house full of bold colour and pattern, but I would want the styling to suit the space and my style is evolving all the time.

Are you now, where you imagined you’d be 5 years ago?

Aimee: I’ve always dreamed of owning my own home; I was renting at 17 and it’s all I ever wanted. 5 years ago I was saving every penny towards a deposit, working 2 jobs, 7 days a week. I knew I would get there but I don’t think I thought my first home would be what it is. I will never take it for granted after working so hard for it.

So, where is next?! Where do you see yourself in 5 years' time? In both reality, and in a dream life?

Aimee: Realistically – by then we would be looking at potentially moving to our next home, I will have completed my interior design course and would love to at some point set up my own design service.

Dream – A house with a lot of glass, bifolds, and an island unit. I would love to be working in interior design, with a home décor shop. I can’t imagine ever having a bad day at work working in décor.

Thank you Aimee; that was so insightful and we've learnt so much about you and your amazing home! Thank you for taking the time to give us this glimpse into real life through the grey door.

All images kindly provided by Aimee and Copyright @throughthegreydoor on Instagram.


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