home stories: a vintage love affair with interior stylist Sarah Twig Doyle
This weeks home story come from my a good friend of mine, Sarah Twigg Doyle.
Sarah and I met on Instagram a few years ago sharing a love of green, vintage treasures and plants.
Sarah is an experienced interior stylist and colour consultant based in Ireland. Her company Retwiggd works with private clients, businesses and many brand collaborations. Her beautiful home has been featured in several national interiors magazines and she contributes interiors editorial content to publications such as Irish Country Magazine and The Sunday Times.
Sarah's home and garden is unique. Her eye for detail and ability to style spaces that delight the the eye where ever you look, makes her a natural born stylist. One of the things I love most about Sarah's style is how every view she creates tells a little story, creating interest and intrigue on every surface.
So I asked Sarah to share her stylists secrets, tips on how to bring in vintage/pre-loved pieces and how to style compelling vignettes that tell unique little stories around the home. Over to you Sarah...
My Vintage Affair
"One should never be the oldest thing in one's house"
Wise words indeed from the inimitable Patsy Stone. There is something about incorporating vintage and pre-loved items in to your home, which instantly adds character. Regardless of whether you are lucky enough to live in a beautiful characterful property or like so many of us these days, a modern new build.
When we bought our house (one of those bland new-builds), there wasn’t a whole lot of money in the kitty to furnish it. We were lucky to have some pieces already, but we knew we would need functional, practical furniture, adding storage which maximised the usable space. So like many, a trip to Ikea and a van load later, gave us the basics. But, akin to that, we also knew we wanted to add in more decorative pieces. Yes, they still needed to be functional, but pieces with age, patina, character. One off’s no one else will have, which can’t be found in a catalogue.
Over time our love of vintage steadily grew, from just a few things we were lucky enough to raid from my parents-in-law’s attic, to charity shop finds, vintage markets and boot sales.
To make some of them fit in with our home, I began painting and up-cycling them, the era of shabby chic and Annie Sloan’s paint everything. Something which for a while even turned from a hobby in to a market stall business.
My father-in-law, an avid skip diver would send me pictures of his latest acquisitions and much to his horror, as he arbores painting wood, I’d reinvent them to suit a modern home. Inevitably though, as anyone who’s ever run a similar business will tell you, it’s hard not to cherry pick the best pieces for yourself. I’d pick up items for the stall, only to fail to part with them. An expensive hobby then.
Styling the stall was definitely the part I adored most. Seeing all the items together, grouping them in such a way as to tell a visual story. I didn’t know the word vignette back then, but to this day it’s my favourite styling. A wonderful way to create impact and interest, which can be swapped out and changed easily. I just assumed everyone did this in their home, but I began to get requests from customers to help them do the same thing in their houses, so began offering Interior styling and consulting services.
Fast forward to joining Instagram, linking with the interiors community here and a whole new avenue of ideas and inspiration opened up. Not to mention new, go-to sources for vintage treasure. Hard to believe now with Covid, but back when we could have visitors to our homes, I invited some friends I’d made on Instagram over. One lady commented how wherever her eye settled, she saw still life paintings! I loved that description, like painting with objects.
Of course the down side to this passion for finding old beauties, is your house fills up pretty quickly! As a shared interest between my husband and I, it’s rare indeed we manage to leave a vintage shop or flea market without some kind of ‘can’t live without it’ treasure. The key of course, is keeping the treasure curated to ensure it doesn’t spill in to cluttered territory. Swapping pieces out seasonally I find is also a great way to keep it all interesting.
So when Sharon asked me to put keys to keyboard and share my love of vintage with you, how could I refuse. Also to share some of my fool-proof tips to incorporate vintage/preloved in to your home:
1) A gallery wall can be a great way of dipping your toe in the vintage look. Consider using a mix of new prints but arranged in old vintage frames, as well as adding in old paintings or prints you find. Car boot sales and charity shops are great sources of old frames, often at relatively cheap prices. Don’t limit it to art either, you can also add old signs and typography letters. By using a picture ledge you can switch up the look as the mood takes you, without turning your walls to Swiss cheese!
2) Thankfully the rule book for interiors is systematically being torn up page by page and with it many of the old do’s and don’ts. So don’t be afraid to mix era’s or styles of vintage. But I would always consider the shape and colour rule. Choose pieces which are sympathetic to your colour palette and fit with what you already have. You could always consider painting them to achieve balance or add a contemporary twist.
3) Don’t worry too much about wear and tear scuff marks, very often they add to the character of a piece. Chippy enamel kitchenalia or old copper pans for example add so much interest in a contemporary kitchen space.
4) To me, an inviting space has lots of touchable layers and textures. A vintage rug for example, placed in a modern scheme, is a great way to achieve a bespoke look.
5) I love seeing objects in a room you wouldn’t expect. An oversized mirror in a small space, a beautiful vintage chandelier in a bathroom (subject to safety checks of course), an old masters style painting in a modern kitchen.
6) Let your imagination run wild! I recently saw a home where they had used an old piano as a kitchen island, adding a glass top to make it practical!
7) I love metallics for their light reflections and I’m definitely of the opinion when it comes to metals choose vintage! Beautiful aged patina can’t be beaten or faked. A large metal tray placed behind a group of arranged objects is a brilliant way to draw the eye towards it and add a focal background.
Vignette arrangements are a great way of telling the story of your home, grouping together pieces you love, which have meaning to you. Here are some of my go-to tips and tricks to achieving beautiful vignettes:
1. Don’t be afraid to mix together new as well as vintage pieces to form a visual picture.
2. Create harmony by keeping the colour palette simple but add in different textures to excite the eye. For example: a rough old stone vessel with textural fronds of pampas grass in you’ll want to touch, mixed with a smooth, reflective object such as a mirror.
3. For a balanced composition, ideally avoid symmetry and group your items together in odd numbers and avoid forming a line.
4. Think about height and scale. Lots of small things will read boringly to the eye so when you’re putting together your composition, consider it carefully. Place taller objects to the back and smaller to the front. A stack of vintage books for example can be a great way to add interest and height, allowing you to place an item such as a pot or candle stick on top.
5. On a coffee table, trays are a brilliant way to group items together, keeping the look cohesive.
Perhaps the most important piece of vintage advice I’ll leave you with is this: pick pieces you genuinely love and adore! Just because you’ve seen a mid-century modern sideboard in someone else’s home or a magazine, doesn’t mean you will like it or it will work in yours. Stay true to your own style and it will speak volumes. The ultimate aim is to create a home that is uniquely and authentically you.