Hi everyone and welcome to this interview with ‘Britain’s Most Relatable Mum Designer’ (Gorgeous Homes), Issy Smugge, where we’ll be talking all things #greatexpectations from family life to awards nights, along with the latest #IssySmuggeSays release and her predictions for #upcomingtrends.
Welcome Issy and thanks for taking time out from your busy schedule.
Thank you Liz. Always lovely to chat and can I just ask where you got those mismatched metallic earrings? They are so on-trend!
Thank you, Issy – you know how much I love a bit of #vintagefinds and #upcycling.
So, it’s been a year or so since you and I last met and a lot has happened in that time. Tell me, how is your adorable family and are you all still loving #countrylife?
As you know, we’re expecting an addition to the family in April which is terribly exciting. My three, Finn, Chloe and Elsie are at the local primary school (surprisingly good) and of course are doing extremely well. They’re so clever, although I do say it myself. My husband Johnnie and I are on a break at the moment, but co-parenting and communicating constantly. I have to say, Liz, I wasn’t sure how I’d take to country life, but since I made some lovely mum friends, I really enjoy it. I do miss the buzz of long lunches, spa weekends and the cultural scene which only London offers, but Suffolk has got under my perfectly moisturised skin #newbeginnings #suffolkgirl
Do you think you’ve changed in that time? And if so, how?
Liz, I have changed. Without a doubt. You may be surprised to hear this, but I think I was just a tiny bit snobbish when I first moved to the Old Rectory. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t judge books by their covers, that everyone has a story and that true friendship is worth investing in. I even go to church from time to time, and it’s not nearly as boring as I thought it would be! #everydaysaschoolday
I have heard there is a #bigevent coming up for you – a significant birthday (#Fabio40)! What are your plans for celebrating? Or has that handsome husband of yours (#JonnySmuggeswoon) got a big surprise up his sleeve for you?
It’s the new 30, Liz, as you know! I’ve got lots of plans, naturally. I’m sure #JonnySmuggeswoon has got something up his elegantly tailored sleeve, the girls are talking about taking me out for a fancy meal in a gorgeous little fine dining country pub and I may even dash up to town to treat myself to a girlie shopping trip. As I always say, age is just a number, and when you spend as much time on self-care as I do, it’s something which is easy to keep at bay.
Family is obviously so important to you. Can you tell us a little about your own growing up and how that has influenced you as a mum?
Of course! My sister Suze and I lived in Kent in our lovely big house with Mummy, Daddy and our much-loved Nanny. Some of my happiest memories are of playing with our best friends, Penny and Minty Pryke-Darby, swinging on trees, riding our ponies and playing hide and seek in the garden. I went away to school at the age of seven, but of course I always came home for the holidays and had plenty of letters and tuck sent from home! I wouldn’t want you to think I was completely isolated at St Dymphna’s! Mummy ran a very successful interior design firm, Carobella, with her best friend Arabella Pryke-Darby and I’m sure that much of my success can be ascribed to her example. I must tell her that more often. Liz, our relationship hasn’t always been the easiest, and I’ve vowed to spend lots more quality time with my own children. Sadly, I lost my dear father at the age of twelve, and since I moved up to Suffolk, I’ve found myself thinking about him a great deal. I am so sad that my children never met him. Mummy and Daddy did what they thought was best for us and they gave me a great start in life. I think times have changed, though, and I really cherish the opportunity to build closer relationships with my own children and learn from them in turn #whoknew #issysmuggesaysgettoknowyourkids
And what about friends? What influence have your new friends away from the #brightlightsbigcity had on you? And you on them? Having a major social media star in their midst must be such a benefit to them and the community.
Well my goodness, when I left London, I thought I had a wonderful friendship group! I know it won’t go any further when I tell you that my so-called chum Meredith has turned out to be a complete snake in the grass! Her husband Hugo dishes out tummy tucks and Botox for every birthday and Christmas and I think all that filler has seeped into her brain! One of the most wonderful things about moving up here has been the lovely friends I’ve made. Claire, the local vicar’s wife, Lauren a fellow school mum, and Lovely Lou, Kate and Maddie from Elsie’s class. They have accepted me just as I am and have been such a support over the last year or so. I hope you don’t think I’m bragging when I say that a star of the blogging world like myself has a moral duty to bless her community. I have given very generously to the school and the church. Social action and charity is terribly important to me. My agent, Mimi Stanhope, is also a big fan of giving, as long as it harvests plenty of new followers, shares and likes. The church roof no longer leaks thanks to my munificence, and the sound of happy little children frolicking on the school play equipment which I funded drifts over to the Old Rectory every day, which makes me very happy. I must say, with one notable exception, most of the girls at school just treat me as another ordinary, down to earth parent. Which is nice #blendingin #oneofthegirls
And in terms of your followers, do you regard them as friends? Or do you see yourself as more of a mentor? Do you feel a certain responsibility to them in any way?
So much more than friends! They are my family, my tribe, my Smuggers! Without them, I would just be another stay-at-home yummy mummy and think of the loss to the blogosphere! Yes, I see myself as their mentor, style guide and leader through the maze of social media. I work so hard to bestow my wisdom and knowledge on them and they reward me by buying my books, commenting on my posts and sending me the most adorable DM’s (all filtered by my socials guru, Harpreet of course). Increasingly, I feel that I have a duty to be honest and transparent about my life and not to post a constant stream of curated perfection. The biggest lesson that moving to the country has taught me is that it is OK to be vulnerable. And I never thought I’d hear myself saying that! #lifelessons
I just wonder, with being married to a hedge fund manager, the income you receive from sponsorship, and the paid help you have around the house and garden, how #relatable your lifestyle really is for your followers? Or do you feel yours is a more #aspirationallifestyle for them?
It’s true that I was born into a comfortably off family and that I benefited from an excellent private education and a trust fund. I have learned that there are many people in this world who are not nearly as fortunate as I have been. I’m proud of being able to pay my own way with my work, but of course it helps that my husband is in the higher earning bracket. I’ve always tried to be relatable, but as Lauren pointed out the other day, it’s easy to spend lots of time on skincare when someone else is paid to clean your loo. I do know that I am in a tiny minority of people in the UK who live in listed period homes. But of late, I’ve tried to be more honest with my content and spoken about my feelings as well as what I have. Yes, my lifestyle is something my followers aspire to and I flatter myself that I give them lots of lovely top tips and life hacks, sprinkling my own brand of magic on the everyday and mundane #stardust
We’ve noticed a growing number of mentions of #church from you. Would you describe yourself as a spiritual person, a #womanoffaith? And is it helping you cope with the continued criticism from Lavinia Harcourt? (#HandsOffIssy)
I’m not quite sure where I stand, to be honest, Liz. I have started praying from time to time and so far, my success rate is 100%! So I am willing to admit there may be something in it. I rather like going to church, although some of the handwaving and loud singing can be a little off-putting! I would like to be a bit more like my dear friend Claire, who is a proper religious person, being married to a vicar and going to church every single week, plus running groups all the time. Yes, strangely (and I can’t really explain this), when I have applied to the good Lord for help and guidance around my former schoolmate the horrible Lavinia Harcourt (#getoverit #itsjustaplait #youdidaskforit) He has really come through. Which is jolly kind of Him.
On a practical note, we know you #lovealist – any tips for us in how we can use them to help us?
There is nothing I love more than a list! I find that the very act of writing down a list of actions, or a to do list wakes the brain up and helps one to achieve more. My top tips would be:
- Buy at least ten notebooks a year
- Make sure you have lovely pens – I am a big fan of metallic ones #sopretty
- Every time you achieve something, cross it off your list. It will give you a sense of huge wellbeing
- Keep a notebook by your bedside. You never know when inspiration will strike
And finally, what are your #hopesanddreams and #predictions for the year to come? What more can we expect from you?
I would like to become a better person. Sometimes I look at my friends in the playground and see them struggling along with not quite enough money and small cramped houses, and yet they always have time for me. Of course I’d love to get more followers (#loveyousmuggers) and I’ve got my eye on the Bloggers’ Awards where I hope to break some records! Outside of work, I want to get closer to my children. As you know, I had to let a key member of my staff go last year and it has had an effect on the household. I’ve learned that however much time and attention you give children, they always need more, so I’m working on that. My predictions for the coming year are more sustainable fashion, less conspicuous consumption and a kinder, more local vibe. I am looking forward to my first photography exhibition at my friend Nicki Hartington’s gallery and of course to welcoming my fourth child! #expandingthefamily #smuggenumberfour. I am also spending more time with the extended family and loving the relationships which are blossoming.
Thanks for spending this time with us #weloveIssySmugge. It’s been #immense.
Thank YOU Liz! Loving your blog. We girls must stick together #bestfriendsforever #keeponblogging #lovemeablog
If you’d like to know more, Ruth Leigh’s new book, The Trials of Isabella M Smugge, is published today (22nd October 2021) by Instant Apostle and available at all good bookshops. Her previous book, The Diary of Isabella M Smugge is already out.
More information about Ruth Leigh can be found at Ruth Leigh Writes