Okay right off the bat, we love Joanna Thornhill. We had the pleasure to interview the Interior Stylist/Writer/Crafter and all round Superwoman to find out a little more about the woman behind the name, and what that morning playlist looks like! We fell in love with Joanna after seeing her styling work for TK Maxx and HomeSense, I mean seriously if you have children, you need Joanna to style their bedrooms and parties!
Okay, lay it on us, 3 songs your morning playlist must contain.
Boring, but I find music pretty distracting when I work so I tend to opt for classical/instrumental stuff just to fill the silence – recent listens have been This is Antonio Pinto, Apollo by Brian Eno and (bizarrely), the Diego Maradona motion picture soundtrack. I tend to just set them off on Spotify and listen to whatever else it offers up next
Okay, now pleasantries: tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
I’m self employed as a commercial interiors stylist, writer and author, which means no two days are ever the same! Predominantly my work involves either producing and styling photoshoots for brands (usually for for their catalogue, website or social media/for editorial use), or for magazines themselves, as well as writing things like trend reports, articles and shopping pages, again for both magazines and corporate brands. I also work on designing and styling events, again usually for brands, to showcase new product ranges or launches for press, bloggers and influencers.
Alongside this I’ve styled and written a couple of books: the first, Home for Now (CICO Books), was aimed at offering affordable, realistic and temporary decorating ideas to renters or cash-strapped first-time buyers starting their journey up the property ladder, which was republished in 2018 with a new title, Insta-Style for your Living Space. Then in Spring 2019, my latest book, My Bedroom is an Office (Laurence King) launched, offering a unique, dip-in Q&A approach to a myriad interiors dilemmas, from how to decorate a north-facing room to what to do when your walls are too crumbly to put up shelves (joannathornhill.co.uk/books)
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Either a journalist or a fashion designer, so I’ve kind of achieved the first goal! I studied Fashion Design at uni but then realised my interest was more in the promotional side of the industry and of branding/image-making, so I switched to a degree in Fashion Promotion. But I THEN realised that actually, my interest was SPECIFICALLY more in the backgrounds to the clothes rather than the clothes themselves, so after uni I went to work as a runner in TV before moving into more art department-based roles, and then eventually started assisting other stylists and working ad-hoc in various magazine offices as an assistant, and it all took off from there!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? and the worst?
I think generally speaking the best advice I’ve been given is to know your worth – when you quote a potential client for a job, you’re not just charging for your time and costs, you’re charging for all the years of skills, experience and expertise you’re bringing to the table on TOP of your time and costs for that particular job. When you’re good, your work can make a huge positive impact on the brand who are employing you, so all of this needs to be taken into account. I can’t really think of any ‘bad’ advice per se but one thing I’ve learned along the way is, despite what clients may have promised to do or said they wanted, to always have alternatives and back-up plans in place so you can react quickly to any unforeseen requests or changes to the original brief!
What is your favourite creative outlet to get the juices flowing?
Sometimes I think the best thing is to just step away somewhat and just go for a walk somewhere inspiring, or go to an art gallery, or even just wander round a pretty town you’ve not visited before. I love visiting interiors trade and press shows but sometimes it can feel a little overwhelming, whereas a calm walk somewhere can give you that clarity to notice a gorgeous colour combination or provide the headspace to allow new ideas to pop up
Jump in the Tardis and fast forward 5 years – where are you and what are you up to?
I’m not very good at planning ahead but I’d like to still be working in the industry, doing more of the same yet expanding on where I’m at now. I’d love to write another book and possibly do more collaborative work with brands – perhaps cross-platform. Things move so quickly it’s important to keep on your toes and diversify or adapt to suit changes. The mainstream magazine industry has undeniably suffered during the growth of blogs and social media, yet people still yearn for tangible printed materials, so it’ll be interesting to see how things evolve
What advice would you give to emerging go getters who want to follow in your footsteps?
It can be a really tough industry to get into and you need to be prepared to work hard and make sacrifices, but if you’ve got a creative flair, a lot of common sense and are willing to graft, it’s certainly do-able. The majority of work is in London, where stylists and magazine staff seek out freelance styling assistants for help on shoots or research (often at very short notice and for odd days here and there), so most assistants make it work by mixing assisting with other flexible revenue streams, from selling handmade jewellery to bar work and office temping, to allow them to jump onto assisting opportunities at the last minute. If realistically you don’t think that lifestyle is for you, maybe consider starting an interiors blog instead, to immerse yourself in the industry a little more and possibly open up more opportunities that way which are easier to fit in around other jobs or commitments
Any up-coming trends? Don’t worry, we won’t tell a soul…
Wellness and sustainability are such hot topics right now and this is feeding into interiors through the use of natural materials (and decorating with colours inspired by nature), the never-ending trend for biophilia and incorporating plants into the home, and in details such as candles made with essential oils to encourage relaxation or creativity. Conversely, bold, maximal interiors are set to be big this Autumn/Winter, with lots of rich colours, oversized floral patterns and luxe fabrics like velvet to add warmth and vibrancy – though this trend also incorporates vintage pieces and ‘brown’ furniture, so has a sustainability angle in its own way
What’s one thing other people may not know about you?
I’m a bit of a dog geek and since consecutively adopting two ex-street dogs from Romania, I’ve become fascinated by canine psychology and behavioural rehabilitation through positive reinforcement training techniques. Sometimes I have moments where I wonder if I should change career and retrain as a behaviourist, but then I remember that I don’t really like going out if it’s too cold (or too hot, or raining, or overly muddy) so swiftly come to the conclusion I’m best off sticking with a career in cushions…
Who or what are some of your influences? Are there any peers or creatives that you admire or draw inspiration from?
I don’t really have any go-to influences as I prefer to see what piques my interest naturally, but it’s always interesting and helpful to look back over design history – I’m a big William Morris fan and have several of his fabric designs throughout my house but I also like the work of the Bloomsbury Group, Bauhaus, fusty Victoriana, Mid Century Modern…
What are your main sources of inspiration? Are there any outlets you reference regularly?
Depending on what I’m working on, I generally spend a fair bit of time searching for trends and seeing what people are up to via Pinterest and Instagram as well as by reading design websites such as Dezeen, and the weekend newspaper supplements are always a good way of seeing curated trend round-ups and product launches, as they can react far quicker than the monthly titles
Complete this sentence… Life is about…
…if I knew the answer to that I’d probably be making my millions elsewhere as a self-help guru!