As part of our interview series, My Happy Home, the Style Sisters tell us about browsing the Argos catalogue for interior inspiration and why comfort is key.
The Style Sisters, Charlotte Reddington-Smith and Gemma Lilly, are professional interior stylists who have detoxed some of the most coveted closets, including Rita Ora, Amanda Holden and Stacey Solomon.
Launching in 2018, the Essex-based friends (they aren't actually sisters) met at West Hatch High School Sixth Form in Chigwell. Before joining forces, Charlotte worked in interior design and Gemma worked as a fashion stylist. They were keen for a job that would suit motherhood, so decided to merge their passions and launched the Style Sisters.
Charlotte and Gemma published their first book, Style Sisters: Helping you live an organised & stylish life, in May 2021. Earlier this year, the organising and styling duo launched their own storage collection, and most recently launched a home fragrance range with Aldi.
What makes you happiest at home?
Charlotte: A clean home, fresh sheets, candles burning, fresh pyjamas, yummy food, good film, and bunches of flowers in the house. It's when everything is tranquil and calm. Having an organised and tidy home because of what we do. If the house is a mess, then I can't switch off or relax. I love having a bath and getting into those fresh sheets.
Gemma: It sounds so boring, but it's just divine. It's the days when the house is clean, you're clean, you've washed your hair and changed your bedding.
Tell us more about your childhood home
Charlotte: I've got one sister. We grew up making imaginary houses out of books, tents and dens. I had a happy childhood. I was always redecorating my bedroom growing up. That was my birthday present every year; I was allowed to redecorate my room with a new scheme. I painted it blue and yellow once, with a border. Then we painted it pink and lilac, complete with a lava lamp and a fluffy rug.
There weren't many interior design magazines back then, so I would browse the Argos catalogue for inspiration. Or I'd go to Homebase for wallpaper samples to stick on my wall. I knew from an early age that I wanted to go into interiors. My list of dream jobs included being an actress, interior designer, and dolphin trainer.
Gemma: My house was just carnage. I've got three sisters and we grew up in a flat. Like Charlotte, my mum was always moving stuff around. I'd come back from school and the wall would be a different colour or the furniture would be in a different place. I think that's obviously where I get it from. For me, I cannot function unless a home is organised and tidy. I think my mum instilled that into me because she was always on a mission to keep things tidy.
It was carnage, but it was a happy childhood. I'm the oldest. All my sisters used to steal my stuff. I'd come home and they would be wearing my clothes. It was chaos, but it's nice now because we actually get along.
When you get home, what is the first thing you like to do?
Charlotte: Strip off, then put some music on and create ambiance at home.
Gemma: Bra off, makeup off, into loungewear. Comfort is key.
What room do you spend most of your time in? And how did you decorate this space?
Charlotte: For me, it's my kitchen/diner. The kitchen is the heart of the home; it's where you cook and everyone congregates. I always dreamt of having a kitchen island and we eventually got one because we built our own house. That's where we spend a lot of our time. It's where I sit with my boys at dinnertime and chat about their day. My teenager doesn't chat back to me much but my younger one does. It's a very sociable hub. I never had that growing up — everything was a lot smaller. Now it's all about open-plan living.
My kitchen has lots of marble with gold veins running through it (below). I've also got shaker-style cupboards — it's traditional and modern. It has taken a good few years to get to this point.
Gemma: The kitchen for me as well. I'm always in there putting things away and chatting with people. I'm renting at the moment, but the space is very neutral, traditional and modern.
Describe the view outside your bedroom window?
Charlotte: I see trees. I live in my grandparent's old house, so it has got a lot of memories. My bedroom is where their old spare room used to be — it's where I would stay as a kid. I've still got the same view which is beautiful trees out of the back in my neighbour's garden. I love nature and trees, so for me, it's very calming. You also get very beautiful sunsets. I can see the boys kicking a football around. I don't look down, I look across.
Gemma: I've got trees as well. There's one giant large tree. It's a blossom tree which is nice.
What would we find in your bedside table?
Gemma: I actually can't live without a lip balm next to my bed, usually Vaseline.
Charlotte: I've got a sleep mask, pillow spray, lip balm, hand cream and my Kindle, even though I don't really read anymore. I hit the pillow and I'm out like a light.
What is the best decorating advice you have ever received?
Charlotte: Have a neutral base. If you have a neutral base, you can always accessorise with other items. A lot of people paint their rooms black or dark green because that's trendy, but then the following month it's suddenly not fashionable again. Go for a neutral scheme.
Also, have things in your home that you actually love. Don't feel pressured if it doesn't look like something from Pinterest. Everyone is entitled to their individual style. Style is so individual. We might see something in a client's house that is not to our taste, but it's their personal preference. Have items in your home that you love. Make your house your home.
Gemma: We love classic. If you don't plan to redecorate often, then go more neutral and change things through texture.
What is the best home bargain you’ve ever snapped up?
Charlotte: I've got this giant vase upstairs. I walked past an auction house and saw it in the window. It's a huge Chinese floor vase with white prints. I ran in and asked how much it was. I paid £100 in cash. I'm not sure what its history is, but I'm really into those big Chinese ginger jars. That was a really good bargain.
What is your most treasured possession at home? Why is it so special?
Charlotte: I've got two. The first is a fireplace in our bedroom which belonged to my grandparents. It's the one thing I kept from this house before it got completely knocked down. We refurbished the fireplace and it now sits in my bedroom opposite the bath. It reminds me of Christmas dinners and having the fire on.
The second is a letter written by my youngest. It's on a big bit of cardboard and it says: 'I love you mummy, so so so so so much'. It's in his little handwriting. It's framed in my dressing room. It's very sentimental. He will never write like that again, with his baby writing.
Gemma: My son's memory box. It's got such lovely memories from when he was born, such as his baby grows. I've also got my own memory box, too. You can pull out moments or special times in life. It's like a trip down memory lane. So for me, that's what is truly precious.
What would top your list for the worst decor trend?
Charlotte: Glitter wallpaper, or floral walls, like when you go to a restaurant and they've got flowers everywhere. It's just tacky. I'm not a fan of them. We're from Essex and it's very Essex vibes. We're not traditional Essex with our style at all. I worked in a salon years ago that had glitter wallpaper. It offended me. It was awful, I just wanted to rip it all off.
Are you green-fingered?
Charlotte: Gemma kills her plants. I get very upset when I go to her house because she neglects them all.
Gemma: I love a plant but I'm useless. I either drown them or starve them, there's no in-between. You just can't beat a real plant. I'm not opposed to a good faux plant because obviously, I'm a plant murderer. I've got some faux hydrangeas and they stay looking really fresh.
Charlotte: I've got the misting spray, olive trees, and greenery in every corner. I check on them all once a week, cutting off dead leaves and checking they are OK. I love a plant. I get sad if they die. You have to work out where they need to live because of the light. Sometimes it's a bit of trial and error. I also love drying out eucalyptus because you don't have to look after them. Some plants are ridiculous because they need full-on babysitting.
If you could have a snoop around anyone’s house, whose would it be and why?
Gemma: It's got to be an A-lister or having a look around Buckingham Palace. I'd love to have a mooch around the rooms you're not allowed to see. Or even Anna Wintour to see what treasures she is holding.
Charlotte: I'd want to go back in the day and maybe snoop around the homes of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn or Coco Chanel. I'd love to see their beautiful old gowns. A few years ago we did a Spice Girl's house. It was the first time we had been beside ourselves, just pulling outfits out and remembering what music video they were from. It was a trip down memory lane.
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