At Home with @willowandfin
This week we are at home with Tracey the lady behind the instagram account @willowandfin. I first met Tracey at #hihoandco. On instagram she shares her daily life. Tracey designed and built her own home which we think is stunning so I was delighted when she agreed to have a chat with us and share some stories about her and the house.
Tell us a bit about you
I live in a Barn conversion in Maldon in Essex. It’s a quaint little estuary town in the north of the county. We are surrounded by countryside and there is an abundance of beautiful country walks and river walks to be found. We are situated about half way between Colchester (the oldest most historic town in England) and the busy City of Chelmsford. Each is approx 25 minutes from us.
The famous Tiptree jam factory and it’s orchards are just up the road and we are often found on a Sunday morning in Heybridge Basin where one of their tea rooms serves a really yummy breakfast. It’s become a family tradition over the years.
Lots of people think that Essex is ALL like Towie land (and some parts are) but in the part of Essex we live in, nothing could be further from the truth. There is countryside galore and a plethora of pink country cottages and period properties.
We are also lucky enough to feel as though we are deep in the countryside but also only be approx 25 minutes from the centre of London by train.
Tell us about your home
Our barn building is 400 years old and was a hay barn prior to us converting it into a dwelling. And at some point pigs were farmed here.
It is now a cozy home designed entirely by myself and my husband. We designed it and built the house in just under a year.
It is a traditional country house style, unlike many barn conversions which tend to often be ultra modern. I generally favour traditional styles in most things in life and I prefer soft curves and cozy furnishings to harsh lines and minimalism. Although I have to say I am about to start and introduce a more neutral palette to the house bit by bit. I’m hoping this will brighten things a bit and open it out a lot. We have a lot of glass and I tend to feel that the house should feel lighter and brighter than it does. Especially in the summer months. But in winter it’s the cosiest house you’ll ever walk into. And Christmas here is magical.
How would you describe your home?
My home is cozy, traditional and rustic. I don’t like matching things. I like things to have character and I have a slightly eclectic taste.
It is rustic because we have a lot of red brick, flagstone floors, oak doors, stairs and woodwork. And that’s just how I like things. It’s perfectly imperfect. It also is held up by an abundance of old original beams and open stud work. Which all adds to the charm of the place.
Which is your favourite room in the house?
I think my favourite room in the house is my kitchen. (Which we are just about to revamp). It’s not my favourite because of its decor though, but more to do with the act that it’s really the hub of our home. It’s where there’s always a lot of activity and noise. It’s never tidy and always being used. (And virtually never instagrammable. Everyone gathers there, (usually around the island in the centre) to drink tea, have lunch, cook our meals, eat our meals etc. And there have been many a family ‘conference’ in here. And some very big plans and decisions have been made. From deciding on aspects of our kids careers, to business discussions, to planning my daughters wedding reception in our garden.
All this said, my living room comes a very close second, with its cosy fireplace and wood burner.
How does your home reflect any passions or interests that you have?
Our home reflects a combination of all of our family personalities I think because of all the bits n pieces that are very evident around the place. We have a ‘rogues gallery’ of family photographs in our garden room for starters. We also have trophies and awards our kids have won during their childhood and various nods to each of their careers.
There is evidence of a strong love of animals too. We have a couple of dogs right now and will be adding to them soon. And there are ornaments and pictures of country life.
What are your favourite items in the home?
We have an old oak writing bureau in our dining room. It’s quite special to us because we bought it just after we got married, at an auction in the Cotswolds for £50! It’s got some woodworm holes in it and has seen better days. But we wouldn’t part with it. We might, however think of giving it a new lease of life, by giving it a coat of paint at some point and distressing the paintwork. Just a thought.
I also bought a huge, tall blue and white ceramic ‘vase’ which I’ve placed some tall twigs into. I bought that in a charity shop for £7 (can you tell I’m a bit of a bargain hunter ?) and I prefer to buy old things with a bit of history to them.
Finally, I think our brass Victorian bed is my out and out favourite thing. It’s very high and very squishy and makes my bedroom a dreamy place to be and I’d never part with it.
When you moved into your house was it the finished article or was it a project?
When we moved in the house had been newly converted from an old barn, but it’s safe to say it’s been an ongoing project ever since and still is. It needs constant nurturing and upkeep. It’s that sort of place. And after almost 19 years here there are things we would like to scrap and do all over again. But I’m sure most people feel like this. But obviously we don’t have a bottomless pot of gold to spend out on it and I could get really carried away if money was no object.
It was a huge project we undertook. It was a derelict barn and we converted it. Not totally ourselves. We employed builders but there was a lot we did ourselves and my husband did the electrics too. It took about a year to get the basic house done. Then a couple more years to get the groundwork and garages outside completed.
Have you done any renovation?
As above really and on an ongoing basis.
Have you had any DIY or styling disasters?
No real disasters to be honest. We had to move the oil tank after we’d moved in because the oil wasn’t flowing through to the house properly.
I wish we’d had an airing cupboard. But our Emersion tank is in the loft and so we don’t have a nice warm cupboard for towels and sheets.
I wish we’d added a conservatory. Our garden room was on our plans to be sort of like a conservatory but the planning office wouldn’t allow windows on that side of the house as it had to remain looking like a barn. So we only have windows on two sides and not in the roof of it.
What is your top home styling tip?
Don’t have dogs 😂
I think it’s very important to keep reinventing the decor. Things get stale and then it can really affect the way you feel about the place. I’m a bit guilty of that so I can speak from experience. But I have plans to revamp most of the downstairs soon to give it a lift.
Is there anything in your home that you couldn’t live without?
I couldn’t live without my range cooler or our woodburner in the living room.
Also my beams. (Theyre a bit like ‘old friends’)
They say that a every home tells visitors a story about who lives there. What do you think your home says about you?
Our home is anything but a show home. I’d love it to look constantly instagrammable. But sadly it’s far from it. (Especially while my daughter and her family are living with us. Having a baby in the house has put pay to any pretty plants and ornaments being on show for now!) but that’s all going to change soon.
I think our house is very much a home first and foremost. I’m not the greatest with a duster. But everyone who sets foot in the door says how welcome they feel and that there’s a lot of love in this house. What more could you ask for when creating home. So I think that says a lot about us.
If you enjoyed being at home with Tracey, you might like to take a look inside other popular home styling accounts on instagram and find out more about the people behind them. You can see more of these "at home with" interviews here