This Old Home is made up of husband-and-wife team, Steph & Matt. They create modern, imaginative installations and backdrops. They design events and style shoots. They source swoon-worthy, unique props. And they have very recently opened Mill Design Studio. A space for photo shoots, pop-up shop, gatherings & workshops- an all-around creative hub.
Starting first as an on again off again creative outlet as they designed and crafted pieces for their own home and brought to markets, Steph and Matt took things more seriously after birth of their son Tom Zephr. Steph’s maternity leave ended- and so did any semlblance of balance or margin to enjoy family life. Steph says, “…we realised at a particular low point that there’s no reason we should accept that. We had the choice to change it and explore how great things could be. “
We had the choice to change it and explore how great things could be
This Old Home went from weekend market creative outlet to focused dream job.
Steph continues, “Matt’s always been a self-employed joiner, and builds and tours sets for theatres, so me going freelance too seemed like a big gamble. The plan was to create the dream job basically, making dreams into plans and all that… For me that was all about creating impact with good design and style, and being involved in weddings. It just makes me tick!
Steph- Tell us about what you’ve been doing since pursuing This Old Home full time.
I handed in my notice and from January 2018 This Old Home was a ‘thing’…and we still didn’t really know what that was! What started with putting ourselves out there at the Quirky Wedding Fair as an alternative backdrops and styling option for weddings, has led us to styling sessions for bridal and editorial, building custom backdrops, designing for independent store refurbs and being featured in some of our absolute favourite blogs and magazines. We’ve also already worked with so many amazing couples, providing them and their guests with the vibe they’ve really wanted to create for their day. It’s all been so special. We’ve also just opened our own Mill Studio in Belfast, which is for hire for shoots and is also a space for us to welcome other creatives who want a cool space to host workshops, pop-ups shops, galleries and styled-sessions. We never would have imagined any of this happening in 12months! We love how This Old Home is evolving, from saying yes to amazing opportunities that have come our way even if they’ve been terrifying!
What is your creative process for styling an event?
It’s so different for each job. Generally for example if it’s a wedding/event it’s all about the couple/planner, what they want to achieve, what they absolutely love aesthetically and their favourite parts of their venue. For whichever part we are involved in, we work on the vision together and plan something just for them. We build, source and customise everything, so it’s an open design process. No limits!
We create impact and individuality with good design and styling choices
We create impact and individuality with good design and styling choices, so the venue is important in that. Highlighting the best bits and creating some focal points, planning how a couple wants their guests to enjoy their venue and helping make that happen. Good signage is so key in that, and signage presents a good opportunity to set your tone and make an impression . We’re not fans of décor for the sake of it, and work hard to create with the venue so there’s an effortless cohesion…despite the effort! We have so many ideas, but we just wait until we meet the people that we think it’ll resonate with. It’s exciting when you meet the person or couple you know will love it!
What are you inspired by and how does it come through your work?
This whole business was inspired by Tom. We wanted the family balance yes, but more importantly we wanted our kid to see us doing what we loved, so that he knows he can do what his passions are too. The buzz from a design coming to life and meeting and working with such brilliant people keeps us going.
We wanted the family balance yes, but more importantly we wanted our kid to see us doing what we loved, so that he knows he can do what his passions are too.
Ideas wise, and this is going to sound so cheesy, I honestly believe that inspiration is everywhere. And I love that. I love that we could be in the forest and an idea will come to us based on a shape or tone. Or in the museum and we’ll have an idea after a session in the kids art room or from one of the galleries. I think we’re probably influenced by the content we consume too, for Matt that’s a lot of cabin, small home ideas and for me that’s from flicking through Vogue, and any books on interiors or design history.
The spaces we work in naturally inspire us too – angles, old features, existing patterns. Those things definitely contribute to what we plan. Giving ourselves the open mind to allow that inspiration to filter through can be the tricky bit. The mind blocks can be very real, and then it’s time to get some fresh air, spend time outside and recalibrate!
What has been your favourite event to do?
I wouldn’t honestly know where to start. We wanted to be a part of five weddings in our first year, and we were involved in so many more than that which has been rewarding on lots of levels. Helping to set the vibe for a couple’s first day as newlyweds is really special.
We had backdrops at the Spring/Summer Assembly Gathering which was amazing, and when we developed a concept and styled Belfast bar Babel for an event for Visit England that was definitely a highlight. We’ve learnt to stay true to what we set out to do which is alternative design, high impact, big ideas. So by saying yes to anything we’d love to do, the brilliant thing is we can enjoy each project!
What is something(s) people can do at home to elevate their own gatherings?
I think having items in your home because you love or connect with them is what creates an authentic experience generally. When it comes to your own table, having a few special items you love gives an opportunity to make your own gatherings really unique. I love a good charity shop find, and have always picked little bits up from holidays. Those dishes, candle holders and linens all end up coordinating in their own way! Our 3 must haves for any dinner parties at our house are good music, a variety of candles and a few stems of foliage from the local florist, usually in some kind of pottery we’ve picked up.
I think having items in your home because you love or connect with them is what creates an authentic experience generally.
Favourite thing from the Scurry shop
The last thing I got from you was the Eggs Press ‘Who’s Counting’ card for Matt’s 30th in December! I’m a card person and love writing cards to people, so the Rifle Paper botanical assorted card set is a favourite alongside the Ruby Folk journal. Basically because I’m a sucker for a soft journal with beautiful binding and I genuinely use them all the time! (Scurry note: Sadly, we are out of stock of the ones Steph mentioned, but these are similar.)