In Residence with Maz @the_Wooden_hill

Tell us a little about yourself..
My name is Marianna Popejoy, I live in Wanstead, East London with my husband, Ross, our son, Finn and our cocker spaniel Indy. I’m a consultant in Biophilic design, and I seem to be organically moving towards a lot more garden design work these days too - a very happy accident. I teach Pilates in and around the local area and I write an interior design blog in my spare time, which is a bit of a labour of love.

I’ve been obsessed with interior design for a long as I can remember and as a teen I used to upcycle all of the old orange pine in my bedroom with whatever I could get my hands on...whether it was an improvement after I’d finished with it remains to be seen, as I had a penchant for lilac and leopard print at the time -  it was the 90s afterall. I’m pretty sure both the colour lilac and leopard print are having a bit of a ‘moment’ so let’s just say I was way ahead of the curve, or heavily inspired by the Spice Girls, whatever.

We know you as the face behind the beloved @woodenhill instagram account. When did that start and how did you end up starting an interiors account?
I’ve been renovating properties since my early 20’s and whilst in the midst of renovating the house we’re in now I found myself spending a lot of time shut in the bedroom upstairs while my son (a baby at the time) napped and the builders worked on the kitchen extension. I used that time to document the process of our renovation with riveting content, such as the big piles of rubble and the gaping holes in our house. As our home was getting put back together again, I found Instagram to be a great source of inspiration and as the house started to look less like a building site, the account became a much more curated space - it was then that it started to grow in popularity. And so the unhealthy addiction with Instagram began.

How long have you lived in London?
I’ve been in London for fifteen years now, I still can’t quite believe that. Neither myself or my husband are from London though, I’m from Manchester and Ross is from Birmingham, but our son is now starting to pronounce the word bath as barth, so I feel like now might be the time to leave.
Do you think there has been a resurgence to interiors and aspirational accounts?
Lockdown life has definitely resulted in an increase in the desire to improve our home and working environments.  There’s nothing like being trapped behind your own four walls for months on end to get you questioning your interior design choices, is there?

Myself and my husband definitely unleashed a hive of DIY activity in those early months of lockdown, managing to tick off a lot of jobs that had lay dormant on the to do list for longer than I’d care to admit, and I’ve certainly loved keeping up with what my favorite interior and garden design bloggers have been up to during that time.

What part does sustainability play in your life and business?
I try to only buy products that are ethically and sustainably sourced where possible, whether that be in my personal life or whilst sourcing items for a client. I came across Kankan after spending six months collecting all of our non recyclable plastic and creating ecobricks from them. I sent six ecobricks to a woman in Devon who has since used them along with hundreds of others to build a wall in her garden. Cutting up the plastic and packing it into bottles was a long and laborious process, but it really helped to open my eyes as to how much unnecessary packaging our family had accumulated during that time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a process that I could keep up with permanently, but it has led me to discover more eco-friendly and plastic-free brands as an alternative.

What are the things you do in your daily life that contribute to your sustainability ethos? Hacks? Inspo?
There’s definitely more that I could be doing to contribute, and I would very much consider myself a work in progress, but I am trying to buy better and create less waste where I can.

Instead of buying cleaning products, I’ve started making them at home; using natural ingredients and essential oils. They create less waste and are less harmful to you and the environment, as they do not contain the artificial or synthetic ingredients found in some shop bought products. Not only that, but they’ll save you money in the long run, and, you can add your own choice of essential oils so that they can either relax you or invigorate you depending on how and when you use them.

What does the idea of perfection mean to you?
This is a tricky one. There is no such thing as perfection. I know that. We probably all know that. And yet we still find ourselves comparing our lives to unrealistic images being sold to us as ‘perfect’ on social media...and no, the irony that I am contributing to that problem is not lost on me either. I don’t know what the answer is or how we can stop continuously striving to achieve unattainable perfection. I wish I did. Maybe it’s just a little tweak in our mindset that is required, so let’s try that one again…

Perfection means enjoying a day with my family with no agenda, pottering about in the garden, followed by a nice brunch (cooked by my husband), a dog walk and then realising it’s only Saturday so we can do it all over again tomorrow.

Would you be prepared to buy less than perfect items?
Of course. And we often do. Most of our furniture is reclaimed or bought second hand from ebay and once I’m finished with it, or if I fancy a change, back on ebay it goes. Our home is not pristine or perfect, far from it. A lot of it has been designed and made with our own blood sweat and tears. We’re not carpenters or professional decorators, which means that you have to embrace the mistakes and the imperfections as you go along. It’s what gives our home it’s charm...or at least that’s what we tell ourselves.

We’re also hugely passionate about using natural materials in our home. Materials such as timber do not behave like man made ones; they expand, they shrink, they warp - it’s what gives them their unique character, but it also means that they can be a complete pain to work with so you need to fully embrace those quirks and work around them. Although I promise, that when you do, you will end up with something really pretty special.

Who else do you know of in the interiors space that offers seconds/ near perfect product?
I don’t know many, to be honest, but I did get quite a significant saving on our dining room table from Loaf. They occasionally do something called a ‘Bump” offer where they sell off their near perfect or ex-display furniture items for a massively reduced price. It was a bit of a risk as you don’t know what the damage will be until it arrives, and when you’re buying a big item such as a table or a sofa, you can’t just stick a returns label on it and stroll back to the post office with it under your arm. When it arrived, it had a pretty big scratch all along the tabletop, but as it was made from chunky, reclaimed wood, I just sanded it right off. The fact that I save it from the rubbish pile makes it even more special.

Are there any businesses you want to shout about - our readers love to learn more about other brands and people doing great things!
I’d love to give a shout out to a local Hackney based, South Aisan takeaway business Dabba Drop. If you’ve not heard of them already they’ve set up plastic-free delivery service, serving plant-based, delicious food - all delivered directly to your door via a team of cyclists so it’s omission free! They even collect your reusable Dabba tins once you’re done with them, AND they’re heading to South London now too, so go and check them out if you’re in that neck of the woods.