Way with words – Ruth Matthews’ Sutton home
The enviable interiors of this characterful abode are the work of design blogger Ruth Matthews, who lives here with her husband Dan, their four-year-old son, Ted, and Dinah the cat.
Alongside blogging at Design Soda, Ruth works part time in a library, sharing a love of books with Dan, who works as a book buyer for Foyle’s. She’s worked in libraries for over a decade, having always been an avid reader. “All my family are keen on books, I think it must be in the blood,” she says. “My grandpa was a journalist and wrote a few himself.”
Ruth and Dan moved into their Sutton home three years ago, after relocating from Tooting. Ruth was quick to rectify the decorating situation (which included rooms in purple and lime) and implement her own more nuanced take on colour. “I don’t like anything that grabs your attention straight away when you walk into a room,” she explains. “My favourite colours tend to be darker and more muted, and drawn from nature.”
“I also think it’s important to choose colours that work for you personally,” she adds. “I’m quite energetic so I need spaces that help me to slow down.” As such, this restful family home is both a base for Ruth’s work and a respite from her busy schedule. We asked her to tell us more.
What have you enjoyed most about working in libraries?
I love the quiet safeness. They feel like one of the last friendly spaces in the society that are open to all. You don’t have to pay to come in, and they open up the world for children and adults alike. It feels good being part of something that serves a function in the community.
Quiet safeness is a great description. So, both you and Dan are into seriously into books… did you meet through work?
No, we met through mutual friends and just hit it off. But yes, books are definitely our thing. They are also the bugbear in our marriage as we have so many of them. Dan would like to keep hold of all books, but we just can’t. Sometimes he even hides them from me like a guilty secret. I’ll often come across stacks of books stashed in cupboards!
If that’s the main bugbear, you’re doing pretty well. Can you name a favourite book?
I can narrow it down to two: ‘Brideshead Revisited’ by Evelyn Waugh, and ‘The Weather in the Streets’ by Rosamond Lehmann. Lehmann was one of the first women to graduate from Cambridge; this book is about an affair and the main protagonist is a divorced woman, so at the time it was quite shocking. It’s beautifully written and subtly speaks to the female psyche, which makes it quite timeless.
One to add to our reading list. How did books lead to interiors blogging?
I found my love of interiors after decorating our first home, then, after we moved again, Dan became a bit overwhelmed by the amount of discussions about fabrics and paint swatches, so suggested I shared my obsession with a more receptive audience. So, I started blogging in 2013 when I was still working full time, then after I had Ted, I used my blog to maintain a sense of identity when I was at home on maternity leave. Everything evolved quite organically from there.
And what do you enjoy most about it?
I really like the creativity it affords me. After four years of looking at history books for my degree and my masters, I was ready to revisit my creative side. I love history, but I also really enjoyed art in school, so it was nice to go back and find a part of me that I had closed a door on.
It must be very satisfying. What’s your favourite project to date?
One of the things I’ve enjoyed recently is styling a moodboard for one of Farrow & Ball’s inspiration brochures, which was based around their new wallpaper designs. The concept of the design I chose was inspired by natural history, which I have a real love of, so it felt very personal.
We’ve noticed a few things around the house that hint to a love of nature. Tell us more.
For me, interiors work best if they have a connection with the outdoors, and I’ve always been fascinated with nature. I like to bring in as much greenery as possible, and I have loads of entomological pieces dotted about. I love the skeletal delicacy of dried flowers, too, and there are tonnes of shells and feathers around the house.
Have you always been this passionate about natural history?
My dad was really into it, so I think I must have got it from him. We used to go to the Natural History Museum a lot when I was a child. I’ve always loved observing the the colour and texture of things that have evolved naturally, and considering the history of an item that you bring in from outside, which has its own story to tell.
Do you manage to get out and about in nature much?
Yes, I love being outdoors, and walking or swimming. We like to go to the Five Hundred Acre Wood in East Sussex, which inspired A. A. Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood. There’s something about the natural world that puts all the chaos of life into perspective. It’s bigger than everything.
And do you ever think about living somewhere a little wilder?
Where we live is great as you can reach the countryside easily, but you can also get to London quickly, and I tend to go into town at least once a week for meetings. It’s a quiet suburban area, so there’s not a huge amount going on, but it’s nice to have the luxury of more space and a garden.
It sounds like the best of both worlds. How do you tend to spend time when you’re at home?
When I’m not working, we like to have people over. It’s nice to have a house that’s not too precious. You create more memories when you can share your space with people, and ultimately that’s what a home should be about – it’s part of our story and a place to put down roots. I always wanted to make it a friendly space that people feel comfortable in, like the home I grew up in.
And what’s your favourite part of the house?
I think it would have to be the bedroom because it feels like my quiet space. Sometimes I like to take time out there and have a break from whatever’s going on in the day. It’s a bit of a personal sanctuary.
With that, we finished our tour of Ruth’s beautiful house, and then headed reluctantly out into the rainy afternoon. Check out @design_soda_ruthie on Instagram to see more of her home, or designsoda.co.uk for additional interiors inspo. To peek inside other fab spaces, click here.