Forget celebrity influencers, it's all about micro-influencers you can trust when it comes to interiors
Forget celeb Instagram influencers with mega followings - now, it's all about the micro-influencer you can trust. Tara Corristine and Kirstie McDermott reveal Ireland's new interiors stars. Photographs by Pearl Phelan
Want to be a social media star? There was a time when a brand wouldn't look sideways at you unless you had in excess of 50,000 followers. Now? We're starting to realise that the numbers aren't, in fact, everything. Instagram is killing off fake followers, rapidly diminishing the real estate of many big influencers. The queasy collaborations and associations, lack of disclosure and trickery employed by some Insta-stars have left a bad taste in the mouths of many would-be fans.
Recently, Ipsos MRBI's annual Trust in the Professions Survey found that, in Ireland, only 10pc of people trust influencers, and they were also the least trusted across all groups. Sounds like bad news, and it is for those who practise bad behaviour, but it's good news for the new breed of micro-influencers who are bubbling under and building fans, trust and creating some truly stellar content while they're at it.
Where fashion and beauty are on the wane, interiors is on the up. In Ireland, there's a new breed you may not have heard much about yet - but you soon will. With followings that range from around 5,000 to around 20,000, they're in the category of influencer we can trust. Plus, they talk the talk. Savvy, wise, and spending their own cash, here are five who are absolutely worth a follow.
Dublin 12-based Instagrammer Katrina Carroll set up her Instagram account after she and her husband bought their house. "When I first started there were very few Irish interiors Instagrammers," she says. "Now, people are spending more money on their homes and being inspired by other houses, and in turn showing off their house."
For anyone looking for the antidote to grey crushed velvet and, well, grey everything, Katrina's style is a tonic. Part vintage, part cottage chic and full of pattern, colour and texture, she's a born bargain hunter. "When we bought the house I wanted to do it all myself, room by room. Everything has a story, it's second-hand, found in flea markets or charity shops. I hardly buy anything new. I love upcycling, crafting and DIY."
Her account has grown from small beginnings to a strong following, thanks in large part to her regular 'Kat Rants' - where she lets off steam on a variety of topics, not necessarily interiors-based - and her fearless dedication to the art of a good craft project.
"The Irish Instagram community is genuine: we don't have mansions or loads of money, we want to stay true to ourselves," she says of the group of which she's now a core member. With two small children, Katrina's account offers inspiration for across the gamut. Check her recent 1980s-inspired children's room paint mural, plus her vintage bathroom do-over is one to click 'like' on.
"People message me for advice," she says. "One of my goals this year is to set up an instructional blog with interiors projects and hacks." In terms of what's next, she's open to offers. "I haven't done any collaborations, but I wouldn't say no to any opportunities; Instagram is your oyster."
Got a period house renovation in the works or just love old school style? Darran Heaney is the man to follow. Documenting the complete renovation and extension of his and his partner's redbrick Victorian villa in Phibsborough, Darran's account is a treasure trove of tips, advice and places to source, well, everything you'll need.
"My Instagram developed from my house renovation," he says. With expensive items such as roofs, RSJs and windows eating up cash, Darran got clever. "I started upcycling because a lot of our budget went into the build, so I had to be clever about the decor. As it's a period house, my style is a blend of antique furniture with new items."
On his feed, you'll note Darran mixes high street couches with high-end paint, vintage mirrors with original art and his on-trend navy kitchen is accessed from a high-ceilinged hallway in which hangs an antique brass lantern.
His home is his passion. "The interiors Instagram community was much more obvious in the UK but I can see an increase in Ireland now. We've developed a little family, we chat to each other online and meet up. It's nice to find people with the same interests as you because most of the time our other halves don't want to listen," he laughs.
And while it began as a pastime for Darran, who works in a university, it's growing into something more. "People are seeing value in it," he notes. "I'd love to create more content that people find useful. I want to grow my following but it's not really about the numbers - it's about the engagement. I've met some lovely people through it."
Like many other micro-influencers who garner a following, he's keen to maximise it. "I love working with different brands and I've a couple of things lined up, but unless it's the right fit for me and something I enjoy doing, I'm not interested."
It is a truth not often acknowledged, but you can make a rental house beautiful - and Barbara Taylor is the woman to show you the way. Barbara's Kildare home is one such, and she had a strategy to make it her own. "I began furnishing our rented home with vintage and secondhand pieces and my Instagram started from there. I'm inspired by Seventies boho chic - I love rattan and cane," she says.
Mid-century mixes with prints, abundant foliage and tactile, tonal textiles in Barbara's schemes for a grid that's visually very pleasing. "I use natural light as much as possible and I like a shot that's nicely balanced with texture. I like my feed to have a cohesive look. Without even realising it, tones appear in my feed as the seasons go on."
As one of the original Instagrammers in the Irish decor set, it'll come as no surprise to learn she has a marketing background. This savvy helped her to get ahead. "Interiors bloggers are a new trend on Instagram, I now notice beauty and fashion bloggers looking to the interiors side of things," she says.
In general, Barbara says we're all that bit more interested in decor. "People are spending more time in their homes, investing more in it. Fashion chains and high street stores are realising the draw of homewares, like French Connection and H&M."
Since she started her account, she's noticed a change. "The Irish Instagram community is growing. It started to congregate around the hashtag, #MyHouseAndHome, which gave people a platform to head towards. Micro trends evolve, whether it's Scandi or eclectic or boho, and people find the own tribe within that."
And the decor community is more trustworthy too, she feels. "There are fewer sponsored posts and ads than in beauty or fashion, that's important - it isn't all about collaborations. People tend to champion smaller brands, and there is a great opportunity for craft businesses to have an outlet."
A bona fide colour expert, Joanne regularly runs paint workshops and is the author of the self-published book Furniture Crush, a tome brimming with paint projects.
"I bring fun and colour to interiors - colour makes you happy," Joanne says. She was already doing it, so heck - "Instagram introduced me to a whole new audience. There are so many cool Irish people there, now it's easy to find them.
"Because I do this for a living, I'm not against ads or sponsored posts, it helps me to grow my business," she reasons. However, she has a caveat. "I'm against promoting brands that I don't use or that don't make sense; collaborations should benefit both parties. And I don't chase them, they happen organically."
Her feed is one of the most beautifully-curated of all the accounts: a confectioner's palette of shades, and Joanne' works mainly with sorbet-soaked hues such as cotton candy pink, baby blue and turquoise and egg-yolk yellow. An absolute treat for the eyes, Joanne's sheer inventiveness means she's capable of making a utility room makeover some of the most fascinating content ever.
Plus, if you're looking for information or advice on painting anything from uPVC to a tiled floor - she's your woman. "Social media is about sharing projects, and finding ideas - nothing compares to looking at a real person in a real home," Joanne says. "When I put things up on Instagram, I get a lot of questions about how I did it or picked the colour. Instagram and interiors is all about people's individual style, it's an open book."
In terms of growing her account - vital to her business - that works well too. "It's a supportive community, everyone shares everyone else's stuff, which is great." Joanne knows the value of balance. "With social media, I'm not very strict. If I'm not feeling it, I don't post. I think it blocks your creativity if you're trying to push something. I don't think I'd enjoy it if I had a schedule."
When Joanne Mooney used to share pictures of her house on her business account - she runs Tiny Things, where she makes and sells personalised pictures and gifts for children - she noticed they'd get really high reach, so she set up a separate account just for the interiors stuff.
"People wanted to see my house. I live in a regular house in Dublin, and people relate to that," she says. "My feed is about creativity, colour and inspiring people to try it themselves." Joanne is fearless in her quest to adorn her abode. Recent acquisitions include a yellow velvet couch, lots of very bold wallpaper and a tile-tastic bathroom makeover.
"I feel a lot of pressure when a brand contacts me, it's imposter syndrome," Joanne confesses. "Even if I didn't have my Instagram, I'd still be in my house in my pyjamas sticking up wallpaper: now I'm just documenting it.
"It wasn't my intention to be an influencer, I was just sharing ideas and things began popping up: Your Home magazine in the UK contacted me and I was on the cover, I won most inspiring Instagrammer, and one of my early posts was shared by House and Home. It snowballed from there," she says.
She thinks there's a lot more to come. "The interiors community on Instagram is still in its infancy. Everyone supports each other, I don't see any competition. We all have the same passion, we bounce ideas off each other. I love the social aspect of it. I meet Katrina for coffee and we go to Darran's house and another girl had a Come Dine With Me dinner," she laughs.
Is it hard, sharing your life and home with almost 20,000 people? "My feed is more curated now: I'm more experienced with photography and I edit a lot of my photos, but my stories are authentic and I am going to keep it that way," she insists. "I'm not going to be in a full face of make-up with bleached teeth." We'll hold her to that.