'If I can encourage one person to paint their floor tiles, then I'm happy' - Meet the interiors influencers
'Gone are the days when you can post a pretty picture and that's it - you need to be relatable'
Why do we give influencers such a hard time? Check out the Urban Dictionary. It's current top definition of an influencer is: "someone with lack of intelligence and a lot of free time, followed by tons of idiots on some social network, usually Instagram."
That's so unkind! Yes, there are plenty of people who use Instagram to feed their vanity and get free products, but that kind of person has always been around. Happily, there are many others who use the platform to share information in generous, entertaining and helpful ways.
Earlier this month, Catherine Carton of @daintydressdiaries and Joanne Mooney of @aproudhome were the speakers at Picture Perfect, a DFS event in Blanchardstown, hosted by Kirstie McDermott, editorial director of House and Home.
Carton and Mooney are both interiors influencers, and most of the chat was about their experience of interacting with the "amazingly supportive interiors community on Instagram".
Influencers need followers, and the more the merrier, but Carton and Mooney don't see it as a numbers game. For them, engagement is the key. "It's not about having a certain number of followers," Carton says.
"It's about the people who message you and say that you really helped them today. I'd rather be inspirational than aspirational!"
Working from three platforms - Instagram, You Tube, and a blog - Carton's content is both informative and personal. Reading her posts feels like reading somebody's diary, in a pleasant getting-to-know-you sense: private, but not too private, a bit like the Victorian diaries that were always intended for publication. "Gone are the days where you can post a pretty picture and that's it," Carton explains. "You need to be relatable. There is a sea of similar Instagram pages out there. But if you are just you - your personality - no one else can copy that."
One of the main complaints levelled at influencers is that they endorse products in a way that lacks integrity. Let's go back to the Urban Dictionary, where the second bitchy definition of an influencer is someone who is: "instafamous only on Instagram or buys 'followers' and 'likes' and gets free products from companys [sic] who fall into their trap of fake fame." To me, that smacks of begrudgery (and bad grammar!).
In the real world, the legislation around sponsored posts requires transparency. Carton, for example, has a full-time job in retail and runs @daintydressdiaries in her spare time. Last October, she posted on her blog about her experience of buying a DFS sofa. She concluded by saying that the post was a sponsored collaboration with DFS and that sponsorships and affiliate links help her to run her blog. Seems fair enough.
Carton's sofas are: a Joules Cambridge two-seater in pink velvet (€1,379); a Joules Cambridge cuddler sofa in mushroom velvet (€1,199); and a Joules footstool (€539).
Mooney also has a DFS Joules Windsor four-seater sofa in yellow (€1,819). "I actually should change my account to @thegirlwiththeyellowsofa," she says. "I was in the supermarket yesterday, buying chicken fillets, and someone came up to me and said: I love your yellow sofa." For successful influencers, this kind of thing is an occupational hazard. Carton has also been approached by complete strangers who ask her: "How are your cats?" I'd hate this, but it doesn't seem to bother them in the slightest.
Mooney is influenced by fashion and feels that the catwalks and homeware are never far apart. "To find your personal style, you just have to look in your wardrobe," she says. "I love colour and I dress like I decorate my home. When I got my yellow sofa I was wondering - what goes with yellow? So I looked at fashion on Pinterest and came up with purple. I would never have thought that yellow goes with purple! And it works incredibly well. It's almost like getting dressed to go out on a Saturday night. The sofa is like your dress - the big block of colour - and your accessories would be your lamps and your rugs. Decorating your home is probably a bigger investment, but it's translatable."
Both Carton and Mooney are more interested in DIY than shopping. "I'm getting good with power tools," Carton says. "I have my jigsaw and I have my drill and I have my sander. I'm at the stage where I chop things in half and add legs to them." Her You Tube channel, Dainty Diaries, is full of practical instructional videos about how to make things for the home.
Likewise, Mooney's turning point as an influencer was when she stencilled a pattern onto the tiles, made a time lapse video, and uploaded it to Instagram. "I'd like to think I'd inspire people to do things in their homes," she says. "If I can encourage one person to paint their floor tiles, then I'm happy."
For many people working with interiors, Instagram is a very effective promotional tool. "At the beginning, it was huge for us," says Gemma Lilly. "Instagram gave us a way to put ourselves out there without paying for advertising. Back then, we couldn't afford to advertise!" She's one half of the sibling partnership known as the Style Sisters; the other is Charlotte Reddington. Both have a background in fashion and styling and offer a service where they help you to style your living space in an organised way. It helps that they look the part, and looking the part is part of what they do.
"Instagram is a good platform for us because what we do is very visual," Lilly says. "But nowadays most of our clients hear of us through word of mouth."
If detoxing your wardrobe sounds painful, that's probably no more than the truth. "You feel amazing afterwards," Lilly says. "We get to the root of why your holding on to something that you'll never wear again and we'll give you style advice along the way." A wardrobe detox from the Style Sisters costs around €288, depending on how many clothes you have. Once they're done with your wardrobe, they swear that you'll want the same treatment for the rest of the house.
The Style Sisters are based in the UK but will be in Dublin tomorrow to participate in The Home Event at Arnotts, Dublin. Expect advice on decluttering for spring and an outline of how to detox your wardrobe. If you can't make the event, Instagram will be your friend.
See dfs.ie, houseandhome.ie, stylesisters.bigcartel.com, arnotts.ie, daintydressdiaries.com, @aproudhome