Heart Home meets... Joanna Thornhill

I first met stylist Joanna Thornhill many moons ago at an Ideal Home Christmas party, but it wasn't until late 2011 that we finally got to work together - collaborating on the festive decorating shoot for the Winter issue of Heart Home.

Watching Jo work was an eye-opening experience; her style is heavily involved in detail and her astute eye and nimble fingers allowed her to create a stunning hanging decorative tree that became the stand-out image of the shoot.

And her vintage wonderland decorating scheme is not her only contribution to Heart Home; Jo's quirky rental home was featured in the debut issue and has now made it into the pages of this month's Style at Home magazine as well!

Her clever improvised techniques for adding character without risk of losing her deposit offer a wealth of quick and easy style ideas to steal for your own home. She took a few minutes to tell me how she does it...

{EKBB, photography by Mike Daines}

In a very roundabout way! I always loved interiors but was always more interested in the things that went into a space and how they all worked together, rather than the space itself, and couldn't see how this could ever be a career - back in the pre-blogging days, not many outsiders knew what a stylist was! I decided that working on property programmes seemed like fun, and spent several years as a runner trying to work my way up the ladder. Eventually this led to some art department work, which was fantastic experience, but I felt that I wanted to try something more trends-focused rather than incidental props and budget makeovers. So I researched interiors stylists, put together a list of names and started calling some, offering my services as a freelance assistant. Within several months I was just about making a living from my assisting work, which continued to grow as I met more and more people in the industry. After a couple of years I started working on my own projects and juggled styling with assisting for a while, before (touch wood) things took off! I always think that's quite a toughie, as it depends on the client and brief. But personally I'd say my style isn't too formal; I like to add a few quirky and whimsical elements where possible, or a slightly abstract touch to an otherwise "perfect" shot, and I do seem to have a thing for miniature animals! I think generally it incorporates a mixture of pretty vintage, funky retro, slick modern and Miss Havisham, in ever-varying proportions.

{EKBB, photography by Mike Daines}

It's probably a cliche, but anywhere and everywhere really. I've just come back from an amazing trip to India, which was hugely inspiring - from the vibrant colours on buildings to the intricately painted lorries and crumbling ancient walls juxtaposed with modern plastic signage - I'm still editing my way through the 1200+ photos I took out there! Trade shows and craft fairs are obviously great resources too, and I love discovering new designers who are doing something particularly clever or unique. I always get stupidly overexcited when visiting second hand shops and car boot sales - I'm a massive vintage fiend and I love the thrill of the chase and never knowing what you might find. I particularly love thinking of ways to make old things work with how we live our lives today - be that upcycling an old colander to make a lampshade, or simply reusing old vintage cake tins to store power cables. I'm also a big fan of Instagram - I'm forever snapping things that catch my eye and playing with the look on there - I love how it encourages you to view the relatively mundane as something unusually beautiful through a few simple tweaks, and looking at other users shots can be very inspiring. A typical Brit, I think my most memorable moments all involve weather! There was one outdoor Summer dining shoot I worked on over two extremely snowy days one freezing February - at one point, I had to stand outside in the snow holding a bunch of hydrangeas aloft at a window to mask out the view of snow-covered fields beyond! A slightly happier memory was a beach shoot in Frinton-on-Sea last Summer - the weather preceding it had been awful and I was hugely concerned it was going to be a washout, particularly as we had no strong Plan B and I'd worked on another outdoor beach shoot just a couple of weeks previously which had ended in torrential rain and the props nearly getting washed away into the sea. Luckily, it turned out to be a fantastic, beautiful Summer's day, the shoot went really well and even finished early, giving us time to sneak in some celebratory fish and chips on the beach before driving home, smug and full.

{The Velvet Bakery, photography by Max Attenborough}

When it comes to styling and finishing touches, don't get too bogged down with doing things "properly" - be spontaneous and have a go at slapping a bit of paint over that old sideboard, or stick up some wallpaper onto that ugly plain door with double sided tape to see if you like it. One of my all-time favourite location houses is that of photographer Debbie Treloar - every time I've worked there, there's been new projects on the go, all with an element of "wrongness" to them - be it a leather chair painted with cracking emulsion paint, makeshift cushion covers fixed in place with safety pins or an alcove covered in an ever-growing collection of vintage postcards tacked straight onto the wall. The map wallpaper I used to cover an old filing cabinet in my living room, as seen in issue one of Heart Home, was actually one of her cast-offs - I leaped at the chance to take it off her hands when she was having a clearout! I find this approach to decorating so liberating and a perfect way to test new ideas - so many people worry about their cushions not matching their curtains, or are put off buying certain things for fear it won't "go" with the rest of their look, that I think being brave enough to just give things a go has to be one of the best tips anyone could give.

{photography by Lena Le Guen}

As a freelancer, really I'm grateful for any jobs I get! But any jobs where you get to be really creative and inventive, and maybe mingle in a little bit of craft, are a dream to me. Editorial shoots are always hard work but I love having the pick of all the best products the market has to offer, and the thrill of discovering that perfect piece is unbeatable. My ultimate magazine to style for would have to be LivingEtc as I think the aesthetic they conjure up is just amazing - every month I pour over their decorating shoots, getting more and more over-excited with each page turn. Outside of editorial, I'd love to get my teeth stuck into a trends-based project for someone like a paint company, where you're working so intently on telling a story. In terms of High Street brands, there's some corking ranges coming out at the moment, but my favourite would have to be Anthropologie - from their in-store displays through to their styled shots, they are absurdly creative and have such an incredible product range. I've been lucky enough to assist some fantastic stylists in my time, and it's always fascinating seeing someone at work who you've previously admired from afar. I've long been a fan of Selina Lake's work (and have to admit to being a little starstruck the first time I assisted her!) and as well as having such a recognisable, joyful go-to aesthetic, she's also got a very savvy business side. Other fabulous stylists I've had the pleasure of working with, and am a huge fan of, include Sally Cullen, Hannah Simmons, Ali Bradshaw, Pippa Jameson, Anna Malhomme-de-la-Roche, Portland Mitchell, Abigail Edwards, Miranda Watchorn... the list goes on and on! I also have a huge amount of respect for the ladies I like to call the uber-stylists: people like Faye Toogood, who is practically a brand name now thanks to her design consultancy work, Atlanta Bartlett, who is pretty much synonymous with the pale and interesting aesthetic, and Emily Chalmers for nailing flea market chic long before it hit the mainstream.

{photography by Lena Le Guen}

I still can't believe sometimes that selecting and fluffing cushion covers is an actual job! Obviously there's a huge amount more to it than that - and it's often incredibly hard work, juggling long hours and physically demanding work whilst having to keep several 'heads' on at once to keep everything spinning - but the buzz you get from being on shoots and seeing your vision come together just can't be beaten. I love being able to work on a project from its inception and see it through to the end, and I love coming up with new ideas for shoots or seeing a new product and getting a spark of how you might be able to use it in another project. It's like being able to try out thousands of looks for your own home without really committing to any of them - I get to live vicariously through my styling work!