Paula Sutton’s @hillhousevintage Instagram posts for Easter are as eagerly awaited as chocolate eggs and fluffy bunnies. Her mix of sophisticated yet approachable decor combined with her joyful celebration of country life makes her the ultimate feel-good style influencer – a person we love to walk through the seasons with.
In her monthly column, she gives a deeper insight into her world and what it’s like to live in Norfolk, a county on the east coast of Britain. Here, she shares the Easter rituals, traditions, and decorating ideas—some new, some traditional—that bring happiness and hope during this time.
Easter in childhood
“As with many things in life, there were two sides to Easter when I was young.
“There was the austere side of convent school, where omnipresent nuns channeled my moral learning to the severest sensibilities of the season, to ensure that we schoolgirls understood the ‘true’ meaning behind this most important of all Christian festivals – in short, to see that it doesn’t start and end with thoughts of cake, feasting and gifting chocolate eggs.
“Then there was the other side. That was the fun part, taking place at home, sitting next to the seriousness of, well, cake, feasting and giving away chocolate eggs!’
Defy the Easter weather
“These days, my Easter celebrations at Hill House are a mixture of ceremony and celebration. There is the joy of being with family and friends and a sense of gratitude for the imminent arrival of spring and the burgeoning beauty that this season brings.
“Easter marks the point where I start thinking about garden party ideas and al fresco dining – hesitantly as it’s often a time marked by a complex mix of weather fronts. I remember arriving at my in-laws’ house one Easter weekend amid a sudden and unexpected heat wave. When we awoke the next day we saw large flakes of snow falling from the innocently clear blue sky and settling heavily on the East Sussex countryside.
“Easter weather is more like a pick and mix – you never know what you’re going to get, so there’s no point in assuming one or the other. If that means two toffees in a row (or a rainy holiday in this case) then you just have to keep going and factor in all weather contingencies.’
Make an Easter wreath
“I can’t help but feel drawn to the gatekeepers of traditions at Easter. Shrouded in my love of home and homely pursuits, our traditions repeat year after year and have often been passed on, albeit slightly warped by age and memory, and perhaps re-adapted to adapt to changing times and changing tastes.
“It starts with making an Easter wreath, usually with items I’ve collected and collected from my garden. The children are all still expecting the Easter Bunny to lay their eggs in front of the bedroom – only the proportion of cocoa has increased with age!”
The Easter Festival
“There are all kinds of delicious Easter recipes to feast on. We love a roast leg of lamb cooked in red wine with a generous sprinkling of fresh rosemary and garlic from the garden, cloves from my parents in the Caribbean and honey from a local farm shop, all pickled or brushed before roasting to flavor the meat.
“Perfectly roasted potatoes are my husband’s specialty (although he conveniently forgets who taught him the fluffing technique). The goal is fluffy and crunchy at the same time, making them the perfect crispy carrier for mint jelly (me), mint sauce (everyone else), and gravy. Honey-glazed carrots and seasonal spring vegetables are natural companions, as are Easter table settings and vases filled with daffodils and snowdrops or aged pots with crocuses and hyacinths.
“My seasonal baking is also in full swing during Easter. I bake a light fruitcake Simnel cake topped with 11 balls of marzipan. Then there are the novelty cupcakes, which are smothered in vanilla buttercream, topped with a chocolate nest and finished off with a handful of mini chocolate eggs in various pastel colors.
The great Easter egg hunt
“Games are essential. I’ve written puzzles for an Easter egg hunt in the garden since the kids were little. Often with their cousins of a similar age, they have hunted my cleverly arranged booby traps and red herrings artfully arranged in the garden in pursuit of the numerous hidden chocolate eggs. Over the years, the fun came more and more from a Cluedo-like pursuit of victory rather than a desire for more chocolate.
“It is a pleasure to have these traditions stick with us and I envision my children doing the same with their own children for years to come. For therein lies the consolation of tradition and ritual. They are always present but are revised, renewed and reborn over time, which is a particularly poignant thought at Easter.’