Utility Follows : Emma Hopkinson
Occupation: Content Creator & Tone of Voice Specialist
Location: London, UK
Emma Hopkinson has one of the most relatable usernames on Instagram, The Crap Flat. Most of us have been in Emma’s situation - renting a flat that’s just a bit crap and trying to make it your own without sacrificing your security deposit and getting on your landlord’s bad side.
The impressive thing about Emma’s account is that her flat looks anything but crap. It’s full of inviting minimal spaces and beautiful objects from some of our favourite European brands. Her eye for detail and ability to create a feeling of ‘home’ in a rented space acts as a reminder that with a few smart choices we can all have the interior we dream of, whether it’s rented or not.
We were drawn to Emma’s account because of her stunning style choices but also her award-winning way with words and down-to-earth personality - something that shines through in her post captions. We recently slid into Emma’s DMs to ask about her interior style, where she turns for inspiration and what brands she’s currently loving.
Read the full interview below.
I love the idea of minimalism, but in a flat that’s crap to its core, it just looks bare and draws attention to all the shit bits. So I’m pseudo until I get a Bond villa by the sea. - Emma Hopkison
We notice that you often refer to yourself as a pretend or pseudo-minimalist. Can you define that for us?
Oh yes I can. And it goes a little something like this: in its truest form minimalism is about paring things back to their core, having only the very essentials, and making those essentials the absolute rollicking best ones there are. Only I need stuff and decor in varying shades of greige; I need 30 white vases in different shapes, and texture and things in cupboards I haven’t looked at for years.
I love the idea of minimalism, but in a flat that’s crap to its core, it just looks bare and draws attention to all the shit bits. So I’m pseudo until I get a Bond villa by the sea.
One thing we’ve learnt from these blog posts is that you’re not alone in having a tendency to #dresslikeyourhome - do you think this concept can actually be flipped to help people figure out what items to add to their homes? We like the idea of looking at your wardrobe, seeing what colours or textures you’ve been drawn to in clothing purchases and using that as a template for a new room / flat.
100%. You’ve nailed it - shall we start a business together going through people’s wardrobes? I see my home as an extension of my personal style - tonal, textured and plain as a potato. I love seeing how the space evolves, and love that it’s never really finished - there’s always a little update to come that keeps the space feeling fresh.
If you like wearing things on your body then it stands to reason that those same things will keep you happy in your home as well.
Most of us can relate to living in a less than inspiring (okay, crap) rented home - how did you personally go about starting to add personal touches to your flat?
Oh, it has been a journey. A smelly journey (thanks, broken drains) and a damp journey (cheers, constantly leaking water pipes).
There’ve been multiple iterations of the crap flat over the years because we moved in with no furniture and have built up as we’ve gone. There were the sparse years, the boho years and the mid-century glam years, and finally, we’ve landed where we’re most comfortable - on a big pile of greige.
Ultimately, it’s been about understanding how we use the space and how we want to feel in it. As an anxious-minded introvert, I crave seclusion from mad old London, so have created a little cocoon I can retreat to after busy days.
There was a lot of research (scrolling on Instagram) and a lot of not-quite-theres, but through a little trial and error, I’m finally starting to be happy in my space.
Many people worry about not being able to put artwork on the walls or install shelving in their rented homes but it is something you’ve done in your space. Did you have any push-back from your landlord or how did you approach the subject?
I think the first email I ever sent to my landlord was to ask about putting pictures up because I was hell-bent on a gallery wall and no piffling legal contract was going to stop me.
Our landlord’s one of the good guys, and over the years, because we’re good tenants, he’s gradually learned to trust us, and we’ve been allowed to make ever greater changes to the flat, culminating in the great kitchen painting of 2020.
I think the thing a lot of renters don’t realise is that good tenants are hard to find, so if you are one, your landlord isn’t going to want to let you go. So build the relationship, develop trust and just keep asking for what you want. And I’ve found that if you can send over evidence that the idea’s worked elsewhere, that can really help too.
If your landlord’s dead against holes in the walls, there are some amazing standing shelves out there, and if all else fails, Command Strips and Hooks stick pictures to the wall like velcro without leaving a mark. Take that, rental limitations.
You’ve recently unveiled your newly updated office and dining spaces - and they’re fab! Which room will you be doing jazz hands in next?
It’s the bedroom - I shall be doing jazz hands in my bedroom. I’ve wanted to update that space for such a long time, but just couldn’t quite get my head around the vibe. Then I started finding a few bits and it sort of took on a life of its own. Expect cosy, Japandi (Japan-meets-Scandi) vibes, hella storage and a little bit of Utility Design...
What are some of your favourite interior brands at the moment? We’re guessing Muuto are up there?
Oh, Muuto, brand of dreams, with their clean lines and perfect proportions. I would marry them if I could. Then I’d date Audo on the side (have been eyeing up the Echasse vase for at least a year now), and start an emotional affair with 101 Copenhagen, if only for their ceramics. Then there’s New Works, Skagerak, Woud, and of course Ferm Living, and a little Georg Jensen for those fluid lines. Oh, and I’ll take the Hay Mags sofa and everything from &Tradition. And an Ercol table and a Gubi chair. And then I’ll wait a bit and raid Norman Copenhagen.
So, all of it, basically?
Are there any Instagram accounts, publications or websites that you turn to for inspiration?
Ok, are you ready? For straight-up interiors, try @thedesignchaser, whose calm stylings know no bounds. Nobody does stills better than @jaana__n, and both @the.aesthetic.eye and @bythun are nailing every single shot - such beautiful homes.
I always consider @thesefourwallsblog and @catesthill to be the OGs of comfy, cosy minimalist homes - I followed them both long before I started my own account - and I love @_millergrey’s beautiful light-filled images - that man can style.
Then there’s @indivisualstyle, who’s also renting a crap flat, and of course, for the complete opposite to my flat, you gotta follow my blog buddy Robyn @almost_everything_off_ebay, who describes her decor style as, ‘Explosion in a clown factory’.
Finally, if people are interested in treating their eyes to some of your award-winning penmanship, which of your blog posts should they check out?
Ooo, good question - all of them..? Or, for a selective edit, try our post on updating crap rentals, in which Robyn and I offer agony aunt-style advice coming from our wildly different aesthetic standpoints.
Then go get creative with my tutorial on making your own DIY art (spoiler: it’s really easy).
You can check out my workspace update, which was a complete game-changer in the crap flat, and then, if you want to laugh and cry in equal measure, go have a read of our Other’s Day chat with @hardcastletowers, @stephaniewks and @theidlehands, talking about all things emotionally-tricky and Mum-related. And come say hi on Insta - I write a mean DM.
Photography Credit: Emma Hopkinson