We chat about living, lighting, and making small spaces beautiful with the man behind the Instagram sensation @tobyshome…
“I think a person’s taste evolves and adapts every single day. And if you’re like me and choose to act on your ideas, you’ll likely have an ever-changing environment… Which, like nature, is what I think design is all about..”
Toby Perryman-Payne is a self-confessed interior design, styling and homeware obsessive – and an Instagram star thanks to his gorgeous @tobyshome account. But he doesn’t just show off his taste: he shares plenty of practical tips through his blog and Youtube channel (despite claiming to be the ‘world’s worst DIY-er’) and is especially brilliant at making interior design ideas work wonders in smaller homes.
Here's our exclusive Q&A...
You’ve been making your country cottage a little bit lovelier every day for a few years now, and it’s brought you legions of Instagram interior design fans. Can you tell us a little about the cottage and how documenting its renovation has impacted your life?
That’s so kind, thank you so much for saying so. It has certainly been a labour of love, initially starting my Instagram account for no reason more than finding inspiration from others, before slowly documenting the progress of our own renovation. The interiors space on social media has typically been dominated by very large, expensive homes, with a very certain look. I had no expectation of our humble terraced cottage gaining so much exposure, which is something I suppose I’m quite proud of and incredibly grateful for. I only hope to be able to inspire others that small homes can be beautiful, too.
This opportunity has changed my life in so many ways. From starting my own interior design business, designing spaces all over the country (and even overseas), working with lots of incredible brands to create content, and more recently beginning to document my life on YouTube. The best thing is, I love my job and feel so excited for the future, with some of my most exciting projects in the pipeline!
Toby's kitchen, including wood-panelled ceiling. Photo: @tobyshome
Even though you describe yourself as ‘the world’s worst DIY-er’, you’ve got an amazing knack for innovative, imaginative decor ideas, like the exposed wood panels on your kitchen ceiling. Which ones are you most proud of?
Honestly, I don’t just describe myself as the world’s worst DIY-er… I truly believe I am! I’m all for creating cosy, and comfortable spaces, and so adding texture and depth is my signature style. Whether that’s in a rich, enveloping paint colour, or through adding wall panelling or other treatments.
I do have a special love for my kitchen ceiling – which is something I’ve put in other projects, too. I’ve worked on an incredible space in London recently which I’m quite proud of. It’s a smaller home, with a perfect blend of contemporary – with its Crittall windows & doors, and character – with the oak-clad ceilings and antique furniture.
What are the biggest things you’ve learned about home renovation?
That it’s really important to take your time. Live in the space you’re renovating – if it’s safe to do so – and really get a feel for how you use each room.
The cottage is famously bijou... What are your top interior design tips for a small home?
Well, I’m a big advocate for smaller homes, there are so many positives – like cheaper bills, cosy living, and most importantly, being able to afford to use higher quality materials when renovating, as there’s less surface area to cover!
Our home’s a little under 1000 sq ft, which can make for challenging design elements – when it comes to storage, social spaces & working from home, too. But I like to think of it as a challenge. I always say it, but my biggest tips when designing any space (but smaller homes in particular) are to really spend time thinking about both the colour choices and lighting. Both of these areas will be dependent on natural lighting, but will make the biggest difference on how the space feels.
Also, going bespoke in cabinetry and furniture is crucial in helping smaller spaces feel more functional.
What are your favourite places (online or offline) for interior design inspiration?
Books have always been and always will be my favourite source of inspiration. I like the tactility of them and am a bit of a collector of coffee table books. Second to that, it’s Pinterest. When I’m looking for inspiration for a very particular space, I like the idea of being able to see exactly what I’m looking for by searching for keywords – rather than the many mansions or incredible DIY projects the Instagram or TikTok algorithm shows me.
Do you think a home can ever be ‘finished’, or will there always be something more to do?
Someone once told me that “a home is only ‘finished’ when you move out”, which I truly believe. I think a person’s taste evolves and adapts (ever so slightly) every single day. With every conversation you have, TV programme you watch and song you hear, you’ll likely think of things differently. And if you’re like me and choose to act on those ideas, you’ll likely have an ever-changing environment… Which, like nature, is what I think design is all about.
How big a role does lighting play in your interior design? Any lighting tips to share?
Lighting plays a huge role in every scheme I work on. Whether it’s a well-lit home or a darker space like my cottage. When you think of your favourite restaurant, hotel or shop, it’s likely lit to *perfection*. It creates the atmosphere and mood of a space, and the correct lighting scheme will elevate any room.
In terms of tips, it’s important to have a layered lighting scheme in every room – a mix of ceiling, floor, table, wall lighting will help create a comforting, welcoming environment.
Also, getting the right bulb is crucial. A warm white, with a low wattage usually makes for the perfect glow in the evening.
We’re delighted that you have plenty of Pooky lights in the cottage, but do you have a favourite one - and if so why?
I’ve been a fan of Pooky for a long time, and so treasure lots of pieces in my collection. My favourite, however, has to be my rechargeable Wisteria table lamp. It’s such a versatile lamp that can move from room-to-room. It’s glass and so doesn’t encroach on the scheme and so works in any room. It’s dimmable too. It’s the perfect lamp!
Finally, spoiler alert - you’re actually in the process of selling the famous cottage… How will you (and your fans) bear to part with it? And, more importantly, will you be making your next property equally famous?
We are, which I still can’t quite believe. Our home means the world to us, and whilst we’re excited for the future, we’ll be very sad to leave the cottage behind. I’ve been so overwhelmed at how many people have messaged to say they’ll miss seeing our little cottage every day, which makes it that much more difficult to leave.
That said, the moving date is fast approaching, and designs are already underway for what we hope will become our next home, which we plan on renovating entirely over the coming years. Though I won’t give too much away, it’s another smaller space, in a dream location, with lots of charm & character to be added – but, I think isn’t something people would expect me to choose… Watch this space!