The Reality of being an Interiors Influencer
Episode 3- Abi Hugo 'The Reality of being an Interiors Influencer'
So this week we invite in Abi Hugo, who is owner of the White Thistles. She is a DIY interiors influencer. I've known Abi for ages, and I absolutely love what she does. She's mesmerising with the reels that she makes. And she shares so many DIY tips and upcycling inspirations. She had a lot to share and we had a really really good giggle. There was some explosive episode exclusive in the chat that we had, but it was really really interesting listening to the reality of being a DIY and upcycling interior styling influencer.
I wanted to bring you in because I've been following you for a long time. And your Instagram inspires me to be better. And hence the name of this podcast. I want to know that Insta I'm not allowed to say Instagram because trademark Insta versus reality of you. So in your own words. Like I would say you're a DIY influencer. But we've already established that.
Yes, I am an influencer. But I've always struggled with that because I think it sounds wonky. I hate that word. Because it sounds so like, oh, well, I'm influencing you. It's actually no, I'm just creating. So I say content creator because I'm just creating content that happens to if you are on that side of it, influence people. I'm just sitting there creating content, I just do what I like doing, put it out into the world. I don't intend to influence I never started my account to be an influencer. So I think that's why I've really struggled with it.
When do you like business categories? What do you do? I'm a blogger. Although I don't really blog very much. I do have a blog. And there are some things on it where if something goes viral, I tend to put a blog up about it because I get fed up with answering. Yeah, but I'd say you do influence people. I've bought doorbells, HelloFresh and projector from you
Yeah, that's amazing. And that makes me really happy. But it was never my intention, I guess. But I guess that is why brands work with me. But I'm just like, my goal is to just create pretty things and be creative. And therefore content creator makes me feel like it makes me feel more comfortable.
Yeah, it's a bit more of a professional title, I'd say. So take us back what you like because maybe people might not know who you are. So give us a little quick white whistle tour of Abi Hugo, the white vessel.
So five years ago now because of Henry's five I was on maternity leave with Henry, who's my first child, basically. I worked in HR in the city. I love my job. And I was kind of really struggled to have Henry actually. So we had a couple of miscarriages before I had him. I was because of that I was quite detached from his pregnancy. And I was like, I'm going back. I'm going back. I'm definitely going back. I'm in HR. They'll look after me. I'll get a part time job. It'll be really flexible. And then obviously being sat on maternity leave being paid to cuddle Henry. I was like, not sure I want to go back. I was really indecisive about it. But basically in and I used to live in Bristol, my husband and we went back for an anniversary took Henry and we went into the shop and Henry started screaming but I was like it was my definition of shop goals. I could have bought everything there because he started screaming. I just grabbed a business card and we walked out and then on the drive back to Essex, I was looking at the business card. And they do wholesale and it's like I did just came I was like what if I have a shop, I can just buy some products.
Honestly, this was the extent of my business plan. I was like, I can buy some products, take some pictures and put it on Instagram and sell it that way. Like we're not wholesale, like I bought wholesale products from this one shot I love and sold them. And then I also sold bar Ford's reclaimed shelving that I started making. So I was like, I've got a couple of products, I spent about two grand on wholesale products. And I was like, there's not really very many products and I look at it. So I started making my own as well back then the intention was to also upcycle furniture and sell those on my website. But I didn't ever get around to that. So it's come full circle. But so yeah, event. So I had the shop for a while. And I did really well like I got to like 5000 followers on Instagram, and the shop was going quite well. And I hadn't decided whether I wanted to go back to work or not. So I put in for a six month sabbatical.
In that time, I was like, if I can, my only goal was to make £800 to pay but then mortgage as if I can make 800 pounds, then it will be worth it. Because after train fares and like child fare, I was just like, that'd be more than I would make bringing home. So I did my sabbatical. And then things started really taking off. And when I hit about 5000- 6000 followers, a brand got in touch with me. And they were like, how much would you charge for some stories and a price like, you do realise I'm a shop, I sell products. You're a shop and they were like, Yeah, we know, we know that you don't sell bedding and curtains, which is what we sell. And you have the following of our ideal client. So we say to you, yeah, they DM me on Instagram. And I was like, oh my god, this is a thing. This is what I mean, I never intended I was like, I was fully like, I think everything that worked really well for my account is even though we're selling products, I was selling them in a lifestyle way.
So I was always taking photos of my house and like styling things in my house. So it felt like this was aspirational. Like what you Yes. So that's what I think worked well. So I kind of treated my account, like an influencer, even though I didn't know that's what I was doing. And then yeah, so then a brand reached out. And then I kept growing and more brands reached out and I was like, Oh, what if I could make this thing that started to then like, overtake the income I was making from the shop. Yeah, so I sort of scaled back the shop. I got rid of the products. I was buying wholesale. This all happened quite quickly, within a year and a half. So and then I just sold the bath boards and shelves and eventually I scrapped that off as well because I was like a one year old trying to sand down scaffolding shelves, it was just not maternity period.
And then sort of to get to where we are today. We went into lockdown. I had another baby. And I had dabbled in mum influenced by this stuff, which it's still there. If we scroll back. It's just really cheesy. And I really cringe at that point of my life. I had nothing else to create content on because we were selling our house. So I couldn't do anything like our current house because we were selling it. That's what's the point in wasting money. And I just kept saying to eat and I was just saying, when we move house, I know my account will take off. When we move house. I know I have the creativity and they're like, like blank canvas that things will go again. And I was doing really well. I had like 25,000 followers and had a steady income from the influencer side. But I just felt stunted in the growth. And then when we moved it, it just blew up.
So we moved in the November and then at Christmas, I did a kitchen makeover. Every year I've hit 10k basically on and around the day I started my income. So after 10k followers, yeah, sorry. Money's at the side of stuff. But yeah, 10k followers. So I like that after a year I had 10,000 followers. Two years, I had 20,000. And then it was coming up to the third year and I hadn't had 25,000 followers. So I was like, I'm not gonna hit it this year. So I was beating myself up about it. But then I had a reel go viral and my mum was sitting there just watching this number takeover and ended up with like, 37,000 followers. By the time that my third year I was like, oh my god, from one from my influence. And then it was my kitchen where I painted the kitchen black clap. And then shortly after that, I upcycled my first piece of furniture on Instagram. I've done a few pieces before, but this was the first one I'd ever shot because reels becoming a really big thing.
So if I'd ever upcycle anything, before, it would have just been a picture of it on Instagram, you wouldn't have seen the process. So I upcycled my first piece of furniture. And that went super viral and got like 7 million views. And I went from like 37,000 to 18,000 followers in like three days. And I was like, Huh, okay, I think I need to niche into because I was just an interiors influenced before that. And I was like, okay, like, let's let's go for for, you know, female, DIY and upcycling, which I did. Anyway, it was always me that's done the DIY, because you can't even change like very smart man. He's a very smart man. He's just not very practical. You balance each other out. And then that kind of brings us up to then I've had a couple of viral reels, but also just natural growth and yeah, I'm about 120 ish 1000 followers now and yeah, create content as my job every day, every day.
Let's talk about that. But the first stuff I've never heard of is still amazing. Have you always done DIY like from when you were little like changing around?
Yeah. So I used to be one of these, like every weekend, only because I needed to tidy my room, I would have to rearrange the entire room to give myself the motivation to tidy up. But then love it and keep it tidy for a certain amount of time and about oh, this is amazing. And then yeah, I'd move it all around again. And yeah, I had a variety of different bedrooms, styles throughout my teenage years. And then yet because my granddad is a builder, and he only has one daughter, which is my mom. So he taught her everything. And then I've just watched her. So her job in between, like real jobs, they used to flip houses, so renovate houses, and then sell them on. And it was always her doing the majority of the work. So I've watched a woman doing DIY my whole life. So it's not it was never a question to me. Like everyone's like, Oh my God, you're so inspirational, like no, it's just normal. It's very, very, very normal for me.
Yeah. So you spend this time talking about perception versus reality because I sit and watch you on Instagram. And yes, like as soon as I followed you for a long time. So before you moved house, there was like, Baby, although you do a little bit now like baby sleep stuff like food stuff. You moved house and there was that pocket flooring. But together, now the perception on Instagram, is that it took you 15 seconds. Because you made a nice reel.
Yeah. If you want the real Instagram versus reality, I'll give you a real tip. So that flooring, I pulled up some old red carpet and underneath was like the original parquet flooring, five finger weave. If you know what that looks like, like tiny little pieces, five, laying five by side and then like go the other way. It's beautiful. But it's so not my style. So that was another one of the reels that went viral because I posted a reel of myself ripping it up. And if you want to set the trolls on fire, oh my God do something like that. Because they just want What are you doing, and it just got them going like trigger fingers. So that reel the first five seconds was me ripping it up. And then the last 10 seconds was me re laying it in a different pattern. So herringbone pattern is so much more what I enjoy and like even looking at so that took me a month. And that was horrendous. It was the hardest job I've ever had. I get these ideas in my brain and it goes on. I have to do it, have to do it. I don't really think like that because I was like, oh how I don't think it through. I'm just like I want this, I want to do it. So I'm going to do it. So like halfway through this project. I'm like, This is the worst thing. But that is where it is quite good.
I have a whole audience of people waiting for me to finish it. So the motivation of like, peer pressure to finish does help. Otherwise, I may have fully sucked that one off, because that was horrendous. But yeah, that was really, really hard. And then obviously you because there's this whole sort of, you need to do things that are slightly different to like, what you don't there's a lot of very successful accounts that very, you know what the right word, it's just very normal and very vanilla and they don't push the boundaries of creative. I wouldn't say they're very beautiful to look at. But they don't. I wouldn't say like doing that one. I was like, I don't know if there's no work about bleaching herringbone floor. Well, bleach MAHOGANY floors, like, Is this even gonna work? And if it works, then we're going to ruin it. I don't know. But I think because there was another one where I painted my ceiling Brown. And you know, there's a lot I do some fairly controversial, like, pushing it a little bit, but within the safe neutral tones of my house. I don't like colour.
So it's like, what can I do to make things a little bit different? Yeah, so that took a really long time. But yes, I think the thing is on Instagram, if you look at the reels, it did only take 15 seconds or 30 seconds. But a lot of people tuned in every day. I think that was the highest story views I ever had, ever, because people were really waiting for updates. And I was getting messages every day being like what's happening today. It's like, honestly, nothing because I'm exhausted and the kids aren't at school. So I'm sat at home, slaving around looking after the kids.
But it all looks so beautiful outside on the grid. And what does it look like if I was going to step into your house? Do you have people around?
I do have people probably a little bit like probably quite shabby in a way because half of it is a building site half the time because there's tools everywhere. So whilst I would have people to come over, I would obviously tidy up. But I think people are surprised by the layout and the size because I think it might look bigger than it is on Instagram. Because I know that a photographer would know how to take angles. I know how to take the angles in my house, and it is also a very obvious one. But people seem to always forget it because even when I show it, it's like oh my god, thank you for showing that. But behind the scenes I have the photo or the reel. It can look like Obama said it. Because I've got to just show what I need to show. I do try to intentionally show reality occasionally.
Do you clear up the aftermath?
Yes, exactly. So I try to do that in my stories. And I have put a few of the real books on the grid before. But it is hard because I consume content. And I'm like, God, their life is perfect. And they are people that will never ever show the reality. And it really bothers me because it really messes with my mental health. And I'm like, now I need to switch. I need to sort of like, mute those people for a while. Because it does it gets really gets to you, no matter
how to make a conscious decision of showing people your reality.
Because I know how it affects me, it is a constant and I probably should do it more. But I do think I try to show especially. The mess that the house isn't tight trading that often stuff
to be not done.
Do you think you'll always find projects?
Yes. Which is why the UPS likes the upcycling house, because they are my like, quick, satisfying projects that just like, I get an idea, and I can do it in a day or two, and it's done. Whereas the longer more drawn, it's really difficult because I'm very conscious of like, a lot of the things I do might not be achievable to the everyday person, you know, you might not have all those tools, or it might be a bit scary, like, the stuff I do some you would hire a carpenter to do. Whereas I feel like the upcycles that's the achievable content. So I have like, achievable and then aspirational or, and that's what I have for those what those upcycles do, it's like people can tune in and they can see things so they can instantly go and do. Yeah, that's the plan anyway. So that was conscious as well.
Upcycling influencer? Yes. Content Creator DIY.
So like my if you were to look at my, I think it's in my bio, it's like DIY upcycling and lifestyle content creator because obviously that is where I get my income from having lifestyle in there helps with other brands. So it could be like cleaning or cooking or like it helps broaden. And it's also what people want to see like, if you're gonna say influencer, because if I'm consuming content from another influencer, I want to see the nitty gritty of their life. I find it so interesting.
And showing that little bit if it's just DIY, just upcycling, it's too niche. If you're talking about the like, the brand side that like the money side, there's not a lot of brands you can work with, if you just upcycle furniture, the very limits your what you can do DIY, obviously, Brian branches out a bit. And then if you go just like home and lifestyle that broadens even more. So whilst it's really good niche to grow. You've then got to think well, okay, but how am I going to monetize?
Can we touch on that a little bit? Like what's everyone will look like? And you've got that amazing, like delux partnership. And everyone's like, well, it's alright for them. Like they've got loads of followers, they must just come flocking, but was then the reality of actually monetizing your account. Because I know we've taken full advantage. It's actually a huge amount of work that goes into making a life out of brand deals, right?
Yes, yes. It has to be almost like you have to treat it like a full time job. It seems really nice. But there's actually a whole, I don't want to sound like woe is me, but there is a lot of pressure because it's like, you have to create content every day. That's organic content for brands to even want to approach you. So that means you're working every day. Luckily, like I will say like I do what I love, so it is fun. But then there is the pressure of okay, I've got nothing to post today, what am I going to do, because if I don't have a certain amount of followers, and they're not seeing content and engaging with it, then my engagement rate is low. And then brands won't want to work with me so that I don't have a job. So it's a vicious cycle. I am very grateful
I barely share five posts a week.
And it's my job to tell people to do it. Like sometimes I wish sometimes I wish I picked these uni. And I'm sure that people in fashion will say like, it's not an easy niche, but I feel like if I went to Primark and picked up a load of clothes and tried them on and then that was my job done, but my job is like very, very that's why I feel like I get to say this a little bit. My job is very physically intense. Like I am building and my hands are horrible. Like proper builders' hands.
I'm sometimes like why did I choose this niche, but then I'm also really proud of like. When I see messages and people like you've inspired me, like I got a message and someone's like, you inspired me to go into being Q on my own I would have never have done it. I would have been too nervous. So I love that because it's like for me it's like the female empowerment side. I'm like, Yes, you can do it. Like any woman can do this. You just have to have a bit of like, be a little bit insane. Just but have the bravery to just try.
Do you get a lot of pushback from builders?
Yes, I get a lot of hate from mail builders, which most of them hate on Facebook. I don't actually get that much on Instagram. It's very rare. The main trolling I've ever had on Instagram is that I'm dyslexic, and I get it about my spelling, which I'm very conscious of. And I try very hard, because it's so wrong. All of the trolling is so wrong. But I think the trolling annoys me about my spelling because I'm like, genuinely, I'm fairly certain, like most people make spelling mistakes on Instagram, because you just typing Instagram Stories doesn't have a spellcheck.
But yeah, I've had a fair few, actually. And that's just really annoying. No, but then on Facebook, and tik tok is where the trolls come out. I've got a really nice following on Instagram, and you tend to just unless you go viral, only your followers see your stories. Then they're not gonna be horrible to you. And most likely, only your followers see your posts unless it goes viral. But tik tok and Facebook have very different algorithms or Facebook, because it's new. So it's just sending it to everyone.
So for example, I started a new Instagram account, and I'm posting exactly the same things on Facebook and Instagram. Instagram has 30 followers. I've only been doing it for about a week. And on tick tock, I have over 500. Before you like brand new page posting just real is doing what I know I'm doing if that makes sense. And it does just show the difference, which I find really interesting.
So I recently did my bathroom. I put some tiles on the wall. Gosh, you didn't know you could do tiling so wrong. Basically, I didn't use tile spacers, which sent them all into a flurry. Like, it's all gonna be wonky. I was like, the amount of times I had to repeat myself and say these are a certain type of tile though, like organic, the edges aren't straight. So if I put tile spaces in, then it's going to make the top bit look really wide and this bottom bit really narrow because none of the tiles are straight. And they're like, Barbara, how you doing it all wrong. It's all gonna fall off the wall. And it's like, I think I haven't piled piles before like, I've done this before. It's fine. And I want all the tiles all the gaps are all wonky. I was like, I want them to be wonky. It's called Organic. When anything too straight and narrow, like, Yeah, but they're very, very, very nasty. I think I don't mind people critiquing or saying things like that, because I've got to come back to that. It's the ones that are like, Oh, not too bad for someone that should just be in the kitchen cleaning. Those are the ones that drive me mental.
Does it ever put you off? Carrying on doing what you're doing?
It used to not anymore. I've got a lot thicker skin. And I didn't ever think I would get to this point, actually. But now I can laugh before I used to take 20 days to get over it and it would stop me posting. It used to feel really personal. Even though it probably wasn't. But it used to feel really personal. I used to really take it to heart. So for example, again, with the parquet floor project, I tested for asbestos. But I didn't show that in my reel. So people take into context, this 15 Second thing and think they know everything about the project that I've done. And people were like you've not tested for asbestos, asbestos, asbestos, asbestos, asbestos, actually blocked the word now. We've got so fed up with people like maybe read like, so I'd reply. But then people would read that and be like, and think I hadn't, if they didn't see me replying, and they'd be like, Oh my God, she's such an idiot. She doesn't know what she's doing. That really got to my heart. I was like, oh my god, everyone's gonna think I don't know what I'm doing that I'm just making this shit up as I go along. And sometimes I am, I know, I didn't know I had done the right steps. But I couldn't reply to every single person saying I have I have I have. And I just thought, Oh, if a new follower comes on and sees that comment, and thinks, yeah, I'm being dangerous, and I don't know what I'm doing. It really used to bother me. So yeah, just blocked that word. And you don't want anyone to say it.
What changed then? Between then and now?
I actually don't know. I think I just got a bit more used to it. If I'm, if I'm honest. Like it happened more. So I was like, Okay, well, this is gonna happen. I'm gonna have to get used to it. And I'll be really honest, if I know you'll have like male male listeners, too. But like, depending on the time of the month, it can still get to me. Oh, yeah. So if it hits, it hits me, like the week before my periods do. Oh, my God, it still is still atrocious. Other than that, I've got a lot more thick skinned and I'm just like, well, that's more of a you p roblem. Also, I used to have this really like nicey nice persona. And I still am. I do feel like I'm a nice person. But because of the hate on tick tock. And it wasn't my primary platform. I felt like I could be a bit spicy back. And like quite enjoyed being quite sarcastic back. Because people were like, Oh, I can't believe you painted your ceiling ship Brown. I was like a good job, it's not your house then. And it's just simple. But I quite enjoyed this. This is quite fun. So yeah, I quite enjoyed being able to like, bite back a little bit without repercussions of it being on my primary platform.
I guess it's only gonna get you're gonna have to take it. Because as you grow, it's only going to get more.
Yeah, exactly. And when I talk to other influences, like smaller accounts, and they're really worried about it, I'm like, I get it because I was you. But it's a part of it. And unfortunately we can't change it and if there are Only commenting about my deck or style. I'm fine with that. Which is why being dyslexic and the spelling stuff actually gets to be more because that is personal to me. And I've got a lot of like, shit that I remember from school about that. If they're just commenting on my deck or then go for it.
Yeah. Sure. Because again, that's something that might happen more as you grow. Yeah,
so I've had it a few times. And I like, because I do it all at home. And it's very, like, insular. And I had a lady come up to me in the carpark and she's like, you're the way this was like, and I was like, I don't know what to say to them. Actually, it was in Tesco and one of the so I've got this curler I don't really put a lot of heat in my hair. I've got this heat scaler and I did my hair. And then it was high. I don't know why I did it. Maybe I just did it for content. And then I was at home with Millie all day. So I just put my hair up. And I went to Tescos. And this like this Tescos like employee came up and she was like, literally curls. I was like, Excuse me? It's just like you did your hair this morning. I was just watching it on my lunch break. Because I was like, oh, yeah, she's pulling my hair. So I put it up. But that was really weird one. But it's only been a handful of times, probably more. So when I actually shared the kids a bit more. And I would go to kids' soft plays and stuff. Not so much now. I also think I'm quite an introverted person. And I tend to think I get followed by more introverted people. Do you know?
I think Your vibe attracts your tribe. And I think people notice you, but they just don't say anything. Maybe. I'd rather know.
Okay, what's one exclusive. I want to know if there's anything that you haven't shared, like one big actual reality that you don't share. And don't talk about it. So maybe it is in a curated way and not the actual true version of it.
Okay, so I will give you a part because I don't know if ive shared it. So that parquet floor is not finished. I finished the half that I showed you. The lot off behind the camera, still not bleached. So I have this line. I keep telling myself, I'll get back to it. But I have the actual emotional damage and pressure that to actually get back and do that as well.
So it's not even pulled up?
No, no, it's all it's all pulled up. It's all laid back down. It's all filled. It's just I sanded the half, like towards the living room door and the front door. I sanded that, I bleached that because people were getting really precious about like the updates. And I was like it's taking forever. It was taking me like two weeks to do each stage. I was like I just need to finish. I need to finish a part of it so I can show them a result. And that's how it felt. So the half behind the camera. It still needs to be bleached. So I've got this line across. So there you go. There's your exclusive.
Thanks. It's good so you really do know the angles of your own house then?
I do. Because it definitely looks finished. There's a rug. There's a rug as you're painting. I have hidden it from my own view. There's a lot of little things like you know, everyone's got a snack list. Right? Like that's a big one. Like things that aren't really painted or you've like you've painted around a piece of furniture that you couldn't be bothered to pull out. I've got things like that. And I have been on occasion known to edit things where I've made mistakes.
So for example, what did I so I line washed my bedroom, well I'm washing if you don't know what it is it's like you have to you don't roll it on and paint it in a nice thing and use a brush to go round all the angles you'd kind of like splatter it on and like spread it around the wall so it looks like really textured and I went on to the coating on the top of the sit near the ceiling and so I had this like little like brush mark on the coating at the time I was like I need to finish the wall can't be bothered to paint that bit at the moment. So for a good month. Okay, editing out this like one brush mark out of all my bitches Oh, I love it. They often react. You sign it now? Have you painted over it now? It's now done. You're gonna go back and look for it. I'm gonna show you where it was. You can't believe that everyone's life is easy and perfect all the time. It's like, there's, there's piles of tools everywhere.
And Ian is constantly like lifting my drill and putting it somewhere away from me because he thinks the kids will be able to reach it. And then he hides it. And I'm like, where is it? And it's just yeah, like, there's, it's very hard living. You'll know from working at home, it's hard to work out, like we want to go somewhere else for work, but to live at home, and your job be doing up your home. And the pressure of having like, it's good, because it's like, okay my job is doing at my home. So it means it gets done. But I've got to like it, it's very stop, start, like when you get builders in, you can kind of clear out for a few days, and let them crack on. And then you move back into the house. We live in a building site half the time because I've got to, I've got like, five hours, school time, to do the project. And then I've got to clear it all away, because the kids are coming home and then I'm gonna get it all out again. Yeah, stop start, which is why projects take so long, which is why the hallway we took so long because it's the main hallway.
I love that, when are you going to hold yourself accountable? When's that floor gonna get done?
Probably not for a while. And maybe I don't know, I actually probably have the new year, I've got so many projects lined up because of the brand work I have to do. So that's the other thing is like if you move on, once you've moved on from and also, I will admit, like the dopamine hit of getting like a project done and finished and like the results and people being like, I can't really share that again. So I'm gonna have to just do that off my own back without anyone cheerleading me.
The reality of it. If I do that project, I know it's gonna take me a week or two. That means I can't do any other projects, which I'd have. So therefore, I have no content for Instagram, which is my job. So if I do it, it might be I have to get someone in to do it. I have not thought that far ahead yet. It's just gonna live with me.
Maybe after Christmas. Do you stop doing content at Christmas?
Not really. Maybe for a few days. And if I do ever stop doing content, it's because I take a proper holiday and we're away away.
Well, thank you so much. This was a new exclusive. Interiors and DIY content creator. Where can people come for you and find out more about if you've got the floor down? At least the listeners will know so you could cheer them cheerleading you!
I am the White Thistle. So like the thistle flower. I kind of wish I hadn't got that name now, but it's stuck. So if you look up Abi Hugo, you'll probably find me there as well. And that is everywhere. That is on my socials.
Thank you for having me.
To find out more about Abi or to have a look to see the completion of her floor project, check out her instagram page, TheWhiteThistle for more of her projects. Also drop a DM or a message over on my instagram, IngeHunter for any further questions.