Pandora Maxton’s 41,500 Instagram followers weren’t at all surprised when she won BBC1’s Best House in Town title recently. Her legion of online fans had already spotted her talent for styling after spending many enjoyable moments looking at photographs and videos of her artistic, eclectic and picture-perfect home. (her Instagram is pandora.maxton)
They also love to get a glimpse of her life, which revolves round her husband, James, three children Finlay, 18, Cameron, nine, and Ellen, eight, plus a menagerie of dogs, cats, sheep, horses and chickens.
While it’s easy to feel “Insta envy”, the reality is that it takes a lot of time and effort to keep a family home looking this good, especially when you are on a tight budget.
Pandora’s thrift and resourcefulness, along with her natural likeability, are a huge part of her appeal. One of her most popular videos, which you can see above, shows her assembling a sofa out of wood pallets.
The pallet sofa, pictured above, which lives in her sunroom and often gets moved onto the patio for parties, also impressed the BBC’s Best House in Town team when they scouted for properties to compete for the title in York. “I got an email from a TV production company that had seen my Instagram photos asking if I wanted to take part,” says Pandora. “It was a big rush trying to get the house ready for filming and it meant doing jobs we’d been putting off. Most satisfying was re-attaching a piece of skirting board that had been loose for over 15 years.”The hard work paid off when the 1960s detached house in Dunnington won the TV contest. “It was fun and winning has also given me a big confidence boost,” adds Pandora, who studied art and has a natural flair for interiors.
“There’s no woodwork involved. You just arrange and stack them, tie them together, put cushions and throws on and that’s it,” says Pandora who has also used old scaffolding boards to make shelves and a desk.
She also combined her daughter Ellen’s small bedroom with the spare room next door. “That was done on a tight budget,” she says. “The headboard was from Gumtree and I sprayed it turquoise and the other furniture is second-hand, apart from the built-in cupboards.”Some of the furniture and accessories in the house were inherited from her late mother and grandmother and she has supplemented them with the odd new piece and buys from charity shops. Favourite hunting grounds including Fully Furnished in York and the York Community Furniture Store.
rt, fairy lights and a jungle of houseplants play a big part in almost ll the rooms and Pandora loves them because they are moveable and allow her to ring the changes very easily. Some of her own paintings feature, along with oils by her great-grandfather and a favourite picture by Howard Hodgkin.James’ collection of Bond posters live in the dining room and there’s a selection of typographic prints, including an Andy Warhol quote “I never read, I just look at pictures”, which Pandora identifies with. Read more: how to introduce art into your home.
The gallery walls in the hall, on the landing and in her bedroom are most precious. They include pictures of her family, including her late mother, Susie, a vivacious woman, who had a horse-drawn gypsy caravan built so that she and a two-year-old Pandora could travel around Spain. “We did that until I was six. It was an unusual thing to do, so much so that a national newspaper wrote about it,” she says.
While Pandora inherited her mother’s love of upcycling, she has her own, very individual style when it comes to interiors.
“Maximalistic and eclectic probably sums it up. I don’t like everything matchy and nondescript and I don’t like bare walls. I like a house to have personality,” she says.
You can follow Pandora on instagram at pandora.maxton. Her blog is pandoramaxtonlifestyling.wordpress.com.