And It’s High Low On-Trend Styling by Ruth Leigh

I do love a bit of wordplay and those readers old enough to remember Jeff Beck’s 1967 chart-topper will appreciate the punning framework of my title today.

Research is a huge part of my writing career but it falls into two distinct camps. Every time I get a new client, I have to become an expert on their subject. Ask me anything about Farrow and Ball paint, flowers, high-end property in East Anglia or unreached people groups. Go on. Ask me. My brain is fizzing with weird, unrelated facts, all of which are deployed for my writing at some point or another. I’m currently researching a tribe in Yemen, a country about which I knew nothing a week or two ago. There is never a dull moment. 

Since I started writing fiction in the summer of 2020, resulting in two books and a third on the way, I’ve had to do a different kind of research. My heroine, insanely successful lifestyle blogger and Instamum Isabella M Smugge has her perfectly manicured fingertips in every modish pie going and as one of the UK’s leading trend scouts, she deserves an author who knows about all that stuff too.

If you were to sneak into my Palace of Creativity and check out my search history while I was having a tea break, it would look something like this.

‘What are the trending colours for bathrooms in 2022?’

‘Top nail varnish shades for spring 2022.’

‘Architects working in the UK between 1800-1830.’

‘Most popular UK girls’ names in 2000.’

‘What’s the difference between a slipper bath and a freestanding claw foot roll top bath?’

‘What’s the French phrase for posh paint?’ 

My mind is like a magpie’s nest, full of shiny things that might come in handy one day. A dear friend of mine has recently taken the plunge and opened up a fabulous new wine bar in Woodbridge, just down the road from us (Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK for international readers). She’s known for her incredible taste and elegance and talked knowledgeably about high low styling last time we met. I looked it up and of course, it’s just what Isabella would use in her own second floor renovation of the Old Rectory, her gracious abode. 

The principle is that when doing up a room or a space, you invest in one expensive piece (a sofa, a bath, a bed) and then you can buy cheap accessories to dress it up. Everyone will focus on the posh part and not notice that you got your cushions from the end of line bin at Home Bargains. It works with outfits too. 

Now I can’t afford the expensive part of the equation, so my look is more low low styling. Isabella, however, doyenne of interior design that she is, is a big fan, although I can’t imagine she spends a lot of her time rummaging around at B&M.[1] 

If you handed me an empty premises and told me I had a wine bar to open in less than a month, I would stare at you as though you had lost your mind and hand the keys back pronto. Clare is made of sterner stuff. She took an empty, echoing space and high low styled the heck out of it. Raffia draped from the ceiling to soften the harsh lines, an on-trend greyish blue stripe on the ceiling, pendant lighting, teal velvet cocktail stools (so now, sweetie!) and mid-century pieces scattered about. 

Look at the way I wrote that last sentence. If you didn’t know me (and I think by now, we can all count each other as friends), you might think, “Heavens, that Ruth Leigh is a bit up herself, is she not?” Gentle reader, nothing could be further from the truth. Researching my heroine has given me an insight into the ever-changing world of trends. I don’t follow them (today I am wearing a pair of ripped tights, a three year old dress and an elderly cardie from a charity shop) but I sure know all about them.

So there we have it. Research. I do a lot of it and should we ever meet, I’d be able to tell you what’s trending in the world of weddings this season (back gardens, rented dresses, pops of colour since you ask) and the Pantone Colour of the Year (Very Peri, a rather lovely shade of heliotrope). 

Isabelle approves.

Images by Pixabay

Ruth is married with three children, one husband, assorted poultry and a cat. She is the author of “The Diary of Isabella M Smugge”, “The Trials of Isabella M Smugge” and is currently writing “The Continued Times of Isabella M Smugge”. She writes for a number of small businesses and charities, reviews books for Reading Between the Lines and blogs at Ruth has abnormally narrow sinuses and a morbid fear of raw tomatoes, but has decided not to let this get in the way of a meaningful life. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok at @ruthleighwrites and at her website,

[1] Other cut-price stores are available


Peter Leyland said…
Well Ruth, 'Research, Research, Research', as Tony Blair might have said. All my teaching life I have been doing this, beginning with The Magna Carta while teaching history to children and ending with The Nigerian civil war in Biafra, while teaching Half of a Yellow Sun to adults!. I actually love researching stuff as you obviously do. I remember once having to cram the entire biology curriculum into my head as I'd never done it at school and had to teach Science to teachers, one's sternest critics.

So heigh-ho silver lining and thanks for the post.
Ruth Leigh said…
Thank you Peter! Your research sounds absolutely fascinating. Talk about multitasking!
Joy Margetts said…
I too am very much in the low low styling camp, but I can boast a new teal sofa and Crown heritage paint in a shade of Victorian eclectic, so must be doing something right. I don't know how you find time to fit it all in - including visits to wine bars - I really don't!
Ruth Leigh said…
I was at the launch, sweetie, which was rather marvellous. Haven't had time to go back since. I love teal! Love it. You will notice that it's one of Issy's favourite hues too. That all sounds terribly trendy #welldoneyou
Fran Hill said…
I'll tell my daughter the good news - her back garden wedding reception next Saturday is on trend!
Ruth Leigh said…
I'm sure she'll be cock-a-hoop Fran!
Liz Manning said…
I had to look up heliotrope and very peri! Might treat myself to the latter for a pedi for my cousin's coming wedding where they've asked guests to do the 'something blue'
Ruth Leigh said…
It's a gorgeous shade and does look great on toenails, Liz! Issy is happy to help.
Jenny Sanders said…
Fabulous, dahling!

I think I must write something set in a modern, high-end, whipped-into- style-shape castle, so I can go and do very serious research there. I think there should be a cellar devoted to champagne too.

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