Words over Wine... Beth Shehata
In this new series on nicole mullen comms, I chat to some of the most influential people in the home interiors community over a glass of vino. This month, I pour a glass of Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato and talk to gin-addict and mental health advocate, Beth Shehata. Read on to find out about her sexy day-job, her biggest sources of inspiration, and the one thing she would change about the ‘gram…
Hey Beth! Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
Sure! I grew up in the North East, not far from Newcastle, in a place called Marton. My mum is English (and German) and my Dad is Egyptian, which means that I have family all around the world, and has culminated in my passion for travel. I studied Law, then went on to do my practitioners course, which I finished in 2013. I work as part of the in-house legal team for a global technology company called Accenture; I’ll have been with them six years in August. I work in Health & Public Service, and have a focus on something called Agile Contracting, which is about as sexy as it sounds. But, I really love it!
What is it that spurred you on to start a home interiors Instagram?
This is a question I dread, because I have no idea! I guess I set up @bethshehata so that I could keep a little file of the progress of my house, but then people started following… and it went from there. My initial Instagram photos were pretty tragic - both from a quality perspective and content-wise! There are some big-hitters in the interiors world, people who have a real eye for [design]; I’m not one of them (editor’s note: I disagree!), but I love the platform. I love the folk I’ve met through Instagram; being able to take inspiration from others, plus I really enjoy sharing how my style is evolving, and my learning. Side-note: Pointing a brick wall with your bare hands and a large gin isn’t advisable.
How would you describe your personal interior style?
I like my interiors to reflect my personality: dark and moody. In all seriousness, though, I just tend to go with what I love. I’m not a neat or put-together person; the crisp, white Scandi-style homes are endlessly beautiful, but they’re not me. I’m kinda more of a dark and grotty gal. I like a little bit of a rougher look, and I’m not afraid of unusual pieces (in fact, I really love them - even more-so when someone tells me they’re freaky or finds them a bit odd. Sorry!). I love custom and limited-edition pieces. I collect the Adrian Higgins Another Place Another Time prints, for example, and love the Muck n Brass plant stand in my hallway, and my Neon in the living room, which reads ‘Play Dead With Me.’ (It’s a Tom Walker song, FYI). I realise now I’m rambling, but if I was to pinpoint my style, it would be: dark, eclectic, industrial, modern.
What (or who!) are your biggest sources of inspiration?
For Instagram, Amy Wilson (@thisstyle_rocks) can do no wrong. I love her style, and she has influenced so many decisions in my house - being brave enough to try the dark walls, the need to have a bar in the house, unusual pieces of art... the list goes on! Ellie Tildesley (@e.t.shown_home) is another effortlessly-cool Instagrammer and, whilst I couldn’t imagine monochrome in my current house, I can imagine it will feature heavily in the next… Stepping away from Instagram, Abigail Ahern and Kate Watson-Smyth always have to be mentioned, right?
What advice would you give to those looking to start an interiors-focused Instagram account?
At the moment, I feel like Instagram is saturated with people thinking that they can really quickly build a huge following; earn money; get sent ‘free stuff’ and it’s starting to show. The content is lacking and it’s all feeling a little desperate. So, if you want to set up an interiors-focused Instagram, start with the why. Why are you setting up the account? What do you hope to achieve from it? And what approach will distinguish you from the rest? If you start there, your content will be genuine and your account will grow naturally… the rest will follow.
What are your top tips for approaching and collaborating with brands?
Go to them with a plan, not just a “can you send me XYZ?”. You need to be able to demonstrate what benefit it actually brings to them; you don’t want to just be bringing the same thing hundreds of accounts can offer. Also, you don’t need to drive everything through Instagram. For example, I’ve worked with gin brands on concepts surrounding placing their drinks in bars in Newcastle, alongside the content production, and THEN Instagram. Be respectful of people’s products. The more your account grows, the more people will get in touch, but try not to simply accept “free stuff.” Think about whether you would actually buy it. Don’t just accept things you don’t need. It’s wasteful, and such a pet hate of mine, [especially] in a world where we already have so much waste! Lastly, don’t underestimate your worth. If you’re creating content, remember to think about the need for props, equipment, and your time.
You are a passionate advocate for mental health awareness - why do you think it’s important to talk about mental health openly?
We should have started with this! I could begin by saying, “so we never have to ask questions like this, that it should be natural and normal.” Instead, I’ll tell you about one of the biggest reasons I talk so openly about mental health, which I shared recently, and that being a friend of mine’s suicide. I also suffer with depression and anxiety. The depression side is worse, and sometimes becomes unmanageable. When it does, I become irrational; I cut myself off, and there are only a small handful of people who I can interact with (and who know “how to deal with me.” Spoiler: it never features the words Get. Over. It.). The only way I’m able to deal with it is because I’ve been able to tell them what’s wrong to begin with. If me talking about mental health encourages just one person to tell someone they’re not OK, then that’s all I’d want!
What do you love most about Instagram and the interiors community?
Oh, definitely the folk I have met, who I would never have crossed paths with otherwise. It outweighs anything else on Instagram!
If you could change one thing about Instagram, what would it be?
We (myself included) would all be able to find a way to switch off worrying about how people perceive our content, to be able to enjoy it, to not feel penalised (rightly or wrongly so) if we post something out of line from our usual content because we like it. I would also like Instagram to do more comms, to hear what’s going on from the horse’s mouth…
Tell us a random fact about you…
I can box vault my own height!
I really hope you enjoyed this Q&A with Beth; let me know your thoughts in the comments below and, if you have any suggestions for who you’d like me to chat to next, do send them my way!