Hebden Home Office_Colour Zoning_01


Book club: The Pauper’s Homemaking Book by Jocasta Innes

Book club: The Pauper’s Homemaking Book by Jocasta Innes

Long before the concepts of sustainable design and upcycling became part of our everyday, writer and interiors expert Jocasta Innes penned ‘The Pauper’s Homemaking Book’. Just like its cookbook equivalent that demonstrates how frugal ingredients needn’t be mundane, Jocasta’s democratic approach to home improvements makes this Penguin paperback as relevant now as it was when first published in 1976. 

The ‘Pauper’s Homemaking Book’ is an A–Z of interior tips, tricks and lessons in making, updating and repairing. Innes shares an array of window treatments, from festoon blinds to curtains and trimmings, homemade passementerie, as well as talking about how to treat small windows. Skill-sharing highlights include caning chair seats, how to line your walls with fabric and folk decoration for furniture for a Bloomsbury Group-inspired look.

Today, more than ever, we are all thinking of ways to update, renew and refresh existing pieces to sit alongside newer furniture. Below are our top new skills to learn as featured in Jocasta’s book.

1 Caning. Definitely something for when you have time on your hands to refresh a favourite chair that has seen better days, and the perfect design detail that taps into the Arts & Crafts aesthetic. With an illustrated, step-by-step approach, it’s the perfect job for a sunny afternoon in the garden. Remember to soak your cane first to soften it up before starting the weaving process and make sure to remove any old pegs, cane or paint around the seat. The best thing about working with cane is that it’s easy to retrace your steps and start again if you make a mistake!

2 If you’re ready to move on from doing tasks in the garden to bringing the outside in, then Jocasta has plenty to say on the subject of indoor gardening too. Biophilia, or living with plants, is said to help keep our minds less stressed, and enhance mindfulness and creativity. The mighty monstera is mentioned, as well as the more traditional feeling flowering geranium and even the humble spider plant. For the avocado-lovers out there, Jocasta also shares her knowledge of growing them from pips and stones. Avocado stones, tangerines and even pineapple tufts and tropical fruits are all covered.

3 Section two moves on to the job of ‘putting on the style’, and touches on the subject that’s probably most synonymous with Jocasta Innes: paint and paint effects. Dragged walls, faux-marbling, glazed/lacquer-effects and colour washing are all covered and, not only is each process explained, she details the materials required and the preparation needed too. As well as walls, painting furniture and wood treatments are also included. And then there’s the art of wallpapering, fabrics for your walls and treatments for in-built fixtures such a wardrobes and paneling.

‘The Pauper’s Homemaking Book’ pre-dates Jocasta’s move to her Georgian townhouse in the Spitalfields area of London that she transformed and lived in until her death in 2013.To see more, visit Spitafields Life. And although the book itself is out of print, we recommend visiting Oxfam’s online bookstore or a secondhand book retailer such as AbeBooks.


‘The Pauper’s Cookbook’ was reprinted in 2014 and is available from most online and offline bookshops.