Interiors and lifestyle influencer Sarah Battle is well known for her homemaking skills.
As well as featuring on TV’s Home of the Year show and on the cover of glossy interiors magazines, she has a large audience on her @housebythewhitethorns Instagram account. More than 100,000 followers enjoy the creativity she displays in her beautifully decorated self-build home, just outside her native Ballina in Co Mayo.
It’s a busy, happy house she shares with husband Barry and their five children – Isabella (6) Alexander (4) Matilda (3) and twin boys Blaise and Theo, aged 12 months.
Having five children under the age of six means Battle’s days are full-on. She makes time for creativity, whether it’s home baking and food styling or putting together new fashion looks and showcasing beautiful interiors ideas.
Home has always been where her heart is.
“I trained as a home economics teacher. My aunt is one too and my grandmother was amazing at all this kind of stuff, while my father’s side of the family are all artistic too,” she explains.
Battle moved into her current home, which took 18 months to build, in September 2018, relocating from Galway city centre.
“We wanted to be closer to family,” she explains. “I’m from Ballina and Barry is from Enniscrone in Co Sligo, just up the road. Our new home is just outside the town on a country road.”
She grew up on a farm nearby, loving horses and the outdoors, a childhood she is keen to recreate for her own children.
Her success as an influencer comes from an unerring eye for style. “I would describe my style as homely, very much a ‘cottagecore’ aesthetic,” she says of the outlook that harks back to all the traditional skills and crafts that go with country living.
“Even when I think back to our house in Galway city the same elements featured, which to me are very homely and very traditional,” she explains.
This includes a colour palette of tonal neutral hues accented with carefully-chosen accessories, cushions and soft furnishings. She’s a huge lover of textural, natural fabrics such as tweed, wool and linen and isn’t afraid to be bold – “I’m obsessed with patterns and prints,” she says.
Battle designed her home with her young family in mind, putting the playroom directly off the kitchen, for example, so that she can bake with all her little helpers close by.
Though her house is Insta-ready beautiful, it’s first and foremost a home and mess is all part of the fun. “At the moment I’m doing a running battle with Weetabix, it’s on everything and it is like cement,” she laughs.
It is this down-to-earth approach that has attracted such a strong following on Instagram, and her community is growing in real life too. This summer, for example, she took up sea swimming, challenging herself to take the plunge every morning at Enniscrone. “It started with just two of us and now there’s a huge group of friends who have formed,” says Battle.
“Sea swimming is so good for my mental health and I’d love the time to get more exercise in. If I can walk at lunch time I will – pushing the twins in the buggy is a weight in itself!”
One element of her day that has become infinitely easier is vacuuming.
Battle has been trialling the Dyson V12 Detect Slim, a powerful and compact machine which makes light work of cleaning.
“I’ve had two Dysons in the past and as a cordless machine the Dyson V12 Detect Slim is brilliant. It has a settings function that allows you go from eco to medium to boost, with eco giving you the longest battery time. And you can see clearly the minutes left on the machine’s LCD screen,” she explains.
With two cleaner heads, this means it is suitable for all floor types. The laser slim fluffy cleaner head is for use on hard floors, and the direct drive cleaner head removes ground-in dirt from carpets and rugs.
“This is just great for me because I’ve a mix of flooring including laminate, natural stone in the kitchen and carpets in the bedrooms – and rugs all around the place. The machine is also really slim and light to walk around with,” Battle says.
It’s super high-tech too, with a piezo sensor that monitors particles 15,000 times a second – automatically increasing suction power when needed.
The lasers in its fluffy head cleaner generate a contrast between the dust and the floor surface, making hidden dust visible on hard floors, so she doesn’t miss anything.
“It comes with loads of attachments, one of which I use in my cutlery drawer to pick up crumbs. There are attachments for all kinds of crevices,” she says.
“It’s also really silent, which I love, particularly on the eco setting.” With two babies, that’s a handy bonus.
It fits in with her lifestyle perfectly in other ways too.
“I tend to clean as I go but we do a big clean each week and then a quick tidy up at night. Barry and I will always clean the kitchen in the evening before bed, wiping down the counter tops and doing a quick vacuum. It is light and handy for that with up to 50 minutes of battery life. And because it’s cordless, you don’t have to go plug it in, just grab it and take a quick run around.”
When the twins are older, she hopes to get a dog, for which she reckons the Dyson V12 Detect Slim’s hair attachment, which quickly unspools hair caught on the roller, will be very handy.
For now, the couple is currently developing a lovely outdoor seated area for the summer. “We’ll plant it up in a way that brings the outside in,” she says.
Mind you, a little too much of the outside already comes in: “The kids have vegetable patches and they love helping their dad in his polytunnel, where they are growing strawberries,” she explains.
As a result, while there may be no paw prints yet, muddy footprints are most definitely a feature. And, with sandboxes for the kids in the garden, plenty of that is being trailed in this summer too. “To be fair, I’m probably bringing a lot of sand in myself now,” she smiles.
“This is why it’s so handy to have a cordless vacuum cleaner – you’re more inclined to use it.”