5 things I learned from winning the Amara Interior Blog Awards

 Never mind winning the award, the goodie bag is on another scale (NB: pink toenails were not part of the goodie bag)

Never mind winning the award, the goodie bag is on another scale (NB: pink toenails were not part of the goodie bag)

If you've already heard about this on social media, feel free to move on with more importants things and your day. If you haven't, may I announce some terribly exciting news: Stella + the Stars is now officially an 'award-winning' blog after being voted (bear with me, it's a mouthful) Best International Blog in the Amara Interior Blog Awards 2016. I bet you can feel the smugness just by reading this. What can I say, one does not win an award every day, right?

Sadly, the ceremony took place in London just a couple of weeks ago and I am, well, in Dubai so this year I couldn't attend the festivities. Tragic, really. Even more so when you bloody win! But the lovely Amara Living team accepted the trophy on my behalf and shipped it across the world and it now sits proudly in my living room. It's been a ridiculously mad journey since I launched my little blog just 18 months ago. I quit the world of Media and PR and my job of 8 years (and the cushy salary that came with it), retrained to become an interior stylist, got my first interiors clients, then suddenly moved across the planet to start again in the middle of the desert (you can catch up here if you've got no idea what I am talking about). I genuinely didn't think I would win - the other blogs shortlisted felt much grown-up and more established than mine. So this award has meant even more for me at a transitional time where I have been feeling like the new kid on the blogging block again.

More importantly, winning the Amara Awards has also taught me very important (some more serious than others) life lessons which I am sharing with you...

1. The goodie bags are on another level - Any type of goodies from Amara is always a treat - they have the most incredible collection of homewares and accessories, so you can't really go wrong when getting something from their chosen sponsors or advertisers. But let me tell you, the 'winner's' goodie bag is totally off the scale. Tom Dixon candle holder, Umbra copper picture frame, Seletti kitchen accessory, Missoni home beach towel (how appropriate!), Christies' velvet bed throw, I could go on let the picture above speak for itself. 

2. People LOVE an award - It sounds obvious but I didn't quite realise how much people and in particular those in the interiors industry love an award until I won one. Don't get me wrong, being shortlisted and highly commended last year in the newbie category certainly put Stella + the Stars on the map. Winning, this year, has literally made my inbox (and my mind) implode and has thrown my way opportunities I can barely find the time or brain cells to compute. I am certainly not complaining but it's been a slight shock to the system. 

3. Do something you genuinely love, stick to being 'you' and it will (eventually!) pay off. I know I know, it sounds so cringe and just writing it makes me shiver. But it's bloody true. Be true to yourself, find your niche, don't compare yourself to what others are doing, blah blah blah, you've heard it all I am sure. Trust me, it's freaking TRUE. Every day I am being bombarded with cool stuff people are doing/launching/publishing and it  makes me question what I do, cons-tant-ly. Should I tone down my bonkers style and go down the more scandi route? Should I try and make more money from sponsored posts? Should I jump on the vlog bandwagon? It can keep me up at night. The reality is none of these things feel like me at all. It's easy to look at what others are doing when they're successful and copy whatever they're doing to recreate that success. But if you do something that's not authentic and genuinely reflects who you are, in order to just make money or be popular, people will smell it from a mile off and won't stick around. I have made peace with the fact that I can't blog every day (can barely keep it weekly at the moment), I hate being in front of the camera, I probably won't make a million dollars from my blog or styling business, and I don't have enough time and energy at the moment to try and gather 50k followers on social media. But the main thing is that nobody cares, except me. 

4. Having the seal of approval from your peers is everything - well that's not totally correct: having wonderful feedback from you, gorgeous readers, and all the clients I work with means everything. But getting recognised by the big cats in the industry you play in (check out the judges at the Amara Awards if you don't believe me) really gave me the boost I needed while at a crossroad. (Big thank you to everyone at Amara for making this happen by the way).

5. And finally, I need to raise my game. One thing I have realised is that I should really make the most of this sudden rush of attention and acknowledgement. The blog needs a revamp, I need to update my styling portfolio, be more proactive with collaborations and work on a better content plan. Although I have never launched the blog to be a business in itself, it's got a life of its own now and needs a little bit of TLC so here is my early new year resolution. It's out there now... 

Finally thanks to everyone who voted for Stella + the Stars in the early stages of the awards. Without your votes I wouldn't have made it to the shortlist and obviously couldn't have won! I am beyond grateful for doing something I really love and that allows me to look after Stella while she's growing up. I hope you continue to feel inspired visiting this platform and it gives you some more ideas to make your house a home, without breaking the bank. Watch this space as they say, there's more to come.