By day she’s Noor Hassan, teacher of psychology, but when night falls, she puts her underpants on over her trousers and delves into the cut-throat underworld of sustainable interiors, biophillic design and the art of feng shui. She overcomes floods with one flick of her wrist, decorates to assuage her ADHD and will roundhouse kick you into using jars instead of plastic packaging. That’s not true – don’t think Noor’s ever kicked anybody, but if you’d like to find out more how she handles home, read on, or visit her over on her Instagram @bintabuheh.
Emma: Here we are!
Robyn: How are you doing?
Noor: I’m good, thanks! It’s half term and I’m getting ready to go away for the night
Robyn: Oh, nice
Emma: It’s so nice to get away this year. Are you craving space away from your home? I know I am
Noor: Definitely, and time with loved ones
Robyn: Yep, me too – are your family visitable?
Noor: Yes, loads of my family live in London, so I do get to see them. My brother got married at the weekend so I was also lucky enough to see extended family. It was defo history’s smallest Iraqi wedding
Emma: Ahhhh! That must feel so special right now.
Noor: It was super sweet and a much needed happy day
Emma: Nice to have a little celebration moment in a very monotone year – I can remember practically nothing from this year because it all looks the same. No landmark moments
Robyn: Yeah, it’s been shite
Noor: I know, right, and yet somehow nearly a whole year has passed!?
Emma: How’s yours been so far?
Noor: It’s been pretty uneventful, and yet had one of the biggest events of our lives
Emma: Exactly that. I feel like you must be DELIGHTED you got so much of your flat done in between the flood last year and the global pandemic this year?
Noor: Omg I’m SO relieved my flat was finished in time
Emma: You’ve done so much to it
Noor: I do feel partly responsible for the pandemic actually
Robyn: I need you to qualify that…
Noor: Well, see, when I was displaced I kept saying and wishing that I’d get to move home and spend loooads of time in it and just enjoy being home… and then the pandemic happened
Emma: OMG, it was you!
Robyn: Fucking hell
Emma: I thought you were gonna say you’d been selling illegal bat meat
Robyn: And there was me thinking it was the illuminati. That’s a joke…
Emma: All the signs point to the illuminati
Noor: They always do
Emma: So, has it lived up to your hopes of staying inside a lot? I LOVE being at home a lot, but this year’s tested that love to the extreme
Noor: Kinda – I really enjoyed spending time at home and doing all the things I rarely have time for – Netflix, cooking meals that involve more than boiled pasta, decluttering (always therapeutic), reading, etc
Emma: I think I ate more pasta, but I did also get rid of a lot of things…
Robyn: Oh you dId much better at lockdown than me – I was just distracted by panic
Noor: Life felt calmer in a way. Suddenly there wasn’t the urgency to constantly rush and juggle all the things – which was new and very welcomed
Emma: YES. Like, you could just focus on what you’re doing right now
Noor: Exactly, and I actually had time to think, rather than just do
Robyn: I cannot Identify with any of this. But I think I am the opposite of you guys…
Emma: What’s that slower pace been like for your ADHD, Noor – does it make it easier, or does your brain want to make you do more?
Noor: The slower pace was definitely welcomed. With ADHD I feel like constantly ‘on’. I often compare my mind to a pinball machine – so many ideas and they’re all exciting and I want to do all of them
Emma: That’s a really good way of putting it
Noor: It doesn’t leave much time to think about how to execute all the ideas effectively, or have enough time to get places on time. So everything often feels like a big rush and it’s overwhelming
Emma: Is that why you made such a calm home for yourself?
Noor: Definitely! My life is soo busy, so my home needed to be the opposite. And also enable my lifestyle rather than hinder it. During lockdown, as a teacher, I was still working so I still had the structure, which I found comforting. But it also really amplified the fact that I struggle to work from home and that was really frustrating
Emma: Because you need your environment to reflect your task?
Robyn: And no distractions?
Emma: Like, home is a calm space for unwinding, so your brain doesn’t want to work in it
Noor: Exactly! To feel ‘in the zone’. What takes me mins at school was taking three hours at home. Which I guess is testament to my success in making it a calming space..?
Emma: So, when you were planning out your new space after the Great Flood, did you find it a challenge to narrow down your I’deas?
Noor: ‘The Great Flood’ – accurate! No, I had actually had very clear idea of what I wanted
Emma: Talk us through it
Noor: I was already moving into a more minimalist direction, but it was hard to let go of things I loved
Robyn: And there’s still enough stuff in there for it to have bags of personality
Emma: What was the hardest to let go of?
Noor: The flood did it for me – got rid of a lot, stripped everything back, so I had a blank canvas to work with, which made the process easier. PLUS, the plants all survived, miraculously!
Emma: I know you love plants…
Noor: Plants are great for feeling connected to nature, which has a calming effect on us. I don’t have a garden so having loads of plants compensates for that. They also force me to slow down and spend time at home, in order to care for them
Emma: Oooo, I’d not even considered that
Robyn: Oh, this is really interesting. I never thought of it that way – probably why all my plants die
Noor: Just being away from home and constantly moving was really hard. When I bought my flat I thought it meant I wouldn’t need to move again. The next time I’d move was meant to because I had progressed in my life – to live with a partner, to buy a bigger house, move abroad
Emma: Yeah, floods really fuck with your life plans
Noor: I was so lucky that so many friends offered their homes to me, but in the space of . months I had lived in around different homes. Whilst I felt loved and supported, it defo took its toll
Emma: Are you able to look on it now with any positivity? Robyn and I always say that loss is fully shit when you’re in it, but then often spawns something really good. Like owning multiple &Tradition lights…
Robyn: Yeah, and getting comfy with the ebb and flow of life can be weirdly liberating
Emma: You’re a psychology teacher, right? So you probably have a really good insight into all the homey feel-good stuff
Noor: Yeah, I teach Psychology, which led me to do a lot of reading around biophilia, feng shui and minimalism. Each of those has influenced the way I’ve organised and decorated the space
Robyn: So you’ve been really process driven in planning it? And detailed? Like the function and feel were at the core?
Noor: Yes, definitely! When I first moved back home, my home felt a bit alien – partly being away for so long, partly because it was all new. It took awhile for it to feel like home again. Also, it was only when I got back home that I really felt how much of a toll it took on me to be away from it
Emma: I hear that – it’s only when you stop that you realise, sometimes
Robyn: Home really is a sanctuary
Noor: I took different things from each school of thought – eg feng shui made me really think about the layout of furniture. That certain combinations can help energy flow, which has a positive impact on us, whereas other layouts block energy. Biophilia states that humans need to feel connected to nature and that this benefits our physical and psychological well-being, so I incorporated a lot of natural colours and materials to encourage this connection
Emma: Oh, I’m interested – what should we definitely not be doing with furniture?
Noor: One thing I remember is your bed should never face the door, nor should it go against the window
Emma: Mine faces a window and is next to the door…
Robyn: Same! So I too, am a feng sui master
Emma: Add it to the CV
Robyn: I’m so into Biophilia
Emma: Don’t they say that we need to spend a minimum of minutes a week in nature to function properly?
Noor: Yikes I’m nowhere near that. Is that even possible in London and working full time?!
Emma: I think a park counts as nature
Noor: I mostly walk to the station and then walk around the school building
Emma: Totally counts
Noor: No nature whatsoever, but there’s air?
Robyn: air nature = birds
Emma: We’ve nailed it
Noor: Yessssss. There are actually good birds round here. I know nothing about birds, though. If it isn’t a pigeon I don’t know what it is
Emma: Controversially, I am a fan of pigeons, though Robyn once made me imagine licking one and it made me feel sick
Robyn: IMAGINE JAMMING ONE IN YOUR MOUTH. Hideous.
Robyn: The foot
Emma: STOP IT
Robyn: The foot jutting
Noor: Wait, WHAT? WHY?? Although feeding the little guys as Trafalgar Square really stands out as a childhood memory
Robyn: Ahh that’s nice. Like you were in Oliver
Emma: Yeah, you’d put one of those ones in your mouth
Emma: I do have another home question for you, if I may
Noor: Of course
Robyn: I mean, we need to get away from my many neurosis somehow
Emma: One of the things I love about your space is that it’s super pared-back, with a few stand-out pieces – do you budget specifically to have those things you absolutely love, or do you just buy what you want as you decidde you want them? I’m a real impulse buyer with home stuff I love, so always interested in how other people handle them
Noor: I’m definitely an impulse buyer naturally – impulsivity is one of main characteristics of ADHD. I find that by committing to more sustainable and/or investment pieces, it forces me to really think about what I’m buying. I might have to save up for it, for example, so I can’t impulsively buy it. And it puts me off buying smaller, cheaper items as it takes me further away from buying the things I really want
Emma: Yeah, that’s a good way of looking at it – get the thing you really want for maximum joy. Do you have a system – like, I know some people make themselves wait two weeks after seeing something before they buy it
Noor: No, it’s normally the next pay day – I have a self imposed ban on using my credit card for non-essential items. If not the next pay day, I’ve probably gone off it or recognised that I don’t need it or have the space for it. I have a notes page on my phone of things I really want, that I review every so often
Emma: I do that with browser tabs of stuff I want. Close them all down and trust that I’ll remember the right things
Noor: I don’t buy too much on credit card these days, but having one has been great for my credit score, once I learnt how to use it – it defo helped me buy the flat
Emma: How long have you owned your place?
Noor: Just over 4 years. It was a life goal to buy property, in london, on my own, with no financial support from anyone, before I was and I did it. Its one of my greatest achievements to date and I feel like it always will be
Emma: I’m applauding you
Robyn: Yeah it’s pretty mega. Is the difference to your approach decorating it first time and this time pretty huge?
Noor: Definitely! I’d say my aesthetic now is more mature and minimal
Robyn: I think some of the initial giddiness wears off and you can think
Noor: For sure
Robyn: I definitely made some very over-excited and shit purchases when we got our first flat. Now I’m more measured. I think about how it will work with the life I have not how I want my life to look
Noor: I was so keen to make it make it feel like home that I bought loads and filled every space and more was definitely more. But it didn’t look right – the colours didn’t compliment, the space didn’t flow.
Robyn: And now it’s this really cohesive space
Noor: Yeah, I changed a lot. One of the things I still have from the beginning is my dining table and chairs and I still LOVE them
Emma: I love your dining set. Did you cover the chairs yourself?
Noor: I did! I reupholstered the chairs with the leopard print fabric
Emma: It looks so good
Noor: Thanks! I also restored the surface of the dining table – sanded and waxed – but never doing that again. You can see where I got bored of sanding and rushed it. Sanding is not for me
Emma: No, me neither
Robyn: But you can say you tried it. That’s the main thing
Noor: My main problem was putting too many things on the walls and now I really take me time with it, and advise clients to really think about it
Emma: Of course, so you’re taking interior design clients professionally now – has that come through Instagram?
Noor: I’ve had a few offers via instagram, but so far all the clients I’ve taken on are people I know personally. Instagram definitely helped, as its become a portfolio of my style, and your style is why people ask for your help
Robyn: Oh that’s exciting!
Emma: Is that nicer or more terrifying than people you don’t know?
Robyn: I was thinking that
Noor: I really enjoy working with people I know. I know them personally, so have a fair idea of what they like, what they need. And I’m honest when I disagree with their choices/ideas. One of my clients, for example, asked me to walk through their home with them and discuss what I’d change
Noor: I pointed out things they hadn’t noticed, e.g. the colour of the walls and how different colour and shades impact our emotions. Credit to my clients for being so open to discussion and to my ideas
Robyn: Did they love it?
Noor: Yeah, they’re super happy with the changes. A lick of paint and clever storage makes a HUGE difference to a space
Emma: Talking my language – storage 4 lyfe
Noor: And as one of them said, it’s given her the confidence to buy and style her home herself now
Robyn: That’s huge!
Emma: That is so heartwarming
Noor: I think also, when working with people you know, you already have trust and openness, which really helps
Emma: Yeah, definitely – there’s an easiness there
Noor: And as Dee Campling once told me, they’re paying you for your opinion and style, so don’t be afraid to give it to them
Robyn: that’s very good advice
Noor: It really is
Emma: I need to have that tattooed on my face
Emma: Please may I ask where you got your Instagram name from?
Noor: It’s a childhood nickname
Noor: It’s Arabic for ‘her father’s daughter’
Robyn: That’s amazing
Emma: Are you really like your Dad?
Noor: My mum used to say it when I was naughty as a child
Emma: That’s very sweet. If I used my childhood nickname it’d be fidgetbum
Robyn: I got ‘Trouble’ or ‘Doodles’. I was non-artistic. No idea what it means.
Noor: I was never the quiet, seen-not-heard, daughter she wanted. But as I grew up ‘Bintabuheh’ became the compliment my dad would give me, which really winds my mum up
Emma: I LOVE that. Turned it on its head
Noor: I’m quite similar to him. He’s defo the more liberal and rebellious one of my parents. So my mum attributes those qualities to him.
Emma: and you used them to just go and totally boss life
Robyn: Yeah – YOU WIN
Noor: Thanks guys
Emma: Well, on that bombshell, I’m gonna say massive thanks to Noor to chatting with us for an hour.
Robyn: Yeah, thanks love – you’ve been a wonder
Emma: If people want to find out more about your interior design skillz, where should they go?
Noor: The easiest is probably just to drop me a DM or email me through Instagram!
Emma: Ok, you heard it, team – to the ‘gram with you