If you are not a regular user of Bristol’s Redland railway station, chances are you will have no idea that the old ticket building on the platform is the unexpected home of upholstery duo Hamilton & Hodson. Nicky and Erica, as they are also known, have created a delightful studio inside the old waiting room where they lay out rolls of material along the original bench seats. The long, narrow building lends itself very well to the different stages of upholstery work, as simply by closing the doors between each section of the space, sawdust and varnish are safely isolated from their beautiful selection of finishing-touch fabrics and trims. There is something appropriate about the train building that suits the hands-on activities going on inside, of making and repairing tangible things with a variety of tools. Upholstery is an old skill, and a great way to prolong the life of an item of furniture, so it is almost unsurprising that Nicky once reupholstered a Queen Anne wing arm chair from 1710. If you have an heirloom piece that needs reviving, or fancy giving upholstery a try, Hamilton & Hodson can help as alongside their services they run evening classes and one day workshops. Check out their site for more details: http://hamiltonandhodson.co.uk
While the year is still young I thought I’d write about the Pantone Colour of The Year, as you are soon to be seeing a lot of it. Each year the Pantone Colour Institute chooses one colour from their repertoire of 5000 different shades that they feel encapsulates the prevailing current mood. The colour zeitgeist if you will. Pantone take into account current affairs, politics, trends in culture and the arts combined with colour psychology and history, before making their forecasting decision. ‘Ultra Violet’ follows 2017’s ‘Greenery’, a year in home interiors when plants were everywhere to be seen. So we can now expect instead to see blue toned purples creeping in to interior accessory ranges, and right across the spectrum of design; from fashion, products and technologies to branding and corporate identities. Purple or Ultraviolet have long been associated with counterculture, non-conformity and creative genius (Prince, Hendrix to name just two who flew the flag for purple), besides the mystical and spiritual. Leatrice Eiseman the Creative Director of Pantone says “We are living in a time that requires inventiveness and imagination. It is this kind of creative inspiration that is indigenous to Ultra Violet …. that takes our awareness and potential to a higher level. From exploring new technologies to a greater galaxy, to artistic expression and spiritual reflection intuitive Ultra Violet lights the way to what is yet to come.” Are you inspired to use the hue in your home? If so please do share your pics with us on instagram using the hashtag #mybristolhome!
My sense of self preservation is strong. So for Christmas, I gave my partner a copy of ‘How To Live With a Designer Without Killing Them’. Written by Alan Long, creative director at a London design consultancy, after his wife kept telling their friends how awful he was to live with, I knew it was going to be essential reading for our household. As Long points out, we designers are not ordinary people.
It has been useful to read the particular ways in which we are extraordinary (read: really quite annoying). I chuckled, chortled then cringed at every page, in recognition of my possessing almost all the classic 'designery' traits that apparently drive other people mad (back in my Scenic days my assistant would often roll her eyes and say "Oh Zo, you're so designery")!
I can’t say I’ll ever change my ways, but at least I now know which ways offend, and my partner knows that these ways are, frankly, innate. There are no scientifically proven, tried and tested methods suggested for coping with the stress of cohabiting with a designer in this book. Instead, our best and (mostly) worst qualities are clearly defined, and illustrated with lovely sketches. For example, perfectionism in arranging and organising things; cooking according to the most aesthetically pleasing colour palette rather than the actual recipe (especially frustrating for the scientist looking over my shoulder); obsessive use of pencils, an unnatural love of Apple products and extreme hatred for the font Comic Sans.
Identifying our idiosyncrasies in this way may help us reign in our pedantry from time to time and encourage acceptance and tolerance from others. Here’s hoping!
‘How To Live With a Designer Without Killing Them’ is available from Amazon priced £7.99
Bristol is known for its green credentials, so we don't want our Christmas interiors to let us down. Christmas and sustainability are not likely bedfellows but there are plenty of ways to decorate without costing the earth. Paper remains my favourite material for festive folderol. It is so versatile, available in every colour, texture, pattern and finish imaginable, and the sculptural possibilities are endless. From the simplest paper chain to the most complex origami stars and filigree-like cutouts, there are a million and one ways with paper in both DIY and off-the-shelf options. Vintage decorations that can be reused for as long as they are carefully handled and stowed win maximum green Christmas points, as do homemade dough doodahs and even the metal shape cutters for a bit of shine. Nature’s trimmings, literally, provide the best trimmings swagging over mantles and bannisters. For the traditionalists only a Christmas tree will do, but bear in mind that artificial trees are a no-no unless they are old and getting a lot of repeat use. The oldest of these can be made from questionable and toxic materials though. If the idea of chopping down living trees every year seems daft, you might like to hire a potted one. The Bristol Bike Project and Cotswold Fir are offering a selection of live trees for pedal powered delivery or collection from Hamilton House on Stokes Croft, daily between 1st and 23rd December. Simply log on to www.rentalclaus.com to book. Merry Christmas!
Theres a new kid on the interiors block on Gloucester Road. Turning one this month, Stîl Homeware is bringing Scandinavian style to the high street, situated in in fashion boutique Fox & Feather as a concession. Scandinavian chic is a hugely popular decorative style with its natural materials, simple clean lines, muted colour palette and graphic monochrome accents. So I caught up with owners Clare and Lola to find out what inspired them to branch out into interiors.
What motivated you to open Stil?
Our backgrounds combine fashion, visual merchandising, and styling for film and T.V. We have always had a love of homeware and a passion for interior design, so it seemed like the right move!
I love the little house, or should I say circumflex, on your logo. How did you come up with the name?
Stîl means style in Danish. We thought this fitted in well with our Scandinavian feel...
The selection of products in store is beautifully curated and there range is huge from kitchen ware to hanging planters and pictures. How do you decide what to buy in?
Our mission is to sell beautifully designed, quality products that will fit into any interior due to their timeless quality and style. We have a mix of brands from all over Europe and the U.K, with a strong emphasis on Scandinavian design. Selfishly, we basically buy what we love! But also what we feel can fit into many interiors due to it’s classic design, or neutral colour scheme.
What’s next for Stil?
We have some gorgeous new brands coming into the store and we hope to expand our range of products, we now stock rugs!
Any hints on forthcoming products to look out for?
Watch this space.....! After all, with Christmas approaching fast the store will be have to be packed full of goodies!
Shop in store or online at https://www.foxandfeather.co.uk/collections/stil-homeware
How early is too early to start discussing Christmas? As most store owners will have ordered in their Christmas stock at the height of summer, hopefully the end of September won’t seem too offensive. The spirit of local High Street shopping is community focussed and often something of an antidote to the giants of retail that start the silly season before the last fireworks of Bonfire Night have fizzled out. As a result it isn't uncommon for indies to shun introducing Christmas to stores until as ‘late’ as 1st December.
Whenever you choose to succumb to Christmas, if you haven’t yet started planning your festive windows and in-store displays then now is absolutely the time. Here’s a few ideas to get you started.
Stand out with unusual colour schemes
Red and green is THE traditional Christmas combo, but there are a many more that signify the season just as effectively. Layers of whites, with perhaps a hint of sparkle, is perhaps the second most common sort of snowy Christmas colour scheme. Gold or silver are obvious contenders too. Orange would be an unusual choice that could work well, being evocative of clove stuffed orange pomanders, or indeed the real thing. Navy blue and white is a smart combination that is reminiscent of a clear, wintery, starry night sky. Luxurious purple with gold is decadent, slightly frivolous and richly festive. For a contemporary and fun feel, try a variation on the traditional red and green theme by using hot pink and turquoise with white.
Less or More
Sometimes more is more, sometimes less is more, but half way in between will always look half-hearted. So whether you choose to go minimal with a graphic, simple design or maximal with a jam-packed window, make sure you really go for it to get the most impact from your visual statement.
Cheap and cheerful
To keep on top of your VM budget, you could raid the loft for vintage decorations and toy collections, that might have been forgotten about, to make a unique and delightfully nostalgic display. Another advantage of reusing like this is avoiding buying new decorations, which are not always produced in the most long-lasting or environmentally friendly way.
If you already have a go-to stash of Christmas display goodies, you can certainly reuse them each year (or every other on rotation to avoid repetition) but by pairing with something different, borrowed or new you can make make fresh schemes each time.
Trash the tinsel
Even with the most careful handling, tinsel doesn't often last well for repeated use. Made from plastic nowadays, unless it can be reused multiple times it is an environmental no-no. Every bit as bad as that, it is also the laziest most obvious way to say Christmas in a store. But life is too short to go without a little sparkle altogether, so consider other ways to introduce shimmer and shine. Biodegradable glitter, confetti and sequins all now exist to make the world a better place. Shiny metal cookie cutters in star or tree shapes and so on are also brilliant, inexpensive and reusable.
Real life greenery is utterly charming, authentically traditional and can be used in endless ways to make a display. Fill a window with fronds, use branches to make a dress for a mannequin, suspend branches and dangle decorations or products from it, hang a selection of leaves with different coloured ribbons, the choice is yours. Biodegradable to boot, you won’t have a guilty conscience, and you’ll certainly turn heads.
House plants are having quite a moment in the interiors world. From the jungalicious, bohemian style of The Jungalow, from Los Angeles based blogger Justina Blakeney, to the tropical designs of 2016 Great Interior Design Challenge winner Black Parrots Studio, houseplants are now so popular they even have their own Instagram hashtag, #plantsofinstagram.
When the Affordable Art Fair invited me recently to style the Talks Lounge at their Bristol exhibition, providing me with a green sofa as the starting point, I could not resist going with a tropical, botanical story (with a touch of ‘canyon’ on the cushions).
As the event was held at the enormous Passenger Shed at Temple Meads Station, there was an opportunity to play with scale in a way that doesn't ordinarily happen in residential interiors, so I hand-painted a large fabric wall-hanging with oversized monstera leaves and dangling vines.
Nothing quite beats the real thing of course, so Gloucester Road’s newest store, Wild Leaf, kindly loaned an absolutely fantastic selection of tropical and arid plants, which really brought this fun little project to life. If you’d like a feeling of warmer climes all year round, pay Wild Leaf a visit to see what would best suit you and your home.
If you would like to commission a hand painted wall hanging or canvas for your home please email to arrange a chat!
Crating a balanced interior scheme that uses strong colour can be challenging and daunting, especially if you remember some of the lurid hues of Changing Rooms back in the 1990s. Many of my clients want a colourful home but lack the confidence to go really for it so I thought I’d share one way to guarantee success.
Very few interior designers will use a colour wheel to devise their schemes, as they should have either an innate sense of colour or enough experience to know what works well, but there is no shame in using the wheel and a little colour theory to help give you confidence. Complimentary colours sit opposite each other on the colour wheel, which you can easily look up online or buy from an art or craft shop (your local independent one of course).
The secret to success is to vary the intensity of the colours, so that they are not all shouting at the same ‘volume’, as that can be fatiguing. If using yellow, you might prefer a quiet, pale yellow on the larger surfaces, and to confine the louder yellows, or pops of purple to smaller accessories, for example. Or you might want blue to dominate in which case you can use a variety of different blues of varying strengths, textures, patterns and finishes, with a few punches of orange dotted around the space. Whichever colour pair you choose, a complimentary scheme will always be balanced because there will be a colour from the ‘warm’ half of the wheel and one from the ‘cool’ side, every time. Of course you can bend the rules a little by picking a shade so close to its neighbouring colour that it is almost on the dividing line between the two, for example a bluey-purple (instead of a straight up purple) with a yellow that could have either a tint of green or a tint of orange.
Making life easy for shoppers is one of the most effective ways to encourage sales. Shelves or hooks on walls are one of the easiest ways to display products, so take advantage of the verticals in your store with these pointers.
Stretch Level - 180cm and above
Most shoppers will not often bother to look up to the higher shelves, unless they are really searching hard for a product (although ideally you don't want them to have to do this, by making everything clear), or the items displayed up high are truly eye catching. As these shelves are difficult for many shoppers to reach, they will of course be shopped from less often. So the Visual Merchandising convention is to place premium products with higher margins up here. This way, when products do sell from the top, they earn and pay for space on the shelf, even if they sit there for a longer time.
Common sense dictates that heavy or breakable items should not be displayed up high, as they will be more likely to cause injury if an overstretched arm reaches up and knocks something off or loses grip. The last thing you want is bulky objects falling on to customers from height. From an aesthetic point of view, visually heavy or dark coloured items are less successfully displayed up high, because they can make shelves look top heavy. Shelves are more appealing to look at when dressed with dark and bulky items at the bottom, gradually getting lighter as the shelves go up.
Eye Level - 122cm - 152cm
Eye Level is Buy Level, or so the saying goes. This is one of the most basic principles of Visual Merchandising. As this area is easiest for adult shoppers to browse, it will receive significantly more attention from shoppers than product in the other zones. If you have an abundance of a product you want to shift, or a line or collection you want to showcase, this is the ideal spot for it.
Touch Level - 90cm - 120cm
It isn’t rocket science to say that products placed in this area will be most easily seen and desired by children. If your business doesn't sell anything for little youngsters, then use these lower shelves for items in the next margin bracket down from this in the eye level zone. Products with detailed instructions or particulars on the packaging can be well placed here, as it is easy for customers to pick them up to scrutinise.
Stoop Level - 90cm and under
Bending down to pick up items placed near the floor can be a pain for some groups of shoppers, particularly the elderly or those with certain disabilities. Generally, products with lower margins are best placed on these lower shelves, so that bestsellers and merchandise with better margins are given the premium eye level position. It is also worth mentioning that less mobile customers and wheelchair users may often need a little extra help from store assistants, no matter how conveniently things are placed on shelves. So its always worth encouraging staff to be sensitive to their needs and quick to step in to offer good service. You can have the most beautiful shop display in the world but it is nothing without the support of staff to make it shoppable and accessible to all.
According to my partner, I have an addiction to Instagram. As a self-confessed passionate interiors enthusiast (obsessive) I fear it may be true. Slightly different from other social media platforms, the visual nature of Instagram has made it a happy place for fans of interior design.
The option to use hashtags to collect photos with particular themes together into searchable groups, and chain-like, pass-it-on style games, has made it a fun and friendly place to be online. Businesses are launched, collaborations made, competition prizes won, communities built and real life, offline friendships forged. Bristol is a game city full of interesting people, so I thought their interiors should have their fifteen minutes of insta-fame (and not only so that I can be nosey and snoop around them all from the comfort of my sofa, honest). A few months ago I launched the hashtag #mybristolhome as a way to collect together and celebrate the variety of home interiors across our beloved city. Gradually more people are playing along and sharing snaps of their homes, and as you might expect from such a vibrant place there isn’t a bland beige shot in sight. So have a scroll through #mybristolhome and please do feel welcome to join in and share your favourite corner with us all in the instafam!
This post was originally written for Bishopston Voice magazine.
Despite the trend for using grey in interiors in recent years, it may not be the most obvious choice for a children’s bedroom, and yet it can work. Children’s colourful toys and furniture really pop out against darker hues in an unexpectedly delightful way, but often we shy away from anything more interesting than off-white. It is wise to be wary of creating an over-stimulating environment, particularly when sleep habits during early-years are less than desirable, but there is definitely a case for using rich, deep colours. They are ideal for creating cosseting, cosy spaces. It may seem counter-intuitive to use such a dark grey in a child’s room, but it is anything but depressing when livened up with it’s natural colour-partner, yellow, along with a zingy blue and purple. The dark walls, ceiling and blackout-lined curtains here aid daytime napping, and also make for a fantastic sensory room when all the colour changing lights are switched on. Using pattern only sparingly, this room aims not to be too bedazzling, and pointedly avoids any cartoon characters on the furnishings. Decorating can be disruptive, and no one wants to be making big or expensive changes every time a growing child acquires a new passion. Parents are also allowed to enjoy the surroundings too, so there is no harm in choosing paints and papers that can be pleasurable for everyone to look at, and will grow with the child to some extent. Choosing a gender neutral colour scheme is also a good idea, as you never know, there might be a new sibling to share the same space later on.
Aside from colour, there are plenty of practical points to consider in order to create a successful children’s bedroom scheme. Although a futon atop a Japanese tatami mat for the bed means the room is missing out on an obvious storage opportunity, it suits the inhabitant of this space who has difficulty climbing and is prone to falling out of bed. Ordinarily though, cabin, bunk and trundle drawer beds are perfect for double-duty sleeping and storage, especially in smaller spaces.
Storage for toys and clothes is obviously essential. It can be useful to have shelving options high up out of reach, to house things that require adult supervision, such as paints and felt tips, keeping the lower, accessible shelves for less troublesome items. Anything that encourages easy tidying is a good idea, and in this instance there are simple trugg buckets, the contents of which will no doubt change every so often, in line with the evolving interests of the occupant. Wardrobe units can often be imposing so here they have been painted the same colour as the walls, and even look at first glance as though they have been built in to the alcove, keeping the ‘visual noise’ down. The household bedlinen and towels are also stowed here, making excellent use of the storage facility which would otherwise be overkill for most small people’s clothing collections.
Customising furniture, whether an old vintage gem or new from Ikea, is always a lovely way to add a unique touch to any room. This interior is home to a few upcycled items including a chest of drawers given new handles and a vibrant lick of paint using leftovers from previous furniture projects, home-made upcycled headboards (using a duvet and leftover curtain fabric) to soften the bed corner, and a giant old picture frame covered in fabric scraps. Little ones are never too young to make or appreciate art, so the gallery wall is a combination of family photos, keepsakes and old charity shop finds, and is easy to change up by swapping kids’ art or postcards from grandparents in to the frames.
Developing a Corporate Social Responsibility plan might seem like a tall order for many independent retailers. But CSR is not just for the big boys in business, and can help even the smallest of businesses become more environmentally and financially sustainable. Visual Merchandising is the perfect area of business for retailers of all sizes to start streamlining, because displays are rarely used twice. Creating new props, set pieces and baffles from plastic or foamex every season is becoming increasingly irresponsible, and is certainly not cost-effective for smaller stores.
Committing to reducing the use of disposable plastic is just one step that all businesses should now be taking to reduce their carbon footprint. Fortunately there are plenty of sustainable alternatives to plastic for making impressive window spectacles.
Paper is the single most virtuous of materials for making window displays. The ultimate renewable resource, paper is incredibly versatile and available in myriad different textures, patterns and finishes. You can paint it. You can punch holes in it. From the simplest bunting to complex origami, the possibilities for design with paper are literally endless.
Paper can also be very cheap or even free to source. Reusing and repurposing old magazines, newspapers, maps, music sheets and so on will always win extra ‘green’ points, as will using recycled paper. These types of paper will not suit every brand or window story of course, so the next best place to find paper is your local scrap store. They may have larger scale off cuts or end of line rolls of different papers for you to fashion into decorative displays without leaving a big environmental footprint.
The easiest way to use paper to make a design statement is to cut out simple shapes from a template and suspend them in the windows, ideally using clear nylon thread. Inaccurately or roughly cut shapes will instantly look unprofessional of course, so take care or delegate to someone with patience. With this kind of display more is usually more, so make plenty.
To tap into the sculptural potential of paper you can experiment with folding, fringing, curving and curling - simply run the edge or a ruler or scissor blade along a strip of paper like a florist curling ribbon. Secure shapes with staples, staple pliers, double sided tape, sticky pads, or glue. Play with light and shadow by punching or cutting holes or other shapes to the paper, adding a further layer or detail to your display.
Construct larger shapes or even set pieces using boxes or rolled-up wadges of corrugated card (sourced from your own empty delivery boxes of course). Cover with paper maché which is, in case it has been a long time since you did this at primary school, simply a mixture of paper and glue that applied to cardboard shapes to make a hard surface. You can texture it too by adding sand, rice, lentils or textiles depending on what you are trying to achieve. For a smoother finish, layer it up neatly, and lacquer it with water-based acrylic varnish for a glossy effect.
If you still need convincing that paper is better for your windows than plastic there is plenty of inspiration to be found on my Pinterest Board.
Showcasing your actual product stock in your shop windows is the most cost-effective way to create a window display. It signals unambiguously and efficiently to customers exactly what can be found in store, but not all retailers are blessed with selling pretty products that easily make great window displays. This makes visual merchandising much more tricky for purveyors of the more humdrum, everyday essentials that are unremarkable, or even ugly, to look at. The last thing you want to do as a small business is go to the trouble of making a banal window display that is easily overlooked or, conversely, spend a lot of money on specially made props and set pieces to compensate for the unattractiveness of the products. Luckily, with a little creativity and imagination there are several ways to make a resourceful and striking display, even with using the most dull items.
It can be tempting to show off everything you sell in the window, particularly if you stock many and varied product lines, but this usually leads to a messy melange. Less is usually more when selecting product varieties for a display, to keep the message clear, concise and give it a curated look. If you think of a window display as a theatre stage, ordinarily there would be one star of the show, and a supporting cast. So use this metaphor to help you choose one product to be the focal point of your shop’s show. Give this one pride of place, centre stage. The leading role is nothing without the help of his or her supporting actors, so pick another two products (maximum) to make up the rest of the cast. Display these around the main character, making sure the emphasis is on the star.
Another visual merchandising technique that has great impact is repetition. Although an under used device in window displays, repetition can be very effective at attracting attention. Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup Tins are a great Pop Art example of this. It is worth emulating and very easy to achieve whether you sell soup, scissors, spanners or shoes. Simply choose one product and display duplicates of it, adding nothing else to avoid diluting the potency of the image. If the same product is available in different colour variations then creating a kaleidoscopic rainbow effect is just as good as using one colour throughout. Another variation on this technique is to use all one colour except for just one box or item in a different colour. There are multiple ways to install the products from suspending on string or clear thread, or stacking up to placing on shelves or plinths. The best and easiest display method may depend on the type of product you choose, and whether you keep it boxed or unboxed. Every month or 6 weeks you can simply choose another item to repeat throughout the window, and hopefully get people wondering about what you will choose to show next time.
The third way to make a virtue of ugly product displays is to set a scene and tell a story, because this is what really gets people talking. If you can make people laugh, you are definitely on to a winner. For example, a store selling household products could stack up packets of toilet paper rolls, and unwrap and unroll a quantity of the rolls to make a deliberate, carefully placed mess - as if the dog or kids have created chaos then disappeared. A witty caption could be written on to the window, or a series of doggy footprints on the floor. This would be enough to help explain the scene and hint at the story, as opposed to just leaving a pile of unexplained loo roll everywhere.
This sort of humorous ‘whodunnit’ style tableaux can also work with a pyramid stack of tins or boxes that has been partially knocked over by a mystery pet / child / elf / etc that has disappeared leaving just a clue to their guilt. Simply change the stacked items and the clumsy character to change the story. Pyramid stacks are not overly practical in small shops for obvious safety reasons, and have long been the source of calamity jokes on TV adverts. However, there is no harm in referencing this in window displays, particularly where customers can’t reach them to get hurt or damage your stock.
You may well think of better stories and ideas that are more appropriate to your particular brand. If cashflow does not permit getting a freelance Visual Merchandiser onboard, you can always get your staff involved with brainstorming and installing the ideas, which will have the added bonus of making them feel valued provided you reward their contributions.
*This article written by Zoe Hewett first appeared on www.modernretail.co.uk*
Gallery walls have been gaining popularity for some time and Pinterest is now full of templates and tutorials for achieving aesthetically pleasing arrangements. The beauty of hanging artwork salon-style (making full use of the space available on a given wall, like the French Salon) is that there is really no need to be precious. When displaying a single picture, we have a tendency to hang too high to properly enjoy, and unless it is of large proportions, can often look lost on a big blank wall. Using the whole wall as a canvas for canvasses, and frames, it is possible to combine both valuable and thrifty pieces together, and in a variety of sizes and shapes to create a high impact statement. The sum is greater than the parts. The pieces may be thematically linked, maybe not. There are no hard and fast rules, although there are a few pointers worth bearing in mind. The less space around and between pictures the better, for fewer gaps and a more clustered effect. It is also worth taking guidance from architectural features such as architraves, window frames, sills, shelves or items of furniture placed against walls, to help identify a good starting point and for logical alignment. Position bolder, graphic images higher up so that more detailed works can be more easily appreciated lower down. Consider changing up the contents of the frames now and again, with children’s artwork, scraps of old wallpaper or textiles, postcards, photographs, charity shop finds, heirloom oils - anything goes. If at first you don't have enough pictures to hang a large selection, even better. Just place what you have so far clustered cosily together, then enjoy gradually growing your collection organically over time, joyfully sprawling outwards to fill the space with meaningful pieces you truly love.
1. Here Comes The Sun
Some stores will be more affected than others by the damage caused by strong sunlight, depending on which side of the street they are located, the direction of the road and the surrounding buildings. But it is worth being alert to this easily avoided problem, especially as it costs nothing. Faded posters and notices quickly make stores look old and neglected. This is no good in the fast paced retail industry where everything needs to constantly look up to date and fresh. Any product displayed in the windows will also be vulnerable to sun damage, so be sure to keep an eye, and rotate displays more frequently if necessary. Even if you markdown ex-display products it will be difficult to sell them at all if they have been baking in the sunlight for too long. Avoid cladding the windows in yellow cellophane at all costs, as it is incredibly dated and obscures the view in to your treasures. Instead, consider delegating to shop assistants a weekly check for any items that need removing or replacing.
2. Don’t get personal
People buy from people, it’s true, but personal clutter on and around the service counter of a shop diminishes professionalism, and can detract from the brand image. The charm of independent stores is that they are unique, so of course it is very important to inject plenty of character into retail premises. However; the place where transactions are carried out should be free from family photos, novelty pens, toys or other personal knick-knacks. It can be difficult to get the balance right between personality and the personal, but generally speaking it is best to avoid resembling cluttered desk booths that have been made cosy by open plan office staff. It can seem over-familiar. The emphasis should be not on you, but on your customer.
3. Quit using blue tack
Although blu tack is a quick and easy way to fix important notices to glass door panes and windows, it is by no means the most attractive option. It can very easily look messy, amateurish and as though no effort has been made to keep a presentable front. Professionally produced window stickers may seem hard to justify when cashflow is slow, or if only a temporary message is required, so a better solution to blu-tack or sellotape is transparent sticky glue dots. Available in permanent or repositionable strength, they are made by Bostik, Pritt and Scotch among others so inexpensive and easy to source. Being clear they won’t clash with any brand colours, and will create a more sophisticated finish than your neighbours still using those ugly blue blobs.
4. Handwriting is an art
Unless you happen to be a keen calligrapher, avoid hand writing notices, as all-too-often they look horribly unprofessional. When you have a quick message write or one-day special offer to promote it can seem like a chore to print out a half-decent sign from the computer. It would be a waste of money to have these professionally printed, and of course hand written signs do have character and charm. However; unless written by someone with truly beautiful handwriting and using a good choice of pen and paper, it is a wasted effort. Scratchy biros and nearly-dead marker pens are not a good look, but if embracing the handwritten would suit your brand then here are some tips to help you succeed. Chalk written messages on blackboards are currently very in vogue, but are also classic so will always look stylish. Available in any size, chalkboards have a place inside and out. The right typography can change the tone of the message to match your brand image. Even the least artistic person can make a beautiful sign by printing out the words needed in the right size to make a template. Cover the back of the paper in chalk, then tape it in position on the board. Draw over the words with a soft tipped pencil to make a transfer of the letters, then remove the paper and fill in the text on the board with map chalk or a chalk pen. If that’s too much bother, delegate it to one of the team, and if chalk doesn’t fit the store image, download and install some suitable free stock fonts from the web to use in making your own DIY printed paper signs. Use the same typefaces to unify your logo, storefront signage, POS graphics and pricing to create a professional, cohesive look. It will be worth the effort.
5. Spring Clean Regime
Spring is great time for maintenance around the home, and shops are no exception. Even if your regular cleaner is committed and conscientious, your shop will love you back after a really deep clean and a thorough maintenance inspection. Go over every square inch with a fine tooth comb looking for wear and tear, and make a list of any dirty, dusty corners, grubby shelves or cabinets, broken light bulbs, out of date info notices, prices, offers, ads etc. Delegate this task if you are too busy, and ensure everything on the list is actioned. It is amazing what grime you can notice when browsing a store as a shopper; details that people who spend everyday in-store would easily miss. Residue from sticky pads, double sided tape and sky hooks is ugly and always makes stores look particularly unloved, so invest in a bottle of Sticky Stuff Remover, and get rid of all trace as part of your Spring Clean regime.
It’s no secret that Bristol is an absolute hotbed of creativity and forward thinking, and increasingly we can add design excellence to that list. Bishopston resident Laura Pendlebury is a product designer specialising in unique lights made from old golf clubs, also known as Baffy Nook. With a background in spatial planning and teaching art, Laura has wholeheartedly embraced the ‘cradle to cradle’ approach to design by sourcing her raw materials ethically and sustainably (initially from Bristol homelessness charity Emmaus), and upcycling them into something new. Golf clubs cannot easily be recycled or reprocessed due to the mixed metal content, so repurposing is the best way to rescue them from an eternity in landfill.
Laura’s designs incorporate the entire club, not just parts, which apart from improving the green credentials, also preserves and celebrates the craftsmanship that went in to making the clubs originally. Impressively she personally manufactures each one by hand from the sanding to the welding. Using paints to add punches of colour to some of the clubs, different woods, flexes and shades, no two are the same. These witty and stylish lights have appeal beyond just those in golfing circles. To find out more and brighten up any dark corners in your home, you can browse and buy online at www.baffynook.com
If you are a fan of interiors, you have probably seen the unpronounceable word ‘hygge' or ‘hyggelig' mentioned everywhere over the last year, from instagram to magazines and coffee table tomes. A Danish term for a concept we don’t quite have an equivalent of, it means approximately ‘cosy’. Normally, it is used to describe the warm fuzzy feeling you get when intimately spending quality time with friends, for example. Like any industry fickle enough to succumb to and be influenced by trends, the interiors world has wholeheartedly embraced this delightful image of stylish Scandinavians cosying up under beautiful blankets. The more cynical among us might say this is just another marketing bandwagon aimed at separating consumers from their disposable income, with hygge branded throws, sheepskins, vases and so on. A candle with the word hyggelig printed on it makes a room no more snug than a nameless night-lite, tallow or taper, after all!
But, to get in the spirit of things, the best way to inject an authentic hygge atmosphere to your home, is to invite close friends around to pass the time together on the last long dark evenings before Spring comes. By all means light the fire if you have one, add plenty of candlelight, textured throws, and a schnapps, bitters or hot chocolate. Or if you find solace in solitude, there is no better way to savour a few quiet moments than curling up with a good read. Transform a quiet corner of your home into an inviting book nook, with a comfortable chair, good reading light, nice warming drink, and a cosy cushion or throw. Use items you already own and cherish with each use, and simply imagine our pre-television Scandinavian counterparts enjoying the Sagas or some other opus, at the cosiest of firesides during seemingly endless winters. You surely can’t get more hygge than that.
INSPIRE yourself with an image of your dream holiday tropical island, or another goal you’re working towards, pinned to your noticeboard.
DECLUTTER your space. Ruthlessly recycle unnecessary pieces of paper. Put old files you don’t need to look at but need to keep just-in-case in the loft or in the cupboard under the stairs. Removing unnecessary ‘visual noise’ will help your focus too.
ORGANISE your work tools, particularly if you’re a creative. Avoid wasting time looking for equipment by making a display out of the tools of your trade with easy-accessible open shelving or peg-boards.
MOTIVATE yourself with a blank canvas. Tidying up yesterday’s work before you can start today’s is an energy drain. Get a smaller desk so you can’t use it as a dumping ground.
DECREASE the size of your work space to avoid the feeling of work taking over the whole house. Transform a cupboard into a mini office, like a large bureau, and close the door on work both literally and metaphorically when you down tools for the day.
LIGHT your space well, working by the sunniest window in the house or using a daylight lamp, available from craft shops and lighting retailers. Help prevent your eyes becoming fatigued.
COMFORT yourself economically. Try the Dyson Hot heater or similar to avoid heating the entire house when you’re only using a small area. Sitting still for long periods sure gets chilly.
PROTECT your back by sitting actively on a large Pilates ball, air-cushion or wedge. Introduce a higher surface, so you can work standing up for some activities.
TRAFFIC FLOW Position your workstation on the landing or under the stairs if you don’t need constant privacy. This would give a neglected corner real purpose, or could free up your spare bedroom (if you have one) for guests, rather than it always being half an office.
COLOUR the space to stimulate and provide interest. Green is the most restful colour for the eyes to gaze upon and so has traditionally been used in libraries, studies and backstage.
Successful Visual Merchandising can be difficult for independent retailers to achieve on top of the day-to-day pressures of running a business.
Firstly there’s the need to constantly come up with new and exciting ideas, and then there’s the time required to actually implement them – as well as finding the cash to pay for the project, of course. It may seem like a real drag to come up with display after display but, in today’s environment of internet shopping and giant retail chains, it is has never been more important forindependents to invest in the appearance and customer experience of their stores. The good news is that although Visual Merchandising is a profession in its own right, you don’t have to be qualified or an expert to succeed in creating competent displays.
Follow the four tips below to streamline and de-stress your Visual Merchandising operation:
DEVISE A VM STRATEGY
Once the January sales are over and all trace of the busy Christmas period gone, it is the perfect time to focus on creating a Visual Merchandising Strategy for the whole year ahead.
First you’ll need to decide which festivals and celebrations you intend to coincide your displays and promotions with. Window Displays are for life not just for Christmas! There are so many events throughout the year that it would be unrealistic to reference all of them, but to aim for a minimum of 8 wow-factor window displays per year is good practice.
The main celebrations (in addition to the four seasons) are New Year, Valentine’s Day, Shrove Tuesday / Mardi Gras, Mothering Sunday, Easter, May Day, Harvest, Halloween, Guy Fawkes Day, Remembrance Day and, of course, Advent and Christmas.
In addition, there may be sporting events, different religious observances, regional Saints’ Days or other occasions such as International Women’s Day, Yarn Bombing Day or even International Talk Like a Pirate Day, that chime with your brand and customers. Film releases and news stories can also be a rich source of inspiration, and will speak to your audience. However it is wise to avoid referencing the more political aspects of current affairs – and always ensure that any stories or events you latch on to are relevant to your core business.
Once you have chosen your window display occasions, you can set about planning for them.
CREATE A VISUAL MERCHANDISING CALENDAR
All too often Christmas window displays are left unchanged until the middle of January, at least a week after most customers have already recycled their tree into wood chippings. The superstitious would say this is bad luck, but old wives’ tales aside, it is easy to see how this could harm a shop’s image. Retail is indeed a fast-paced industry, but with just a little forward planning it is possible to keep up.
Setting dates in the shop diary for window-display Change Days is an excellent way to ensure your shop is always current. Designating fixed dates for these overhauls signals to everyone working in the shop that this is an important activity that must be done on time. However; fixing dates just for new installations is not enough. Time forpreparation, planning and manufacture of displays must also be accounted for, as must the removal and disposal or storage of previous displays. So it is advisable to always be working around three months ahead so that things don’t get squeezed too close the deadline and either rushed at the last minute or dropped completely.
Being organised takes the pressure off, and gives the chance to make things fun.
For example, Twelfth Night could be a good time for a staff do (particularly if the Christmas period was too intense to arrange a party), during which you collectively and therefore quickly strip out all trace of Christmas, before heading out for a reward meal.
IDEAS & CONTENT PLAN
Knowing how many different display themes and ideas you will need to come up with is very useful, whether you plan to delegate displays to a freelance Visual Merchandiser or do it all yourself in-house. Keeping a spreadsheet or other type of ideas list means you can add new ideas as and when they come up, and track old or previously used ones so that annual displays don’t become repetitive. This also encourages and enables you to plan and prepare in advance, so you can be ready for an efficient installation, with minimal disruption to the shop floor.
Generating ideas comes easily to some people, but others find it difficult to be imaginative. If there is a budget available, bringing in a freelance Visual Merchandiser to help generate ideas would be ideal – and of course they would also be able to implement them on your behalf. However, if cashflow dictates a DIY solution, consider calling a staff meeting for a communal brainstorm. Design by committee is not usually a good idea, but it will certainly elicit some initial inspiration from which you can then develop the better suggestions. Perhaps running a competition for the best display idea among your staff would be worthwhile, and would have the added bonus of making them feel valued.
An effective Visual Merchandising Strategy does not consider window displays in isolation, but relates them to the in-store experience. So, if there is a product showcase in a window, the in-store display of those products must bear resemblance to the window version. This sounds obvious, but it is a common mistake that in-store sign posting and way-finding are neglected. Tempting customers in to shops with something in the window is brilliant, but it is essential to then aid them in completing the journey first to the product and then to the till! Once a product has been elevated to window-worthy status, it should be prominently and beautifully presented inside too, as having to search for such an item in a cluttered store leads only to frustration and disappointment. Depending on your product lines and chosen celebrations and promotions, stock levels will likely vary throughout the year. This may well impact on available space on the shop floor, so the layout may need to change to accommodate additional stock, in line with your Visual Merchandising Calendar
Of course it isn’t possible to plan for every detail and the exact number of boxes that will be getting in the way at any one time. But a little advance anticipation will help you stay on top of the disruption, and make your Visual Merchandising duties a little more joyful.
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There’s nothing like a hotel style minibar to bring a touch of boutique glamour and decadence to the home, or even help you pretend to be on holiday. Lingering over drinks, long or short, with good company is a lovely way to pass time at home, especially while the evenings are still dark and chilly. Some might even say it is hygge. So a home bar cart is a great way to brighten up an unassuming corner, and has the added convenience of making it easier to live the good life, being always ready for a spontaneous slosh of sauce.
To make my bijou Gin Bar, I transformed a tired old tray from a charity shop and displayed it in front of my treasured vintage kitsch classic, a Tretchikoff Blue Lady print. Using a little leftover turquoise eggshell to paint for the tray handles and sides, the colour relates perfectly to the unusual skin tone in the portrait. Next I found a sheet of gin themed giftwrap to decoupage the central platform. It’s a simple technique to try at home. Simply cut out pieces of paper (the smaller the better to prevent air bubbles), glue on with PVA and cover with several layers of clear water based acrylic varnish.
One essential ingredient is lighting. Glass drinks bottles in different colours always look fabulous when lit from behind or underneath. This is relatively easy to achieve using a simple LED ribbon or strip, or a small string of fairy lights.
If money is no object you can invest in brass and marble bar cart, or even a rotating globe . But if space is limited, you can confine your bar to a lowly shelf, and instantly elevate its status within the room. Dressing in a mini-bar is a great way to break up endless book spines, which can be visually dominating. Using a tray allows you to curate your collection of bottles and vessels, keep everything together and protect the surface underneath from any stray drips.
For those that take simple pleasure from using beautiful everyday objects, there is a plethora of paraphernalia available to accessorise with, from whale shape bottle openers to jiggers and spoons in glamorous gold or copper, all to help you turn a little tipple into an event.
If mass produced mid-Century art, upcycling or even alcohol aren’t for you, there’s no reason why you can’t make a delightful display of delicate vintage teacups and a teapot. Choose whatever colour scheme, design aesthetic and drinks selection you like. The only rule is it must please both palette and peeper.