Ten Tips For Creating A Productive Office Or Workspace At Home

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.

Zoe Hewett Interiors Writers Den

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.

4 Ways to Revolutionise Your Visual Merchandising in 2017

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.

Window Display Calendar Zoe Hewett Interiors

Follow the four tips below to streamline and de-stress your Visual Merchandising operation:



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.



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.

Visual Merchandising Brainstorm Zoe Hewett Interiors



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.

Read more posts like this on www.modernretail.co.uk 


Bring boutique hotel glamour to your home with these mini bar tips!

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.

Five tips for DIY Artwork

Zoe Hewett Interiors Wall Art

Artwork is often lacking from interiors, perceived as a luxury for the elite and generally expensive. Many bedrooms, living rooms and even kitchens (really!) look unfinished and feel incomplete without the joy that art can bring. Bristol is home to many fantastic artistsworking in a variety of mediums and styles. There is a huge array from cheap and cheerful prints to labour intensive original oil paintings with provenance. Such choice can be overwhelming, so if you can’t decide on a favourite artist, can’t afford to invest or simply like the idea of having a try, why not create your own? It doesn’t matter whether there is artistry in your genes or not, here are some ideas for getting creative even if you don’t have experience.

One of the easiest ways to create wall art is to find a large piece of curtain fabric that you simply love, then gently stretch and staple it on to the back of a piece of wood, ideally with a couple of layers of wadding sandwiched in between for a little padding. If you don't have a staple gun, webbing tacks and a hammer will do. Just one metre would be sufficient for a decent size artwork, so depending on the budget you could potentially buy a more expensive, intricate fabric design seeing as its not for a full set of curtains. It may be possible to buy a large remnant at a reduced price, and a wood panel may be sourced inexpensively from pallet boxes or off-cuts from a wood yard. Freecycle is a fantastic resource too.

Zoe Hewett Interiors Painted Flower Fabric

If you’re feeling really brave, why not try painting your own fabric, as I did with powder pigments. With a lovely colour palette there is no need to depict anything at all, it can be totally abstract and the colours can be enough. The bleeding of the paint adds to the effect, and is definitely worth embracing rather than trying to overcome. This process is not dissimilar to painting on paper with watercolours, which is another option to try out, particularly if you fancy trying out evening classes.

For fans of more 3D, sculptural wall art, why not play around with found objects such as wood offcuts, metal scraps, or assemble bits of broken treasures, toys or jewellery into a figure or upcycled display. As long as everything is secure with the right type of glue or screws, this could be a really interesting and unique adornment to the walls.

If the sophistication of monochrome black and white is more to your taste, using the largest canvas or paper and widest brush you can find with black acrylic paint, a simple circle or continuous brush stroke in any wiggly line makes a dramatic statement. Or paint and fill in a black square, then fluff up the edges by stroking a dry brush gently away from the paint. 

A real Jackson Pollock would set you back literally millions, and prints just don’t quite capture the real deal. Making your own would be huge fun and a great way to involve any budding young artists. Simply drip, drop, splish, splash, and spill paint over the largest paper or canvas you can in any colours you like. It would probably be best to do this in the comfort of your garden or yard, and for added authenticity, do like the man himself and ride a bike all over it too!

Zoe Hewett Interiors Flower Fabric.jpg

Images (c) Zoe Hewett Interiors

Decorate with blue, without getting the blues

Zoe Hewett Interiors Blue Room

Although blue is the people’s choice when it comes to favourite colours, it is a lesser spotted tone around the home. With its watery associations, blue tends to be confined to bathrooms and then usually only in polite, pale portions. Blue isn’t a common candidate for sitting rooms or bedrooms, as we tend to equate it with cool, cold or even sadness. 

Yet, navy and denim blues have already been trending for a while among the early adopters of the interiors world, so here are my pointers for trying out blue without getting the blues.

Go as dark as you dare! Smaller spaces that don’t receive much natural light are perfect for bolder colour choices. As counter-intuitive as that may sound, the convention of usingwhite or light shades to make a room seem larger is a popular misnomer. Pale hues caneasily look insipid and lifeless where deeper tones add drama and interest instead. So turn up the saturation and increase the energy in the space.

Choose a warm blue - they do exist! If you are worried about it all seeming cool, particularly at this chilly time of year, a slight hint of purple will read as warmer than a green-blue. 

Mix and match different shades. Powder blue can look juvenile, whereas navy is sophisticated, but with so many beautiful blues to choose from there is no reason why you can’t shake things up by using more than one to create something new.

Zoe Hewett Interiors Upcycled Vintage Chair.jpg

Ignore gender stereotypes about colour. In the 1920s blue was considered the most appropriate colour for baby girls to wear, not blue as is the convention today. It is true though that darker walls tend to be thought of as masculine, so to make it more gender neutral, balance things out with pretty or vintage touches. Dainty china and the vintage postcards of birds decoupaged onto the chair are unexpected, feminine and happy companions to the dark wall behind.

Bring pattern in to the scheme somewhere, be it on a rug, cushion, throw or art print to break up large expanses of blue, add interest and homeliness. Keeping to the same blue palette will give it a cohesive look and allow you to use more than one patterned surface without it becoming too chaotic. Accessorise with neutrally coloured elements (such as vases, lamps, cushions etc) to temper all the colour. Use creams and stones for warmth, or whites for crispness.

Flowers and plants always add life to any room, and many designers will say no space is complete without at least a little foliage. Yellow is blue’s complimentary colour, so pops of it will really sing in a flower arrangement, depending on the season and what is available.  Orange and pink would also be jolly, but avoid red as it tends to ‘fight’ with blue. 

Above all, if you’re going to go blue, be bold.

Zoe Hewett Interiors Upcycled Vintage Chair.jpg


Images (c) Zoe Hewett Interiors

Life Unstyled: book review

If you have any Christmas book vouchers burning a hole in your pocket you could do a lot worse than to treat yourself to a copy of Life Unstyled, written by interiors stylist Emily Henson. Focussing on real life homes with piles of books at the bedside, it is the perfectly imperfect antidote to the aspirational, sterile showhome gloss found in so many magazines and social media feeds. Of course, all the photographs are of exceptionally beautiful properties, many converted commercial spaces of desirable proportions, and mostly inhabited by creative individuals with superior taste and an enviable knack for artfully displaying their interesting collections, and invigorating old cabinets and crates with quick and thrifty paint jobs. But don't let that put you off. The book serves to inspire in the reader to fall back in love with their home, despite any unfinished decorating jobs, exposed plaster and distressed paintwork with its images of charmingly casual interiors. Placing emphasis on making the most of what you already have, Henson shows how to make a virtue of clutter, by making it characterful. It is true after all that real life involves a certain amount of messiness, whether stuck to the fridge, dangling from sockets or piling up by the front door. These refreshingly attainable interior shots are a great resource for the many homeowners that seek to put their house in order at the start of the new year; a reminder to create a home that you love, rather than what you think you should love.

Shine a light: the impact of lighting on your store

Lighting is one of the most important elements of retail store design and can have a substantial impact on sales. You can create beautiful product displays, but if they aren’t lit properly, all that work goes to waste. Balancing the practicalities of displaying your merchandise with atmosphere and dramatic impact can be a challenge, so here are some of the basics of retail lighting design.



Lighting is likely to be one of your biggest investments in terms of store design. It’s estimated that 43% of your energy costs are likely to go on lighting, and that’s after your initial investment in any kind of lighting rig. But scrimp on this design element and you could be compromising sales if merchandise isn’t displayed to best advantage.


Ambient lighting

Choosing the level of ambient light – the general light in the store – is crucial. Compare a brightly lit a pound shop or branch of Primark to the warm, welcoming low light of a luxury boutique and it’s clear how different light levels send different brand messages. Brighter isn’t always better, and low light can indicate a premium brand, but it’s crucial to balance this with merchandise display. If you have low ambient light levels, how will you light displays to keep the focus on your product?


Task lighting

Task lighting highlights areas of the shop that perform functions – cash desks, changing rooms, help desks. It helps customers orientate themselves in store and lights the area so that particular task can be performed effectively.


Decorative lighting

Decorative lighting is additional lighting that creates a particular atmosphere in store. It might add to the ambient light, but its main function is visual impact.

Accent lighting

Accent lighting is used in conjunction with ambient lighting to highlight displays. The fittings required will depend on your merchandise. Mannequin displays will require a wider beam to highlight than a display of jewellery.

In this Diesel store, low ambient light, accent lighting and decorative lighting are combined to create a treasure-trove feel to this display.

In this Diesel store, low ambient light, accent lighting and decorative lighting are combined to create a treasure-trove feel to this display.

Using natural light

Retailers are increasingly incorporating natural light into their visual merchandising. Department stores like Macy’s that traditionally covered windows entirely with displays are opening them up again to bring in light from outside. Natural light makes shoppers feel good and displays merchandise colour accurately.

Consider how you moderate natural light to deal with very sunny or overcast days and how you’ll light the store at night. One option is to use a thin curtain material that lets through light but cuts out bright sunshine. You can also balance out natural light with lamps to even the overall effect and avoid silhouettes. Some lighting systems offer sensors that will adjust lamps as the light level outside changes.

Natural light is used to bring out the contrast of natural tones and bold colours in this display at the Revival store in Chattanooga, USA.

Natural light is used to bring out the contrast of natural tones and bold colours in this display at the Revival store in Chattanooga, USA.


Lamps have individual colour tones that give different effects in an overall lighting scheme. The Colour Rating Index (CRI) of a lamp measures its ability to display colours accurately compared to natural light; the lower the rating, the more accurately colours are displayed. A low CRI would be appropriate to changing rooms where customers want to view a garment as it will appear outside the store.


Flexible Systems

Ideally, your lighting system should be flexible so that you can redirect lights depending on your displays. A track system with adjustable lamps allows you to combine flood fittings that give an ambient light to the whole store with spot fittings for highlighting particular areas.

Track systems are a substantial investment, but at the very least you should ensure you have the ability to highlight key displays and attractive merchandise separately from the ambient light.


Alternatives to Lighting

We’ve covered using windows for natural light, but you can also bounce around more light with mirrors and reflective surfaces. Your colour scheme will also have an impact on how your lighting design works.


This is a guest post courtesy of Modern Retail.

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Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/ModernRetailUK


Image Credits:

“Fashion boutique decorative lighting”: Brobbel Interieur, https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/462322717973311348/

“Lighting installation at Diesel Denim Gallery, Tokyo”: Diesel, http://www.dezeen.com/2008/02/15/suspended-figure-by-ayako-murata-at-diesel-denim-gallery-aoyama/

“Petit Bateau store”: Zisla Tortello, http://www.dailyelle.fr/tout-dans-le-detail/le-faux-eclairage-de-petit-bateau-95683?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=tweet&utm_campaign=Le%2Bfaux%2B%C3%A9clairage%2Bde%2BPetit%2BBateau 

“Revival, Chattanooga”: Revival, https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/345088390174142455/

“A Frame lighting rig”: Dezeen, http://www.dezeen.com/2011/09/26/dezeen-space-at-54-rivington-street/






Moodboard Competition Win

Zoe Hewett InteriorsAddicted To Patterns .jpg

Last month saw the the interiors trade show season draw to a close after an intense few weeks of exhibitions, open studios, products launches and seminars. There was plenty of inspiration to be found, and I headed to London in my most sensible shoes to traipse around both Decorex and Focus 16 at the Chelsea Design Centre in one day. Taking it all in is exhausting and worthwhile. Although not looking out for trends per se, the pieces that caught my eye were almost all teal or turquoise in hue, with glamorous gilt finishing touches. For their appearance at the 100%  Design event, Bristol wallpaper designers Addicted To Patterns ran a moodboard competition for interior stylists to create a scheme based on a favourite of their paper prints*. I chose Coral, a detailed white on blue pattern with a lovely sense of the hand-illustrated to grace at least one wall in my virtual room design, and fleshed out the scheme with many of the fabulous items that had inspired me at the trade shows.

Combined with artwork by other Bristol based artisans (artist Beth Nicholas who painstakingly manipulates ink to create ethereal landscapes and Hannah Brown Interiors who frames sea fans against Farrow & Ball painted backgrounds) the overall effect is dramatic, with layers of intriguing moody blues and a dose of glamour. It is full of different patterns which might deter many, but my tip for successfully combing patterns of varying scales and styles is to keep them all in approximately the same colour palette. Happy pattern clashing!

For more on Addicted To Patterns visit www.addictedtopatterns.uk

For artwork visit www.beth-nicholas.com and www.hannahbrowninteriors.co.uk

For more on the furniture and lighting used in the moodboard visit www.pinterest.com/zoehewettdesign

* I’m thrilled to say I won and can’t wait to put the prize of hand screen printed Coral mural up on one of my walls!

Get your Hygge On!

Zoe Hewett Interiors Hygge

There is no better way to cosy up the home as the cold and dark sets in than to transform a quiet corner into an inviting book nook. Curling up with a good read is the most wholesome of pastimes for the bleaker months. It evokes images of our pre-television Scandinavian counterparts enjoying the Sagas, and other heavy tomes, at the cosiest of firesides during seemingly endless winters.

This book nook I put together has roots in warmer climes and more of a mid-Century modern feel, with the Brazilian design classic BFK butterfly chair and vintage Italian Iguzzini mushroom table lamp. Whether your taste is classic, country or contemporary, the essential ingredients for creating a good book nook are few but choice.

Firstly, a comfortable chair is a must, to enable at least a few chapters to be enjoyed in one sitting. The definition of a seriously comfy seat may vary from one person to another so make sure you are happy with your selection. 

A side table of some kind is a practical must-have, to provide a place to put a cup of something warming or a glass of something more celebratory, and any other accessories such as page markers and reading glasses. Positioning a handy table next to a chair also creates a more complete scene, anchoring the chair, so it isn't lost and lonely in the space, and offers up more styling opportunities for placement of candles, plants and objets d’art.

Good light is necessary to prevent eye fatigue, and will also add a gentle warm glow (something interior designers love to add to corners of rooms). Consider investing in a warm white LED bulb with a lower lumen count, as standard bulbs can give a harsh cool light. If the bulb is on view at all, be sure to use an attractive one or cover it with a globe if the lamp-holder allows.

Textiles visually make spaces more cosy, even before you have snuggled down under them. A blanket, cushion or throw will finish off the book nook nicely. Texture is an underused tool in decorating, so embrace a variety of materials. Mine combines leather, wood, metal, glass, paper and wool and the way the low sunlight falls on the detail of the sheepskin texture is most pleasing. Try varying the scale too with chunky cable knits against finer fabrics, for example.

Placement of a book nook is important, but ideally a quiet, incidental spot that perhaps needs an injection of life would be the ideal choice. Under the stairs works well, a spot onthe landing if large enough, or a neglected corner. In open plan living rooms where the furniture is far away from the walls, behind the sofa is a great spot for a separate nook and to liven up the view of the sofa-back. Or simply in the most obvious location of all, the good old fashioned option of armchairs either side of the fireplace. 


The importance of floor-plans for small shops


Visual Merchandising is not only about making everything pretty. It is also about the nuts and bolts of how a store functions and optimising that for the best possible customer experience. A fundamental part of the VM process is to create a good store layout. 

Using a combination of wall and freestanding display fixtures is ideal, but remember to check whether wheelchair users and customers with buggies can easily pass along aisles or around corners of fixtures. It will induce fury if they can’t! Space is at a premium, particularly for indie-shops, but failure to enable access for these customers can be damaging to business. Despite my best efforts to support my local high street, even I have on occasion given up when shopping with a buggy becomes too frustrating. An awkward layout is a surefire way to send customers straight to the supermarket or internet. As Mums are generally frequent, regular shoppers, they are among some of the biggest spenders, so make their shopping experience as easy as possible to encourage them to return again and again. Even when the layout is optimal, boxes of stock waiting to be displayed can cause a real problem, both in terms of physical space they occupy and also the visual mess. To make the process smoother and less disruptive to customers using the store, when you receive a big delivery consider bringing in an extra pair of hands for a half or full day, to get those boxes out of the way and out of sight as quickly as possible. Communicate with your neighbouring shops- perhaps there is a freelance that could be booked to help out for a few hours in each store on the same day, to keep it cost effective? 

Placement of the till or service desk is an interesting conundrum. All stores are different, and people traffic will flow in different ways according to every unique layout, so there is no one perfect place. But here are a few pointers….

Bear in mind that when positioned against the front window, although it might seem space saving, all those ugly tech cables, bags and any other under-counter clutter are on display - right in the main free advertising platform! If this is really the only position the service counter can be, think about how you might make a virtue of its awkward placement. Can the staff wear uniforms with eye-catching logos or messages on their backs? Would making a kind of theatre of the service suit the brand, by making the staff part of the show? Can the counter be made to look truly attractive, and perhaps part of the window display? Think outside the box.... Otherwise, try a different arrangement, and keep it for a good few weeks to evaluate how successful it is. Change is good! As long as customers are not inconvenienced by the store being in flux, changes will make it seem like something is happening, and create a buzz, a talking point... which is always the end goal. 

Before you start rearranging things, plan it out on paper. It doesn't have to be a brilliant drawing by any means, but if you want to be sure about fitting in everything with a different configuration, investing in a scale ruler and a set square won't cost much and is a very easy way to get an accurate picture.

What layout changes could you make to improve your store this week? Share your before and after snaps on twitter and tag @zoehewettdesign or @zoehewettinteriors on Instagram.

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Retail Interiors find their way into the Blog

Nearly all my blogposts to date have concerned residential interiors, so it is high time I wrote about commercial spaces as well. In the past I have advised bars on colour choices and how to achieve the look they wanted, and as a Visual Merchandiser for Habitat, and love the variety that work provides. I have always loved boutique, small shops and endeavoured to support independents over corporate chain giants. With all that in mind I tailored my design and Visual Merchandising services for indie retailers, offering both face to face and online versions in an attempt to provide more affordable options for start-ups and businesses with small budgets or slow cashflow. So to compliment those, posts on retail interiors will now become a regular feature on the blog. (To receive only the retail-related posts direct to your inbox, subscribe here.) If you are a retailer and there's a particular topic you'd like to see covered, just email to me know and I'll try to oblige. 

So, for the first VM post....

The interior and exterior of your store needs to be a reflection of your brand and values. Many independent retailers don’t even have a proper logo as such, so to those businesses the world of branding might seem intimidating, unnecessary and horribly expensive. It isn’t essential to invest in contracting a design company to create a full retail interior concept and brand, unless you are really aiming for the stars with your business and want the look and feel to be in place from the start, or desperately need a major overhaul. But, whatever the budget, the store design simply must chime with the business personality and ideal customer base, in everything from the product selection, colour palette, fixtures and fittings, lighting (both source and effect), flooring and so on…. every detail really!

But don’t let that cause overwhelm. Let’s break it down into a three fundamental areas that you cannot afford to neglect, and explore each one over the next few posts. First up.....


Are products displayed in your window easy to find once customers are in through the door? If they're not, frustration and disappointment will ensue. It will have been a waste of effort having displayed those products, especially if they have actually drawn people in. I mention this because I have seen it many times. Although it is good to generate conversation with customers, it is better that the catalyst for chat is not 'where on Earth is the thing I saw in the window?’. Customers can be shy or in a rush, and don’t always want to have to ask. Make a visual connection between a window display of products and the in-store display of those same products - visually guide them on a journey through the store.

Another thing people do not want to have to ask about is prices, so it is hugely important to ensure everything is clearly marked. This is different of course in serious sartorial boutiques of West London where it is unwritten law that there are never ever any price tags, because everyone knows that if one has to ask the price one clearly cannot afford it! But this is advice for more down to earth establishments, so stick to the price-everything-clearly rule.  

Customers also hate having to ask for help with reaching something placed high up on a shelf, especially if there is no one immediately available to assist. So do ensure there is always stock within reach, and that everything is marked up clearly, correctly and attractively. These are obvious points, but such commonly (and easily) made mistakes. The best news is that these Visual Merchandising errors cost nothing to rectify. Result!

The next post will be about the all important floor-plan or layout. NEVER MISS A POST, SUBSCRIBE HERE!




Designing Neverland - Bristol Post feature

The Bristol Post have kindly asked me to write a new interiors column for their monthly magazine. In case you missed it, here's the first instalment all about the process behind creating a roomset for Grand Designs Live...

Grand Designs Live Neverland Roomset

From time to time we designers, of all disciplines, are thrilled to receive a dream brief that permits us to let our creative juices really run free and flex those artistic muscles. One such occasion came my way earlier this year in the form of a national competition to design one of six roomsets at Grand Designs Live. The theme given was ‘Famous Places That Never Existed’, considerably more out-there than a usual interior design brief, and with no real client to consider, license to go completely and utterly wild. As a former set designer, the potential for the theatrical appealed. Plumping for the fictitious fantasy land of Neverland as the source of inspiration, I set about creating a concept that was atmospheric, evocative, and sophisticated, despite being based on a children’s classic.

Grand Designs Live Neverland Roomset

Not wanting to create a carbon copy of the movie sets, I deliberately avoided watching all versions.  Short on time I didn't re-read the book. For the research stage I chose instead to rely on childhood memory, a recap of the story’s significant tropes (flamingoes, skulls, pirates), and still images from the original Disney animation. The main inspiration picture was of a pirate galleon, vividly orange, flying through a velvety sky over tropical islands. Often, interior designers don’t share this essential ‘dreaming’ part of the design process with clients, or its fruits (the concept board) because frankly, it can all look and sound a bit too darn bonkers. We sometimes prefer to skip straight to the more easily understood sample boards when presenting, without particularly explaining how we arrived at the conclusion that this is the best scheme for the job. 

Yet, without going through these fanciful motions there can’t be a strong, clear vision for the project, without which it can be hard to tell when a colour or item of furniture is just right. So, eventually settling on a narrative for the roomset of ‘glam pirates setting up camp in the tropics’ I submitted my concept to the competition organisers, and was delighted to be selected to make manifest the design at the ExCel in London.

Upcycled Galleon Light

A condition of the event was that all the items within the sets should be in stock and easily accessible to members of the public from British retailers or manufacturers, so as to inspire show visitors and provide them with a shopping experience. Fortunately many excellent suppliers, including artisans local to Bristol, were happy to loan products to be featured in the showcase. Thisenabled me to put together a maximalist look incorporating a mixture of abstracted ideas, present in the artwork selections, and more literal ones such as the air-borne pirate galleon. Unable to borrow the expensive, fragile and unfeasibly heavy bohemian crystal pirate ship chandelier I originally had in mind, upcycling an ancient model of the Golden Hind with LED strip lights seemed the most logical solution to still get the look. 

Installing the show was fun and incredibly fast paced (read: exhausting), with a build time of just less than two days. It was a pleasure to meet and be judged by BIID President Daniel Hopwood and Sophie Robinson from BBC2’s The Great Interior Design Challenge. Although Neverland didn’t win, their comments and enthusiastic praise left me far from disappointed. 

Combining brand new, antique, reproduction, vintage and upcycled items creates a unique look that you just can’t achieve buying from only one store. To find the sources for anything and everything in these images simply type in “Neverland Roomset” to www.pinterest.com and all will be revealed on my Grand Designs board.

Neverland Gallery Wall



The importance of Playing House (in the garden)

Zoe Hewett Interiors Teepee

From making dens with foraged foliage in the garden, to slinging a sheet over a few chairs in the lounge, playing house is an archetypal childhood game, and one I certainly spent many hours happily playing. There is something eternally and intrinsically appealing about a miniature house, cosy nook or den. Shop bought wendy-houses can often be gender specific, bulky and awkward to build. Teepees are trendy so can be pretty pricey, so I decided to make a thrifty one for my little person to chill out in with a pile of cushions and a few favourite toys. It’s always good to support local independent shops, as they often have that special something that’s a little bit different. So, I headed to the Gloucester Road treasure trove that is Flo-Jo Boutique, and chose a multi-coloured star printed ripstop (also known as parachute-fabric). This is ideal for a quick craft project, as it doesn’t fray, and therefore doesn’t require hemming. It can be wiped clean, and won’t mind getting a bit wet in the rain, making it perfect for both outdoor and indoor use.

Using a simple pattern, bamboo canes from Bishopston Hardware and a few lengths of ribbon leftover from previous projects, I machine-stitched and assembled the teepee in just a couple of evenings. It is stowed neatly in the narrow gap between wardrobe and wall, and collapses quickly and neatly away after a day of play. Needless to say it’s been a hit with the four year old! 

To make your own teepee, you can download the instructions here. Happy camping!