For anyone who knows me, you will now how utterly obsessed I am with anything to do with houses, interiors, architecture - it's an obsession veering on unhealthy. For instance, I have four people in my life who are currently going through a property transition - buying, relocating and renovating. I have (boldly) inserted myself into each of their projects as if they were mine. I think about them all the time, I am designing and decorating the spaces in my mind, firing off links on what I think will work in each space, always on the look out for new trends that will work in each said property - I mean, is that even normal?!! Equally, I am incredibly passionate about independent businesses and the people behind them. I am naturally quite nosy and always like to ask 'what made you start your business?' So these two passions of mine go hand in hand and sometimes interlink. Creative independents, which is in fact the premise of my new podcast, which explores the stories behind independent business owners (will share more about this very soon - I promise) is a concept that I have thought about for a while. There is an abundance of shop owners and creatives as well as customers who love supporting us, not least because we strive to make a difference to our high streets. These are my people. I have been in this business for 15 years!!! So there is not much I haven't seen in all those years. The trends, the highs and lows - it all makes for a very rich community of people determined to make it work, no matter how up-hill and lonely it can sometimes feel. Equally it is also the most joyful and rewarding. You may or may not be surprised that I am naturally nosy about the homes the owners/founders live in. How they are decorated, how the owners designed their homes, what inspires them. Sometimes what can happen when you live and breath your business, is that it transcends into your home interior style. People who visit me at home will often say this looks just like your shop! Probably because I use what I buy for the shop in my own home as I only stock things I actually love - I'm waffling now and feel like I am just spilling out my thoughts and ideas . . . so back to the title of this entry.
Living in South East London, we are blessed with many period properties with equally very clever and creative home owners who never fail to pleasantly surprise me with their interior know how and design choices. Recently, however, my eyes have been pulled towards another part of England that is as inspiring as it is beautiful. As a through and through Londoner, I am ashamed to say I have always been quite London centric. But thankfully, I have shed that part of myself and have seen the light!!! I have fallen head over heels for another city (although London will alway be number one . . . maybe ). So where is this part of England I hear you ask - Bath, Somerset. There are few places that can boast such a huge offering of amazing independents and quite frankly I find it so inspiring.
I have visited over the years with friends and family and have always been bowled over by its Georgian beauty. This city has so much going for it - more coffee shops and cafes per capita (I made that up - but really there are so many), top notch restaurants where quality really is of importance, vintage shops, all the best high street shops, it even has my favourite, Anthropologie, direct train links straight to London, fantastic Georgian architecture . . . I could go on but I have highlighted some key reasons why I adore Bath.
One: I love that this city is completely walkable, yet you will always discover something new because there are so many hidden corners, courtyards and cobbled streets.
Two: There are many little neighbourhoods within the city, with its own vibe and each has a wonderful choice of shops, which are almost all housed within stunning Georgian architecture.
Three: Because Bath is hilly, many of the shops have a few floors and some even look like they may have been houses in years gone by. Because of the different levels, sometimes you can be surprised with what's inside. You know I'm a big fan of offering more than one thing in my own shop - interior accessories, lifestyle goods, pottery, cafe. Turns out many Bath businesses like that model too! I discovered a couple of gems on my last visit. Coffee, flowers and vinyl make a great shopping experience and Chapter 22 Roots and Records do a great job. And how about a secret library on the top floor of a free house pub! The Raven of Bath does just that!
Four: There is an abundance of creatives in Bath and some make a point of practicing in traditional methods from years gone by. In my opinion this really highlights the beauty of well thought out and beautifully crafted goods. Meticulous Ink calls itself 'a shop for stationery geeks and paper snobs'. The creative team uses 1960s presses to create their own range of greetings cards and stationery. If you visit, apart from discovering their beautifully designed products you can also attend one of their calligraphy and lettering workshops. How cool is that! Another great example of a shop using traditional methods is Bath Aqua Glass They hand make everything and offer demonstrations and workshops so you can make your own glass items.
Five: The Roman Baths ; There is great importance placed in preserving this historical landmark, dating back to 60 and 70 AD, which gives you some clues as to how much history and beauty there is there, so it's no wonder that Bath has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There is a lot to explore, but what I especially love, is the passion the business owners clearly have for their craft/service/offering as well as the collective sensitivity and importance placed on preserving the best of past. This can be challenging in a fast paced world, with technology at the helm. However, there is still an appetite for a simpler way of life and Bath feeds that appetite beautifully. Check out some inspiring pictures from Pinterest.