A treasure trove of beautiful interior and lifestyle pieces, COVET is one of my favourite local shops. With a window display guaranteed to provide a feast-for-the-eyes, this is exactly the kind of store in which you can while-away a Saturday afternoon. There’s always something new, something different, something responsibly sourced and made, something with a story. COVET was born from an idea Lorraine had when she took some time away from work after having her first child. Very soon, her dream of opening her own fully-fledged interiors store became a reality and nearly a decade on she has opened a second store in Harrogate.
In this interview, Lorraine talks about her ambition, her stores and what she loves most about running her own business. However, I particularly love Lorraine’s honesty about the challenges of setting-up a business. The commercial, financial, legal, and marketing skill-set required to set up a business is one which, for most people, takes time and external support to achieve. It’s really refreshing to hear an open account of this recognition; I know there will be many small business owners who can relate to these struggles.
Over to Lorraine…
1/ What was the main motivation behind opening your store?
It’s something I’ve always wanted; no further motivation was required! From my earliest memory I played shop and was single-minded about what I liked and disliked, often to my parents’ horror! With an Austrian Mother and a practical Yorkshireman Dad, I was very much influenced by the natural beauty of the Austrian mountain life; a way of life that utilises what is found in nature, and is conscious of the environment. Growing up with this concept of eco-living shaped my personal and business ethos. But I’m also a practical person, which I get from helping my Dad doing-up wrecks of houses! I loved getting my hands dirty and later redesigning spaces; making things beautiful again.
After my first child was born, I was a stay at home Mum and didn’t work for seven years. I felt I had been out-of-the-loop for too long to return to work and thought I would sell accessories from my husbands’ hair salon. This idea grew in my head to a full-blown takeover of the shop. After much negotiating I kicked him out (of the shop!) and opened COVET behind The Grove in Ilkley. There was no capital to invest; I borrowed money to buy stock and to decorate. With a little help from some close friends, my husband and I worked around the clock, sharing housework and childcare to make the business a success.
It was tough, and it certainly feels like we defied all the rules! We had to borrow to get started, we opened in a slump with very little retail experience, yet nearly 10 years on we have two successful shops and I can honestly say it’s the best thing we ever did. If you follow your heart people can see your passion, and that (combined with shear hard work!) goes a long way.
2/ What can we buy from you?
COVET is a treasure trove of interior and lifestyle pieces. You can buy homewares, occasional pieces of furniture (one-offs to cool Danish-designed pieces), clothing, jewellery and accessories. You’ll always find something different and I don’t limit myself to what we sell, it just has to fit our ethos of thoughtful design, Fair-trade, and repurposed or handmade.
3/ Out of everything you sell, what are your favourite pieces?
I love the Berber Boucherouite rugs. They are the under-dog of rugs made by very modest households out of rags. They don’t have the grandiose of the Beni Ourain’s. They are very colourful with the most amazing of tribal and artistic designs. And what is really lovely about them is that they work in so many different interiors; from ultra modern minimalist designs to earthy eclectic ones. As with all the Berber rugs there is no set pattern when weaving. The women elaborate on age-old designs to make unique pieces of art, all in a rug!
It’s hard to pin me down though as I am a bit of a magpie! The jewellery we sell is also very tempting; it’s all handmade, some in the U.K and some in Paris and Israel. And now I’ve starting thinking about it, I could go on, and on listing my favourites! I guess that’s why the shop has so much variety!
4/ What do you love most about running your own business?
The favourite thing about running my own business is it fits around family life. Although it wasn’t always like that. My youngest son was 4 when I started and with no family support I had to put them in after-school clubs and be organised in the holidays, which I found quite stressful and guilty about. I suspect that’s something many working women can relate to.
5/ What has been your biggest challenge to-date?
The business side of opening COVET was a huge learning curve for me. I had never been in a position of authority and, if I’m honest, I was very disorganised. I had no idea how to run anything, let alone doing VAT returns or bookkeeping. These were the things that always put me off getting started and I have had many a tearful midnight meltdown sorting out invoices. I still find being organised difficult however my lovely staff over the years have shown me various practical tools to help. I also now pay an accountant which is money well spent in my eyes!! I’m also slightly dyslexic, even spell check says “no replacement found”. I remember one lady saying to her friend “I’m not buying something if they can’t even spell it”. Thankfully most people smile to themselves or forgive me this detail.
6/ What do you think will be the next interior trends in 2021?
I think we’ll see lots of Neo-Greek style in interiors this coming year; the classics, but perhaps with a twist! That said, whilst I love fashion and trends, my love for nature and craft will always be the underlying factor and I would say that’s the heart of COVET’s ethos and style.
7/ What are you the most proud of?
I am most proud of getting COVET off the ground and still going nearly 10 years on. I am also very proud to play a strong part within Ilkley and Harrogate’s communities. I always have a sense of being on the periphery in a personal capacity so feeling like a belong as a business at the heart of a community is a lovely feeling.
8/ What’s next for you and your brand?
The next step for us, like so many businesses in this era of COVID is to strengthen our online offering. This will be very challenging for me as we are very much a face-to-face service with a bricks-and-mortar tactile shopping space. Nothing will replace this but we will also have to try and translate that store-vibe onto an online shopping experience. We will certainly give it our best shot!
9/ Do you have an ideal celebrity customer?
I’m not a massive follower of celebrity, however I have just finished watching Better Things on BBC and l love Sam and her style. I would be very pleased to see her shopping with us.
You can find COVET stores in both Ilkley and Harrogate in Yorkshire, as well as online at www.covetshop.net
And do check out @covetshops on Instagram too – there’s an abundance of beautiful product and store images!
I love it when I find a brand with stunning products as well as an ethos that makes me smile. So I was utterly delighted when I discovered Collectiviste, a naturally inspired lighting company retailing hand-crafted pendants and lamps made by artisan families in South East Asia and South America. Run by Nicole and her husband Dylan, their collection is carefully curated and sourced with integrity. The lighting is beautiful, the kind that creates a glow perfect for dark winter nights, but which looks equally stunning by day. Nicole talks to me here about how Collectiviste came about, the challenges of running a business with two small children, as well as her thoughts on interior trends for 2021.
So, over to Nicole to tell you a little more about the people behind the brand….
1/ What was the main motivation behind setting up your online store?
My husband, Dylan, and I started Collectiviste Ltd together after many years of working in corporate jobs and many nights spent dreaming up meaningful entrepreneurial ventures. The idea for Collectiviste was finally born after four years of life, work and travel in South East Asia, when we discovered the incredible shell work of the Balinese artisans and dared to imagine a life beyond our corporate nine to five. So, we took the leap into the great start-up unknown and moved back to the UK with a storage unit full of lamps and big dreams. Five years and two babies later, we have made Norfolk our adoptive home and are proud to have a successful family business that is supporting artisan families from South America to South East Asia.
2/ Tell us about your lighting collection
We stock a wide range of lighting, from statement ceiling pendants to unique and unusual table and floor lamps. Every piece is handcrafted by talented artisans using sustainable, natural materials. We work with various independent craftspeople in Bali and Java to make our lighting. We also offer a small range of home decor all handcrafted by amazing artists and indigenous Colombian tribes.
3/ Describe your style in 3 words
Naturally inspired lighting
4/ Do you have a favourite product or piece?
I’m currently in love with our rattan collection and can’t get enough of the shadows that they cast around my house in the evening. My favourite piece is the Medusa rattan lampshade, which is proudly hanging beside me in my office and was featured in World of Interiors magazine in September.
5/ What do you love most about your store?
The fact that every single item that we stock is beautiful and timeless. My house is literally bursting with Collectiviste lamps but they still make me happy and make my house look cosy and dreamy every single night.
6/ What’s your favourite thing about running your own business?
We strongly believe that business can be a force for good and being able to run a business that truly reflects your own beliefs and ideals makes it a pleasure to go to work, even on a Monday! I used to have the Sunday night blues almost weekly, but since starting Collectiviste it has disappeared.
7/ What do you think are going to be the next interior trends as we move into 2021?I think people want to fill their homes with items that really resonate with them and make them feel good. Natural, sustainable materials are ideal for this and I think the trends like raffia, rattan, bamboo, cane and kraft are going to be mainstays for the next year.
8/ What are you the most proud of?
That our little business supports artisan families across the globe. Being able to keep supporting livelihoods during the pandemic, especially for people who have much less government support has made us very proud.
9/ What challenges have you faced whilst running your business?
Too many to list! Running a business is such hard work and a major leap of faith. I think trying to manage successfully running and developing the business, whilst ensuring that we enjoy as much time as possible with our two beautiful children, Oscar (4) and Tara (18 months) is a daily challenge. Although being able to take them with us on to Bali for two months this year to source products and meet our artisans was an incredible experience.
10/ What’s next for your business?
We have so many plans for developing the business and so many wonderful artisans that we have met and would like to develop products with, particularly in East Africa and South America. However the current travel restrictions mean that the immediate future will be focused on developing our existing lighting collections. We have, however, developed an exciting new kraft pendant lighting range with our Italian electrical manufacturers and are getting ready to launch a gorgeous new bamboo lighting collection from Bali.
11/ Do you have an ideal celebrity customer?
I’m not big on celebrity culture so probably not! We only just got our first television last week (a Winter lockdown necessity!). For me, nothing beats getting emails and photos from customers telling us how happy they are with their lamps and how it has brightened up their homes. They give me warm and fuzzies every time!
The trend for dried flowers shows no signs of slowing. Sustainable and economical, with minimal maintenance required. It’s the perfect combination! And with more people looking to brighten up their homes during lockdown, it seems the pandemic was a good time for Sarah to launch Horseshoe Flowers, her dried flower studio. With bright, vibrant and artistically curated blooms, her creations are a far cry from the the dusty dried flower arrangements of yesteryear. Beautiful, colourful and designed to last, Sarah’s hand-tied bouquets are limited in quantity and her designs change every month. She’s got some fabulous dried wreaths for the festive season too. Definitely worth a look; I’ve got my eye on the electric blossom wreath!
Here’s Sarah to tell you a little more about the person behind the brand….
1/ What was the main motivation behind setting up your floral studio?
After having spent 15 years working in the fashion industry, I was looking for a new career that would allow me creative freedom whist being able to work for myself. I had a very high stress job before, travelling all over the world and working long hours. I was really looking for something that allowed me to be flexible, offer some work /life balance and enable me to spend more time with my family.
2/ Where did the name Horseshoe Flowers come from?
When my grandmother passed away I took a vintage horseshoe from her house as a memento. It had hung at the back door of their farmhouse, a really special place for me while I was growing up.The horseshoe travelled with me from England to the US, where I lived for 13 years. It had pride of place in my upstate New York house until we moved back to the UK last year when it travelled back across the Atlantic with us! It just seemed right to incorporate it into my new business somehow. So that’s the story of the horseshoe and how it helped me create my new venture!
3/ What do you love most about your work?
I absolutely love working directly with my customers, whether its on a bespoke colourway or specific design, or if it’s working with brides designing their wedding flowers.
4/ Where do you find your inspiration?
I’m inspired by the flowers. When I am shopping for my stock I get so excited about the possibilities! Then I think about colour; colour combinations that would look pretty. I also find ideas in the craziest places, for example the other day I took a photo of the cuttings I had made when making up various bunches because the colours looked so magical together. I’ll then recreate it.
5/ Describe your style.
I have always said, I just wanted my flowers to look vivid and interesting. I can’t stand the dried flowers of old days where they just look like a bunch of dead sticks!!
6/ What’s the favourite floral piece you’ve designed?
A beautiful bridal bouquet I created with preserved hydrangeas and grasses. It started me off thinking about bridal bouquets that can be kept, and how wonderful that would be.
7/ What’s the most popular item you sell?
Our frosted eucalyptus bouquet. It’ll be back in stock soon! We’ve just launched a frosted eucalyptus wreath too.
8/ What are you the most proud of?
That I set up this business, all by myself, during a pandemic whilst on maternity leave and looking after two small children! Lots of late nights were involved!
9/ What challenges have you faced whilst running your business?
Time is my biggest challenge. I have so many more ideas on where to take the business but I just don’t get enough time to get to everything. The orders come first!
10/ What do you love most about running your own business?
I love it that the possibilities are endless, no one is there telling me that it can’t be done.
11/ Who would be your ideal celebrity customer?
I’ve got a bit of a girl crush on Alexa Chung! I’d love to see her with a bunch of my blooms!
12/ What’s next for your floral studio?
We are launching our bridal collections online soon. I’m so excited to offer a simple floral solution to brides who might be overwhelmed by their options. I’m so happy that we can offer something special that can be kept long after the wedding!
Check out Sarah’s gorgeous collection at www.horseshoeflowers.com
And you can see more of her work on Instagram @horseshoeflowers
Russian artist, costume designer and portraitist Elvira Pyrkova is passionate about her work. Observing everything around her for inspiration, and totally absorbed in the process of creating, Elvira has painted since childhood. Her work is vibrant, and evocative. Her use of colour simply stunning. Brimming with thoughts, inspiration and ideas, Elvira is totally engrossed in her work and here she tells me more about her inspiration and what she’s currently working on.
1/ What was the main driver behind setting up your studio?
I started painting from early childhood. At the age of 12 I was accepted into the Moscow Academic Art Lyceum of the Russian Academy of Arts. When it came to pursue a career, I felt like it was such a natural choice for me, as if fate led me to it.
Since then, I’ve had a lot of people who have supported my love of drawing and helped me professionally.
In addition to painting, I was always very interested in the history of costume, fashion, cinema, theatre and literature which all helps to shape my work.
2/ What do you love most about your work?
Most of all I’m interested in people. I love to paint portraits and figurative compositions. I look towards nature, art, literate – everything that is beautiful about life – to feed my creativity.
And for me, it’s not only the result that’s important, but also the process. I love collecting material on the topic of interest to me, searching for characters, the right colours and searching for imaginative solutions.
3/ Where do you find your inspiration?
I’m inspired by beautiful things in life. Beauty for me is harmony and perfection; something that delights, inspires, captivates, a charming and disarming force. I am inspired by everything beautiful that feeds me emotionally whether it comes from nature, life itself, art, literature, cinema, theatre…
4/ Describe your work/style in 3 words?
Beauty, style, harmony.
5/ Where’s your favourite place to work?
I find painting in my workshop gives me the most satisfaction.
6/ Do you ever suffer from a “creative block” and, if so, how do you deal with it?
I rarely find myself suffering from a creative block. In fact, I find I have almost the opposite problem – I always have a lot of ideas, which I think through and develop. It often takes a long time before they materialise on canvases.
7/ What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently working on a series focusing on horse racing and polo, which are currently exhibited at various galleries and events in the UK and abroad.
I’m very attracted to this particular aspect of British life. It’s an event which has as much social prestige as it does sporting. Inspired by the fact that this event is simultaneously both sport and fashion show, I love to explore the extravagance and style which comes with it.
8/ What are you the proudest of?
My portrait of the great Russian actor Innokenti Smoktunovsky, which became the finalist of the Garrick-Milne Prize competition was exhibited and sold at Christie’s; it is now part of a private collection in Canada. My painting ‘Ladies’ Day at Ascot’ was recently auctioned and exhibited at Bonhams. Living in Mexico, I became the only foreign artist represented in the book ‘Huella entre Milenios’ which featured the work of leading contemporary Mexican artists at the turn of the millennium.
9/ What’s next for your studio?
For some time, I have been working on a series that observes the world of fashion; not only fashion itself but the people who inhabit it: designers, artists, film stars, rock stars, etc. I have produced some paintings already which have proved popular and this year, I’ll continue to develop the series.
You can follow Elvira on Instagram @elvira_pyrkova_art
Corporate girl turned creative. Mama to 9 year old twins and a 6 year old. Owner of a daft labrador and sedate ginger tom cat. Colour lover creating happy spaces that tell a story.
So, once upon a time, I was a finance lawyer who then went to work in property finance for a Bank. I wasn’t looking for an out, I didn’t hate going to work. I worked long hours but I loved the buzz of transactional work.
Then along came my twins. I made the decision to take some time out, adjust to family life. We bought a house, it needed a LOT of work and it became my project. I loved the creativity and the project management.
I retrained as an Interior Designer and in a now-or-never moment, decided to set up my own interior design practice. It was time to do something different; to challenge myself creatively and put myself in control of my working week. The rest as they say is history and, several years on, here I am.
I know it’s a story you’ve heard before. Many before me have done the same, and I’m sure many more will follow. But you know what, I love hearing the stories of people that take the plunge, follow their dreams and try to create a life that works for them.
So what do I love most about my job?
The creativity, of course, but also the relationships I form with clients. I love helping them fall in love with their homes again, making sure their home reflects who they are and tells their story. I spend a lot of time getting to know my clients; their lifestyle, what they like, how they want their space to feel. Getting this bit right gives me the foundation to build up a design that they really love. It’s really satisfying to see how people start to re-engage with their homes when we’ve updated a space.
I also love discovering new brands, independent businesses who produce something that little bit different. Finding individual pieces from local artists, or fabrics from smaller designers is really exciting. It helps strengthen the design community, supports smaller businesses and ultimately means that I offer my clients a design with a story.
What have I learnt about running my own business?
It’s fun, but it’s not always easy. I work bloody hard. And often ridiculous hours. But you know what, it’s my business, my clients and my brand. There’s a balance to be had and admittedly I don’t always get that right. I need to learn to switch off sometimes, but I’m working on it.
You need to back yourself. Confidence helps, but you need to believe in what you’re doing and know that you’re good at it. Be prepared to promote yourself. Don’t wait for someone else to do it.
I was used to being part of a big professional organisation, with all the professional support that goes alongside that. And then it was just me. Retrained, and ready to go. But finding your tribe; a group of supportive business owners is invaluable. It may be on Instagram, it may be a local networking group but finding people in a similar position is really good to help build confidence and offer support.
My design practice continues to grow and I have some exciting projects in the pipelines for next year. I’m also working hard on my blog at the moment; I want to share my design knowledge, showcase independent brands I love and also support other creatives wanting to make a career out of their passion.
I’m just putting the finishing touches to a rebrand, which I’m excited to launch later this month. Caroline Ann Interior Design has served me well, but my practice has evolved and grown and it’s time to make sure my brand reflects that. Watch this space…