Independent Store Icons: Let's Talk To Homeplace

So seeing as I have started a High Street Hero series, I didn't think it was fair not to represent the other side of the coin too.  The small businesses and start ups that are skilled in curating products that are well thought through and unique.  The businesses where customer service is key and you get individual, personal service and a real idea of what their ethos is.  That's why I'm introducing (another) series called Independent Store Icons.  I do like a series.

If you read my blogs, you will know that I too have been a small business owner in a previous life.  Five years ago, I had a company on Not On The High Street called Roostlife selling both French shoppers and our own designed bags.  It was all going swimmingly - article in Grazia, lots of publicity - until bloody Tesco's started selling their own for £2.50.  That jute Orla Kiely bag basically was the death knell for Roostlife and after an (averagely) amicable arrangement with my business partner, we decided to call it a day.   My excess stock was distributed amongst friends and there are still Birdy bags being toted around Caversham and the surrounding areas to this very day.  Since then, I've had several attempts at starting up homeware and accessories mini stores locally, all of which have fallen flat on their face.  My kids still take the constant piss out of my 'Hello Sunshine' business cards, a venture that lasted precisely three weeks and two days and didn't even break even.

So I am absolutely in awe of people who successfully take their dreams and make them into reality.   It's a hard world out there and it takes real commitment and determination to make a small business work.  A perfect example of such creative dedication is Wendy Aldridge, the owner of fabulous homewares store Homeplace.  A perfect selection of curated modern and Mid Century vintage, Wendy's online store is a joy to peruse and to top it off, she's absolutely lovely.    So I was super happy when she said that she would answer a few questions about herself and her fabulous shop.

Wendy and her gorgeous family.  Photography by  David Cleveland .

Wendy and her gorgeous family.  Photography by David Cleveland.

Tell us about yourself!  We want the low down, please.

Hi! I'm Wendy Aldridge.   I'm originally from Northern Ireland but now live in Walthamstow, East London with my husband James, our two kids Ida and Arlie and our Border Terrier, Pablo.  I own and run the online store Homeplace  which stocks an eclectic but thoughtfully edited mix of vintage, mid century, retro and contemporary homewares, furniture and lighting.

Random fact of the day:  One of the most pinned pictures on Pinterest is this one of Wendy's living room.   Photography by  David Cleveland  for  Guardian Weekend .

Random fact of the day:  One of the most pinned pictures on Pinterest is this one of Wendy's living room.   Photography by David Cleveland for Guardian Weekend.

We love your store!  Tell us how you decided to go for it.

I launched the store in November 2014 having decided not to return to my role as Head of Events at the charity War Child after having my second child.  We are purely online as with two young kids, I wanted a job that gave me flexibility to work round them.  I work out of our home in Walthamstow at the moment and although we don't have a physical store, we welcome order collection so customers local to us can arrange to pick items up.

Gorgeous interiors at Wendy's.  Photography by  David Cleveland .

Gorgeous interiors at Wendy's.  Photography by David Cleveland.

How would you describe your own personal style?

My personal style is very eclectic - I'm a huge fan of Mid Century and Modernist design as well as vintage and retro West German ceramics and I love incorporating both wherever possible.  I can't imagine living in an interior that doesn't feature vintage pieces, I think they add so much character to a room and I tend to lean towards mixing from different eras to create a very individual, personal look. 

I'm also a big fan of dark interiors, ironically because I love colour and so the contrast of bright pieces against a dark backdrop makes me hugely happy. I do however appreciate white, light interiors so half our home is dark and half is light according to which bits we want to feel cosy in and which bits we like to look light and airy.

Wendy's home is perfect for displaying her amazing collection of West German pottery. Photography by  David Cleveland .

Wendy's home is perfect for displaying her amazing collection of West German pottery. Photography by David Cleveland.

You know your stuff, Wendy.  What's your top tip?

Get the lighting right!  I'm allergic to bad overhead lighting, it literally makes me feel anxious and I'm marginally obsessed with dimmer switches.  I also much prefer lighting a room by lamps to create an intimate and cosy atmosphere. Lighting lets you make a statement, from pendants to wall lights and table/floor lamps, I'd say give serious thought to the choice you make for each and go as interesting as possible as it the right light/lamp will add so much to an interior.

It's all about the lighting. This Mid Century beauty is available  online  at Homeplace.

It's all about the lighting. This Mid Century beauty is available online at Homeplace.

And who is your inspiration?  Your total style icon?

Can there be two of them?   I'm obsessed with Dimore Studio, an Italian design duo who create the most incredibly stylish and eclectic interiors incorporating some of the most drop dead drool worthy vintage pieces I've ever seen. They can do no wrong in my book and I'm constantly inspired by whatever they do next.

Dimore Studio  - Salone Del Mobile 2013.  

Dimore Studio - Salone Del Mobile 2013.  

I've picked my top five buys from Wendy's website, but I have to say that it was super difficult.  I could literally have every piece in my own home.  Her product range is unbeatable and I can't rant on enough about the Mid Century appeal.  So here goes.

Marbled Storage Containers:  From £12

I have these on display in my own kitchen and I absolutely LOVE them.   Totally on trend in marble effect (as dictated by Elle Deco this week), they make your storage beautiful and disguise all the boring bits.  Who would know that mine were full of Aldi cereal bars?  No one.  

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Mid Century Style Table Lamp:  £54

This little lamp is a beaut.  It comes in pale pink and white as well as sage green and is perfect for use on a desk or next to a bed.   The contrast of the brushed brass alongside the matt finish is perfection.  

Dusky Pink Ombre Wall Hanging:  £72

How amazing is this?  In dusky pink, taupe and cream ombré wool it would look gorgeous placed anywhere in your home.    At 90cm x 60cm its huge as well.  A brilliant buy in anyone's books.  For me and my shoddy home made efforts, this is wallhanging goals.

Dumler & Breiden Vintage Pitcher:  £36

Wendy's collection of West German pottery is so extensive it was really hard to pick one piece to feature.   She's regularly updating her stock and I literally want ALL of it.  Every single bit. This pitcher in shades of bleeding blue is to die for.   Check the website for more Mid Century beauties.

Mid Century Cane Armchair:  £135

If you read my blog post last week, you will know that texture is super important when layering up and planning your home.  This vintage bamboo chair ticks all the boxes.   Bringing the outdoor in is a big trend now Pantone have named Greenery Colour Of The Year and you don't have to stop at plants.   Bamboo, wicker and rattan are winners all round.

In our current post Brexit and Trump economy, it's even more important than ever that we support small business.   The positives for us as customers are immense - personal service and care, carefully curated products and the knowledge that you are buying from a company that has worked hard to bring all this gorgeousness to you in your own home.   Homeplace is a treasure trove of vintage, contemporary, retro and Mid Century homeware and their commitment to providing you with brilliant service is unbeatable.

With love and thanks to the gorgeous Wendy for taking the time to answer my questions.

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