Friday, 9 December 2011

Win Retreat Christmas decorations!

Pink Christmas from Period Living
This year it seems there are more really inspirational ideas for Christmas decorations around than ever: from sophisticated neutrals, to Scandi chic, to metallics and clashing brights - Period Ideas even came up with a girly pink Christmas colour scheme which looked fab! The rule book has finally been thrown out the window, along with all the boring old tinsel!

Birds & pinecones from Country Living
Country Living have a brilliantly inspiring piece about Christmas decorating ideas on their website - check it out if you're short of ideas. It will definitely get your creative juices flowing. Don't forget to put your own personal stamp on whatever you do - it's a great opportunity to give your crazier ideas free rein, safe in the knowledge that all can return to normal on Twelfth Night. Perfect for experimenting, and for the commitment-phobics amongst us!

So, because we know what a clever and creative lot you are, we'd love to see photos of the Christmas decorations YOU'RE putting up this year. Whether you're trimming your tree, decking your hall or dressing your table, post them on our Facebook page and the one we like the best will win £30 worth of Retreat Christmas decorations.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

All's Fair...

Trade Fair time...A crazy couple of weeks living out of suitcases and setting up and dismantling stands, first at Autumn Fair in Birmingham and then to London for Top Drawer. We had great feedback about the season's collection and were really busy at both, which is very encouraging in the current climate. Equally encouragingly,  Fenwick's sales of toiletries bags are up by 500%, which just shows that even in tough times the little things still count! Our own range of cosmetic bags is proving extremely popular - our little cosmetic bag with appliqué vintage birds is doing very well for Eve in Witney, whilst at Ambience in Burford the dolly bag with patchwork hearts is proving a hit. It's great to see one of our favourite stockists Cricklewood doing so well at the moment, too.

Our own private 'loveliest stand at the NEC' award this year goes to Danish company Bloomingville's - it looked absolutely stunning, even by our own very high standards!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Cyprus for a little calm before the storm

Just back from a wonderful few days in Turkish Cyprus, staying at Darren's Mum's house in the mountains. A perfect 'Retreat' for a few days well-deserved R&R with the family before we launch headlong into the silly season aka Christmas! A heavenly mixture of wandering around markets (a favourite pastime in England which I can resist even less when overseas), lounging by the pool and playing on the beach.

 I do seem to be the only member of my family who can dress suitably for both car and air travel. Darren provided plenty of entertainment as he tried a less-than-discreet costume change at the airport - notice this is not only in public but in front of the airport window
for maximum, ahem, exposure!

"Hm, if I take one of each,
I might just get everything  in..."

My packing dilemmas are far more subtle and all carried out in private at home, starting with selecting which Retreat Home vintage fabric luggage labels I'm going to use; then it's large toiletries bag with everything including the kitchen sink in it, or minimalist cosmetic purse pared down to the bare necessities? (Inevitably, it's the kitchen sink every time!) A final dash back for a lavender-scented eye pillow so I can pretend I'm not 'cruising at 30,000 feet' (I wish they wouldn't say that) and I'm done. At least I don't need to get changed in public!

Poolside reads this year were One Day (must see the film), and Red Queen  and White Queen, both by Philippa Gregory, to whom I am currently 100% addicted! Absolute bliss.

Back home yesterday and straight from airport to office, as we're on countdown now to trade shows at the NEC and then at Top Drawer, setting up and dismantling our wonderful Retreat Home stand and talking to our lovely customers, old friends and new. Then our Christmas sleigh will be off for a round of personal appearances at Bentalls, whilst I, in the thick of Christmas, start thinking about new locations for our Spring Summer shoot. Normally I share this task with our lovely stylist Selina Lake, but she is getting married on Saturday so has plenty on her mind already!

Absolute madness, and I absolutely love it!www.retreat-home.com

Monday, 22 August 2011

The Hand & Flowers Part 2

Good to see this weekend's Observer magazine agrees with us about the wonderful Hand & Flowers - see their review here:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/aug/21/hand-and-flowers-allan-jenkins. I'm glad to say we were much luckier with our dining companions than this poor reviewer was!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Dreaming of the seaside

Even if it's not scorching hot, there's something about August that just makes me long to be by the sea. I think it's the long days, and the sense of these weeks being the last lull before the storm of Autumn starts. I want to smell the sea air, feel sand between my toes, taste salt on my lips and eat a Mr Whippy 99 cornet! Last time we were on the beach, my lovely husband Darren and son Louis sweetly drew this heart in the sand for me.

As you'll find out as my blog continues, I adore a flea market. Recently I spotted a lovely collection of sea shells, which made me feel so nostalgic for rockpooling! And these jelly shoes look like they're just waiting for a family to take them to the beach for a paddle...

Monday, 8 August 2011

The Retreat Celeb Roll-call!

Excuse us while we indulge in a little celebrity name-dropping -  we're very proud that past customers at Retreat include many well-known faces and of course famous possessors of impeccable taste! 

Recent celeb spots include the sumptuous Nigella, who treated herself to our beautiful LOVE tea light holders (wonder if they'll make it in to the background of her next TV show?); blooming new Mum Natalie Cassidy bought a personalised Christmas linen stocking.

The lovely Anna Friel purchased one of our toiletries bags for good friend and style guru Tara P-T, while chanteuse Duffy treated  herself to our Love & Happiness cushions - we wish her plenty of both.

And finally none other than HRH Beatrice took a shine to her lilac range - we like to imagine our scented hearts hanging next to her controversial collection of fascinators!


Friday, 5 August 2011

Dinner at the Hand & Flowers

Dinner tonight at The Hand and Flowers in Marlow - a bit posher than normal, but we deserve a treat. Modern British/rustic French, absolutely gorgeous food and the presentation is just stunning. Louis loves the chips so everyone's happy!

Definitely worth a visit if you're in the area - check out the website here and prepare to feel hungry!

Retreating to the country and Retreat Home!

OK, well here comes my first blog! A bit of background first I think...

My company Retreat Home is a huge part of my life, and a part that I love and nurture tirelessly.  Having spent years doing the London/blue chip company thing, it was always a dream to move out to the country, with space for a family, to do my own thing. In fact it was having my son, Louis, that made me re-evaluate my life and career and brought forth the idea of Retreat Home. I loved my high profile job at Laura Ashley but once Louis arrived, I found the commuting, the long hours and the frequent business trips just made it incredibly hard for me to be the kind of mum I wanted to be. It seemed the time was right to have a go at fulfilling the long-held fantasy of running my own business.

I did a lot of research visiting independent boutique shops around the country and saw there was a real market for beautiful, unusual, well-designed and well-made home accessories.  I felt there was a customer out there who, like me, had perhaps moved on from a passion for fashion and now wanted to make her home as gorgeous as possible. So armed with an initial collection of designs, a contact book full of manufacturers and a £3000 budget, I got my first samples made up and took a stand at Pulse. And from there Retreat Home took root and flourished.

The Retreat stand at Harrogate last week
Three or four years later, we have nine employees, proper offices and warehousing, but the ethos of the company and the ideas that drive me forward remain the same.  It’s fantastically rewarding and incredibly satisfying, being able to run the company according to my personal philosophy and ethics, and to see that set of values pay off as the company grows.

So that's the story so far...more (much more!) to come....