Barker and Stonehouse are the UK’s largest independent furniture retailer and they’ve recently appointed Caroline Hodgson as their Home Accessories Buying Manager.
Not only a successful career woman, but a mum too, we caught up with Caroline to find out just how she does it. Whether she’s working hard sourcing the latest interiors trends or cooking for her friends and family; StyleNest find out just what makes her tick.
Tell us about your exciting new role as Home Accessories Buying Manager for Barker and Stonehouse?
It’s been a whirlwind, there’s always so much going on not only with the accessories, but in each individual store. We’ve recently opened a new flagship store in Knaresborough, which is set to be the greenest furniture retail store in the country. It has been a large project for the Barker and Stonehouse team over the last six months so it’s a thrill to see it finally open.
You began your career as a designer. How did you go from this to your current buying role?
When I started out I was working at Kangol where my clients included GAP, M&S and Nicole Farhi. After that I moved into product development at Paul Smith, before beginning a role with Habitat as Product Developer of Textiles and Flooring. Having worked as Group Buyer for The Conran Shop amongst other companies, I then branched out on my own as an independent Product Development and Buying Consultant, where I worked with a number of design companies including Niki Jones on the development of handcrafted homewares for stores including Liberty and Heal’s, before beginning my role with Barker and Stonehouse earlier this year.
Describe your typical working day.
A day can involve anything from sourcing accessories to visiting suppliers and trade fairs. January is the busiest month for fairs with flooring fairs in Hanover and the Maison Interiors fair in Paris. I also try to visit our eight stores as often as possible to get staff and customer feedback on the range.
What accessories trends are you seeing develop at the moment?
Right now we’re looking forward to Spring/Summer 13 and the trends are really interesting and exciting for interiors. My two favourites are French Elegance – which combines crisp whites and ethereal products to create a really sophisticated and minimalistic look for the home, and the second is Industrial Chic which is all about bringing the outside in with reclaimed timber and bricks. Both are great look for summer.
What inspires your work?
Products that have culture and history or those which are sourced locally. I’m a big fan of the new Himali Handknotted Rug in our latest collection, which is produced in Nepal using handspun Tibetan wool by some of the most skilful weavers remaining. For me it’s all about keeping traditional skills and craftsmanship alive and that’s what inspires me the most.
What are your top tips for decorating your home on a budget?
Accessories are a great way to add character to any home no matter what your budget. Adding bold cushions to a living room or creating a feature wall of pictures on your stairway are really great and affordable ways to spruce up your home.
Describe your own interiors style.
I love mixing the old with the new. We recently bought a house built in the 1920s and retained a number of original features including coloured stained glass windows. And depending on the time of year I experiment with different textile throws and quilts I have acquired on my travels.
Christmas is fast approaching; how will you be spending the big day?
We move house five days before Christmas so we may be unpacking still. Fortunately this year we are spending Christmas day with family so it will be very relaxed long lunch followed by a walk in the North Yorkshire countryside.
How can we add a touch of Christmas to our homes this festive season?
This year it’s all about the Christmas table, many people focus on the tree but a lot of people neglect the place where they are actually hosting. My advice would be to keep it simple – try placing a garland on the table and weave tea lights and pinecones throughout.
What do you enjoy doing when you have time to relax?
I try to swim every weekend and I really enjoy cooking and entertaining when family and friends visit at the weekend.
Do you have any exciting upcoming launches or projects you’d like to share with us?
As well as opening our fabulous new flagship store in Knaresborough on Boxing Day, I will be focusing heavily on Spring 2013 accessories. We are also looking at indoor/outdoor furniture for the first time which will be an exciting addition.
What books are currently on your bedside table?
I’m currently reading Coco Chanel’s biography and Imran Khan’s Pakistan. Real life experiences, people and places fascinate me.
What’s your failsafe look when you’ve only got moments to get ready?
My black coatdress – it works for both day and evening when I add a statement necklace.
What’s your dream dinner party guest list?
Michael Palin – I had the pleasure of meeting him when I was on a buying trip in the Indian Himalayas and he was filming a TV series. I would love the opportunity to continue the conversation. And David Hockney – I find a visit to Salts Mill very inspiring and love his use of colour and candidness.
What three pieces of advice would you give to readers looking for a successful career in buying?
Gather as much information as you can on how things are made as it really helps to understand the quality of the product. Remain customer focused and look at the product through the customer’s eyes. Finally, go with your gut feel when it comes to the design.