A Conversation With: Juliette Barrell

A Conversation With: Juliette Barrell

Juliette is the creative director and co-founder at Derwent House, home to the Naturalmat Cotswolds Showroom and an interiors store which heroes independent British craft. We sat down with Juliette to learn about the inspiration behind Derwent House, as well as her views on craft and sustainability.

Why did you open Derwent House?

Derwent House in the Cotswolds was born from a passion for craft and beautifully designed British-made furniture and homewares. Our ambition was to create a destination in Witney, Oxfordshire to showcase the work of talented craftspeople, connecting them with people looking for unique handmade pieces for the home. Increasingly consumers are asking ‘who made this, how was it made, where did it come from?’ Our approach at Derwent House is to reveal the stories behind the products whilst giving makers an exclusive retail opportunity.

What are the benefits of buying handcrafted products?

Have you ever spent hours scouring the internet and shops for the perfect interior piece, yet nothing quite fits the bill? Buying a handcrafted product means that you can liaise with a skilled craftsperson who can respond to your requirements, it connects us to the process of making giving an emotional investment in what we buy. Whether choosing a table, sofa or a handwoven cushion or throw, each piece is made to order giving you flexibility in the specification unlike a mass-produced product. Whether you need a dimension change, a particular wood finish or colours of yarn to suit a particular scheme, the beauty of the handcrafted is that it will be unique to you.

Why should we take time to try investment pieces for the home before we buy?

Our philosophy is that investment pieces need to be experienced through touch and feel to gauge both the quality and establish what you need. Take your time and ask questions before buying, be it a sofa, bed, or table. When furnishing our homes investing in a handcrafted product will pay in the long run, choose a timeless classic that will date less than any on trend find. You can tell a lot about how well a piece is made by the attention given to the use of materials and quality of finish. Check the smoothness of the wood and joints, neatness of stitching and the feel of padding. Enquire about renovation services so that your investment really can last a lifetime.

What is your personal favourite Naturalmat item?

It’s hard to choose but The Heybrook is my coveted Naturalmat bed and has the making of a future classic. I love the curved profile of the headboard with its natural oak trim which softens the hard lines of a rectilinear bed. The warmth and texture of wool upholstery contrasts with the wood giving it a contemporary look. As we spend a third of our lives in bed, an excellent mattress is one of the best investments we can make. For the Heybrook I would choose the pocket sprung Sumptuous mattress which is padded and stitched with the most luxurious blend of organic wool and natural fibres. My father and grandfather made beds in the traditional way from natural materials, so we were thrilled to welcome Naturalmat to Derwent House last year. Their natural, organic beds and mattresses are second to none with layers of natural, healthy materials combined to offer the perfect night’s sleep.

Why is it important to you to work with brands and makers who reduce waste, reuse and recycle?

This is such a big topic as we all need to reduce the impact of the way we live and consume so that our planet can maintain life on earth for all. Working with brands who verify and source materials responsibly whilst reducing waste by reusing and recycling is key to the sustainable production of goods. By using makers who make to order, we reduce product wastage. If they offer renovation services as well, then we increase the lifecycle of the products we buy. Some of our furniture makers are involved in tree planting programmes, others in using fallen woods. Naturalmat's Mattress for Life Initiative™ ensures their mattresses can be refurbished, recycled or donated - closing the loop to ensure they never end up in landfill.

What can those who haven't visited Derwent House before expect when they visit?

Beyond its Georgian frontage, Derwent House is laid out across 3 floors; large light filled spaces offer an inspirational mix of interior styles. It is the perfect backdrop to bring our carefully selected collection of British-made furniture and homewares to life. Alongside sofas, armchairs and organic mattresses and beds, you will find tables and cabinets together with handprinted and woven fabrics made up into beautiful cushions, throws and lampshades. Handmade rugs sit alongside vintage furniture and a fabulous collection of art, ceramics, glass and interior homewares. You will receive a warm welcome and guidance from our experienced team. Our aim is to give shopping for the home a meaningful connection to the process with a joyful sense of purpose.

Visit Derwent House's website to learn more or get directions on Google Maps.