We talk inspiration, style and more with Sarah, W&S founder.

Sarah in Willow and Stone

Sarah, pictured above in our shop, is the founder, director and visionary of Willow and Stone, here we find out a bit more about what makes her tick...

You set up Willow and Stone in 2005 in Falmouth having worked in London for several years, what made you choose Cornwall? 

I met my husband at Falmouth College of Arts when I studied my degree in Illustration here in the 90’s.. I had holidayed in Cornwall every year as a child and took the earliest opportunity to move here when I was 19 and heard about the Art College. 
A year after graduating I was losing a bit of inspiration and drive, working long hours for a local retail business but losing focus of what I really wanted out of life. Interestingly, it was the success of that business (Seasalt Clothing) and its inspirational owners that gave me the confidence to set up on my own a few years later. Their head office is here in Falmouth too and they have grown rapidly.
So Nick and I decided to leave St Ives where we had spent our first year out of college and move to his native East London. I got my dream job with Architectural antique giants – LASSCO where I stayed for 5 years. In that time though the pull back to Cornwall was too great! Over the years so many of our old Uni friends have made the move back too. Unable to afford the property ladder in London I bought a little flat in Falmouth and to cut a long story short (which involved 3 years of a weekly commute between Falmouth and London) we managed to move back to Cornwall permanently and set up Willow & Stone in 2005.

I absolutely love Cornwall. It's always felt like home. Great people, excellent eateries, gorgeous beaches, safe environment, mild climate, pretty villages and a very laid back attitude...

What is your perfect day in Cornwall?

A day in St Ives with Nick and Amabella and the dogs, an autumnal walk on a windswept beach, then lunch in the lovely Cafe Pasta on the harbour front. After that we normally have a mooch through town (I always have a nose at any empty retail units and day dream about putting Willow & Stone there!). 

We love St Ives – its a cliché but the light is incredible. Even on drizzly dull days the sea has a luminous turquoise quality to it and always cheers us up. We moved there for a year, after we graduated and it will always hold special memories for us. We lived in a little flat right in the heart of Down-a-long (the oldest part) which is full of higgldy piggldy houses and cottages built more or less on top of one another. This area has always been really inspirational to me. At the time I'd wanted to be an architect and so this ‘organic’ building which developed over many decades captivated me. It is an incredibly pretty area and controversially mostly holiday homes now.

St Ives

What inspires you?

Many things inspire me. But to follow on from St Ives, I would say that the thing that triggers my creative thinking is visiting beautiful or unusual places. I love seeing architecture that focuses more on the magic than the usefulness. 

I once read about a house that was for sale in Truro. It was a beautiful Edwardian House built by a local Doctor. It contained tunnels and hidden rooms and internal turrets which were specifically for the enjoyment of his children. This idea always stayed with me. Edwardian houses often appear quite formal and dark but this Doctor created something quite magical. Ideas like this inspire me. 

On our Pinterest I collect images of clever ideas for Children’s dens and fun bedrooms. I love the idea of injecting ‘magic’ into everyday life.

What do you like about working at Willow and Stone?

The people. Our team is friendly and vibrant. We have lots to say and everyone has great ideas about improving and changing things. Im not scared to try new things so members of staff will come up with new displays to try and improve sales of a particular product or range. Its really fun then to see how sales increase, and they normally do!

I love the feedback from our customers. Nearly always we get such lovely comments about how much someone enjoys visiting us on their yearly trip to Cornwall. I like that we make an impact, however small. People often come to me at the counter and say ‘wow this place is amazing and what a unusual collection!’ – I'm glad people find us unusual. My taste is quite odd – I think we were the first shop to be selling stationery goods alongside antique door knobs but somehow it works! I'm quite fussy about what we sell. If it doesn’t work in my head, we won’t sell it.

We have a fairly open plan working environment where the packing station over looks the shop floor to the counter which looks towards the hatch into the office and so there's a real sense of everyone working together. We all help each other when things get really busy and crazy – which they often do!

The Willow and Stone shop brings together an eclectic mix of period home fittings, stylish home ware, beautiful stationary and prints, how would describe your/Willow and Stones style? 

This is tricky because as I said, my style is quite odd.

Eclectic: Antiques, quirky modern, unusual retro. It just needs to be good quality and carefully made.

Muted: I'm naturally drawn to Farrow & Ball style colours and try to wean myself off them just for a change but it never works! I also like a limited pallete. When I studied illustration in the 90’s all my work was black and white! I've managed to embrace a little colour since then.

Whimsical: In illustration and design I love images which have a magical quality to them.

Nostaligia: Things which have a pleasant connection to the past and trigger childhood memories. I think this is why I love antique furniture, especially the more unusual items such as all the sets of drawers we have at the shop. Things like that set our shop apart from others as the collection couldn’t be replicated. 

Detail: Detail is important to me as much as the quality of something too. I like things to be well drawn or carefully created.

Many of the items in Willow and Stone are for the home, what’s your favourite room in your home? 

My bedroom is my favourite room. It is high up and looks out over Falmouth rooftops. Its really light because of a big bay window and I can always have a nosey at whats going on. When there are events going on at The Events Square next to the maritime museum I like being able to hear people having fun and cheering – its such a holiday atmosphere! The other reason is my big French sleigh bed which was our indulgence a year or two after setting up W&S along with a decent mattress which I would recommend to anyone!

What do you wish you could have in your home?

A robot that would organise my stuff and throw things away so that I didn’t accumulate too much junk!!

What’s the last thing you bought which you love?

Sanna Annuka print

My beautiful screen print by Sanna Annuka which has pride of place in our living room!

Tell us about something you have recently discovered?

Redruth Regal Theatre. I took my daughter to see a local production of Annie at the weekend. I had preconceptions of a very amateur production which were blown out of the water in the first few minutes! The old theatre also houses a cinema. It isn’t posh as such but has recently been done up. Very cosy, big chairs, super friendly and has such a nostalgic quality to it – I found myself remembering visiting local theatres with my parents when I was very young. The show was fantastic! I hope Bella remembers it the way I will. Its made me determined to take her to more shows.

Over the next few weeks we will be sharing interviews with all the team at Willow and Stone so look out for the next one soon!