There’s something about brick and mortar lifestyle shops that fill me with excitement. I love nothing more than spending a rainy afternoon browsing pretty homewares, picking up unique gifts or gleaning inspiration for my own home.
So it should come as no surprise that Purbeck Living came into my radar when I first caught a glimpse of their stylish shop on Twitter. This popular lifestyle store is located on South Street, in the market town of Wareham, and is owned and run by Sarah Wharmby – who has lived in Dorset for over 20 year. Sarah has gone to great lengths to stock a wide range of furniture, home accessories and giftware, that she feels reflects the beautiful countryside and wildlife of Dorset and its rugged Jurassic coast.
Purbeck Living has something for every taste – from contemporary country cottages to stylish Scandi apartments – and more recently it has started to offer its very own in-house interior design service: Sophie Clare Designs. I wanted to learn more about what inspired Sarah to launch her own lifestyle business and see if she had any tips for things to do locally..
What’s the story behind Purbeck Living? Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Having spent years in the pharmaceutical industry I wanted to do something completely different. I tried a couple of things, including working in a homeware shop in Dorchester. I absolutely loved it, but still needed to sort out properly what I was going to do in the long term. Knowing I loved the work and we were financially in a position where I could afford to contemplate starting my own business, my husband suggested I think about setting up a homeware shop in Wareham. I had truly never considered it, but once the suggestion had been made, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Having worked in the Dorchester shop, I knew I could do it, so I started looking for premises. It wasn’t plain sailing, but eventually, I found the premises in Wareham, which has lots of cellar space for storage and two lovely rooms as retail space. We started trading on the 6th May 2017 and I have never looked back. I absolutely love what I am now doing.
Could you describe the shop’s aesthetic in just three words?
Modern, tasteful, cosy
Who is the average Purbeck Living customer?
A lady, probably between the age of 35 and 65, who loves her home
When selecting new products, what do you look for?
Something which fits in with our aesthetic. It must be good quality, but not something seen routinely elsewhere (preferably not something we have seen anywhere to date). Sophie and Barbara must like it too and feel it fits in with the look we are trying to achieve. We all have a clear idea of the quality and style we are aiming for; plus the price range! It must also be an item which fits in with the home – so jewelry or perfume are not gifts we would consider
Can you name some of your favourite brands that you stock?
We love Nkuku, but we are watching it carefully. If it becomes too popular or mainstream we will sadly have to stock selling them. However, their lantern and hurricane range are beautiful. Amarathine Blooms for silk flowers, which we think really help create an ambience in the shop. We love Lorna Syson Designs, Anna Jacobs lamps and Liv cushions and rugs. Little Birdy Designs and some Bloomingville ceramics are also winners.
Have you faced any challenges in running a brick and mortar shop?
Yes! When I took on the shop, it was in a terrible state. I had to have the whole shop, including the cellar spaces completely re-decorated. Initially, I re-decorated upstairs and changed the lights, flooring etc. Once we were up and running and I had decided to take on Sophie downstairs, she had to re-design and decorate the horrible stock room for use downstairs. I didn’t have the time to do it, so she worked her socks off over the summer preparing her studio and the retail space. The electrics bill alone was over £4000!
What are some of your favourite things to do locally?
The nature reserve at Arne and Studland Beach are two of our favourite places to visit. We love walking, the coastline and all The Purbecks have to offer. We are especially fond of the heaths and forests, for the wildlife and cycling. The Purbecks are a fabulous place to live
If I was looking for a Christmas Gift from Purbeck Living, what would you recommend?
An Nkuku lantern or a Little Birdy piece of china (e.g. a latte mug)