Pictured above, Jacquie Dunton, Co. Founder of Sweet Pea & Willow
London based luxury furniture and accessories boutique Sweetpea & Willow opened it’s virtual doors little over ten years ago. Founded by Jacquie Dunton and her husband Matt, the Sweetpea & Willow brand is now a go to store for interior designers and furniture lovers a like. The vision was to inspire homeowners to create beautiful homes whilst offering the highest quality furniture at affordable prices. With an 8000 square foot show room in west London and a team at hand to assist with interior design dilemmas, Sweetpea & Willow tick a lot of boxes for the discerning furniture shopper. The fact that they deliver to Ireland is a huge plus, so for the smaller ticket items, they can litteraly be on your door step with the click of a button. Here we catch up with Co.founder Jacquie Dunton to talk Irish roots and growing a luxury brand.
1. Jacquie, your parents are from Donegal & Kerry, we can claim you as our own now! We hear that you have an Irish customer base. Have you been to Ireland on many occasions?
We do have many lovely customers from Ireland. We deliver weekly to your shores. The Irish influence has been and always will be very strong for me. We visit either Donegal or Kerry as a family once a year. There were 24 of us visiting last year to Kerry, three generations. It was just lovely and so much fun, cherished times. The smells, the colours of the land and the laid back style have influenced me over the years in all aspects of my life. I have been travelling to Ireland since I was 3 months old and we used to have a family home in Donegal, so it always feels like I’m coming home.
2. You have a graphic design background, what made you make the leap to set up your own furniture business?
I have always had a burning passion for interiors but was always too busy running my graphic design business to give it much time. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my first child and we were looking for affordable furniture for our home when a dear friend introduced me to a wonderful furniture supplier. From that moment I was hooked on the idea of a career in the world of interiors. Something sparked. We started up a little sideline business thinking it would be a small bit of extra income, but in the first week we had sold 7 beds! That’s when we knew we were on to something, and Sweetpea & Willow was born.
3. SweetPea & Willow celebrates 11 years in business this year, congratulations. What has been your biggest learning curve since opening your own business?
Gosh there are so many, I think our biggest challenge has always been the technical issues that we come across, being an online retailer. We have such a strong online presence which means we have to keep up with the changing ways people use the internet, ensuring we always offer our customers the best possible online shopping experience.
4. Outside of design what is your next big passion?
It would have to be something creative, a full time interior designer or a make-up artist. Interior design is a passion of mine and luckily I get to indulge that passion an awful lot by helping clients with their interior schemes. We are constantly changing our showrooms to keep them fresh for our return customers too. My niece is a very successful makeup artist and vlogger, she adores what she does and gets to meet some lovely and very exciting people, I see it as an art form, creating a perfect picture.
5. How do you juggle managing a business & having a family, that elusive work/life balance?
I think because myself and my husband both run the business we juggle things very well [most of the time]. I drop the children off most mornings to school then head straight for the office. I am very lucky having a big family, my sister or my parents pick up the children after school and look after them until I get home at 5.30–6pm. The children are great, they understand that we work hard to give them and ourselves a comfortable life. Ava my daughter has definitely inherited the creative flair and wants to be an interior designer and Rowan has decided that he will sit in Matt’s chair one day and run the business, so that’s their future sorted! Once we’re home we try our best not to talk shop and do normal things with the kids, homework, bath, story, cuddles, bed.
6. If you had to pick one product, what is your favourite SP&W piece?
Gosh really any of our Handmade In London products but I especially adore the St Jorge bed and our Lush deep seated Fredrick Sofa, the perfect TV lounging sofa [we have one in our living room]. Both perfect for cuddling up with the kids. I also still adore our French style beds. I love mixing French style furniture with more contemporary pieces. That’s very much the style in our home.
Pictured above, Peacock Sofa & Lockley Bed
7. Describe your typical day?
During the week I get up at around 6.30-7am, some days I go for a run, feed the children and drop the little lovelies off to school. Most mornings I will stop and grab some goodies for the office, maybe some fresh croissants or cake and fruit. Once I’m in and I’ve checked my emails, I’ll always head straight to my husband and business partner, Matt’s office to chat about the day ahead, making sure we both agree on what needs doing. Once that’s done, we don’t really have much to do with each other, as I am on the creative side of the business and he is on the financial side. I may have a meeting with the sales or creative teams about newsletters, social media and what’s trending so that we know what the focus is for that week. At the moment we’re choosing new fabrics for our Handmade In London furniture. A couple of our fabric houses are coming in with new collections so that will take up much of the morning. I sit next to the lovely Jake who writes most of our blogs and editorial pieces so we are constantly talking about what content we can use for the blog and social media. We have to keep it fresh, so we are constantly looking for inspiration around us, it is so important to keep our followers engaged. We have a lovely social media following of over 30,000 Facebook likes, over 9,000 twitter followers, and just over 7,000 Instagram followers.
8. What is the first ‘app’ you open in the morning?
Outlook, to check my emails! Sorry it’s not very exciting, although I always flick through Instagram if I get a spare second to see what’s inspiring people, I love the visual ease of which you can use Instagram. Such instant eye candy!
9. What is your biggest inspiration in life/business?
Everything we do is for family, they are my inspiration. My amazing parents worked so hard to provide for my family and I believe that I’ve been handed down the same gene. Luckily my work is my passion. Interiors excite me, I soak up my surroundings, if I see something I love I’ll take a picture or write it down, I feel so lucky that Sweetpea & Willow is my work and an area that I love.
10. Who is your greatest role model ?
My best friend Saneta has incredible style, she is so inspiring. I love seeing how she puts things together and how she interprets trends. But outside of this I love the photographers/stylists Paulina Arcklin and Hannah Lemholt, every image takes you on a journey. There is always more than meets the eye in their pictures. Interior designer, Laura Hammett who puts things together in such a delicate yet practical way, she adds a little touch of glamour to all her projects without over doing it. We had the privilege of interviewing her last year and she was just as lovely as her designs. I also love Sarah Delany, her non fussy approach and use of colour are so inspirational, she has such effortless style.
11. What advice would you have for other woman thinking about starting their own business?
Really think about the impact it will have on your life, it is all consuming, but if its something your passionate about then grab it by both horns and go for it. Enjoy building your business but make time away from work for family and friends, after all without them what’s it all for?
12. What are your top 5 tips for sourcing furniture?
- Stay ahead of trends but also trust your own style, don’t try and copy others, be original.
2. Go to as many trade shows around the world as possible.
3. Sign up for every magazine so that you can understand all types of trends and styles so you can capture the best of them all.
4. Get creative and find a good furniture maker to help your own designs come to life.
5. Look at up and coming new designers, it’s always great to support new designers or to predict designs of tomorrow.
You can find out more about Sweetpea & Willow here.
Pictured above, St Jorge bed & Richmond dressing table