Talking all things French Bedroom with Founder Georgia Metcalf: Podcast Episode 138

Founder of French Bedroom Georgia Metcalf


Talking all things French Bedroom with Founder Georigia Metcalf

It’s not just pretty fabrics and decorative woodwork. It’s tech and numbers and being proactive.

Today‘s guest spotted a gap in the market for feminine, French-style beds and decided to go into business for herself. Her brand now produces not only luxury beds and premium bed-linen but original lighting and timeless accessories too.

In what is a male-dominated industry, she has championed and supported women throughout her company with a whopping 70% female workforce. The Managing Director is a woman, the design team is all female, their key partners (including the web development team) are led by women, and collectively they serve a 90% female audience.

Founded in 2006, and being quoted saying her designs are the ‘antiques of the future’. I‘m delighted to be chatting with Founder and Creative Director of French Bedroom, Georgia Metcalf.

Today’s Guest is Georgia Metcalf Founder of French Bedroom Georgia Metcalf

You can find Georgia here –

Insta: @FrenchBedroom


A few things we covered in this episode :


6min – Imposter syndrome

9min – I started a business with £500 and bought a bed

13mins Facebook is still a really important entitiy

18 mins – we work quickly to design our products – made in uk

20 mins- our bed linen feels like double cream

21 mins- austerity people come back to nature

24mins- the ability to focus on female artisans

30mins- Our bedrooms are our sanctuaries

33mins- – carved the way for daughters

51mins- I wouldn’t buy or style anything I wouldn’t want in my own home

52mins- Samples for shoots

Podcast transcription

Hello and welcome to the Inside Stylist podcast where we talk all about interiors with interviews with interior stylists, writers and the big names in interiors from brands and PRs to artists and designers. I also catch up with industry experts in the know and get them to share all their knowledge and advice.

There’s so much to talk about. I’m your host, Emma Morton Turner, an interior stylist and a writer with a ton of experience. I set up InsideStylist. com so I could share all that interiors love with you. So don’t forget to head on over to the website for not only the show notes from today’s episode, but for links to interior stylists, Writers and assistants profiles and a ton of inspiration.

But for now, enjoy the show. Today’s guest spotted a gap in the market for feminine French style beds and decided to go into business for herself. Her brand now produces not only luxury beds and premium bed linen, but original lighting and timeless accessories too, in what is a male dominated industry.

She has championed and supported women throughout her company with a whopping 70% female work workforce. The Managing Director is a woman. The Design Team is all female. Their key partners, including the Web Development Team, are led by women. And collectively, they serve a 90 percent female audience.

Founded in 2006 and being quoted saying her designs are the antiques of the future, I’m delighted to be chatting with Founder and Creative Director of French Bedroom, Georgia Metcalfe. Hello, Georgia.

Hello. Hi, Emma. Thank you for having me here today. It’s great to see you and chat to you. You do, you do. So, we’ve met.

We met a long, long time ago. Yeah, I’ve, I’ve been seeing you for absolutely years at Decorex and Top Drawer. Do you know what, I’m saying that I’m not even sure which shows I’ve seen you at, but I’ve seen you flitting around and I’m like, Oh, I remember you from back when I was at Woman in Home, which I left Woman in Home 13 years ago, next March.

Oh, wow. So, a long time ago. And you were a PR and when I was working with Theodore Solemn’s Isles at Woman in Home. Yes. Yeah, just launched French Bedroom and we came to use your house as a shoot location Mm hmm, and we shot on your bed one of probably one of the first because this must have been around 2006 It was it your little bunny that was around your house.

Yeah Millie. Oh Yeah, and I still have photos of Millie in the pantry at home and I still talk about her almost daily to my kids I wish you could know Millie. Yeah, she was And my amazing little house rabbit. I didn’t even know I didn’t even know house rabbits were a thing. So, it was a bit of a treat.

This is pre dogs. But, um, we’ve got on We’ve got you on today to talk about French Bedroom, which is very exciting. Thinking that I, I knew of this in 2006. Here we are 2023 coming to the end. You’ve done phenomenally well. Do you want to share what French Bedroom is all about? Also, I’ve always called it the French Bedroom Company.

Is that what you called it originally? And then you shortened it or is it called that? No, you’re spot on. And last year, um, in about March time, we had a rebrand and we rebranded from the French Bedroom Company to French Bedroom, which meant change of logo, change of URL. Um, but yeah, so we started in 2006.

Um, we started out buying from UK suppliers because we didn’t have any funding we were self funded and um I suppose, how far back do you want to go, really? I, as you said, I was a PR, so I worked for Sanderson and did their PR, then relaunched the Morrison Co. brand back in 2003,

I think. Um, and then they were taken over by Walker Greenbank, so I stayed on with them as a freelance capacity whilst taking on other interiors clients. Um, and then, um, so I really love PR, and I still do. It’s a huge passion of mine, and there’s such a difference between someone who’s

And there’s good PRs are just, they make so much commercial, commercial sense to a business and they really are so massively responsible for increasing the peaks and troughs of a business. And it really is, they, they make such commercial, have such commercial impact. So yeah, I really, I really loved PR, but it was the business side of things that I loved.

And it was the sort of the statistics and the nitty gritty and the commercials. And I was thinking, actually, wouldn’t it be great to have my own company and PR my own company? Um, I just need to find a product. And I was 30 at the time. And I was looking for a bed and, uh, my parents and grandparents and brother said, Oh, what should we get you?

And I saw, could you club together and get me a bed? I’m looking for one. I can’t, can’t find what I want. And I think I might go to France and have a look and see if I can find one. And that’s when the penny dropped. And I sort of thought, gosh, the idea has been staring me in the face the last few months.

So it sort of went from there, but yeah, as I was saying, so we started buying from UK suppliers because. French beds were not the same size as English beds. So much I’ve learned in 17 years. Um, so yeah, they weren’t the same size. And also French antiques. Well, um, they’ve got some dubious hair wax stains from 17th and 18th century use.

They’re a little bit creaky. Potentially have a few bed bugs hiding in the underneath the upholstery. I think in our modern world of hand sanitizer on every desk, I think. Perhaps it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea to get an antique bed that was only four foot wide and you had to have a mattress specially made.

Um, so we had them made in the UK, um, and we were buying them from a supplier in the UK. Um, and then as time’s gone on, we’ve shifted production. Um, so we’ve got real artisans in Indonesia who hand carve our beds. I’m sure we’ll talk about that as we go on. But yeah, it’s, um. The one constant in business is change.

And, uh, yeah, changing our suppliers is something we’re reluctant to do. But at the beginning, in order to make commercial sense, we had to ensure that we had a supply base that we could make the right kind of margins because in the early days, our margins were 15, 20, 25%. And that doesn’t really allow much of a pot.

for marketing and branding. Um, but in the early days, you, you just, you run as fast as you can. And, um, you can’t buy in large quantities because you don’t have the cash on hand. So, um, yeah, if you want to buy from factories, that’s really out because you’re buying containers from factories and, um, buying containers is.

It’s between, you know, 000, so no one has that when they start out. So yeah, we’ve grown, we’ve grown so much, we now have our own bed linen collection, we design our own furniture, we sell lighting, candles, um, throws and cushions are a really large part of what we do, um, but yeah, furniture ranges from dressing tables, writing desks, bedside tables, armoires and wardrobes.

And we’ve got some plans for new ideas and new categories for next year, but essentially we’re all things bedroom, and not necessarily full on French, a soup song of French. That’s very cool. When you say you, um, so you’re a PR and you knew, did you learn the business side of it? Like, were you taught it?

Did you study it? Or did you just pick things up from being a PR and talking to the clients and learning from them? Cause that’s quite a big jump. It is. Um, and I, I do have a bit of an imposter syndrome and I think that I still feel like I don’t really know what I’m doing. And I think, oh, but we’ve done really well last year.

So we must’ve done something right. And I think that every year, um, and a lot of what you do in business has to come down to gut feel because you can look at data and you can analyze data, but in your heart, you know, um, and I think that was the same as when I was starting out, I studied media, which is why I went into PR, uh, I didn’t learn business, but I had a hunger for it and a desire to learn and.

Um, I don’t want to say I was getting it right, because I still don’t think I am getting it right, but I must have got something right, because here we are 16, 17 and a half years later, so. Um, yeah, I think learning on the job, but I still learn on the job. I mean, so much has changed in 17 I mean, when we started, John Lewis didn’t have a website and we were pure play.

We were just online and customers paid us by check. They would send in checks to buy items of furniture. Um, and now of course, we’re working with Klarna and, um, third party lenders, um, as well as all the online tech that, you know, our tech stack now is huge. We probably have. Not far off 200 plugins on the back of our website.

Oh yeah. So yeah, the technical side of what we do is hugely complex. Um, our site is, is a lot more than just one that comes out of a, comes out of a box that you, you, you can design in a few days. It’s, it’s, yeah, it’s, um, it’s a heavyweighted site, but we have an amazing team and our head of e com is.

massively talented. Um, and so, yeah, working with the right tech vendors to ensure that we give customers the best experience that they can, um, as well as making the site really, really commercially tradable as well. So, so the very first sale of the bed was, did you get hold of yours and then kind of, how did you get that very first sale?

Did you build the website and then sell? Because 17 years ago, websites were around, but they weren’t like they aren’t. I mean, SEO is like Yeah. I’m thinking about SEO all the time. How can I get people to find my website? How can I get people to get interested in the blog post or the podcast or whatever it is?

And it’s everywhere. But back at the beginning, how do you know PR, but how did you get that first sale? What was the first? Do you know, I didn’t put, I started a business with 500 pounds and bought a bed, uh, yeah. And then did a photo shoot in my house as you can, you know, put a hat on then it was a friend of mine who did the shoot and I styled it and a friend of mine from uni and I built the site together and we, we built websites.

We actually built websites for the blind at uni, and it was a really interesting project we worked on how to make websites accessible for all. Um, so we’d had experience of building sites before together. Um, so I sort of said, you know, can I make you some supper and can you come and give me a hand?

There’s a few bits of tech that I kind of could do with a second opinion on. Um, so we built the site together and because budgets were so, well, there weren’t any. Um, You know, I guess it was a bit kind of, it was corporate hand to mouth. Um, and so we just relied on PR to promote our business and to promote French bedroom or to promote my business because it was just me.

I was a single lady band. Um, and. I was really lucky that so many journalists, stylists and editors, you know, like you supported me. It was, I was so grateful for it. And I suppose back in the days, potentially it was easier to get PR. I was, we had a dull page spread in Marie Claire and the Daily Mail, Living Etc.

And really amazing features that, you know, if our PR agency managed to achieve today, I’d be absolutely over the moon. But back then it was. They were really, really supportive and, and they were, yeah, they still are lovely to work with, but it was, I was just really lucky to get such an abundance of PR. So that really propelled us forward and gave us the exposure and gave the company the oxygen that it needed to, to grow.

I suppose, um, back then there were budgets for shoots because online wasn’t a thing. I mean, I, when I left, um, Woman and Home nearly 13 years ago, I remember I wanted to get a meeting with the editor before I left, because I wrote a page called the Classy Cleaner and I was like, I could write this as an online, because they were starting to build the Woman and Home, um, online website and online website, their online, um, Uh, what’s the word?

Like presents. And I was like, I could do this for you. It’s such a small thing. I’m doing it anyway. I could do it. You could put it in the magazine, but I could Because cleaning products were such big advertisers at the time. And I was like, I could see this vision, but they weren’t ready. They just weren’t ready.

So it’s really Would you be there before Mrs. Hinch? Yes. Could we miss Morton Turner? Miss that! Miss that! I can’t see how I can not clean my houses right now. Well, they say dentist children have bad teeth, right? So, you know, you don’t have to have a clean house to recommend cleaning products and be amazing at cleaning.

Yeah. I was a cleaner when I wrote that, and my cleaner used to say, I’m the classiest cleaner’s cleaner. And I was like, shh, don’t tell anyone. Love it. Oh, that’s really cool. That’s, that’s quite a title. You need to make her an apron with one of those. That’s brilliant. It’s funny isn’t it how times have changed and we think these days it’s, it’s so web first.

Um, it’s, it’s mobile first, it’s, it’s mobile before desktop even, because we know that about 90 percent of our customers or browsers discover us through mobile. A lot of them, a lot more convert through desktop, but the, during the evaluation loop, they’re using, they’re using mobiles probably, you know, during commuting time and on the sofa at night.

And is that through finding your website or is that through socials or both? I think it’s both. Yeah. Yeah. I think the two are so interlinked and it’s so, it’s so interesting sitting with the e com team looking at how our customers find us and they’ll dip into Facebook and they come onto the site and they dip into Instagram and they come back on the site and then they come back a few days later and they’ll be looking at a bed and you think, Oh, they’re going to buy this bed.

This is what they’re going to buy. And then boom, they come in, they buy a different bed. Convert, check out. And you’re like, wow, I didn’t, I saw that page at the beginning of their evaluation journey, but it’s, yeah, it’s really, it’s such an anthropological study looking at customer behavior. I, I really love it.

You can get, go down the. Well, get stuck on GA4. You can go down that rabbit hole and be there for hours looking at which metrics and levers you think are the right ones to pull. Yeah, I think it’s quite interesting. Quite a lot of brands I’ve been speaking to have been talking about Facebook recently.

And when I talked to stylists and inside stylists actually started as a Facebook group and the community has been built there. But as people, I was going to say the younger people, then I’m not going to age myself. New assistants come in. I’m like, please go on the Facebook group. Please be. And they’re like my daughter.

She’s 20. She’s just getting into Facebook because the industry that she’s going to be working in has a group there and she needs to be part of that group. And people, I think us as, as creatives who are stylists and writers and assistants. don’t realize how Facebook is still a really important entity.

And people come to my website to look at the, they find the podcast, they find the blog posts, they find that through Facebook. And it’s really easy to go, Oh, it’s all TikTok. It’s all Instagram. But actually the buying power of Facebook is massive. So it’s, it’s a number to be thinking about, but it’s very interesting.

I love all that. Yeah. And actually it’s for, we have a slightly older, we sort of have two pots of customers, one who is sort of. Age 30 ish and one who is age 50 ish and the older bracket are all Facebook users. And so we, we know that we get that and we try and satisfy their demands and needs and, and, and chats and images on Facebook.

Yeah, it’s massive. Yeah. And people think, Oh, Instagram because it’s the cool one, but it’s actually, is it because it’s cool or is it where your customers are? Yeah. And do people, yeah, different age groups probably click through from Facebook who wouldn’t click through on Instagram and vice versa. So yeah.

Yeah. Yeah, she’s going to learn, isn’t she? Yeah. It’s interesting that she wasn’t brought up with Facebook. No. It’s so different. But Snapchat and TikTok. Well, I lost my daughter. I lost one of my daughters. She went to a party. Well, I dropped her off at a friend’s and then she went to a party, but I didn’t realise she was going to a different party.

She probably thought she’d told me. It wasn’t like Yeah. I was being secretive. She’s a very honest 17 year old who has a lot on her system at the weekend. Um, but I dropped her off and I, I picked my older daughter up from the train station. I said, right, I’m picking you both up at the same time. So I picked my oldest daughter up from the train station.

And then we went to pick up my younger daughter from where I dropped her off and she wasn’t there. And I went. Well, she’s not answering her phone. Where is she? And my older daughter went, hold on, I’ll get her up on Snap Maps. So, so for anyone who’s listening or watching, Snap, Snapchat has a map where you can see if your friends are active, you can see where they are.

So my older daughter directed me to my younger daughter via Snap Maps. So that scared the life out of me. It was great because I could find her, but at the same time, that’s very weird. And I’m not on Snapchat. Yeah, I’m, I’m, my head says, wow, that’s brilliant. That’s genius. And my heart says, oh gosh, is that, you know, where, where does it end?

Because if your friends can always see where you are, not only is it lack of privacy, but is there a risk there? Yeah. The risk is in the app. It’s not like you can see it all the time. Right. So how’d she, yeah. Okay. Yeah. And that’s the thing, isn’t it? It’s always down to a balance of privacy and use. And I think that’s the same with cookies.

People get really worried about cookies. Um, and. Cookies can be amazing because they can help you give customers the journey and experience that you know they want on your site. And you know what they want because you’ve studied their cookies yet at the same time, some browsers can be, some people can be a little bit wary of cookies because they feel there’s a big brother element.

So I think. As a company, as a pure play web based company, it’s up to us to educate our customers and say, cookies are okay, this is what they do. But we get it if you’re still uncomfortable with them. But actually we’re trying to make your browsing experience better and serve you just the products you want and not show you, um, woolly socks in summer.

Or, you know, if you’re in Australia, then we might show you woolly socks in summer and we’ll be able to know that. But, um, it’s all about the journey that they want. But so, yeah, and I think, I know my mum, for example, Is it, is it cool with a big brother thing? And, and I, I get that. But I think that’s because she doesn’t know.

So that’s why educating is so important. But doing it in a, um, I pick my words carefully here because I don’t want to say gentle way because it’s going to sound patronising. But doing it in a way that your audience will understand. Yeah, you can’t say cookies. Yeah, you said cookies will help optimize your browsing experience.

And that’s not really consumer speak, is it? I mean, I was actually in a shop. It was a, I won’t say what it was, but it was a children’s wear shop. A really lovely, I was buying a prezzi for a friend of mine. And, um, behind the channel and behind the till, they had a big poster saying, we are Omnichannel.

Online, in store, in our brochures, and I thought, gosh, Omnichannel, that’s, that’s my speak in the office. That’s not new mum’s speak. So, well, maybe it is, but I, I just. Yeah. Hmm, maybe it is, yeah. Maybe they can do Snap Maps, maybe they can. Yeah, exactly. Anyway, I’ve gone off on a rant here. Um, so you mentioned that you design.

products yourself. So who, is that you or do you have a team? Who does that in? And oh my goodness, you know, I mean, it’s, it always starts from me and then I’ll pass on some ideas to the team. So for example, the small one, well, there’s one stage further back. So, um, We can actually move quite quickly. Uh, we don’t need to work four or five seasons in advance.

Um, we can, we’re working on spring summer now and we’ll get the prototypes made and sent over. We’ve got a factory in the UK who’ll make those for us. I’ll go up there and develop those prototypes with them in the factory in situ and I’ll be doing, using the staple gun and pulling the fabric and cutting the fabrics with them and I absolutely love it.

They’re my favorite times of the year. Um, and then we’ll send the prototypes down and we’ll shoot them and then they’ll be launched a couple of weeks later. So, uh, The product launch cycle is probably, I mean, we could do it. In four to six weeks, we normally go a little bit slower, and it’s normally about eight to twelve weeks.

Um, uh, so this morning I was saying to one of my buying team, I was saying actually it would be really nice to, um, get a new collection of cushions together for spring summer. So let’s put that on our radar, um, and, and see what, what comes our way. We won’t go out, we won’t go to Chelsea Harbour to look for fabrics.

We won’t go to our mill in Manchester to design a fabric. Let’s just see what comes our way. And if nothing’s come our way, then we can go to Manchester and we can start putting some drawings down. Um, And then within minutes, we get an email from one of our factories saying, well, here’s some new in house designs we’ve come up with.

Would you like to change the colorways or change any of the design elements? And they were perfect. And it’s quite often the way that you just sort of start to think about something and then it comes into your. strategy in one way or another. Um, so yeah, we, we, we do design everything ourselves. We, we have heavy mood boards for color inspiration, shapes, um, texture and, and tactility is a really big thing for us.

How the headboard feels against your hair as you read in bed and how the bellinen feels. We have a 400 throw count bellinen, which is a special kind of cotton weave that we’ve used. because it feels like double cream. It’s like putting, putting your hand, I haven’t done this, but I imagine it would be like putting your hand in a big vat of double cream.

It’s gorgeous. Um, so yeah, we think really heavily about all the elements of, of, of what we’re designing. And it’s not, it’s not just about. the practicality, it’s also about how they make you feel as well. Um, so yeah, to answer your question, yes, we designed probably 80 percent of everything in house. Um, and that design process starts thinking about our customers and how they want to feel in their bedroom.

Um, that, and right now we know that sort of nostalgic. Um, reminiscence, um, feeling cocooned, feeling safe. I think in times of austerity, financial austerity, people hark back to nature and natural colours. Um, colours associated with nature, you know, greens, browns, ivories, matte black. They’re the colours that make them feel grounded.

So we’ve been thinking about that a lot. Um, and then we also think about what their, what our customer uses her bedroom for, um, using their bedroom as a sanctuary, but not just that, but since COVID using their bedroom as. a bit of a work from home space, um, somewhere to have a Zoom party with their girlfriends online, because they had to do that during COVID and some people still do.

They’re a little, un, un, un, un, cool with going out. Then, you know, people will be staying in to have a glass of wine with their friends. Um, some people use their bedrooms as beauty salons to do their own hair and nails. yoga studios, workout studios. Um, so there’s lots of uses of the bedroom. So thinking about how a bedroom is used and then thinking about how our customer wants to feel in that bedroom, that’s our driving force, our driving priority, um, before we start to design.

And then we look to our mood boards, we look at where trends are. Um, and we, we always nod to trends, always, always, but we’re not driven by trends. Because we know that our beds are timeless and our customers do buy our beds and they will have them for 20, 30 years. Um, and we’ve actually, we’ve actually just, uh, next year, um, in January, we’re launching a collection which is based on our very, very first ever collection back in 2006.

We’ve reimagined it in a slightly different way, a bit more angular. a bit less curvaceous, uh, to suit today’s trends, but yeah, we’ve sort of gone right back to the very beginning to say actually what, what was our best selling collection? It was this, and it sort of stopped selling because trends have shifted in this direction, so let’s just get the best selling collection and just move it into that direction of aesthetic so that it kind of, um, it’s still got its original French bedroom timeless.

aesthetic, but it’s got the trends attached to it as well. So a trend element. So yeah, that’s called the Avenue Blanc Collection and that’s launching in early January. So that’s really exciting. That’s really cool. Yeah, yeah, no, it’s really, really, really good fun. And I think I, I don’t want to sound too woo woo here, but when you start to think of something, often you see it more.

Like, for example, I remember one of my friends at, uh, uni, he had a yellow car and he said, since I’ve got this yellow car, I just see yellow cars everywhere. And I actually think that happens a lot in design as well. You know, you start to think about a ditzy floral print and suddenly you open a magazine, there’s ditzy florals everywhere.

Or you go to the V& A museum. and you go straight to the stand selling cards and all you see is their ditzy print cards, but you look for what’s in your brain and the universe starts to, to spin in that direction. So yeah, I think, um, we’re really excited about what we’ve got coming up next year. And the ability to champion female artisans as well as is really key for us.

So, yeah, it’s, uh, it’s going to be an interesting year 2004, 24, because 23 has been really, really tough. It’s, I mean, we’ve, we’ve had growth, which is great because we know there’s lots of companies out there who haven’t. So we’re really grateful for that. Um, but Yeah, cost of living is, is taking its toll.

Yeah, very much so. I think we’ve felt it across all sorts of areas and all sorts of friends I talk to outside of interiors. It’s, yeah, it’s there. We know it’s there. Yeah, agreed. And no matter what level of finite, whatever situation, financial situation our customers are in, they’ll all be feeling a pinch.

I mean, you know, whether it’s. deciding whether they can eat supper or, or not is really tough. But then I guess, you know, and there’s people out there deciding whether to order delivery or heat their swimming pools. That’s the other end of the spectrum. Um, but yeah, it’s, um, understanding that customers are feeling the pinch of it.

Um, and we’ve just launched 9. 95. So they can get a sub 1000 pound bed. Um, and again, it’s made in the same amazing way, really, really solid mahogany frame with linen upholstery. So I think design is of course about aesthetics, but also being mindful of. the macroeconomics going on right now as well is really, really important.

I think we’d be slightly foolish to not be aware of that. Yeah. Yeah. That’s another trend I’m seeing coming through when I’ve been speaking to designers that whereas a lamp that they’re doing might normally be a hundred pounds. They’re now trying to get some that are 50 pounds or 60 pounds. People aren’t really buying if they’re too expensive.

Yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly. Yeah. You, um, you touched on your female artisans. And in the intro I was talking about your workforce and, and your, I’m not surprised where you say you’ve got 90 percent kind of, um, was it your audience, your female audience? You think French bed, and you think romance, and you think, well also, who makes the decision when they’re buying a bed?

It’s pretty much, if it’s a couple, it’s pretty much gonna be the woman, and if it’s the man, I think it’s probably because the woman has subliminally talked him into whatever he wants to do. Is that just my marriage? Maybe that’s just my marriage. No! No, it’s not. Yeah, it’s really common. And it’s funny, because when I started out, Um, it was all, all the factories and all the suppliers were all, all males.

And I remember going to Birmingham Furniture Fair, and it was a January or the September, uh, fair. And walking in, it was a sea of grey sofas and a sea of grey suits. And obviously I’ve been working in the PR world with lovely ladies like you. Yeah, I walked into IPC, as it was at the time, and, and it was all females doing all the styling.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, Stamford Street. And. And the two weren’t marrying up. It was, it was, there was a kind of a disconnect between, well, there’s all the females promoting the product and enjoying the product and celebrating the product. And then there’s the guys in gray suits designing the product.

So that doesn’t, it doesn’t seem to work. And exactly as you said, Emma, it’s the females who make the decision about. Pretty much, you know, with a few exceptions, I think in my house, we would make a decision about the sofa jointly or the dining table jointly, but if it was about the bed, then I’d probably be like, Oh, actually, can I have this really pretty one?

Or can I have this curvaceous one? Or can I have this one that’s got this particular design, confectional element on it? And I think my husband would be fine with that. But maybe not with a sofa, or certainly not with a TV. But for the bedroom, I think it’s, it’s That’s very much the female’s decision. So being a female and designing for women made sense.

So yeah, we do say that our, our items are designed by women for women and that’s not, we’re not excluding men at all. And it’s not that they can’t do design and it’s not that they aren’t good at choosing and selecting, but generally females are sort of recognized to be more nurturing and empathetic and knowing, again, it comes back to that feeling, knowing how we want to feel or how our family might want to feel in their bedrooms.

Um, whether it’s teenagers going through teenage angst and just wanting to lock themselves away and know what they need, or whether it’s a husband who’s going through stressful work, or whether you’re working as a female full time and juggling children and managing a family and looking after an elderly relative, and oh my gosh, that nine till ten slot at night has just got to be, I want a cup of tea or hot chocolate.

Slippers, heated blanket, and a book, and no one to serve me, and I want an upholstered headboard that I can lean against, that feels really nice against my hair because my hair’s starting to thin a bit, and all those things, and we know it, and we get it, and we know that You’ve just described my life, every element of my life, every single thing you said, I’m laughing because it’s like, yes, yes, yes, tick, tick, tick, oh my goodness, yes, yes.

And you know, and we We, for us, that doesn’t feel like rocket science. That’s just like, yeah, that’s what we want. Of course it is. Um, and I think that potentially a guy in a grey suit designing a bed is probably going to say, well, okay, so we like to watch TV. So we need a football that comes up with a TV in it, please.

Um, Uh, and I’d like it in grey felt to match my suit or whatever. And, and I’m not, don’t want to be disrespectful, but I, I think that there, I’m in careful territory here, a man’s knees in a bedroom are different to a female’s knees in a bedroom. And I don’t mean that in a smarty way, I just, in terms of aesthetics and visuals, I think that.

We, we want a sanctuary. It’s not just a place to get to get ready for work or, um, phone a friend. It is, it’s so much more than that. It really is our place of refuge and sanctuary, to the point where actually I was doing a speech at, um, Grand Designs Live a couple of Months ago, I was talking about, you know, even bedrooms should be kind of renamed as like soul sanctuaries or zen dens Because actually they are all about where our soul goes to recharge and re energize and relax and that privacy is really important Well, you know, it’s not kind of mom.

Have you seen my XYZ or whatever and actually it’s your space So yeah that importance is is and again it would comes back to what I was talking about a few minutes ago about Behind every design is the needs of the customer, um, and what our driving force is before designing a bed is what they want from their bedroom in that bed.

So, um, so you’ve built a team who really get your customer and, and the female customer is going to, you’re going to understand the female customer if you’re female, essentially, is what you’re saying. It makes sense. Yeah, it makes it easy to me. Did you intentionally look for a female worker? No, no, and we don’t, we don’t intentionally look, but we do, I do really like to champion and support and uplift women for a couple of reasons really.

One is looking forward and one is looking back. Um, looking back first, um, there were a couple of moments in my career in the early days. For example, my very first job was working for a retail consultancy in London. Um, and when I was working Um, the MD was a really nice guy, um, and his comment in my leaving card was, um, the most polite woman I’ve ever met, um, and worked with, but if you’d like a career, stay away from the computer.

Well, that’s fuel to my fire. Let’s see what I can do here. So, um, I went on to launch an internet based company, which was kind of ironic and fun, but perhaps there was a reason behind that. Um, and, but also, um, there was a moment with a supplier where I was asked, asking if I could get a particular mattress made in a French size.

And actually he said, you’re a silly little girl. No, of course not. So again, it’s those little moments that just add fuel to your fire to go to kind of change things. And then looking forward, I’ve got a daughter, she’s a teenager and I I really would love to think, and actually I’m seeing it already, I’d love to think she will not even consider parameters when she’s thinking about what she wants to do and what she can do.

And the fact that she can, you know, she’d say, Oh, actually, I’d really like to do this. There’s, there’s no restrictions. Whereas I spoke actually when I was, when I went to the career advisor at school, I was told I would make a great nurse or a great teacher. Um, so I started doing, I actually started doing, I started doing a B.

Ed degree in my university and very quickly, very quickly realized. not very good big groups of children, 30 children reading my attention. I was like, oh, I think this might be the wrong degree course. So I switched from a BA to a BA quite quickly. Um, but yeah, that’s what I was told I could do. Um, and I really liked the idea of my daughter and her peers and her friends really feeling like.

The path has been carved out for them, and so there’s no restrictions and it’s just, yeah, they want to do this. Of course, they can do that. And yeah, they were on a work in science is this in tech. It’s perfect. It doesn’t just need to be the care industry or arts. There’s so much more that they could do.

And yeah, championing championing tech. I won’t let my daughter go coding. It’s one thing. It’s a non negotiable coding is It’s where it’s at, yeah, it’s the future. My um, my oldest daughter is going into, she’s doing theatre, got to do with theatre design and um, what she really likes is the tech and the rigging side of it.

And every time she talks to anybody about it, they are desperate to get more, more women into that industry. So every time she says, come and do work experience, they like grab her with both hands. Yeah. And it’s really interesting that they’re conscious of it and making sure that they’re, they’re ticking all the boxes because she’s never happy with them when she’s covered in paint splattered jeans from doing scenes.

Love it. And do you know what? It’s funny you say this. It’s funny you say this because, um, last night I went to, um, I’m a massive fan of opera and we went to Glyndebourne to see Don Giovanni. And at the end, I said to my husband, I was like, why don’t we stay in for a few minutes? I’d really like to have a little snoop around the auditorium and have a look at the design because everything has curves.

There’s no edges at all. It’s really amazing. I guess it’s for the acoustics. Beautifully designed. And I thought, God, it’s so beautiful in here. And we ended up being the last people in the auditorium and they started, the crew started knocking down the stage and all the rigging guys were there with their belts full of tools, all green, black, must’ve been 30 or 40 of them, all guys.

Yeah. That is literally what my daughter’s learning. And that’s called the get out. So you’ve got the set up when you’re setting the theatre up and you’ve got the get out when you take it all down. And they usually do it from, it’s usually 12 at night till 12 in the morning. They do it so that the next show can get set up.

So I, I’m going to talk about your PR in a minute, but I received some press releases and I’m looking down because I have got a quote from you about, um, You, your kids see you and your husband as equals and I thought that was really interesting and I was slightly scared to talk to you about this because my life is so not equal.

Um, but you can’t compare because it’s different. We, we have very different, um, setups, but I’m really interested to hear how you have planned your time to make that work. Does your husband work? Yeah, he does. He works in a pentupedium. Yeah, he pentupedium. He works in a pentupedium? Oh! Yeah, he works in a pentupedium.

That’s really cool. It’s cool. So he gets it. He, he, he sees. the strain. Um, and it’s definitely a juggle struggle. Definitely. I mean, I, there are a few spreadsheets not going to, not going around. Um, I’m really, really reluctant to employ a nanny and have sort of backup. So we don’t really have much backup. So it does kind of require a Sunday night five minute diary check to make sure that we’re both not out in London at the same time on the same night, which we are tonight, unfortunately, but it was totally unavoidable.

I try really hard to take Wednesdays off. I’d say. 50 percent of the time I manage to take it off. I also, um, well, the kids get the bus to school three days a week, which is fine. It’s a school bus. It’s safe. Um, and then on the other day, the fourth day, Ben does both runs and the fifth day I do both runs.

Um, so they get, they get time with us and their time on the bus. They actually prefer the bus because they don’t have any parents talking to them about life. Or teaching the ones that are testing their spellings, or testing their physics wavelength equations, which was yesterday’s pre exam car journey.

Um, so they quite like taking the bus to school because they can chat with their mates and steal each other’s Haribo. Um, but I think it’s, yeah, it comes down to planning, it comes down to transparency and openness. Um, and also learning to accept help. So, Ben saying, oh, um, are you, you know, I’ll do this. And rather than me saying, no, it’s fine, I’ll do it all.

Actually me saying, thanks, that’s amazing, that’d be great. Um, I, in the early days, I felt dreadful when I was with the children. I felt like I should be in the office and I was. really leaving my team, um, sort of on their own to, to cope without me. And then when I was with the team, I felt like I was abandoning my kids and they were at nursery and I wasn’t with them.

So God, that mum guilt thing is a thing, isn’t it? Terrible. So it was like, darn if you do, darn if you don’t. And, but I think now after 14, 15 years, I’ve. Learned that it’s, it’s really, really, really nice to have concentrated office time and be completely here for my team. And then it’s really nice to have concentrated, complete time with my kids, turn my phone off and just get Connect 4 out or make a homemade vat of.

of bolognese put in the freezer and then feel like I’ve been a good mum because I cooked a home cooked, organic, homemade meal. And I think, yeah, batch cooking is definitely one of my hacks. Yeah. Um, but I think I’m getting it sort of right, but there’s still, yeah, last night I came home quite late and I said to my daughter, I said, I’m really sorry I wasn’t here tonight.

She said, you made us supper and you made us a cake and you left us a note. Goodness, stop worrying about us. So I think that it’s just the worry. But then again, I’m out tonight in awards and I’m not going to see them. So I didn’t make a cake and I haven’t made supper, so she’s going to put a pizza in the oven.

But, you know, she The other side is that of that is that you’re showing them what’s possible and how empowering it can be to be your own boss and teaching them all the other lessons. So it’s really like when you mentioned imposter syndrome earlier, and I was, Oh my God, everybody I talked, everybody I talked.

As imposter syndrome, you would never in a million years believe have it, have it. And it’s the same. We’re so busy thinking, I didn’t do this and I didn’t do that and I didn’t do this. Yeah, but look what you did do. And also as your kids get older, my kids are a little bit older than your kids, but I’m not saying this is how it will be sort of thing.

But they love being on their own. They came home in such a strop yesterday. She’s doing A levels, the younger one, and she just wanted to be left alone. She hates being hugged and kissed and all the attention. And all I want to do is hug and kiss her. So I said, I’m going out. I said, do you need me? Are you sorted?

Shall I get you some chocolate? And then I said, I’m going to leave you now. And she just needed some peace and quiet and to have the house to herself was the most perfect thing for her. And then I come back, she was still in a bad mood, but I had chocolate. So it was fine. Yeah. And you’re so, so right in there.

Because that’s what my daughter said, she said, we’re fire on our own, we watch TV, we hang out, and actually they connect as well, because they could be children’s friends when I’m, when I’m around, but yeah, you know, and you’re, you’re right, it’s um, it’s showing them what you can do, and I always talk to Leila about work, and what we’re doing, and she’s always interested, so yeah, you’re right, it is, it has loads of positives as well, aren’t there.

That, that I, um, I would say that when my girls get together, they’re like, and there’s lots of laughter in the hammock because my older one is at uni and she, she’s, she’s living at home, but she’s practically living with her boyfriend. But when she comes home, the two of them are just like, if I do the cooking, which is essentially what happens.

If I do the cooking, I’m not doing the cleaning. So they go, right, are we listening to Taylor Swift or should we listen to Hamilton while we wash up? And they do it in 10 minutes. It takes them about an hour because I think they pour it out and they sing and we have to shut all the doors because we’re trying to watch TV and have our, what did you say?

7 till 9, the downtime thing, where you sit down and fall asleep in front of the TV. Yeah, exactly. But that, that chatter is so lovely. I love that so much. That’s great. That’s really fun. I love the sound of that. Yeah, if you’re right, my daughter takes at least an hour to wash up, and you’re right, always Taylor Swift or some sweary rap music.

Not there. We’re up to the BTS all the way. It’s got, yeah, well, not so much anymore. It is, it is a juggle. And that’s the thing with being a female in business, isn’t it? Is, um, it does. Looking after the family often comes to our shoulders and because we’re empathetic and we’re, we’re mums, um, looking after our children is, you know, amazing husband, brilliant, but there’s, um, lots of mum moments that I don’t want to miss out on.

Yeah, absolutely. What, you, um, what, when did Ben join you? Uh, about, it was September 2007. Oh, so quite early on then. Just after we got married, yes, we started in, we started going to bedroom in May 2006. And then we had, do you remember those coupon collects that newspapers used to do? The Daily Mail were running a coupon collect in their masthead.

And it was collect tokens to win a set of French, a set of silk bed linen from the French Bedroom Company. Because we were French, we were the French Bedroom Company then. Um, and so you had to collect, I can’t remember how many coupons it was. And we would then send out the, the, the silk bed linen. And they said, this is going to be huge.

It’s going to really propel you. And I was, um, on honeymoon with Ben and I said, I’m not quite sure how I’m going to do this when I, when I get back to the UK, we’ve got the, the token, the, uh, token collect going live with the daily mail. And I’m not quite sure how I’m going to deal with the uplift in demand and inquiries and sales on the back of this exposure.

Um, he said, well, I could come work with you. And I said, wow, cause he was a consultant at the time he was working as a financial consultant, um, banks. So he’d helicopter and parachute in and, um, Sort out situations, assess risk, and he saw the crisis coming. He said it was like a train heading towards another huge, huge mountain.

And he could see this crash coming. And he said, I want to get out of the financial industry. It’s not looking good. Um, and so, yeah, so he came to work with me and he is the absolute opposite of me, which is amazing. We work really well together because. He’s so good with reason, rationale, and, um, looking at logic.

Whereas I just go, oh, that’s amazing, let’s do it. And he says, well, look at the stats. I say, but it’s so beautiful. It’s got ruffles, it’s silk, it’s got these bits of flowers, and he’s like, well, I don’t know about that. Um, so, yeah, it’s, it’s, and also, God, he’s good at triple, quadruple ifs in, in Excel and macros and VLOOKUPs and INDEXMATCHMATCH and God, he’s an absolute genius.

I, uh, yes, it’s, he’s amazing. Absolutely. Our systems are incredible. We have the most amazing, amazing data systems. There’s nothing I couldn’t tell you. Really, really granular data about. The items that we sold and how much stock we’ve had and how much that stock holding has cost us and how long it’s going to last us and the propensity to buy and what happens if we launch a different color or a different size.

They are amazing. We’ve had some absolute genius brains. In French bedroom. So yeah, we’ve got some incredible, um, e com dashboards and some really amazing, um, we call it product pulse and it tells everything we need to know about any product that’s live or now discontinued. So we know whether or not it’s, uh, worthy of designing new colorways and sizes, um, and also how much stockholding we should have.

So it gives us an idea of forecasting for stock as well. So yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s so, it’s so great to have his brain. work with mine. It’s a total, it’s Ying, Holly RMD calls us Ying and Yang because we think so, so differently, which is probably why we can tolerate working together. Yeah. I was going to say, you don’t want to be doing the same thing where you’d be competing to do the thing you both like doing.

And you have to hire people who have strengths that you don’t have because you’re surrounding yourself with. the different areas you need. So yeah, that’s perfect. Do you, you were telling me, um, just before we start recording, you’ve just moved to new offices. So you’re not, it’s not like you’re both sitting at the kitchen table together.

You have, do you know, we do share a desk. We have a really big desk that we share because I quite like to ask him quick questions and rather than sending him an email or a Teams or a Slack, actually I can just ask him face to face. Um, so that, that is, that is easier. And we have, we have a couple of rooms, two large rooms that are both open plans.

So that’s quite useful. Yeah. Yeah. Look, you look at his desktop and it’s got compliance. contracts, um, HMRC. It’s so dry. And then you look at mine and it’s like top 10 pink things. It’s not, it’s not quite that girly, but you know, yeah, ruffles, pearls, and frills and flowers. And it’s, uh, yeah, it’s two very different worlds.

So, so. It’s nice, it’s nice to work with him actually. And then also, you know, he’ll know if I’m really stressed at work, again, going back to your question about how we, we juggle the children in the business, he’ll, he’ll be able to see that I’m a bit stretched. So he’ll say, Oh, I can pick up the kids today for you all.

He doesn’t cook, but that’s okay. He can ring. Hello. Or he can ping on a microwave, a nice posh ready meal. Perfect. Um, you said you’ve got an award ceremony tonight. You’ve won loads of awards, haven’t you? Yeah, we’ve, yeah, yeah, we’ve been really lucky. We’ve been really lucky actually. Yeah, we’ve got, um, we had I was shortlisted for the Aphrodite NatWest Woman of the Year last year.

And then tonight is, um, DX Content Square Woman of the Year as well, which is really exciting too, it’s really nice. And then the business was a core brand for five years in a row, but the core brand no longer exists in the same capacity. Um, and then we were, um, oh, it was in 2002. We were Best Customer Service in the Ecom Awards.

Our customer service team are amazing. The customer experience. that our customers get is absolutely amazing. You know, it’s phone calls throughout the whole process. So before the point of purchase, and then after purchase, we call them to say, thank you and check the delivery needs and accesses to the house and home is going to be okay.

Check if there’s any shoes off areas required or any extra assistance required with lifting. Um, we do room of choice deliveries as standard. Um, And then we send them a little thank you gift afterwards just to say thank you for choosing French Bedroom because we know they would have had a choice. They know they spent probably four figures on a bed.

They definitely had to save up for it. Well, most people have. I certainly would. They’ve had to save up for it. There’s been a really considered. decision. They could be spoken to their friends, their mums, aunties, whoever would listen. Um, and so we’ve sent a little, a little prezzie just to say thank you for making us part of your journey and your bedroom experience.

And, um, so they, they, they feel that connection with us. Um, so yeah, we’ve won, we won, actually we won another customer service award last, 2002. Um, it was the more to direct commerce awards and that was again for our customer service team. And then we’ve got some house awards. And then we had a house and garden top 50.

We were ranked in the top five. Um, for 2002, and then the website was given a gold rating by Mumpreneur Awards. So, yeah, there’s probably about, I’m sure I missed some, I’m sure I missed some. I’m not sitting there, we’ve got a windowsill of trophies. Um, but yeah, there’s probably about 10, I’d say. We’re really lucky, we’re really, really, really lucky.

Yeah, I’ve got a little WhatsApp group. Um, and it’s always nice to see the pictures on there, the teams that go to the events. It’s, it’s really nice. I absolutely love the team. We have the best team. We’re really close. And actually a lot of the team worked with us during COVID and we had to work from home or, or work sort of socially distanced in the office.

Um, and Really bond. We really bonded. It’s a really, really lovely team. We’ve got 14, not huge, but really lean. Yeah. We outsource a lot. We outsource our deliveries. We know that’s not our strength. Um, our strength lies in brand, product design, marketing, customer service. So that’s what we do. Well, there are ninja skills.

Hmm. I like that. Yeah, that’s our ninja skill. Yeah, we will have it. We’ll have a ninja skill. And then also we like to have sort of like a minor skill as well, something that we have as a little side hustle. So for example, um, there’s someone in customer experience who’s also really good at styling. That’s my next question.

So do you still shop in your house? Yeah, we do. So next Tuesday we’ve got a photo shoot in the house. We won’t do so many over the next couple of months just because we like to use natural daylight, and there’s not going to be a huge abundance of that. Um, but yeah, so next Tuesday we’ve got a shoot. We’ve just done a couple of large photo shoots for spring summer, um, for some furniture that we’ve got in that’s not going to be ready to launch until then because it’s made in Indonesia, it’s hand carved.

Uh, so that’s That’s a longer, I talked earlier about the buying process. It lasts between six to eight weeks, um, but buying from overseas is a six month. planning process. So yeah, we shot that just before the light faded. Uh, so that’ll be launching next year. Um, and yeah, we style all of our photo shoots.

So, um, I head up the buying and styling. So I, I style every, every product, um, and I design every product and oversee the buying. So, and I, I wouldn’t sell or style anything that I wouldn’t genuinely want in my own home. Yeah. It’s really important to have to genuinely, it’s not, I’m not buying for me, I’m buying for our customer, but it has to be something that I’ve been really proud to own.

And that helps. I always think it’s either, it’s either, it’s either no or hell yeah. If it’s maybe, then it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s no. Yeah, you read the Derek Sivers book. Oh, no. It’s Derek Sivers book that’s literally about that. It’s either a hell yeah or it’s a no. I’m writing this down. Maybe that’s where I originally get it from.

How he got his, because it’s quoted quite a lot, but it’s so true. If you have to give something a mark out 10, you’re not allowed to use seven. We’re not allowed to use seven. I’ve heard that. It must be a Derek Silvers then. I will look that up. That’s brilliant. I use it for choosing clothes as well. I’m very aware of time.

Let me ask you, um, actually let’s share how people can find you. So you are a French bedroom. Um, or at French Bedroom on Instagram and your website is frenchbedroom. co. uk. All of the, um, links to things we’ve been talking about will be in the show notes or below if this is a video. Um, and your PR agency is Call Blue who very kindly got this all set up.

So thank you guys for that. Um, do you, we predominantly have stylists listening to this. We also have interior designers. How do you, do you have, um, samples for shoots? Absolutely. A hundred percent. Yeah. A hundred percent. PR is really kind of the heartbeat of our marketing strategy. And it always has been since day one.

So, yeah, we have samples. I’m happy to give comments at 9 o’clock at night. If you email me at 9 o’clock at night, I probably will answer because I still tend to work quite long days. And I’m always on. But I enjoy my job. It’s an extension of a hobby, really. So, yeah, commentary, um, products for shoots. high res imagery, we can turn, we can turn those around, we transfer those across really quickly, but otherwise Katie at Coolblue is also massively responsive, um, and so her email is frenchbedroom at coolblue c o o l b l u e dot co dot uk.

Very cool. Okay, so my last question is always, what’s next? I think you might have shared some of that already. Yeah, I mean What are you designing at the moment? You’ve already done Spring Summer and you can turn things around really quickly. What are you designing at the moment? Yeah, so at the moment I’m actually working on a new lighting collection.

Oh. Which is really exciting, so that’s going to be probably Spring Summer 2024. Um, we’re looking for, at the moment we’re looking for a female lampshade makers. female artisans who make lampshades. Um, if anyone’s listening and they’ve got a workshop and they can make lampshades or they can do screen printing on fabric, um, any talented women out there.

There’s so many talented designers and creators in the UK. So yeah, if you’re listening, we’d love to work with you. Um, but yeah, so new lampshade collection and new lamp base collection as well. Um, this year we’ve already launched. I think it’s, uh, nine new beds. We’ve got two more beds yet to launch still than in the last month.

Um, and we launched six new collections. So it was a really launch heavy year. So next year, I’m going to focus a little bit. Uh, more on the accessory side of things. So the cushions, the lampshades, uh, the lamp bases. Um, um, and then in terms of marketing, um, we’ve, we’ve got a printout campaign, uh, which is going great guns at the moment.

So we’ll continue that, um, and, and look at what we’ve been recently budget setting and looking at what work for 2023 using our amazing analytical tools. Uh, so yeah, I think. Last year was all about scaling up awareness and we did Chelsea Flower Show, Grand Designs, um, lots and lots of print media, lots of digital arts.

So it’s working, working out, obviously we’ve got limited budgets, so we’ve got to work out quite carefully which elements of that design, sorry, that marketing mix worked best for us as a brand and where there are the most commercial gains, the biggest return on the investment. But yeah, from a design point of view, it’s probably just smaller, it’s smaller pieces.

done really well by artisans who we really want to champion and support and also do what we can to Not be producing as much overseas. So actually kind of future proofing as well. So a bit of the sustainability, future proofing. It’s, it’s, it’s really important to us to make sure that we’ve got some environmental responsibility.

Brilliant. Thank you very much for your time. Thanks for having me. The conversations have gone in completely different areas to what I was expecting and I love it when that happens. It just makes it so juicy. So thank you. I’m definitely, I’m definitely to blame for that. That is, that’s my brain. It’s everywhere, all at once.

Sorry. Thanks for following me. Thanks Emma. Thank you so much. Thanks for listening to the Inside Stylist podcast. You can find all the details from today’s episode over in the show notes on InsideStylist. com. If you enjoyed the show, I’d love it if you would head on over to iTunes and rate and review it.

It’s the best way to help other people find the show and I’d really appreciate it. Until next time, bye for now.



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