The morning started off grey, but gave way to a beautiful blue sky and bright sun when we arrived at 144 Walcot Street to meet with stylist and designer Felicity Chuter at her newly opened concept store, East of Home. A wonderfully likeable human being of a graceful modesty, Felicity opened up about the milestones of her journey, telling us about her upbringing in a creative family and how her childhood passion for fashion and textiles led her to a successful career in fashion design and styling. A natural thrifter with a trained eye for finding unique things, Felicity continued to pursue her dream of creating a space that would thoroughly reflect her personality, and in January 2018 she started a new chapter of her journey and managed to bring her idea to fruition.
A beautiful fusion between an art gallery and a shop, East of Home sources off-the-radar artists, makers and fashion designers whose creative energies are driven by quality, longevity, transparency and thoughtful interaction. Stocking Tamay & Me embroidered jackets, Project Pico organic cotton underwear, A Woven Plane socks, INQ marbled lampshades, Rapson de Pauley silver & brass key rings, Lewis & Davis fine art prints and Claire Loder ceramic pieces among many other delightful things, East of Home is a treasure trove for mindful shoppers and a refreshingly stylish addition to the city’s Artisan Quarter.
Later on, we took our conversation outside the shop and decided to go for a stroll around the city. With thoughtful, soft-spoken words echoed by gentle hand gestures and intermittent smiles, Felicity told us about meaningful luxury, how she juggles motherhood with running the shop and what the future holds for East of Home. We parted ways in a solidary frame of mind, just as the sun was casting the shortest shadows of the day over the honey-coloured city.
Tell us about Felicity Chuter, the person behind East of Home? What is your story?
I’m from a creative family + have been passionate about fashion + textiles for as long as I can remember. My background is in this field + I’ve always pushed myself to try different things, working within different genres but always within the creative industry. I’m the type of person who feels like I’m going mad if I’m not working on a project! In my 20’s when I had 3 young children, I decided to set up a clothing label for kids using collected vintage + antique fabrics. I wanted to create a label that utilised these wonderful textiles by creating Design led + high end shapes. I wanted heirloom quality, so strove to achieve this. The label (Let Them Eat Cake) was critically acclaimed & I sold it all over the world. It was made on a small scale here in Bath, which was the most important thing to me. After this, I began styling which I found myself doing more & more for the children’s industry. I love working with kids, so this transition felt very natural to me.
What is your most vivid childhood memory?
For the first 10 years of my life I grew up by the sea, this created very special memories for me. After this I moved to Bath but those formative years gave me a love of nature + the freedom of being able to ‘roam’.
Tell us about the inception of East of Home. When and in what context did you first contemplate the idea of opening a concept store and what made it worth pursuing?
East of Home has always been an idea that I wanted to bring to fruition. Firstly the name, I used to write a blog years ago under that name, it was something that came into my head one day, it kind of resonated… it signified a journey, one that I still find myself on. I wanted to create a space where I could bring together pieces that held importance, where I could showcase makers who shared the same values as myself. Thoughtfully + responsibly made items, clothing from labels who care about the people that make them & art from local artists. It’s an evolutional space & it will grow & change, but always sticking to those key values.
What is the overarching philosophy that informs your choices in terms of stocked items? How would you define the EOH style?
For me, the experience of shopping has been a life long relationship that I’ve had my ups & downs with. I’m a natural thrifter, I’ve spent years sourcing things, visiting markets, fairs, charity shops, car boot sales, I think if you’re passionate about textiles & finding unique things this is a very normal thing. I’ve also been through the years of overspending in order to get the ‘best’ clothing for myself & the children, I’ve now reached a balance somewhere between the two, where I look for quality, I look for longevity. Sometimes you have to spend a little more to find this, but in the long term you buy things that you want to keep & even pass on. This is my philosophy & it drives me now with East of Home, I just love ‘nice’ things! It’s exciting to touch & enjoy something that isn’t mass market or that you know everyone else has.
To what extent does your background in fashion and styling enhances your curatorial work and your dialogue with contemporary artists and makers?
My background is intrinsic to everything I do now, my appreciation for textiles in particular means that I only buy labels who really use the best quality fabrics & who show total transparency in the production process. It’s not about elitism, it's a question of taste & preference. Coming from a family of artists, East of Home has sort of naturally become a space somewhere between a gallery & a shop. Having Art in the shop is essential to me. The thing about the creative industry is that it's a small world! A lot of the labels & makers that I’ve bought from are either friends of mine or people that I’ve respected & revered for some time. It’s important to keep a good relationship with the people you buy from as they are key in the concept of the shop. It’s a collaborative experience ultimately… I think this is the way things are moving anyway, there has to be accountability within work life, it’s not about selfish gain.
What does “mindful luxury” mean to you?
‘Mindful Luxury’ was something that was first coined by one of the labels I have in store, Indian label ‘Ode to Odd’. They design clothes with the most amazing shapes, I am total convert, I feel really grown up in their clothing! To me ‘Mindful Luxury’ means buying well, but with a care for the way things are made.
What makes the city of Bath, and particularly the Artisan Quarter, the perfect hotbed for EOH?
Bath is my hometown & somewhere that I’ve lived for a long time. I have been looking over the years for a good space for EOH & ironically years ago I used to rent a studio for Let Them Eat Cake which is right next door now to East of Home! Walcot street is the ‘Artisan Quarter’ & the main place for independent & creative shops in Bath, finding something there was really exciting, especially as it’s also an easy walk from my home! I have great neighbours where I am, everyone has been so friendly & helpful...
What tends to be the most challenging aspect of running EOH?
The challenging aspects of setting up my own business are what faces every working mother, it’s that elusive work life balance… I’m a work-through-the-night type, getting inspiration on Pinterest at 3am, which is not recommended… but I find the challenges of my aspirations hard to fulfil sometimes versus the reality of having 4 children. It is hard & my time is at an absolute premium, but when I’m in the shop space it’s so calm feeling & I feel constantly inspired there.
What is your philosophy on interior design and lifestyle? Are there any particular trends you follow at the moment?
I love good design & well thought out interiors, it’s a big passion of mine. I’ve painted many rooms over the years, I certainly don’t consider myself to have formulaic taste, I guess you can call me eclectic. Colour is extremely important, I’m currently obsessed with colour matching the most beautiful muted shades, I recently colour matched a page from a magazine that was perfect nude/blush colour, it came out exactly right. I also colour matched the cover of a book I sell in the shop, LA Flower Market by Mansur Gavriel, it had the most amazing soft yellow colour. I love collecting, so my home is full of vintage oil paintings & nice Bloomsbury inspired 1930’s vases.
Is there a particular period in the history of Art & Design that fascinates you the most?
I am fascinated by the 1920’s, it was such a vibrant, inspiring era. A real renaissance period between two world wars. I recently found a large amount of ‘The Studio’ magazine from the mid 20’s in a charity shop & I was so excited to look through them that I bought them all! I spent hours looking through each page & drawing inspiration even from the fonts used in the advertising, it was such a special time.
What makes your house a home? Do you have any favourite items or possessions?
I do love to create a ‘home’ for my family, for me it’s about having the things you love around you, including books. I buy most of my furniture from flea markets & auction houses, I often think that I want the kids to have objects from our home one day, when I’m not around anymore. I want them to have heirlooms… so I do like to buy special things. The key to evolving though, is changing & adapting... I do like to move things around a lot. I’m often styling little corners of the home, I’m sure no one notices but me, but I enjoy it anyway!
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
I’ve learnt some pretty harsh life lessons over the years, I started my family young (20) & alone… which was probably the hardest time of my life… but I’ve also experienced so many good things in my life & so much kindness & generosity. For me it’s about squeezing the people you Love regularly & never losing sight of the important things in life… when we overcome adversity & difficulties, we become a little stronger everyday.
What are three questions you don't have an answer for?
Three questions I don’t have an answer for… that’s such a good question!
I can’t tell the future so there’s always a sense of trepidation & anxiety in everything I do (I’m a worrier).
The meaning of life? Hmm well, to give & receive Love is pretty good place to start.
Why bad things happen? There’s no rhyme or reason but this world is full of reasons to celebrate daily.
What have you always wanted to be asked and never were?
I’ve always wanted to be asked to move to New York with a guy… one day this might happen & you might see East of Home in the US!
What are some of your favourite places to hang out in Bath?
Bath is a beautiful city, it’s an obvious answer but it’s true. I’m lucky in that I live in a beautiful part of Bath in a UNESCO world heritage site, The Circus, it reminds me everyday how stunning it is here. Prior Park is beautiful, Widcombe is a lovely place to walk to to escape the hustle & bustle of town. Margaret’s building always feels really secret & nice to walk around, just out of town. I love to walk through the park & visit the crescents of Bath.
Running your own business can be stressful at times. What do you do to relax?
Relaxing is something I feel is very hard to do! There’s very little ‘time off’. I love music, I love to lock myself away & dance around my room with my headphones on sometimes, that’s a guilty pleasure! I walk a lot, I don’t drive which most people find hard to believe, but this forces me to walk pretty much everywhere! This can be hugely head clearing!
How do you interact with the local community, and what ties do you have with other local places and people?
I’m a true Bathonion! My kids all go to school here, I went to school here & I know this city like the back of my hand!
What does the future hold for EOH?
I would love to see East of Home grow, ultimately I’d like a bigger space & I’d like to be able to make the space multi purpose, hosting workshops & using it as a meeting space. I’d also like to work alongside like minded businesses to create a more vibrant creative community, especially for entrepreneurial working mums!
What about your personal dreams and ambitions?
I’m a pretty ambitious person, I’m always motivated, even after a rubbish day I wake up the next day & I find something to look forward to & to be getting on with. I want to keep working within the creative industry for the rest of my life...
And now a Max Frisch question: What do you need in order to be happy?
I need my children & my loved ones around to make me happy, everything seems fruitless without them.
Can you recommend us:
A book: Vanity Fair by Thackeray, an absolute classic & epic moral tale & favourite of mine.
A song: Instant Karma, John Lennon… need I say more? He’s a musical genius.
A film: I recently re-watched The Departed with Leo DiCaprio, that’s a pretty epic movie, with a roll call of amazing actors.
Thank you, Felicity for the lovely insight into your personal realm and entrepreneurial venture.