The way we shop is changing and conventional retailers are running to catch up with what many customers now crave – quality, an experience and sustainability.Natalia Willmott is well ahead of the curve when it comes to giving shoppers what they want. Along with her online store, www.nataliawillmott.co.uk, she also hosts selling exhibitions twice a year at her home near York.The Christmas opening of L’Atelier Natalia Willmott, which runs from December 12 to 13, is hotly anticipated by her followers, who can also request private viewings. Her home in Stillingfleet is gorgeous and contains plenty of creative styling ideas while tempting would-be buyers with everything from art and antiques to homeware, jewellery and gifts, with most ranging in price from £5 to £500.Natalia sources worldwide with the objective of finding items that are well-made and ethical. These sit alongside her own upholstered furniture and soft furnishings, including her My Billet Doux silk cushions designed with antique ribbons. They come with a notebook and pen for you to write notes for loved ones.
Natalia has long been a collector and loves building collections of everything from art to glass, which she often sells on to fund the hunt for more treasures.“I especially love pencil drawings and quick sketches as they are often the first idea an artist has. I’ve also got several hundred perfume bottles,” she says.Her eye for what is beautiful and useful is innate, but she may well have been influenced by her childhood in France.
Natalia, who studied art history, grew up in Paris before moving to London where she worked for an art and antiques dealer. After relocating to Yorkshire with her husband’s job, she retrained as an upholsterer before establishing her online store.She now combines her retail business with interior styling and sourcing and is about to launch a series of masterclasses.
Natalia Wilmott. Picture by Damian BradleyNatalia's gift for sourcing and styling come to the fore at Christmas
“I really love doing the Christmas selling exhibition,” says Natalia. “It’s a lot of hard work and takes quite a few weeks to set up because there are between 300 and 500 items, but I enjoy the styling and also connecting with people because everything I have in my home and everything I sell has a story and it’s important for me to be able to tell it.”Beauty is paramount but sustainability is also important to her. “I have a mix of art, antiques, vintage and new items and they are all the sort of things that you can pass on. I don’t like cheap things that are easily discarded,” says Natalia, who likes to support artisans and small enterprises.
One of her favourite suppliers is Batle studio, which makes graphite objects that you can also write with.Her home is the perfect place to create displays. It is a cottage combined with two barn conversions. The sitting room in the double-height barn provides a large and dramatic space for her selling exhibition. “The high ceilings in there attracted me to the property because the Paris apartment I used to live in had high ceilings and I like that sense of space,” says Natalia.She and her family bought the property 12 years ago with some trepidation as Natalia had always lived in cities. “I didn’t know how I would feel but I enjoy living in a village. It’s so green and quiet and we have a fabulous garden with fruit trees,” she says.
The kitchen in the second convetted barn is a light, calm space
Natalia has improved the house by adding skylights to the sitting room and by adding an extension to create two extra bedrooms and bathrooms.The walls throughout are mostly white to act as a backdrop for her colourful art and homeware and her family are used to a regular change of style.“Every few months I’ll change the look. Sometimes I’ll have a monochrome theme because black and white can look very chic and other times I might go more cottagey,” says Natalia, who is looking forward to Christmas and the perfect excuse for re-dressing her rooms once more.“I love creating shelfies and I also have a hanging system on the walls so I can change the artwork very easily. I think I need constant visual stimulus.”For details of the Christmasshopping opening of the L’Atelier visit www.nataliawillmott.co.uk and for My Billet Doux visit www.mybilletdoux.com. Pictures by Damian Bramley / KL photographers
Natalia’s festive decorating ideas
Natalia suggests styling your gifts before your hand them out. Window ledges, side tables, bookshelves, mantelpieces and staircases are great places to create little vignettes.
*Style your gifts before your hand them out. Window ledges, side tables, bookshelves, mantelpieces and staircases are great places to create little vignettes with your beautifully wrapped gifts. Pop them in a large bowl or tray or stack them in piles and integrate baubles greenery and other ornaments you have around your house.*Add ribbon to some of your objects, your collectables or simply a jug and create a cohesive colour scheme around your home or in one of your rooms.*Bring out your trays. Create a festive tableau on the tray, which can be used to display a collection of unusual baubles or different size candles and candleholders.*Get your table ready. Combine green foliage, eucalyptus and a few scattered pomegranates to create a runner on your table and integrate candles or fairy lights. Use two ribbons pinned on your tablecloth to delimit the runner and add a pop of colour*Forage and natural style. Use natural elements such as branches, twigs and pine cones you have collected on a walk or use offcuts of your Christmas tree to decorate your house. You can hang a few baubles from a branch or use sprigs of herbs to decorate gifts and napkins. Christmas is about slowing down and getting into the detail.*Noel, Christmas, Joy, Family, Love are all words that you can bring into your home by sourcing vintage letters or by using your scrabble pieces for example. Put them on top of a pile of gifts or in a bookshelf.