Shop­keeper Libs Lewis trades in vin­tage and con­tem­po­rary home­wares in the Cotswolds

Country Homes & Interiors - - THE HOME OF MODERN COUNTRY -

In the Cotswold towns of Nailsworth and Tet­bury, Libs Lewis can of­ten be seen un­load­ing her roof rack and tak­ing arm­fuls of dec­o­ra­tive booty into ei­ther of her two Do­mes­tic Science shops. Here, she sells a mix of all things re­claimed, re­pur­posed and reused, along with an edit of con­tem­po­rary pieces that com­ple­ment her vin­tage of­fer­ings. With cafés at both shops and reg­u­lar ar­ti­san pop-ups and work­shops, both lo­ca­tions have be­come the des­ti­na­tion stores for collectors and in­te­rior afi­ciona­dos on the hunt for some­thing unique.

‘Since I was a child I have al­ways loved col­lect­ing,’ says Libs. ‘In­stead of want­ing to visit the sights on fam­ily hol­i­days,

I was des­per­ate to rum­mage in junk shops. Ob­sessed with “tiny things” I would seek out trea­sures to dis­play in my bed­room: snuff boxes, tins, farm an­i­mals and lit­tle ob­jects that made my heart pound. Like a mag­pie, but al­ways as much in love with the rusty and worn as with the shiny.’

What started as a hobby for Libs has grown more re­cently into a suc­cess­ful re­tail busi­ness. Af­ter a short stint as a Nor­land Nanny, Libs took over the lo­cal junk shop in Nailsworth at the age of 21; then joined forces in 1998 with

Ali Shar­land, to open Shar­land & Lewis, an an­tiques shop in Tet­bury.

‘Five years ago Ali moved to Dorset and I car­ried on trad­ing an­tiques from the shop in Tet­bury,’ says Libs. ‘How­ever, in 2013 a large 2,000 square foot space be­came avail­able in the old mill in Nailsworth owned by my hus­band David and his brother. I had been fos­ter­ing a huge de­sire to start sell­ing a mix of both old and new and it felt like the right time to take on another sell­ing space and trust my buy­ing in­stincts. I didn’t think too much about what I was do­ing. I had a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence from Shar­land & Lewis but lim­ited cash in the bank. The huge bonus was that the shop premises were fam­ily owned and, with spend­ing lim­its avail­able on five in­ter­est-free credit cards, I used the funds to pur­chase some

stock and Do­mes­tic Science was launched.’

With a cav­ernous mill space to fill, Libs’ life­time of hoard­ing came into its own. ‘I have al­ways col­lected pieces of in­dus­trial recla­ma­tion and ran­dom an­tiques and, as a re­sult, our gar­den has of­ten re­sem­bled Steptoe’s yard. I think David was re­lieved to see these things move down the hill from home, into the mill. Our motto for Do­mes­tic Science is “if we don’t love it, we don’t sell it”, and I have stayed true to that through­out. I think it is re­ally im­por­tant to be pas­sion­ate about what you do and for cus­tomers to feel that.’

The in­tro­duc­tion of new items be­gan to re­ally en­hance sales and in a short space of time Libs de­cided to re­brand the Tet­bury shop as Do­mes­tic Science as well and re­peated the suc­cess­ful new for­mula.

Five years on, the shops are filled to the brim – think English and French an­tique fur­ni­ture; vin­tage signs, toys, linens and fab­rics; Amer­i­can tin tiles and an­tique Dutch fac­tory cheese­board shelv­ing. All this sits along­side a plethora of new finds, in­clud­ing life­style brands Iris Hantwerk, Redecker brushes, Annie Sloan chalk paint, Su­perga foot­ware and NLXL Wall­pa­pers.

Libs also goes on reg­u­lar buy­ing trips to Bali, In­dia, Mar­rakech and New York, as well as vis­it­ing places closer to home. ‘I find it hard to avoid a lo­cal mar­ket,’ she says. ‘Drawn to the raw beauty of the pared-back, chipped, faded and in­dus­trial, I love noth­ing more than a rusty piece of cor­ru­gated iron or a dis­carded skip find. I am ob­sessed with prove­nance and en­joy pass­ing on the his­tory of an in­ter­est­ing piece to the next cus­to­dian. With new items, I only buy small amounts and then move on – cus­tomers love that things are al­ways chang­ing and lots of what we sell has a hu­mor­ous side, too.’

With the busi­ness grow­ing, Libs now em­ploys 12 part-time lo­cal staff. ‘I made the de­ci­sion to stick to the things I could do well and del­e­gate the rest,’ she says. ‘I fo­cus on the buy­ing and cre­ative and my fab­u­lous team man­age the mer­chan­dis­ing, ac­counts, so­cial me­dia and day-to-day run­ning. I meet with a men­tor ev­ery few months who helps me to see the big­ger pic­ture. I would love to de­velop a range of Do­mes­tic Science prod­ucts and an on­line shop but, for now, I want to get the shop ex­pe­ri­ence right and bal­ance work and fam­ily life at home with my hus­band, daugh­ter Har­riet, 23, and son Al­fie, nine. I love what I do but with both David and I be­ing self-em­ployed it can be­come all-con­sum­ing – we have learnt to let go and not take our­selves too se­ri­ously.’


Libs made this pin­board (avail­able to or­der) for her home from vin­tage fab­rics and but­tons.

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