Cumbria Life Home and Garden Show 2018 Blog – Meet the Curators

26 February 2018

Interior designer Maureen Whitemore of Whitemore and Thwaytes and Garden Designer Liz Newport from Buzy Lizzie Garden Design started the Cumbria Life Home and Garden Show with Rheged in 2014. They continue to curate the show to ensure it reflects the best in design and craftsmanship from across the region and beyond and brings together an exciting and range of over 80 exhibitors.

Liz, based in Penrith, trades as Buzy Lizzie Garden Design but it is something of a family affair as husband, Phil, owns Wildroof Landscapes and son, Jake, has a growing sauna business called Finnmark, importing genuine equipment from Finland and then building them into homes and gardens across the UK. Jake’s brother, Max, is the latest recruit designing the sauna installations.

Maureen launched Whitemore & Thwaytes, an interior design company based in Penrith, in 1999. Maureen offers a personal and relaxed design service and takes pride in offering the very best available in interior design. She creates spaces and beautiful designs that will stand the test of time.

We spoke to both Liz and Maureen to find about more…

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 The Curators, Liz Newport and Maureen Whitemore

How did your business begin?
Liz: This is my second career. I think it was Confucius who said: “We have two lives, and the second begins when we realise we only have one.” After a spell of chemotherapy, during which I spent most of my recuperation time in my own garden, I went back to college to study Garden Design so that I could begin my ‘second life’ in the prettiest part of England, Cumbria.

Maureen: My business in its current form started at my Penrith premises in 1999, but in June this year I will have been in the interiors industry for 50 years. A fortuitous visit to an interior design shop after my A levels has led me to travel the world and hold lectures and seminars for designers and home owners. It’s hard to believe how a holiday job sewing curtains has taken me so far. It has been a fantastic career working alongside bringing up my five children.

What’s your favourite part of the job?
Liz: When a client says to me, ‘I would never have thought of that myself.’ I love the challenge of different spaces, the variety of soils, aspects and conditions and the creativity that’s needed to bring them all together and create something beautiful that can be enjoyed right through the seasons.

Maureen: Making customers happy and working with my fabulous team both within my own company and amongst my network of fantastic artisans, crafts people, building experts and local suppliers, many of whom will be exhibiting at the show. We often take on whole projects where we work with the homeowners and the team giving a total product coordination service. It works brilliantly for clients who don’t have the contacts, the time, or in some cases where they live in other counties or even countries!

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 A kitchen design by Whitemore and Thwaytes, with glass splashback by Jo Vincent (left) and outdoor log sofa (right) by Buzy Lizzie Garden Design.

Do you have any favourite suppliers that you like to regularly use for your projects?
Liz: I am lucky to have so many independent small businesses locally and that’s where I source a lot of the paving, wood, plants and sculptures. Many of them will be at the Home & Garden Show so there’s a chance for visitors to see for themselves and meet the people involved. For myself and for Phil on the landscaping side too, Penrith Building Supplies are great. They have a really good range on display, they can source even more from their suppliers and they know their stuff too so they’re an excellent source of advice. At the other extreme, I love working with artisan craftspeople in the area and Clare Farley of Pinfold Pottery is brilliant, she’s gone beyond the call of duty for me and for my clients in the past and really seems to enjoy a ceramics challenge. Her Cane Toppers Masterclass was hugely popular in 2017 and I think she’s nearly sold all the places for this year’s Show too.

Maureen: I use most of the major companies for fabrics, furniture lighting but we particularly seek out smaller, more specialist companies. We tell our clients it is easier to tell them what we can’t find for them than explain everything that we can do. Much of our work is totally bespoke. Working with interiors and the massive range of products available makes my work more exciting than ever.

What single piece of advice would you give to anyone looking to update their home and garden?
Liz: Be bold, so often good ideas are diluted during implementation and yet they could have been stunning if the owner, and the gardener, had the confidence to stick to their guns. If you are not feeling brave enough then call in a ‘Garden Designer’ for some reassurance.
I’d also recommend people to be bold on what they spend too, especially on the bones of the garden. Gardens add value to your house, not just kerb appeal, so don’t be afraid to invest in them.

Maureen: If you are looking to renovate or create a new area of your home, plan everything before you start. It saves money, time overall and makes the finished project more complete. I have lost count of the times where clients come to me and say that they have painted the walls – in a colour they picked from a tiny piece on a shade card and fitted a carpet, but they are having problems finding fabrics or furniture coverings to go with their choices.

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Patio design by Buzy Lizzie Garden Design (left), striking sofa fabrics by Whitemore and Thwaytes (right)

How did the idea of the Cumbria Life Home & Garden Show come about?
Liz: Whilst working for clients who were relocating to Cumbria or had second homes here, I was saddened that many did not use local tradespeople or suppliers. Working on the show as a shop window for local expertise was my way of putting something back into the business community by promoting Cumbrian creativity and showing that there’s no need to look outside of the county for great ideas. It’s always encouraging to hear someone say that they never realised there was so much available locally.

Maureen: I have been involved in a number of homes shows at Rheged, starting with the first one for charity. The show as it is today has come about to promote and celebrate everything that is amazing in the creative and practical home and garden world in Cumbria and the North West. Rheged with its unique architecture and space and its amazing team is the perfect venue. It offers some challenges from a planning of space point of view, but that is what makes it unique! It is really rewarding when we get feedback from clients saying that they first met us at the show and have used many of the other exhibitors. They are so happy that all the work was taken out of finding the right people to carry out their work.

Is there one stand, masterclass or talk that you’ll make sure you don’t miss at this year’s show?
Liz: I would love to be able to go to them all! I am particularly drawn to the Miles Moore Masterclass as Siobhan and Martin exemplify the passion that so many creative people have for their craft. My first degree is in Chemistry so I would love to hear more about Andrew Wildsmith and his journey into fine ceramics too.

Maureen: This is the toughest question! As I source all the interiors speakers and demonstrators, it probably means that they secretly are all subjects I want to know more about. Sadly as curators we don’t get the time to attend all of the sessions but I have asked my husband to go to the theatre talk about the best vegetables to grow in this part of the world! On the masterclass side, anything hands on appeals to me always.

Finally, what’s your favourite part of your home and garden and why?
Liz: We have recently installed a sauna in our garden and that has now become a part of our weekly routine. It’s been wonderful over the winter to have a really cosy place to relax and unwind. My next project is an area for a firepit so that we can enjoy the night sky with company through the year too. I suppose it’s all about what the Scandinavians call the ‘friluftsliv’!

Maureen: I think this has to be my kitchen which is large, light and airy with large doors opening directly onto the patio and garden, meaning it feels almost like I am cooking in my garden. Secondly it has to be my waterfall, man-made and fabulous, designed and created of course by Buzy Lizzie and their team!

Book your tickets now for the Cumbria Life Home and Garden Show 2018, 16-18 March 2018. Your £6 show ticket is packed with free talks and demos, plus access to over 80 exhibitors. Don’t miss out, book now!