The owner of Gisborne’s The Family Co design store has created a destination out of her shop
When Chelsea opened her homeware store last year, naming it The Family Co couldn’t have been more fitting. With Gene exhibiting work in the shop, her crafter mother selling stationary, brother Ash selling T-shirts and father John Thorpe selling his wine, it’s a distinctly family affair. The store also stocks kitchen and tableware, floor rugs, bed linen, candles and gorgeous goodies for kids.
But the foundations of this Gisborne shop lie with Chelsea. With a background in fashion retail – she exhibited at New Zealand Fashion Week twice with her eponymous label – and started The Family Co in a move to create a child-friendly work environment after her break from fashion in 2009.
Chelsea initially opened the shop in a two-storey villa in March 2013, but she moved to the current location in the Balance Street Village in November. Previously a dark, drab space, the shop appealed to her because of its simplicity and the potential it had for her to work with a ‘blank canvas’.
“I felt fortunate I didn’t have to adhere to any heritage factor and could basically start again,” she says. “The best part of this was painting the floors white. When we took over the new space everyone doubted that it could be anything but a dark little shop.
“It still had the original carpets from the 1970s. We stripped everything out and literally painted everything white. I have always wanted to have white floors and I’ve finally got them!”
Now, the small space consists of two distinct areas – homeware and children’s ware. “Both have equal importance but are totally different when it comes to displaying items, so keeping everything simple and tidy is key. I let the products take pride of place.”
A background in fashion has taught Chelsea to trust her choices and have a strong vision when it comes to running the shop, she says. “I always wanted to have a gift store; it seemed a complete contrast to a clothing store.”
The airy, light-filled shop is filled with “house-y not decorating things”, says Chelsea. “Everything has a purpose.”
The original brands she stocked – including Fog Linen and Redecker – now sit alongside Koza Turkish bath towels, Major Minor bedlinen, Acme coffee cups, glassware, Follow Design hanging planters, Hibou Home wallpapers and Homebase Collection lighting. The children’s section includes Nature Baby, wooden toys handmade in Germany, Flat Out Frankie toys, Needle & I decor and Natures Sway baby hammocks. With two children aged 20 months and three-and-a-half years, it’s a busy lifestyle for Chelsea. But now that the store is more established it’s a lifestyle she has fully embraced and enjoys.
Words by: Catherine Steel | Photography by: Sarah Horn