The couple clearly have a passion for design and creating special spaces, so 91 Magazine’s sub editor Sine Fleet chats to them to find out more about why they love what they do…
Hi guys! How would you describe Settle, in a nutshell?
Settle is a place to come to do just that, settle down. Whether within one of our restored train carriages, or our handcrafted cabin, Settle is a place to leave behind everyday stressful lives and switch off from modern day distractions to be outdoors, immersed in our thirty acre parkland with mature trees, lakes, and an abundance of wildlife.
What inspired the idea of setting up your business?
John runs a large reclaim yard nearby to Settle, and continually comes by heritage materials and, seemingly, retired railway goods wagons. As we actually live on the site of an old railway station ourselves, it seemed the natural choice. We set out to restore the carriages, honouring their history and using as many reclaimed materials from the yard as we could. We wanted to create spaces which, like the surrounding park itself, reflect a calm stillness.
What are your backgrounds?
John has a background in property development, converting barns throughout Norfolk, alongside running his reclamation yard for the past 20 years. He values the intrinsic qualities of authentic, original stock, which is reflected in the broad range of materials in his yard.
My background is in floral design, focusing on a natural floral aesthetic. I run large retreat workshops and one-to-one classes, teaching in both the UK and overseas.
Do you have an ethos behind your Settle?
Creating a space in which people can come and truly relax, where the interior is an intrinsic element of the experience.
Where do you find creative inspiration?
Our reclaim yard is a gigantic, seemingly endless source of inspiration. It contains every texture and tone imaginable, offering a broad palette for new creations.
How did you first discover your love for what you do?
Settle is evolving as we speak. It developed naturally from our shared aesthetics and values. While we didn’t start with a solid plan, I’m so excited now for our future ideas here.
Describe a typical working day…
Our days are always spent onsite, in the washroom, wood store or shop. We do everything ourselves here, including the laundry. Jimmy helps with cutting the grass and general site maintenance too.
How did you choose your location?
Settle’s site, formally known as Pond Meadow, is a 30 acre park which once belonged to the nearby Shropham Hall. It was sold to John’s father in 1975. Since then John and his father managed the land, using it for family walks and picnics.
How did you approach the design and construction of Settle?
John and I are both extremely passionate people. This can make the process of designing and choosing materials less calm than one might hope! I’m very aesthetically driven, with exceptionally high standards of design and finish; John’s approach is more practical, and he has lots of knowledge regarding the age and history of materials.
Each of our ‘stays’ have different styles. We are driven by fundamental elements within each space, like the light, original textures, or structure. Carriage No. 1 has the most original interior, while Carriage No. 2 has a Scandinavian aesthetic.
Is there an element of your work that you love the most?
I love it all… from the very start, finding a suitable wagon; to looking over the park and seeing guests sitting out on their frontier decks, cooking on the outdoor fires. That’s always a really heart-warming sight.
How valuable is the online community to your work?
Instagram enabled my floristry work to connect with flower lovers all over the world, leading me to teach workshops in countries such as China. Connecting with people who appreciate our work and share our values is part of Settle’s core ethos, and Settle’s online community continues to grow.
What has been the biggest eye-opener in running your business?
Between us John and I have three businesses, and we both struggle with paperwork! As ever, I’m surprised by the volumes of emails and messages we receive. We both really prefer being hands-on onsite, in the yard or in our workshops.
How do you differentiate your business in a creative industry?
I think there’s a lot to be said for being true to your own vision. For us, Settle’s identity comes from the ethos behind it, and I think that shines through the whole business.
What have you found are the pros and cons of working as an independent?
The space and freedom to direct the aesthetic is vital to all my work and always has been. While it can be tiring (my phone rings constantly!), the payoff is always worth it. We have a pre-school child and balancing her needs with those of our businesses is sometimes a juggling act. Luckily, our extended family is very supportive with childcare – we’re endlessly grateful to them.
How do you approach marketing and PR?
We do what we can ourselves. It mostly evolves organically through social media platforms, and I have my own network of supportive media contacts, writers, and photographers which I’ve built up over the years.
What have been your business highlights so far?
Our first two carriages feature in World of Interiors in 2020. It’s a magazine which I very much admire, and I honestly never dreamt that my work would appear in it.
What has been the greatest hurdle in starting your business?
We have only been open since March 2019, so in a lot of ways we are very much still learning. There’s no doubt 2020 has been a very challenging year for all businesses around the globe.
What’s one thing people would be surprised you do in your job?
The changeovers and laundry?! We’re taking extra precautions to make our guests as safe as possible, so myself and a trusted small team don our masks, aprons and gloves on changeover days and get cleaning.
Do you have any creative pastimes or hobbies?
My garden brings me a whole lot of peace and enjoyment. I grow flowers, and this year I’ve grown heritage vegetables from seed as well – nurturing plants has been especially therapeutic this year.
The most important lesson that running your business has taught you about life?
Any advice for independent creative businesses who are starting out?
Trust and believe in your vision, and be prepared to put in the hours…
What does the next year hold for you?
Look out for Settle on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces on C4 this autumn. The production team filmed John and me converting our latest railway carriage hideout for Settle. Next, we hope to continue growing Settle’s collection, and are considering a makers’ summer fair – watch this space.
Books I love:
All Nigel Slater’s cookery books, and Monty Don – The Complete Gardener
My best friend
Shops I love:
Small, local independents like Kobo A-B, a beautiful Japanese homeware and textiles shop in Norwich. In Norfolk I love Urban Jungle for amazing houseplants and Stiffkey Stores, plus Baileys Home & Garden in Ross-On-Wye, and Caro in Bruton, Somerset
Hauser & Wirth gallery and arts centre in Somerset, our reclamation yard – Morways Reclaimers, the Norfolk countryside, Scotland
Instagrammers I love:
@sillmarilli, a talented photographer and creator, and @twiggsstudios for daily foodie inspiration. And @themontydon – love him!