Libs Lewis’ lifelong love of vintage has inspired her 40+ year career selling and sourcing vintage and antiques. In 2011, Libs opened the door to the first Domestic Science store in her hometown of Nailsworth, Gloucestershire (and has since added two more stores in nearby Tetbury and Stow-on-the-Wold). We spoke to Libs to hear more about her love of sourcing pre-loved homewares and modern, nostalgia-fuelled finds, and why a lovely cup is a must for a good cuppa…
Hi Libs, when and why did you decide to open Domestic Science?
I previously ran an antique shop in Tetbury with my oldest friend from school. When my friend relocated to Dorset we decided to separate the business and keep the friendship. My husband and his brother had recently purchased a historic old mill in the centre of the town where we live (Nailsworth) with various retail spaces. A large space became vacant and I decided to take the plunge and move into the space on my own.
What had you done before? Did any of these skills help?
I have been in the antiques trade for nearly 40 years, since my early 20s. It’s all I know! Over the years I’ve built up a strong network of antiques dealers and I have learnt a lot about furniture restoration. It generally helped me figure out and develop my own sense of interior style. Anything I do interiors wise will always incorporate vintage because I believe it brings a sense of soul that you can’t get with all modern homeware.
How did you decide on the name?
I wanted something nostalgic that would resonate with customers. Lots of people of my generation will remember Domestic Science classes at school but I also like to think there is a certain science behind sourcing beautiful but useful products for domestic use. It just sat well with me and has a nice ring to it.
How would you describe the interior style of the stores?
All three stores are set in old buildings, each with their own unique features. Something that runs through each of the stores is that every shop fitting is old and repurposed from counters to dressers to post office pigeon holes. This adds another layer to the merchandising and helps build a world around our products.
How does each store compare and differ?
They’re all totally different. The Tetbury store is set over four floors in a six bedroom Georgian townhouse so is wonderfully light and airy. While Nailsworth by contrast is all on one level sprawling 2000sq foot, half of it sitting in the basement of the original mill building. Our newest store in Stow-on-the-Wold is smaller and set over two floors in Talbot Court just off the market square. Here you’ll find a mini edit of Domestic Science’s must-have pieces.
Tell us about the range of products you stock…
Domestic Science is an emporium for elevated everyday essentials and timeless vintage finds to make modern life that bit better. Our offering is very diverse yet very carefully curated. We sell a huge range of soft furnishing from curtains to cushions. We sell a lot of candles. We have stationery, homeware, hardware, bath and beauty, clothes and toys!
What does a ‘normal’ day look like?
No two days are ever the same for me. I might be sourcing vintage at Kempton Market or at a local auction house. Or I could be over at one of the stores planning displays with our team. When I can’t put it off any longer – admin!
How do you source your wares?
I source our modern wares mainly at trade fairs, and vintage from markets and dealers all over the world.
Do you create anything in-house?
Yes, we have recently launched our own collection of cushions designed by me and handmade locally in Stroud using vintage fabrics. We also have a small range of candles and lampshades, and we will be growing our own brand collection further this year.
What is the neighbourhood like? Do you have a community of independent stores around you?
We live in Nailsworth, which is full of independent shops. In fact every shop is independent apart from the supermarket and chemist! We have a wonderful bookshop – The Yellow Lighted Bookshop, a wonderful Fish restaurant and deli, Williams Kitchen as well as renowned bakery, Hobbs House. We also have a cafe attached to both our Nailsworth (The Canteen) and Tetbury (Cafe 53) stores.
Which item is your bestseller? Why do you think that is?
By volume we sell so many candles. With everyone spending more time in their homes over the past couple of years, home fragrance has seen a huge uplift. They also make great presents!
What items are your personal can’t-live-without?
I’ve got to love the cup I’m drinking tea or coffee from or I won’t enjoy it and I love nice soap.
What do you enjoy most about running Domestic Science?
Sourcing vintage is what I love but I also enjoy finding wonderful products that make my heart sing and that I know will bring joy to other people.
What has been your career highlight (so far!)?
We were really chuffed to have been included in The Sunday Times Style’s list of 50 Best Independent Shops this year. Such an honour to be featured alongside so many wonderful stores.
Do you have any advice for those thinking of starting their own store?
I would say only sell what you truly love, don’t try and stock what you think customers will like or what you should be selling. It’s got to come from the heart. Be prepared for it to be all consuming, when you first start you have to get used to wearing multiple hats.
Days Mill, 3 Old Market, Nailsworth, Stroud
53 Long St, Tetbury
7a Talbot Square, Stow-on-the-Wold, Cheltenham