Job profile: From deli counter to home decor: How Pam Lawton made her furniture fantasy a reality
- Credit: Archant
Pam Lawton, owner of Hilary & Alice, a unique furniture and giftware store in Diss, reveals how she started her dream business helping people turn their houses into homes.
Name: Pam Lawton
Job title: Owner, Hilary & Alice Ltd
My job in a nutshell: Furniture painter/upcycler, homeware and gift buyer and champion of all things home decor related.
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How I got my job: I founded the company in January 2016 and opened the shop in March. It took me just five weeks to go from agreeing the lease on the premises to opening the doors.
Why Hilary and Alice? Hilary and Alice are my wonderful and lovely nannies, a pair of strong and driven women who have been amazing role models to me and inspired me to be resilient and creative in equal measures. Nanny Alice loved to cook and bake, and had a discipline to her creative flair like no other. She made the most fabulous wedding cakes and family lunches. Nanny Hilary on the other hand had the most eclectic collection of 'stuff' in her house and as a child I loved searching through her button jar and marvelling at her amazing pictures and ornaments. These amazing women have influenced my life and inspired me to do what others only ever think about. In homage to them, Hilary & Alice was born.
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What do you enjoy most about your job: I love working with people who have meaningful pieces of furniture, perhaps which they have inherited or had for a long time that have become outdated and no longer fit in with the style of their homes. I help to make these pieces look beautiful and current and it means these gorgeous pieces of furniture can be enjoyed and stay within families for more generations to come. It's so satisfying being able to work on commission jobs that have such strong meaning to their owners and give old furniture a new lease of life.
You might not know this about my job: Old furniture is often really smelly! It takes a fair bit of elbow grease (and Febreze) to get the smell out. I also often find massive wood spiders hiding in drawers or under pieces of furniture, so it's a good job I don't have a problem with spiders.
My best day at work: So far it's been the opening day of the shop - I was so proud to have turned a dream into reality and see it materialise in front of my eyes. After that my best days are usually when people find a piece of furniture in my shop they have been after for some time and love that is it totally unique and individual.
My first job was: On the deli counter in Somerfield. After that I worked in a cinema for five years which I actually really enjoyed doing - I was a bit of a movie buff at the time.
What's the most exciting thing about your industry? The limitless possibilities of what you can do with old and ugly furniture, then seeing pieces transform from being brown, varnished and old, to fresh, clean and stylish furniture which people love. There is so much you can do - the problem is not finding the ideas, it's finding the time.
Where do you find your inspiration? It's a bit stereotypical but I find inspiration everywhere. In restaurants, other people's houses, magazines, online, and just from what's in my own head. I'm forever thinking about what I can do to make things pretty again.
What's your favourite piece of furniture that you've worked on? That is so hard as there have been so many beautiful pieces. I love papering drawers and inside units as it transforms simple pieces of furniture and makes them so different and special. I also love the more traditional pieces where I can sand back the wood to its original state and wax to bring out the grain in the wood. I'm really loving dark wax on bare wood at the moment.
If you weren't running Hilary and Alice, what do you think you would you be doing? Working in marketing in a job I liked but didn't love. Life's too short, I had to follow my dream and make H&A happen.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging about your job? The most challenging part is that there are never enough hours in a day, time literally flies by. I also find it hard working with a particular type of old varnish which 'bleeds' into lighter paint work. Getting the lift off the shellac varnish to stop the bleed is also challenging as it sticks like no ones business...that stuff is ferocious!