We meet the co-curators from the home and garden event that promises to be a northern design ‘powerhouse’
Some of the North’s best makers and designers are among more than 100 exhibitors who have signed up for the Rheged Home & Garden Show 2020 (13-15 March 2020) – the Lake District-based event that is being billed as the only one of its kind in the UK.
Curated by two industry aficionados, Interior Designer Maureen Whitemore and Garden Designer Liz Newport, the packed three-day event will cover everything a homeowner could need for their new build, extension, restoration or garden project, including 14 free expert talks and a series of 12 hands-on workshops.
The pairing of northern design experts Maureen and Liz is part of the show’s draw, with their individual talent, style and expertise merging to create an exciting offering. Maureen is the owner of Whitemore & Thwaytes, an interior design company based in Penrith, with a staff of eight including interior designers, a full-time lighting designer, and a workroom team. Meanwhile, Liz runs garden design business Buzy Lizzie alongside landscaping company Wildroof Landscapes, with her husband Phil.
We caught up with the talented co-curators to chat about all things home and garden.
How did you get into the home & garden design industry?
Maureen: I started in the industry over fifty years ago as a holiday job in a soft furnishing workroom, which led to a career travelling the world holding seminars at trade and retail shows, writing books, TV work, training, inspiring the trade and talented homeowners and helping to create beautiful homes – a distant cry from my original choice of career as a physiotherapist. Far from thoughts of retiring, I am passionate about latest ideas, products, technology and trends – a frequent visitor to major design trade shows. Amongst all that I have somehow bought up five children too!
Liz: In my adult life, I have always loved renovating old houses with my husband Phil. Following a brush with cancer and several months of chemotherapy (mostly spent in my garden) I decided that I wanted a change of direction from my science background so went back to college to learn about Garden Design. Redundancy beckoned for Phil and it was an opportunity for the whole family to ‘downshift’ to Cumbria and build gardens for a living. We soon found that the majority of our clients wanted a complete ‘Design & Build’ solution (which was easy given Phil’s engineering background) and that was where the journey began.
What is the most important consideration when designing a home?
Maureen: When I design a home for a client, it’s vital to get on their wavelength so that I can work alongside them to create a home they really love.
Liz: A ‘sense of place’ alongside an in depth understanding of the client’s tastes and requirements.
What advice do you have for a self-builder who is building their home and garden from scratch?
Maureen: Ask the experts! This can save you time, money, frustration – and exhaustion – with a much better end result.
Liz: Draw your garden to scale to make sure everything will fit, visit local suppliers for the latest plants and materials as well as making sure that you understand the garden orientation and type of soil.
You have been working together to curate the upcoming Rheged Home & Garden Show 2020. How did the idea for the show come about?
Maureen: Liz and I joined forces with Rheged and Cumbria Life to bring a fabulous Home & Garden Show to the North of England in 2015, so this will be our 6th show. We knew that for our clients the hardest part of renovating or moving was finding the right people and products to do the work required and coordinating its progress. This was the perfect basis for our show and a wonderful opportunity to shine a light on the talent in this part of the world. We use our expertise to select the very best exhibitors, speakers and demonstrators in their fields brought together at Rheged, a stunning venue close to the junction 40 of the M6 near Penrith.
Liz: We carefully curate the show to ensure all aspects complement each other and provide a broad range of ideas for visitors. Longer term these exhibitors often work together on projects. Each year we source at least 30% new exhibitors to keep the show fresh and interesting, whether it’s how to design a garden or use the latest technology to control everything from lighting and heating when you are away from home. The event has become a huge part of our lives and it’s important to us to bring together the very best. We see people who have come to previous shows having found a piece of land and have used the opportunity to find everyone they needed to create the home and garden of their dreams – perfect
What are you most excited about at the show?
Maureen: This year I am really excited about our Home Build Question Time in a similar format to the Gardeners Question Time with the wonderful broadcaster Eric Robson. Our panel will be made up of real hands-on experts in designing, building, eco heating, planning (always a tough one in the Lakes) and a money expert. The masterclasses give visitors a chance to have a go and learn a skill or watch a demo; free theatre talks give the opportunity to learn from the experts. Sadly, I won’t have time to go to any of the masterclasses or talks – the worst part about being a curator!
Liz: Every year there are unexpected opportunities and collaborations between exhibitors, so I am excited to see what ‘germinates’ this year! The show also puts a huge amount back into the local economy.