In March 2016 when Lisa Gildert and Sarah Lucas opened Lilac Tree Interiors, they didn’t have a business plan.
They barely even had a store, setting up shop in a shed in a local garden centre. But they did have a hunch that the products they were offering customers and the ethos they were espousing and representing would be very popular indeed. And they were right.
A truly unique furniture and vintage shop, Lilac Tree sells ‘re-loved’ furniture which the store’s trio of Lisa, Sarah, and Sarah’s husband Darren have brought back to life with skill and care.
Pouring time and care into their work, the trio are working to not only combat modern society’s throw-away culture, but to ensure that their customers get a truly unique piece for their homes at the same time.
“Everything happened by accident really,” said Lisa, explaining how she and co-owner Sarah came to decide to start the shop. “I’d had to give up work as my son has autism and was off school for a year due to there being no school places. I myself was volunteering at a charity shop and Sarah came in to drop things off, and we decided to go on a re-upholstery workshop.”
Sarah was herself ready for a new venture, too.
“I was a civil servant for 23 years and I wasn’t happy,” she explained. “I’d taken leave to care for my terminally ill father, so when he passed away, I was at a crossroads. I’d always been good at DIY and so I was going to charity shops, the local tip, finding pieces, and re-loving them. It was Lisa’s idea - she said ‘we should do this as a business.’”
Enthusiastic by the prospect of the new venture, Lisa spotted an empty shed whilst browsing at the Holland House Nurseries garden centre in Walton-le-Dale and thought it would be the ideal space for their new store. Just six weeks later, Lilac Tree Interiors was open for business.
“We had no business plan; we started with a few hundred pounds each and bought stuff from charity shops and upcycled them,” said Lisa, who lives in Bamber Bridge. “It evolved from there.
“It was a couple of years of blood, sweat, and tears and having no income as we built the business but the passion kept us going,” Lisa added. “We weren’t in it to play around having a shop, there was a market for what we were doing and we’ve built such a good customer base.”
Sarah, who lives in Preston, agrees. “It’s been hard, it’s a lot of hours, but we love it,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like work. We’re passionate about the environment so we don’t use any chemicals, the paint is all safe, and with our love of interiors, it’s a dream job. It’s been great.”
As well as their stunning re-loved furniture, Lilac Tree also sells home accessories, gifts, cards, and Frenchic Furniture Paint, and also hold various workshops in beginner DIY, decoupage, and their ‘therapeutic’ paint-your-own-furniture workshop.
“Customers bring a piece of furniture themselves and re-love that using our materials and expertise so that they come away with a piece of furniture which they’re happy to put in their home,” said Sarah of the paint-your-own-furniture workshops. “There’s a lot of personal pride in that, people are really getting into the spirit of it.”
Every year, Britons send 672,000 tonnes of furniture to landfills: just the kind of statistic Lilac Tree are out to combat.
“We’re all about re-purposing and stopping things going to landfills,” said Lisa. “We live in a throw-away society, but we want to show people things can be updated. You don’t always need to go out and buy new.”
Getting back into the spirit of make-do and mend is, crucial according to Sarah.
“They don’t make furniture like they used to and with the current economic climate, people don’t want to go out and buy new. They want to give things a new lease of life. That’s our ethos.
“And there’s an appeal in reviving something and making it your own,” Sarah added. “You get a designer piece without paying designer prices.”