The Rustic Rose: A ‘Shabby Chic’ Start-up Story

Inspired by the idea of re-using and recycling, Lucy Cook and Tamsyn Morgans revamp vintage & antique furniture with a beautiful ‘shabby chic’ style. The Rustic Rose launched 2 years ago and the team have just moved into their own studio. 

What gave you the inspiration to start The Rustic Rose?

We started our business knowing we both shared a love of painted furniture and French/Scandinavian style interiors and were both at a similar point in our careers and family lives to take this on and give it a go.

We take our inspirations from many places, including amazing bloggers such as Rachel Ashwell of the Shabby Chic empire, and each other. But so much really is just visual – peeling paints, vintage textiles, faded interiors and the love of bringing old unloved pieces of furniture to life.

Tell us about the business and yourselves?

We source, strip and hand paint vintage and antique furniture which we sell online and from our studio to customers who love authentic style aged painted furniture. To compliment this we make a range of handmade textiles and artwork. We have a studio in Norwich which we work from 3-4 days a week. It is an equal partnership between the two of us with no other employees.

Prior to setting up the business Lucy worked for the civil service as a PA. The business experience that she gained over the years from working in this environment has helped with setting up the business end of The Rustic Rose, from accounts, design for business cards and promotional material to setting up the website. I (Tamsyn) have a background in art and previously worked as a professional model and make up artist. From this I have been able to express my creative flair through the artwork and photography for the website. Starting up the business has given us a platform to use our creative and artistic skills when it comes to painting and finishing the furniture, which we do jointly. Collectively our individual and shared skills give us an all-round knowledge. Combine that with our passion, flair and excellent customer service skills, we believe we make a fantastic team.

What are the high points?

Getting to do something which we truly love. We both enjoy finding new pieces which need some tender loving care. Bringing them back to life and seeing customers falling in love with them is very gratifying.

What were the low points and how did you get over them?

Finding a reliable courier we could trust has been harder than we imagined. It was very much trial and error in the beginning and a couple of our pieces did get damaged in transit. That was heartbreaking for us. We are now very lucky to have found a local courier who understands our delivery needs and is experienced and reliable.

Did  you need any funding?

We started the business up ourselves and both personally bought the pieces and materials to do them up. We even set up the website ourselves for free! We were lucky that it didn’t take long before the business was paying for itself and has grown to a stage where we could take on a premises in town.

What marketing tactics work well for your business?

Facebook, quality business cards and Twitter. We also rely on the quality of our products and word of mouth. We are still learning about the right marketing tools for our business but we are growing at a rate that we can comfortably keep up with.

Where do you get support from?

We are both fortunate to have very supportive families. Our greatest support, however, is each other, as we both genuinely understand the frustrations and physical demands that come with the business and balancing this with family life. Having a chat over a glass or two of wine always help!

What are your future plans or goals?

We have just reached a new goal by taking on the studio. We hope to maintain this for as long as possible or until we reach such a point that we can perhaps take on a shop of our own. We don’t set timelines on each other as we have to treat it organically and in line with our other personal commitments. We are lucky that we both view our future with the business in the same way and are happy to push and grow in as fluid a way as possible.

Your best piece of advice?

If there is something you long to do and have an opportunity to do it then give it a go. We can both look back and say we tried. Wherever we end up in the future we know we will never look back and wonder what if…


4 thoughts on “The Rustic Rose: A ‘Shabby Chic’ Start-up Story”

  1. It’s always great to see real life case studies from people who have done well for themselves. I did try setting up a small shabby chic conversion business a while ago (when the craze was new) and did ok selling a few bits on gumtree and on eBay. However being not as creative as I thought, there was a limitation to how much I could sell…


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