I love popping down to the pretty Somerset town of Bruton, which has become something of a creative enclave in recent years. It’s home to stunning hotel and restaurant At the Chapel and international gallery Hauser & Wirth, and now it has a rather special lifestyle store to mooch around, too.
CARO Somerset, which has just opened up in the centre of town, has that blend of rustic and contemporary that I love. It sits inside an old stone cottage adorned with flagstones and beams, and stocks a carefully curated range of homeware and other tempting goodies. There are sleek pieces from Danish brand HAY, scents by Laboratory Perfumes, skincare from Aesop, and wonderfully snuggly throws from Welsh company Blodwen. You can even grab a coffee from the local Round Hill Roastery while you browse, or linger over elaborate cake creations made by in-house baker ‘The Bakemonger’. And for those who want to spend a little longer exploring Bruton, a couple of B&B rooms are due to open above the shop later this year.
I couldn’t wait to take a look around and chat to founder Natalie Jones about the inspiration behind the venture…
What’s your background?
“I’ve done a fair few things as I get bored quickly, but I’ve always had a passion for design and aesthetics. I started working in retail window display, and then did an MA in graphic design research at LCC. After working as an interiors assistant for magazines, I got a job as a Trend Forecaster at The Future Laboratory. Finally, I worked in fashion and architecture branding at the Winkreative design agency (attached to Monocle magazine). Opening CARO is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, and an extension of my previous roles.”
“Bruton is a very creative place, so I’m naturally drawn to it. Chefs, stylists, photographers, artists; they’re all here, so it’s a home from home for me. And with Hauser & Wirth opening last year, it’s also a town that attracts visitors from all over the world – something which encouraged me to set my retail roots down in this spot.”
What do you love about working in the South West?
“It’s a cliché, but there’s a much calmer pace to life here, and you know your next-door neighbour. There’s also a feeling of space, which I’ve become addicted to; there’s more space to breathe, even. I’m a firm believer that your environment can shape your mood, and so I love welcoming others to share a space with me.”
How would you describe your interiors style?
“I love so many interiors, but Isle Crawford is my muse – The Crown in Amersham and the Aesop store on Mount Street are my favourites of her schemes. I love lots of varying textures and materials, and I’m obsessed with a forest colour palette. The new Granger & Co restaurant in Kings Cross is beautiful.”
What inspires you?
“I love walking in the woods and eating for inspiration. The colours found in food and nature are the best.”
What’s your favourite product from your range?
“The Blodwen enamelware is my favourite. It’s the perfect combination of modern design and Welsh tradition, and I love the iconic Caenarforn motif. Another fave is the Aesop skincare range. It has a wonderful balance of ingredients – rosemary, bergamot, mandarin; so good. And it hydrates without sitting on the skin.”
Any interiors tips or trends to share?
“Less is more. I like things in order, so I display items lineally. And one small thing that can have a major impact is spraying plants with water to give them a healthy shine (although I need to learn how to care for plants properly – they bring a space to life, but not if you can’t keep them alive!).”
Can you tell us a bit more about the delicious cakes you sell?
“The Bakemonger’s creations are more like edible pieces of art than cakes. Everyone who sees them says they look too good to eat, but they’re a taste sensation as well as a feast for the eyes. I feel so lucky to have met her and to be the only coffee house selling them! Everything on the cakes is edible – rice-paper fans, chocolate chards, dehydrated banana leaves, apple petals…”
Finally, what are your future plans for CARO Somerset?
“The rooms are opening in October and I hope they will encourage people from far and wide to share some culture and country spirit. We also offer an interior-design service which I’d like to grow, and I’m in the process of planning a pop-up event in London and a few supper-club evenings here in Bruton.”
CARO Somserset (9 Quaperlake Street, Bruton BA10 0HF) is open Tuesdays-Fridays from 8.30am to 5pm, and on Saturdays from 10am to 5pm. Or head to the website to browse the range online.
All photography by Abi Dare