Happy [Weekend] + Friday Links [No.Twenty Two]

Como, Italy May 2016
Como, Italy May 2016
Como, Italy May 2016

Oh hello, Friday! I hope that you have had a wonderful two weeks? It's been full steam ahead, squeezing as much as possible into the days, working across a few different projects as well as the Great Fiat Hunt book, and my next series of cards and prints for burrow.28 available really, really, soon! 

Speaking of the Great Fiat Hunt, we went back to Italy last weekend to do our final interview. When Gina broke down in France at the start of our trip, we lost a week's worth of time in the north of Italy and had to cancel what would have been one of our first interviews. However, last weekend we finally made it to Bergamo and couldn't have asked for a better second chance to meet Antonio.

Assuring us he was on his way we continued to wait at the gate outside the front of his house but after about ten minutes or so, a nonna appeared, standing on her balcony inquisitively looking at us. I smiled at her and turned back around to Kieren nudging him, making him aware that we might soon be asked about our presence. Sure enough, a few minutes later, a nonno appeared, and they both began to make their way towards us. After conversing with them in Italian followed by a quick call to Antonio, they ushered us inside the gate and into their home. They made us an espresso and we chatted about their son, our trip and who was leading the Giro d'Italia (an annual Italian bike race) that was on TV. Kieren and I glanced at each other smiling, it was as if we were back on our trip last year where we'd often find ourselves in the same type of situation.

Antonio arrived before long, opened up his garage to show us his business, restoring fiat 500's, Gina would have cringed seeing her fellow fiats in parts! The next day we had a chance to meet Antonio's family and were also treated to a drive through the city. We decided to stay just on the outskirts of Como about an hour and a half from Milan. After missing out on staying there last year, it was well worth doing the trek from Bergamo and back every day. It was a beautiful spot, we didn't have much time to explore so I would love to get back one day. It almost felt like we were ending the trip a second time, all that was missing was Gina. 

Back in London and this week and while we aren't getting the 27 degrees that we were treated to in Italy, the days are long and it's one of the greenest times of the year, summer is on its way. Happy days. 

Lastly, just a few links to end this week, it's a long weekend here and it's my birthday tomorrow, so the weekend is calling!!  I wish you a wonderful weekend wherever you are.

+ it doesn't take much to be kind nor to shop eithically to buy sustainble goods, and the kind guide looks to help you do as much. a new project launching soon by the talented samee

+ book me in: beachspoke

+  on repeat: everloving by moby

+ my luggage addiction continues with: away would love to visit their concept store

Happy [Weekend] + Friday Links [No.Twenty One]

Maldives 2014,  Renae Smith

Hello Friday! I hope that you have had a great week? Summer has been on my mind, the beautiful weather continued this week after last weekend being one of the warmest weekends we've had, and probably a record for May in general. For the first time it felt like spring was moving behind us and summer was revealing what it may have in store... oh. YES.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend whatever the temperature!

Some of my favourite links this week are below - enjoy. 

+ get alone: loved this article on trouvémag by ashleigh peak

+ have enjoyed following these clever creatives from idea to the launch of hands-on

+ holiday dreaming starts here: white sands luxury villas and spa

+ window and exterior love of this private guest house

+  on repeat: past lives by børns

+  hooked on watching: halt and catch fire on amazon prime

+ laughed and loved listening to: amy poehler narrate her book, yes please via audible

+ inspiring back story to the success of anna church and her work


Function + Form [02]

Function + Form Event April 2016

Happy Weekend! I hope you have had a wonderful week? I have only one link to share this week below, so I hope you enjoy - wishing you a wonderful weekend whatever you are up to!
Having come across Function + Form a few months ago and reading about their last creative gathering I knew I had to keep my eyes peeled for their next one.

Function + Form is a wonderful new collaboration by Tiffany Grant-Riley of Curate and Display and Annie Kruse of Stylejuicer. Tiff and Annie have created these gatherings held only a few times a year, so that like-minded creatives who might not otherwise have the chance to meet can connect in a smaller, more intimate setting, encouraging open conversations and the opportunity to learn about the work of an admired designer. Luckily I managed to nab a last-minute spot on their second gathering, the first for 2016, a tour of two London homes with Houzz for a further look into the design and use of design in two very different spaces.

I arrived at Ottolenghi in Spitalfields where I was warmly greeted by Tiff and Annie as everyone started to arrive. My nervousness of meeting new people quickly eased as the conversation flowed and I was welcomed into a group of talented women. While devouring a few slices of Ottolenghi’s delicious cakes, we were introduced to Emmeline and Vicky from Houzz UK, an online renovation and design platform, connecting homeowners with home professionals, who would be taking us through the homes.

First up, a short walk to the Georgian home of Architect Chris Dyson. Always in awe of the facades of the buildings when walking the streets of London, I often wonder about the many stories these homes must hold from such a different time, so having the opportunity to look inside of one was wonderful.

Function + Form Event April 2016 /Home of Chris Dyson
Function + Form Event April 2016 /Home of Chris Dyson
Function + Form Event April 2016 /Home of Chris Dyson

Chris and his family live and work in the four storey townhouse, which was originally built in 1719, and as I made my way through and up to the top level, I noticed every floor bathed was in the light, revealing the many details of the now Grade II listed building that have been lovingly restored. Warm furnishings featured throughout and I was easily picturing myself curling up on the sofa in front of the fire with a good book in winter or sitting on the terrace in summer while taking in the views out over the city.

Function + Form Event April 2016 /Home of Chris Dyson
Function + Form Event April 2016 /Home of Chris Dyson

We then made our way over to Hackney to view a more modern home housed in an old school house. I have always loved the feel of industrial spaces and often dream of one day living in one.

Owned and renovated by Laura Lakin an interior designer, retaining the old school house industrial feel was important while designing it with a monochrome palette in mind.

Function + Form Event April 2016 /Home of Laura Lakin
Function + Form Event April 2016 /Home of Laura Lakin
Function + Form Event April 2016 /Home of Laura Lakin
Function + Form Event April 2016 /Home of Laura Lakin

Laura also wanted the space to remain open and light so she was initially keen to knock down all of the walls to have one big open space, however, knowing she was going to be sharing it with a friend she wanted to keep the second bedroom. To maintain the light and open feel while encompassing the need for privacy, Laura installed steel windows internally, placing them in the second bedroom allowing the light to flow through achieving the feel of open plan.

Function + Form Event April 2016 /Home of Laura Lakin
Function + Form Event April 2016 /Home of Laura Lakin
Function + Form Event April 2016 /Home of Laura Lakin
Function + Form Event April 2016 /Home of Laura Lakin

I was in love, it was an amazing space. The beautiful big windows were definitely a strong feature throughout, complementing Laura’s overall objective of wanting to highlight the architectural details. It was inspiring to see how a seemingly small space has been reconfigured enhancing its original features as well as making it a very functional space to live and work in.

It was so nice to be welcomed both by Chris and Laura into their homes, thank you to Houzz for the opportunity. I left feeling inspired, not just by these amazing spaces, but by everyone I met, it was such a wonderful group - a huge thank you to Tiff and Annie for creating such a wonderful gathering.

An Update [Work + Travels + This Space]

Masseria Cimino Hotel, Italy 2015 © Renae Smith

Hello! It’s been a while, I hope you have been well? I don’t know about you but it feels like this year is going at rapid speed and my grip has been slipping lately. I mean May? Seriously? Where is that pause button?!

Good things are happening, though, so I am holding on tight determined to make the most of everything that is coming my way, even if I feel out of my depth at times, and a little overwhelmed.

Since it's been a little while in between posts I felt that it wouldn't hurt to provide a little update on what's been happening. The Great Fiat Hunt book is coming together, slowly but surely and I feel incredibly lucky to be working with a wonderful publisher to help us pull everything together. It’s exciting to see it take shape, and a bit surreal at the same time! I am learning a lot, though, and I can’t wait to share it with you hopefully later this year.

I have also been thinking a lot more about what I hope to continue to share here in this space. I think it is a space that will continue to evolve (hopefully more often and consistently!) as my work does, but I also hope that it provides some sort of inspiration, whether it be about travel, amazing places to escape to or inspirational creatives. Expanding more on my Friday links posts which I always enjoy putting together - a small list of places, people, travel, design, anything really that has caught my eye or hit a note with me during the week.

I'm also excited to share some more magazine work that will be released in June and I have oodles of content to share from our travels whilst in Italy last year, including visiting the Masseria Cimino Hotel (photographed above) for the second time, it was just as amazing as the first time I visited. My next set of prints will also be available soon, again, largely influenced by our time in Italy.

Lastly, and non Italy related (!) I recently attended a wonderful gathering that I will share here tomorrow, it reminded me the value of connecting with like-minded creatives offline.

I feel a certain shift happening this year, or rather, it feels like it has happened over the last few months predominantly, which prompted me to think more about my work and where I want to take it. To be honest, I resisted it largely, initially, as it felt incredibly uncomfortable, but I'm learning that it is all part of the process, or more so, I am accepting that it is all part of the process! It's where I'm meant to be. I can't tell you how much of a huge relief it is to feel that.

I hope that you have a wonderful Thursday!

Happy [Weekend] + Friday Links [No.Twenty]

London, UK 2016 / Renae Smith
London, UK 2016 / Renae Smith
London, UK 2016 / Renae Smith
London, UK 2016 / Renae Smith

Oh hello friends and hello Friday! How have you been? I hope that you have had a great couple of weeks?

March? When did that happen?

There are signs of spring already around London with magnolia's starting to flower and the days are getting longer which is nice. I' am feeling a little more settled in the flat finally, and I have a hankering to get some palms like the one above. Ever since we stayed in this airbnb last year I can't get them out of my mind. Hopefully it would survive my plant-killer-hands...

The photo above was one of the first times I've picked up the camera over the last few weeks, so of course I stalked our neighbourhood...it's always good to get out and flex those muscles even if it's just a five minute walk around the corner. The great fiat hunt project is progressing on, which is really exciting and I can't wait to share more with you over the next few months. Speaking of which, I think we are finally picking up our girl gina from the mechanics, so it will be great to get out and about in her! I hope you have a wonderful weekend wherever it takes you!

Some of my favourite links this week are below - enjoy. 

+  on repeat: this old favourite, by van halen

+  loved: this ted talk by chris burkard

+ currently reading: the top five regrets of the dying, by bronnie ware


+ interesting article: modern homes designed for millennials

+ looking forward to flicking through: define magazine

+ for the views: gipfelrestaurant on mount chäserrugg

Happy [Weekend] + Friday Links [No.Nineteen]

London, UK 2015 / Renae Smith
London, UK 2015 / Renae Smith

Happy Weekend! How are you? I hope that the week has been good to you?

It's been a good week this side of the pond, even if a little weary, but who isn't at this point on a Friday? I've had my eyeballs stuck within the confines of lightroom and photoshop this week editing images for The Great Fiat Hunt and for new work for burrow.28 so I'm looking forward to getting out from behind the computer for a few days. What are you up to this weekend? I see a movie or two in my future along with catching up with dear friends after too long of a time. I hope you have a wonderful one whatever you are up to.

Some of my favourite links this week are below - enjoy. 

+  on repeat: under pressure by, the war on drugs

+  addicted to watching: the bridge, series three is just as good as one and two

+ bookmarked: best coffee shops in new york

+ hay: the only kind of peas i like

Lodestars Anthology Magazine - Issue 4, Italy

Lodestars Anthology Italy Issue 4
Lodestars Anthology Italy Issue 4
Lodestars Anthology Italy Issue 4
Lodestars Anthology Italy Issue 4
Lodestars Anthology Italy Issue 4
Lodestars Anthology Italy Issue 4
Lodestars Anthology Italy Issue 4
Lodestars Anthology Italy Issue 4
Lodestars Anthology Italy Issue 4

While doing The Great Fiat Hunt I was commissioned to shoot for The Italy Issue of Lodestars Magazine and be published for the first time. So I am really excited to finally share some of the images from the magazine.

One of the wonderful things about Lodestars Anthology is that they cover one country per issue, so as you can imagine, the end result is a beautifully crafted thick compilation of talented writers, photographers and illustrators all covering something special about one country.

Their previous issues have covered England, Scotland and Australia and for their latest Issue Italy, I was lucky enough to contribute to three articles. One that was beautifully written by Kieren and features none other than our little gina and two others, that my images feature alongside of wonderfully written pieces on Sicily and Puglia. It is quite surreal to see my photographs in print for the first time and I am beyond chuffed to have ended up with the cover and inside image.

Huge thanks to Liz and all of the team at Lodestars Anthology, I feel honoured to have contributed to the magazine about a country that holds a special place in my heart - it is now available through these stockists.

Two Zero One Six

Italy 2015 / Renae Smith
Italy 2015 / Renae Smith
Italy 2015 / Renae Smith
Italy 2015

Hello! I hope that 2016 has been kind to you so far and that you had a wonderful break?

After moving into a more permanent abode hours after arriving back in London, it seems like a lifetime ago now that we had a short, but very sweet time with family and friends in Australia over the break.

After Australia we took some time out to properly acknowledge and gratefully reflect on 2015 - which was a whopper of a year, exceeding all that I had hoped for personally and professionally. From meeting wonderful people and making new friends when my heart needed it more than I realised, to taking a leap and fulfilling goals on a new professional journey. I'm grateful for the experiences and the opportunities that taught me, above all, to dig deep and have more belief in myself.

So as we flip the calendar over to the second month of 2016 today, I'm looking forward to a year connecting further with new friends, continuing to do fulfilling work, facing new challenges, new experiences, and hopefully pushing the envelope even further.

I hope that you have a wonderful, healthy and happy year and wish you the best for all that you hope to accomplish.

Happy [Weekend] + Friday Links [No.Eighteen]

France 2015 / Renae Smith

Happy Weekend! It’s a late Friday post this week… I don't even know if I can call it a Friday post really, it has already gone well past midnight here in the UK... How are you? I hope that December hasn’t been too hectic for you so far.

It’s now been a month since we arrived back London, where does a month go? Honestly, the last month has felt like it's just blurred into one and there has been so delineation between the two. No definitive winter feeling (it has been quite mild in London) no slowing down in work or preparing for Christmas. Finding a flat to rent became the thing we both fitted in around everything else, both wanting to secure a place without it becoming too onerous, especially since we have done the process so many times before.

So last weekend we were lucky to escape the flat hunting and visit dear friends in France, where I took the photo above. We were incredibly spoilt. We were shown another part of France we hadn't been to before and caught up over long conversations, endless card games and delicious food. I felt so grateful - I hope you are spoilt this weekend, doing fun things with people you love!

Some of my favourite links this week are below - enjoy. 

+  made me smile: the sacrificial chair

seven drawings to make you feel better

+ struggling to choose which bill murray film to watch?  this will help

Happy [Weekend] + Friday Links [No.Seventeen]

Italy 2015 / Renae Smith

Happy Weekend! How are you? I hope that you have been well? We arrived back in London last week and both got stuck into work so I'm looking forward to getting more organised this weekend. Even if it means facing the piles of washing and unpacking that's been pushed aside... I hear the weather is going to top 5 degrees tomorrow so maybe it's a good thing?!

Whilst our time in Italy is now over the work on our project continues into it's next stage. What Kieren and I shared together surpassed anything that I could have hoped or imagined. The time that people gave us, the meals we shared, the endless laughs, hugs and handshakes, a glimpse into their lives, relationships, culture and language. My hope now is that we can pull all of these wonderful experiences together to produce something special - watch this space!

Lastly, I leave you with some of my favourite links this week - enjoy.  I hope you have a wonderful weekend wherever you are!

+  on repeat: escape (the pina colada song) by jack johnson

+  bookmarked: the 37 best websites to learn something new by kristyna z.

+ the beauty of the bothy in scotland captured by ruairidh mcglynn

+  hotel lust in algarve, portugal


+  made me laugh: zoolander2

+  YES: thanks for shipping your work, the initiator by seth godin

+ for an instant pick me up: this instagram account

+  loved watching: these wonderfully crafted videos by marc and emma

Happy [Weekend] + Friday Links [No.Sixteen]

Olive Trees, Italy 2015 / © Renae Smith
Olive Trees, Italy 2015 / © Renae Smith

Hello Friday and happy weekend! It's great to be back here writing one of my usual Friday posts. I haven't had much of a chance to keep up with things online since being away and I've really missed putting together these Friday posts. How have you been? I hope that you have been well and have had a wonderful October so far. It's hard to believe we're slowly etching closer to the end of 2015.

Over the past week we arrived back on the mainland of Italy after a great time in Sicily and worked to some deadlines as well as both trying to sweat out the flu. Our time in Sicily went too fast. It is a place I have always longed to visit and after briefly exploring the east and then across to Palermo, I felt like we only just scratched the surface. From Taormina to Catania, down along east coast it is so completely different to Palermo. The landscape, the people, there is so much to explore I'd love to return one day for a much longer stay.

Last night we arrived in Parma as the sun was setting. Sitting across from a park waiting for our next Airbnb host, I noticed the late afternoon light hitting the leaves that were now varying in colours. The realisation that summer was now behind us hit me. Of course it was, we were well into October I thought, but as we had been only just been experiencing temperatures in the 30's in Sicily days before, it had felt very much like we were still in the midst of summer. Whilst I don't mind the change in season so much as that it was also a reminder that we are in the last few weeks of our trip now - that I'm certain, I'm not ready for!

Anyway, this week I have some links to share below, just a few things that have inspired me lately - enjoy.  I hope you have a great warm weekend wherever you are!

+  on repeat: where is my mind by maxence cyrin

+  this resonated: the truth about your uncertain life path & purpose by, leo babauta

+  inspired by the work of kristofer johnsson

+  in awe of how this family is travelling the world: in a VW Westfalia

+  added to my christmas wish list: shelter, how australians live by Kara Rosenlund

+  gave me goosebumps: this ted talk by amanda palmer







Things Happen for A Reason [an update from the road ]

Switzerland From the Road, August 2015 / Renae Smith

Where to begin… A month ago we set off in Gina the Fiat from a B&B in Eynsford and headed to France via the Euro tunnel. Oh what a journey it has been so far.

It has feels like it has been a lot longer than a month, and yet at times, I catch myself just wanting to hit pause as I worry that it’s all going to be over so quickly.

The challenges we’ve encountered, not once, but twice breaking down in a span of a week, didn’t worry me at the time as such, cars break and they are fixable, as long as we were both ok, I knew everything would be ok. Annoying? Sure. We missed appointments, lost money on having to cancel accommodation, and it was hard to know at times what was actually happening with the car (let alone where she was!) conversing in a language we didn’t know. And to be honest, it just felt like a bit of a blow to the start of our adventure and we started to doubt what we had set out to do.
But then we wouldn’t have discovered another place in France that we hadn’t intended on staying in, and without frantic bookings on Expedia, in torrential rain on the highway with 3g flickering in and out, we wouldn’t have stayed here for a night in Switzerland - discovering the beauty of Lugano (nor the amazing view from the Havana Deck Bar - definitely returning!).

And we wouldn’t have then crossed the border into Italy to spend the first night in Verona, coincidentally the place where this project first started to materialise.

Things happen for a reason.

Arriving back into Verona we felt welcomed with a big hug of relief - it lifted our spirits and reminded us to keep going at what we had set out to do. Living there about 18 months ago, we ended up staying near where we used to live and immediately fell back into what was our normal daily routine at the time - running the same route of a morning, going to the same cafe’s with people even remembering who we were. Our last night there was spent having dinner with friends, Gaia our lovely Italian teacher and her boyfriend and as we set back out on the road the next day, we felt grateful.

The Great Fiat Hunt!

Gina The Fiat, UK 2015 / Renae Smith
Gina The Fiat, UK 2015 / Renae Smith

Oh hello August! I hope that you have had a great week or so? I had hoped to post this update last week when I first started drafting it, but time got away and before I knew it we were packing up our flat and on our way out of London. 

Since then, I have attempted to get this post finished, but being on the road has already had it's challenges, something that we had expected, just not on our first day of our trip! However as it turns out, we've just arrived in Verona, Italy, where the idea for this project (the one I have been so excited to tell you about) first originated, so I guess it's all unfolded how it was suppose to. 

A few weeks ago, for the second time this year (where did the last 5 months go?!) we moved out of our flat and put everything back into storage to embark on an adventure. An adventure born out of a love of Italy and vintage Fiat 500's. 

Whilst we were living in Verona, almost 18 months ago now, we were out for dinner one night, and after seeing another vintage fiat 500 in the street we spoke about how wonderful it would be to own one. As the night went on, we started to imagine how much fun it would be to do a road trip throughout Italy in said fiat. It wasn't until about a year later after having left Verona, and then living back in London, that Kieren just happen to do an online search for vintage fiat 500s for sale. He found a couple that we enquired about, but the first and only one we ended up seeing, was Gina.

As we approached the garage, and being the only fiat 500 on the lot, she looked dwarfed by the other vehicles for sale either side of her, and if it hadn't been for her blue exterior shining through I could have easily missed spotting her. My heart skipped a beat as I stood next to her, crouching down to look through the windows, I tried to play it cool as the car salesmen approached, but I couldn't help but smile from ear to ear. I knew she was the one and hoped that we could make her ours. However, it was a Saturday afternoon and they were soon to close, so it was a tense wait until Monday to be able to make an offer. 

Thankfully, after a few conversations back and forth, she was ours and without thinking too much about it, we had put the trip in motion.

With so many wonderful memories from our time spent travelling and living throughout Italy, we really wanted the trip to embrace the our love for the culture and the slow Italian way of life. Making it into a personal project that we could work on together, Kieren and I have committed to three months, driving Gina throughout Italy, where along the way we plan to meet up with other vintage Fiat 500 owners to capture and share their story. We started to map out our trip traversing down and across the boot, to places where we have travelled through before as well as ones we have never been to. The Great Fiat Hunt is where it will all unfold, as well as running commentary from the road by Gina herself

I hope you'll join us as we embark on this adventure! It's certainly going to be like nothing we've attempted before. Gina, a dark blue vintage Fiat 500, 48 years young, and us, driving over seven thousand kilometers, spanning three months!

That said, it's already started off interestingly with Gina encountering a few mechanical problems in France, but hopefully we got the worst out of the way early and she lasts the three months. Above all, we want to slow down, enjoy the adventure and embrace whatever happens along the way - make it our great story. 

“And once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can't go back to being normal; you can't go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.” Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

Happy [Weekend] + Friday Links [No.Fifteen]

London, UK 2015 / Renae Smith

Happy Weekend! How are you? It's nice to be back posting on a Friday. I can't believe it's been a month since my last post! I hope that you have had a wonderful month? With work on new projects underway, family visiting from Australia and summer finally hitting London, it has been a busy month but the good kind of busy. 

This week has been an all new kind of busy though as I've been wrapping up projects, finalising plans for our next adventure (more on that next week!) and started to pack up our flat. So as I write this post reflecting on July, I can't help but feel even more grateful for the slower moments of time spent with family this past month, as well as with old and new friends.

My sister-in-law and her boyfriend stayed with us on and off throughout the month for her first visit to London and her first time travelling to Europe. It was a lot of fun having them both here and great to be able to share with them a glimpse into our life and home. I can't remember the last time I laughed so much, the kind of laughter that makes your sides hurt. It was so nice to just hang out, get to know her boyfriend and have the time with her one on one, something we rarely get to have with family.

Last week my niece made made my heart swell when I called her for her 5th birthday. We chatted and giggled like two old ladies, anything and everything was on the table, until I asked her more about how she celebrated her birthday. "So did you go to school today?"

"Nooooo." she answered, followed by silence. "Well, why not?" I asked.  She yelled back, "because it was my birthday!!!" astonished that I had even asked such a thing. I laughed, fair enough I thought.

Lastly, rounding off the month with time spent catching up with friends. Old friends that count as family and new friends, who, in the nicest possible way, overwhelm you with their sheer kindness.

So, whatever your plans are this weekend I hope that you have many wonderful moments shared with family, or friends, old and new.

Friday links below for this week - enjoy!

+  on repeat: jungle by Emma Louise

+  always running late? not if you have this watch: ish

+  beans, cotton & things? yes please: would love to visit portrait a concept store in amsterdam

+  oh, if only my packing looked like: this

+  caught my eye: the taxi fabric project in India

+  handy: 365+ resources for entrepreneurs

+  such a treat to see inside the home of this amazing stylist: glen proebstel via the design files

+  finally had brunch with a lovely friend at: caravan and it didn't disappoint


The Shepherds Return

The Shepherds Return May 2015

Happy Weekend! This week I've only got one link to share and it is from our stay at The Shepherds Return.

It was years ago that we had first read about The Shepherds Return and had tried to book in for a weekend stay but couldn't get in. So when the long weekend in May rolled around and we had planned to take Gina for her first long drive out of London, The Shepherds Return was the first place that came to mind.

Located in West Sussex, in the country garden of Lizzie Staples cottage, sits The Shepherds Return. Normally it would take just over an hour or so to get there, but we took our time with Gina and a few hours after leaving London finally pulled up off the road and ventured through the main driveway, to meet Lizzie.

After introducing Lizzie to Gina, Lizzie kindly took the time to walk us through the property explaining the huts to us. The main hut, the Shepherd's hut, which initially was the only hut on the property is set up to provide you with an overall experience of what is what like to live like a Shepherd on a farm. In keeping with the authenticity of the experience, the hut is furnished simply but thoughtfully. Lizzie has used only organic materials where possible, with wool for the bedding and without electricity, lanterns and candles are provided for light along with a wood burning stove.

The mini hut which was built sometime after the Shepherds hut, sits just a few steps to the side of the Shepherds hut with a camping toilet, and small wash bowl. A shower and proper toilet are provided in Lizzie's main cottage just across the garden. Lastly, we were introduced to Matilda and Florence, ("the girls") her two chooks who would apparently be providing us with eggs for our breakfast hamper that would be delivered in the morning.

Not long after we were settled in to the hut, we got a knock on the door telling us afternoon tea was set up for us outside. It was perfect. We sat outside in the late afternoon sun enjoying cups of tea, as Matilda and Florence wandered around us. It didn't take long to relax and feel as though we were a million miles away from the busy city life of London. We had a wonderful time.

I was lucky enough to have a few conversations with Lizzie over the course of the weekend, and each time I was struck with a sense of gratitude to be experiencing something that she clearly has so much love for. She went above and beyond to make us feel comfortable throughout our stay, a sheepskin hot water bottle was placed at the bottom of our bed each night and the wood stove would be put on so the hut was warm for us on our return from dinner. I felt so well looked after and we certainly both felt like we could have stayed longer.

Lizzie was kind enough to answer some additional questions which I have included after the images below - I hope you have a wonderful relaxing weekend!

The Shepherds Return May 2015
The Shepherds Return May 2015
The Shepherds Return May 2015
The Shepherds Return May 2015
The Shepherds Return May 2015
The Shepherds Return May 2015
The Shepherds Return May 2015
The Shepherds Return May 2015
The Shepherds Return May 2015
The Shepherds Return May 2015
The Shepherds Return May 2015
The Shepherds Return May 2015
The Shepherds Return May 2015
The Shepherds Return May 2015
The Shepherds Return May 2015

I read that you started The Shepherds Return over 6 years ago, what was it that initially drove you to want to set up and run it?

Lizzie - Yes, I started running The Shepherds Return in May 2009. I wanted to own a Shepherds hut and make it an authentic place for people to come and stay. Furnished with New Zealand wool duvets and pillows, and no electricity, I wanted to create a place for people to really embrace stepping back in time.

The craftmanship of the huts are beautiful. How did you came across the maker, Eddie Butterfield, and why was it important to have him make the huts for you?

Lizzie - I spent a long time sourcing the right hut and saw quite a few, but as soon as I saw Eddie and his huts in Dorset, I knew he was the man to build The Shepherds Return for me. I was looking for someone who had real passion for his craft and Eddie had it in bucket loads. He is a true craftsman in a very old fashioned way, using only wood making tools that have been handed down through generations.

He made the main hut for me and gave me the mini hut as a present. He knows the exact tree that was used to make the hut, and he made all the iron work. He loved the fact that I embraced the whole concept by buying wool duvets, pillows to create an experience for people to be able to step in to the shoes of how a Shepherd would have lived. He is also an incredibly nice man and I feel his passion for his craft comes across in the hut. 

What is your favourite thing about The Shepherds Return?

Lizzie - The huts simplicity - no frills but linen and wool products.

What do you hope guests take away from their stay at the Shepherds Return?

Lizzie - Complete rest, a tonic offering peace and quiet looking across a valley that has been untouched for years.

When we pulled up to the front of the property we noticed a small structure being built? Will this be a part of The Shepherds Return?

Lizzie - Yes, the barn is a self-contained annex offering the same tranquility. It offers a king size bed with bathroom en-suite, kitchen and sitting room. The bedroom has a wood burning stove in it, with french windows opening up onto a little patio with views across the valley. At the moment I will be offering bed and breakfast and by October will be offering weekly lets.

It was so nice to be able to get back to basics, enjoy the quiet of the country and completely switch off. Your passion and love for The Shepherds Return made us feel so at home during our stay, thanks for having us.

Lizzie - Everyone feels the same as you and a lot of people seem to get clarity, with a great sense of peace after leaving the Shepherds Return. I know the barn will give people the same experience.


Thanks again Lizzie! Hopefully we can return again with Gina for a longer stay!