Peer inside Saltburn’s LillianDaph Store and you’ll see deep-painted walls in moody shades, colour pops of velvet upholstery and the odd bit of slightly bonkers artwork – neon giraffe anyone?
You’ll find texture galore in the form of touchy-feely cushions, animal hide rugs and smooth-as-satin pale Scandi vases and flowerpots.
Your eyes will be drawn to obscure objects and quirky finds before they shift to a corner bursting with blooms, wildflower grasses and all manner of understated dried flora and fauna.
This curated collection of interior loveliness is the baby of Christina Easton, an art and textiles graduate who is channeling a desire for us all to kick out the commonplace when it comes to decorating our homes.
Christina has taken on what was the town’s old post office to create a designer den that now also brings the flourish of fresh flowers to Saltburn thanks to her friend Jenni Di-Nero whose business Ruffled Wren florist sits within the store.
They are something of a dream team. Jenni’s wildflower arrangements hit the shop every weekend, offering lovely in-season fresh flowers and wild foliage.
Christina and Jenni are firmly of the belief that flowers aren’t just for special occasions or that they should be considered an indulgence when it comes to interiors.
“Just one stem in a little vase can add something to a surface. It is the detail that makes a difference.
“The collaboration with flowers has been a plan from the get go. For me they play a huge role in creating the ‘hygge’ (the Danish concept for a feeling or mood that comes taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, every day things more meaningful, beautiful or special.) in any space.’
After meeting at Saltburn’s established food festival last summer, the inspiring duo hit it off instantly and found they shared a common passion for uniqueness.
Florist Jenni juggles her colourful life with looking after two young children, Rosa and Franco.
She says, “the flowers in store at LillianDaph will go hand in hand with the artisan products and homewares. At Ruffled Wren we adore natural arrangements that celebrate foliage together with flourishing florals resulting in our striking style; which like LillianDaph, will be unusual, outside of the box and tantalising.”
Adds Christina: “We plan on bringing a ‘Columbia Road London’ approach to the North East of England!”
Christina decided to take the plunge and open her store after being inspired by her gran who told her that ‘life is what you make it’. And proving the point is a neon script in the store saying just that – reinforcing the message every day when Christina gets to work.
The store’s name is inspired by Christina and husband Craig’s dogs – cocker spaniel Lillian and labrador Daphne.
The place itself was borne out of frustration when the couple began renovating their own home. Christina quickly grew frustrated with the lack of inspiration in the North East region for ‘something (in fact, absolutely anything) different’.
“I value things with a story. I started looking for artists, makers, designers and brands that offered something a bit different.
“I wanted to stock inspiring things in small numbers so once it’s gone, it’s gone. I wanted to create somewhere that was inspiring and not intimidating to come into, where people could have a nice experience and have their imagination sparked.”
Christina loves dark colours and one of her favorite designers is Abigail Aherne whose interiors trademark is deep walls and wispy florals.
The walls of LillianDaph are painted a dark olive shade called Wooster Olive from Abigail’s range.
“It is very dramatic but I think that a dark background makes things ‘pop’ in a way that a pale colour doesn’t”, says Christina.
The store is stocked with work from local artists – the neon-lit giraffe is by Light Up North, bold, industrtial-style carnival lights come from The Light Shack and Christina also stocks simple rustic ceramics by Copenhagen-based company Broste.
“I try and buy things made with integrity, old and new. It is OK to mix it up in the home and try something different.
“People buy a whole range of furniture from a brochure and I’d just like them to think about their space – throw a yellow rug in a grey room, why not?”
The shop is warren of room – the cellar space is currently home to an exhibition of work by Surfacephilia, a design and pattern business run by local artist Helen Stevens.
Jenni and Christina plan to open out the rear of the store too so they can hold workshops and pop-up events throughout the year.
“Until now you couldn’t even get fresh flowers in Saltburn other than at the supermarket, so we hope we can offer something that isn’t run-of-the-mill”, says Christina.
They are certain that the Victorian coastal town of Saltburn, with its creative vibe, will respond to what they store is offering – but also hope it becomes a destination of its own for interior lovers from across the UK – in the way that quirky design store RE in Corbridge has done.
“I go to Saltburn every weekend”, says Christina, who lives close by in Brotton.
“I felt a real momentum in the town with the growing food festival and farmers’ market scene as well as the creative businesses and I felt that I really wanted to jump on that and roll with it.”