Sunday, 16 October 2011

redhouse gifts - the shop that showcases the best of British crafting talent

Redhouse gifts in Totnes, Devon, is a shop which you can't help but be inspired by.  Maggie Cornhill, the shop owner, is on a mission to support what's 'uniquely British'.  And this is what she does incredibly well through her choice of carefully selected locally produced goodies and gifts to give her customers a very enjoyable shopping experience (including cable twist and stripey mobile, blackberry and iPod covers by MosaicTree).

Read on to meet Maggie Cornhill and find out more about redhouse gifts.  There's some excellent advice for all you crafters out there wishing to build a relationship with shop owners who may make you their supplier of choice. 

Maggie Cornhill, owner of redhouse gifts shop

What's the story behind redhouse gifts? 

Redhouse gifts is based on William Morris’s very famous saying of “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”  I have extended this to encompass “have nothing in your life ….”

How would you describe redhouse gifts to ensure that visiting your shop is top of my list when I visit Totnes? 

Be proud to be British – with all product designed and made in Great Britain you know that you will see gifts and interior furnishings that you will not find anywhere else in Totnes.  I pride myself on stocking products that are unique and individual.  Totnes is also able to support local traders and I believe we need to get back to shopping locally.

image - front view of redhouse gifts shop

Take me on a virtual tour of your shop and tell me what are your top 3 'must have' items.

Turn left where you will be greeted by the lovely smell of the Nougat and Bath house range of bath products and get to see the Edwin Jaggar range of mens shaving accessories.  Moving on towards the counter you will see jewellery by Tracy Davison, Ann Todd, Metal Planet and Abbott and Elwood.  Also in this cabinet are the Pewter photo frames by local company Lancaster and Gibbings.  Passing the counter you will see the Magnetic noticeboards by Green and Co and the lovely prints by Jane Vaux of local scenes.  You then come to the antique welsh dresser where displayed is the range of Big Tomato company mugs and teapots and the Poppy Treffry tea cosies and range of mugs and teapots.

 image - redhouse gifts shop window

You then move to the special area of the shop reserved for all things dogs and cats.  The fantastic washable dog and cat beds will be piled high here in all their range of colours with coats both waterproof and knitted for your pooch.  Many other doggie products are here with a selection of gifts for your cats as well.  The centre of the shop contains a table full of lovely goodies be it the brilliant K2 range of storage products or the fantastic knitted and felted handbags and purses by Caroline Jacques.  Too many products to mention in one go – so please come and visit to see them all.

The top three must haves – have to be a mug by the Big Tomato company – either Yummy Mummy or Super Gran, a washable dog bed by Redhound for dogs and the just arrived in IPad cover by Poppy Treffry – in three designs.

How do you find your suppliers and what sort of relationship do you have with them?

Some of my ladies have approached me, over half of them are local to this area e.g. Devon and Cornwall.  I regularly attend Trade Fairs and visit anyone who flys the flag for Great Britain.  The giftware trade magazines articles and the internet also provide companies for me to talk to. 

I would hope that I know all my suppliers by their first name and if they walked into the shop today that I would recognise them.  I always place my orders by ringing them direct and speaking to them to place the order.

What sort of customers shop at redhouse gifts?

All my customers are lovely.  A few are local but currently I would say most are visitors to Totnes and to Great Britain.

image courtesy of - visit this site to download the Totnes guide.

Tell me more about what its like having a business in the heart of Totnes?

Totnes is a “one off” town – I do not know of another Town like it.  The High Street lends itself to having such a wide range of independent shops all selling such a wide range of products.  We hope that people visiting us will have a wonderful shopping experience and will recommend us to their friends.

image - Totnes High Street (courtesy of

What are your favourite times of the year at redhouse gifts and why?

I love Christmas and have been known to put my Christmas tree up at home in November – and therefore November and December have for me to be the most joyous months.  We have the Christmas shopping evenings in December (the Tuesdays in December) when the high street is closed to traffic and all shops stay open to 9 pm.  There is entertainment in the High Street and it is just such a lovely atmosphere.

What makes your website unique is the 5 shopping categories - Let's Shop, Let's Relax, Let's Do Tea, Let's Stay at Home and Let's
Celebrate and Give.  Where did the inspiration for this come from?

One of my favourite sayings (well maybe my friends would say one of my most annoying) is “Lets do that” – so when we are talking about something - like going out – I will say “lets do it Wednesday evening” so it had to be “Lets …………..”  Life is too short to be always putting off doing things.

Your strapline is 'Uniquely British'.  What does this mean for redhouse gifts?

Just what it says – products that are designed and made in Great Britain and with so many of them being handmade by little companies in some cases just one lady I can honestly say they are unique one offs.

image courtesy of Maria Bell

What are your plans for redhouse gifts's future?

In my dreams I think of a chain of shops situated in small market towns all over Great Britain selling lovely British products but I know that this would mean my suppliers would need to employ people and possibly outsource the making of the products to keep up with the orders and therefore the individuality of the products would be lost. 

So I will be content with my one little shop and believe that in a few years I may see a larger shop in Totnes and will move premises, so that I can bring even more British designer makers to my shop.  I have a “wish list” of suppliers I would like to purchase from and therefore more space would enable me to do this.

 Image - light pink/light green stripe iPod cover with green button detail by Mosaic Tree, available at redhouse gifts.

Any advice for crafters hoping to sell their creations on the high streets up and down the country?

Your product needs to be handmade but not look homemade – I know this sounds strange but badly finished off products with pieces of cotton hanging down will not sell – customers think they will fall apart. 

Presentation is key – if you can afford it invest in some labels either to stitch onto your product or to use as hanging tags.  If you can send a sample to potential suppliers – we love to see the product in the flesh and I am more likely to place an order.  Do make sure though that you then continue to keep that standard – it does no good for the shop selling your product and also your product if the customer brings it back. 

Remember as a shop we do have overheads be realistic about the pricing of your product and be open to “a deal”, it is better to give 50 pence off each of your products and sell them then to have them sitting in your stock room.

image - close up of vintage button on stripey Mosaic Tree cover available at redhouse gifts.

To contact Maggie at redhouse gifts:



Phone:       01803 840 111

Twitter:       #redhousegifts

Shop:         75 High Street, Totnes, Devon TQ9 5PB

To find out more about shopping in Totnes, click here.


  1. What a lovely shop and I live just down the road in Exeter!

    I love Totnes, it always has something different to offer and is VERY popular with our lovely visitors in the Summer:)
    michelle x

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed the article about redhouse gifts, Michelle. Its been great finding out more about the shop and the philosophy behind it to support British crafters and producers of interior furnishings. And, yes, totnes is a fab place - very much a one off....and long may it continue! :)