My painting skills may not have been celebrated and my dreams of joining the Joules design team may not have been realised, but I had such a fantastic time on my lightning trip to Derbyshire to take a sneak peek at the new Joules and DFS collection prior to its launch.
Let me tell you all about it.
We started our day being whisked by minibus from the rather lovely Peak Edge Hotel (king size bed to myself and a lie in, woohoo) to the DFS design studio in Long Eaton, based in the most beautiful building.
We were greeted by DFS design director, Philip Watkins, and his team and taken on tour of the studio while they explained a little bit of the company's history to us and how DFS sofas go from a simple drawing or a sketch to being sold in their shops around the country.
Having spent my entire career linked to vehicle manufacturing in some way, shape or form, I love knowing the process behind how things are made and with so much car production moving abroad, it was brilliant to hear the pride and the drive to keep DFS a very British manufacturer.
DFS sofas are all hand-made to order right here in the UK and the majority of the fabric involved also comes from local mills. With such an amazing team of skilled craftspeople, why go anywhere else, right?
Parts of the design studio are set up like a mini factory, and with fabric, timber and foam all to the hand, the team can take a sketch and produce a prototype within a day or two. So clever!
Next, we joined the Joules team to hear about how and where they get their inspiration for prints and pattern. Pretty places seem to be the key, particularly the more beautiful gardens and garden centres like Petersham Nurseries, for example.
You've more than likely noticed that I'm a huge fan of Joules' florals. Particularly the Dhalia bedding collection. I sleep under it every day. You'd think that would give me a head start in designing my own flower-themed print to have copied on to a cushion. Uh, no. Turns out my painting skills are dire. Like, really bad. Terrible, even.
Here's the evidence.
I'm on the left with my pre-school skills while Claire (This Little House), on the right, well and truly puts me to shame. I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat waiting for the cushion to arrive and for me to do a 'final reveal'.
What do you mean, you're not?!
Next it was on to upholstering our very own JoulesxDFS Cambridge armchair. And it's at this point that I really need to apologise to my husband. Paul, I know I told you that I'd asked for the navy one, well ... the pink was far too pretty. I mean, just look at it. It's gorgeous. And in velvet, too.
Compared to my painting skills, my upholstering skills were marginally better, but perhaps not a lot. I was so happy to hand the staple gun back to the experts and have them finish it for me ... and potentially redo my efforts.
But more about the new Joules and DFS sofa collection.
What can you expect from it and when?
Well, when two experts in their field get together, it leads to something pretty special. Joules' distinctive, hand-drawn prints combined with DFS' craftsmanship are a match made in sofa heaven. The new range officially launches in DFS stores and on the website on November 28.
Here are some photos I took on our tour and a touch more about each of the four styles.
Making me dream of coastal living, the Burnham mixes florals and nautical elements with style. I love the navy stripes. They're a clever nod to Joules' iconic Breton tops. Wear one while sitting on the Burnham sofa and have your very own 'Where's Wally?' moment.
Not pictured is the more thickly striped armchair which I know is going to be so popular. Watch out for it on the website on the 28th!
I love the bright, contemporary design of the Cambridge set. It's the bright pink. I can't resist it. And wait until you run your hand over the velvet option. You'll be hooked.
What I particularly like about the Cambridge (other than the matching armchair and footstool) is that the cushions are reversible, so floral on one side and plain on the other. How great is that if you fancy a change now and again? It's like two sofas in one.
I think that the Ilkley style is the one which will surprise you the most. It's a slow-burner. I dismissed it at first in favour of the Cambridge but I kept coming back to it. It grows on you. The tweed and contrasting piping is stunning.
I think we were all wowed by the Windsor, but it's actually my least favourite of the four styles. Against popular opinion, I don't like Chesterfields so even done in a more modern way with bolder colours, it's not a sofa that I would naturally gravitate towards. In yellow, it's definitely a showstopper, though. And I love the quirky hidden touches like the hare lining, pheasants on some of the buttons, and the little Joules hare on one of the legs. These details add to the premium look and feel, for sure.
A huge thanks to Joules and DFS for organising such a fun and interesting visit for us. I can't wait to share my finished PINK VELVET armchair with you (the cushion, not so much). And do you want to know a secret? Paperwork pending, it could be in our new house! More on that to come.
In the meantime, what do you think of the new collection? Which style do you have your eye on?