The Henley House & Garden Show saw storming success this weekend as an estimated 6,000 locals flooded in for some design inspiration. After a 3 year break, the show returned to Henley with its boldest set-up yet, packing the Town Hall and Market Place exhibition marquee with the very best of local home and garden businesses. With over 60 superb exhibitors, expert panels, and even entertainment for kids, the event encouraged visitors to conjure up their dream home with the help of Henley’s finest talent.
The Henley House & Gardens Show was established in 2015 by Niki Schafer as a showcase of local property businesses and design talent. With its highly anticipated return, it promised to present the finest craftsmanship, design, and artistry available in the area — and it certainly delivered. The Market Square exhibition marquee, coupled with the Queen Elizabeth II hall in the Town Hall, became a hub for the many creative businesses on display. From established professional services to small artisan products, there was something to suit all tastes; interior designers and architecture firms stood proudly alongside hot tubs, furniture and aromatic candles.
As well as a centre for shopping and redesign daydreaming, the Market Place marquee was also home to the Demonstration Stage. Guests could enjoy a range of presentations — admire the skilfulness of life drawing, learn the art of flower arranging, or dance in the midst of a flash mob. All the while, cooking demonstrations at the Tara Neil Stand kept the marquee smelling sweet, and satisfied any peckish visitors!
Once inspired by the many exhibition stands, visitors could learn more from the professionals at Saturday’s Dream Home Expert Panel. Architect Opinder Liddar, garden designer the Hon. Julia Kirkham, interior designer Niki Schafer and sustainability expert Kate Brown, shared their knowledge with budding grand designers, giving them the tools to build their dream home. The four panelists, with their extensive expertise, made the value of hiring professionals very clear. For instance, Kate Brown shocked the room with the fact that new builds need no central heating if properly insulated, and instructed the eco-conscious to do away with solar panels.
The theme of this year’s show was conservation, both within the home and our gardens. Experts in sustainable design, including Bright Green Studio, the RSPB, and the Woodland Trust, were on hand to advise on eco-friendly builds and green gardens. Stalls featured antique and upcycled furniture, whilst Bella & Bo homeware were selling rugs and throws made from recycled bottles. A highlight of the schedule was Sunday’s Upcycling Masterclass with local Warrior on Waste Lynne Lambourne and Jay Blades of BBC2’s The Repair Shop, chaired by Cash in the Attic’s Jonty Hearnden. The trio gave an insight into the magic of upcycling, from Jay’s Ercol chair transformations to Lynne’s love of chalk paint. Though note was given to the skill of finer restoration work, their message was clear: grab a paintbrush, and have a go! Lynne encouraged listeners to start with Annie Sloan’s chalk paint, praising its ease and versatility. Annie Sloan, too, gave a talk on chalk paint on Saturday, providing even more motivation to get upcycling.
It wasn’t just the grown ups who could craft their dream homes. Children were invited to join the Lego Master Builders Club on Sunday, hosted in the Over 60s Club, where the theme (naturally) was Dream Homes and Gardens. The young Master Builders got creative with coloured bricks, building an imaginative array of fantasy homes whilst their parents browsed the show. Sticking within the subject of conservation, kids (and adults) could also learn how to build hedgehog homes on Saturday, or learn about the bees at Honeys of Henley’s Children’s Bee Talk.
Reflecting on the tremendous success of the weekend, organiser Niki Schafer said, “It was brilliant, I’m really pleased with how it went. It was definitely the best one yet on all counts. We reckon we had 6,000 people: 4,000 on the Saturday and 2,000 on the Sunday. The marquee was never really quiet – there were times where you could walk around comfortably and times when it was absolutely jam-packed.” As the driving force behind the show, Niki was responsible for the impressive standard of business on display. She explained, “I curated it carefully; everyone was of a high quality. Some of them were very small businesses, some were very established businesses, but it was really important that we didn’t flood the place with just candles or just estate agents. It was a really lovely balance of people and they really stepped up. I was really proud of what they produced and presented; they were friendly and charming and did Henley proud. The speakers on the demonstration stage went very well as well. It was just really nice to have little things going on, and the entertainment — the house and the garden dressed up — those little touches I was pleased with. Always from me, massive thanks to the sponsors because I can’t do it without them, it wouldn’t be a free event and people wouldn’t come through the door if it wasn’t free.”
The show was supported by main sponsors, Niki Schafer Interior Design, Mercers Solicitors, Phyllis Court and Towergate Insurance, with further sponsorship from Annie Sloan, Crest Nicholson, Langstaff-Ellis, LAPD Architechts, Lexus Reading and Tara Neil Kitchens & Bedrooms. It was thanks to their contributions that the show could be enjoyed for free, and any money raised by talks was donated to the Chiltern Centre for Disabled Children.
The Henley House & Gardens Show, for its third and greatest year yet, delivered all any home enthusiast could ask of it. With the value of supporting local business rooted firmly in the show’s ethos, it was a true celebration of the town’s creativity.