Wescott designer Giselle Hulme's boxes have featured in Downton Abbey and Mr Selfridge
PUBLISHED: 14:24 08 May 2014 | UPDATED: 14:24 08 May 2014
(c) 2013 Stephen Durkin Photography
Television favourites Downton Abbey and Mr Selfridge have already featured the beautiful storage boxes of Wescott designer Giselle Hulme. Surrey Life's Janet Donin pays a visit to find out more
Where did the idea come from to start designing boxes?
My mother kept her wedding dress in a brown box on top of the wardrobe, which I thought was a pity. As it was so beautiful, it really needed something special to store it in. So when my husband James and I were looking to start a new business, we thought of boxes, especially wedding dress boxes, and that was the start of The Empty Box Company.
How did you go about creating the boxes?
Firstly, we looked around for an existing box maker but couldn’t find one that reflected our needs so we decided to source the materials ourselves and then design our own. Initially, we talked to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, who told us the best way to store wedding dresses is in an acid-free storage to prevent fabric from yellowing. We then sourced a board maker in this country who produced a pH neutral board to our specifications.
Describe the design processes…
Having decided on the purpose for the box, I then design the shape and size accordingly. Many of the boxes are cut by hand in our workshop but some of the larger ones need to be cut on a special machine. The boxes are then assembled and covered by hand and depending on the design are finished with a lace trim, ribbon bow or a cord handle.
Tell us about the beautiful coverings for the wedding boxes…
I source a variety of papers, many of which are by well-known designers like Osborne and Little, Designers Guild and Sanderson. I choose these because of their excellent quality, and the fact that they can be wiped clean, as well as for the attractive designs.
Which patterns tend to be the most popular?
Traditional designs with a timeless appeal are always popular for wedding boxes like our Antique Gold, which is a faded floral design, or our Endsleigh Ivory and Endsleigh Gold, which are a little bolder but still quite traditional. But the richer stripes and retro graphics are great for office and storage boxes. We also have some classics like Paddington Bear and Quentin Blake designs for the children’s storage boxes.
How many styles of wedding boxes do you have?
The wedding dress boxes vary to suit the dress size including the Hollywood range for the extra voluminous dresses. We can also make bespoke boxes like the especially large one we made for a footballer’s wife whose dress cost £70k. And we’re really pleased with our wedding travel boxes that come with a carry handle for those brides getting married abroad who want to take their dress on the plane with them.
Are you working on any other designs at the moment?
Still on a bridal theme, I’m designing a range of smaller boxes that brides can use for gifts for ushers and bridesmaids. I’ve also just finished a new office range. The designs are a little more masculine with cord ties and brass identification plates. And I’m working on some new designs using William Morris papers and some by Emma Bridgewater.
What is the best thing about living and working in Surrey?
I was born and bred in Reigate, then moved to Dorking and then to Abinger near our workshop in Wescott, which is surrounded by the Surrey Hills. It’s just perfect for the creative process in which we work. There are always lots of things happening in Surrey and the village life is so good with people giving time and energy to the community. I now also work from Devon where we have a couple of workshops.
How do you relax when you are not working?
I love walking my dogs and ride a horse when I can, but mostly just rush about when I’m not working being mum to my three children (18, 14 and seven years old).
What is the most exciting thing about your job?
Apart from creating our very special wedding boxes we have recently been featured on a couple of fabulous television shows. At Christmas, our boxes were shown next to the staircase in Downton Abbey and, more recently, in the second series of Mr Selfridge our Edwardian hat boxes were on display. The ladies in the accessory department were also seen tying out ribbon bows on our boxes, which was very exciting to see.
For more information about The Empty Box Company, visit their website, emptybox.co.uk – you can also see some of their boxes at many bridal shops and dry cleaners throughout Surrey