Jemma Funnell is the talented individual behind many of the styled displays in our homewares department. What started out as a way to showcase our curated range of lifestyle pieces, has now become a little phenomenon with locals and visitors to the store stopping by for a dose of inspiration – with that ‘what next’ fervour that the homewares department is now legendary for. 

Jemma moved Marlborough from Australia to become a winemaker in the region, but found her love for interior design pulling her into her into a consultancy business and now retail guru and stylist at Thomas’s 

"I love working here at Thomas's. It's like a family here. We've got a great team and I love the merchandising  and styling the store."⁠ Jemma says. 

We caught up with Jemma for a wee pow wow on what inspires her and why Thomas’s homewares is now widely recognised for its uncompromising style, sustainability focus and attention to detail.  

What kind of process do you go through when you think about styling the display bed, for example?

“Okay, so for the bed, I usually start with is just picking your duvet cover, looking at the colours. And then I would want to layer it up, so you get that luxurious feel. So, then it's looking at: what throws we could and cushions we put with it. So I want to look at throws that have got a different texture, so it's not just matte. So then we might add a velvet throw or a waffle throw, different cushions to make it… to add interest rather than it just being all symmetrical.

But the key is to really bring out that luxury feel, while making it personally inviting.”

Truth be told I often regularly have to change the setup and pieces on the bed, because people will see it and go: boom! And get inspired and buy it. So, the display does keep changing and that can be a challenge. But it keeps me on my toes and forces me to be creative.”

Are you a throw cushions person – yay or nay!?

I love them. I am one of those people that will layer up even on the kid's bed at home. We've got cushions and I know a lot of people just don't like them because they just get flung on the floor. But I don't think you can have a beautiful, well-made bed without quite a few cushions.

Would you say it’s the same for the couch display also?

Yeah, so it's just about sort of picking your colour palette that you're going to go with, your cushions as well. It's nice to add different… you want different textures, different shape. It's fun to put the velvet round one. But in here we really love the earthy tones and there's not a lot of blingy, shiny things with colour. It's very sort of calming, naturals, where we play on more texture and rather than huge amounts of colour.

So with the main display on the floor, you showcase new themes and new arrivals. So, do you just look at what's in the boxes and go, I've got to just chuck it out there and make it look pretty? Or do you take a moment and try and conjure inspiration first?

I do.

From the depths of Jemma?

From the depths of Jemma. Yeah so, it's more about the seasonal quality of the aesthetic than it is the products themselves. I try to make it all about the day – how it feels outside with the weather. How people are feeling in the current climate. With Winter it can be all about making it cozy, warm and inviting. And Spring-Summer, it might be about inspiring outdoor living – or nostalgia, you know like the feeling of being on holiday or enjoying your home with guests and visitors. 

Often times it’s a personal and emotional feeling based on the seasons. 

Is this something that still excites you?

Oh, very much so, love it, live for it. Yeah, it might seem simple to everyone else, but it gives me great joy to make spaces pretty. It's my happy place.

The homewares department in Thomas’s is really unique, isn't it? It’s almost legendary. It seems like people come here just to see the displays.

"Yeah they do It’s amazing.. But I don't think people realise that there is a sustainability focus here. With all of the rugs for example that we'd get, they've all got the no child labour sticker. Our buyers make sure our suppliers are giving back to⁠ their communities”

And so for us, everything that we're trying to source does have a story behind it. It does have a history because we know how it was made. It is not mass produced at all. And⁠ when you sell something, it's kind of cool to have the storytelling experience to go along with the item you are buying."⁠

This is serious quality also, the things that we put together here… There’s quite a bit of thought that goes into it. And to be honest, it's all bits that I would really want in my house. Actually, there's a lot of these pieces in my house.”

Yeah, so here's a personal touch. It's not just like, oh, well we've got to sell this because the supplier wants you to?

Yeah, no, no they're all pieces, all bits and things that I would quite like in my house. And a lot does come to my house. Haha.