I get lots of  inspiration for The Barn from browsing online (usually when I should be doing something else, right?) and one of my favourites homewares sites has to be The Handpicked Collection. Everything is chosen by their unique panel of industry experts who do the hard work for you and selected products based on their style, price, wow factor and how they fit with the latest trends. There’s always something that attracts my attention and I love the quirky pieces they find.

So today on Q&A with… I’m delighted to welcome Tamsin Bentley-Self, Senior Buyer at The Handpicked Collection for a chat about what drives and inspires her, her favourite picks from the new Autumn/Winter Collection that’s available right now and an exclusive insight into the Spring/Summer range for 2016.  (Plus… read on for an exclusive giveaway worth over £100!)

The Handpicked Collection featured at TheEssexBarn.com

How did you get involved with The Handpicked Collection?

After completing my degree in Fashion Design & Business, I went to work for Designers at Debenhams for 2 years. Working with John Rocha, John Richmond and Ozwald Boateng really bought out the creative and perfectionist side of my character. I then went on to open a boutique in my home town in Whitstable for 2 years selling fashion, accessories, gifts and my own collections.

Following that, I managed a branch of menswear shirting, Van Heusen focussing on the re-merchandising plan in all branches across the country. Another 2 years on and I worked from home designing wedding, bridesmaid and christening dresses as well as making them. Every 2 years, I wanted to move on and try something different, broaden my knowledge of the real world of business. Following the retirement of my mother, I took over the luxury food business she had ran for 15 years with the owner and good friend specialising in Smoked Scottish Salmon, MacGilvray. I was made Director in 2007 and introduced a full range of luxury goods, hampers and bespoke packages to private and corporate customers.

The Handpicked Collection bought the business in 2011 as they wanted to introduce a food side so the heritage of MacGilvray, est. 1978, was the perfect match being a family business that was founded on standards of excellence offering a handpicked service, handpicked products, and the best customer service possible. In 2014 I became Senior Buyer for both The Handpicked Collection and The Handpicked Foodstore.

The Handpicked Collection Wine Breather Carafe 49.95 featured at TheEssexBarn.com

What drives you?

My passion is what drives me with product and my focus always comes back to the customer. What would they like? Who would they give this to? When would they give this present? What would they like to buy themselves? What can I source that’s really unique? What can we do to make their shopping experience outstanding? How can we make that customer feel special? I visit as many trade shows as possible and also travel to the Far East twice a year in order to find those extra special products that are truly Handpicked.

I have been working on developing our own exclusive range of products that I am looking to increase for AW16. I know when I see a product or range that would work on Handpicked, it’s the feeling of excitement inside, like a child in a sweet shop, and when I get that feeling I know it’s right. I can’t wait to get the product in and share with all our customers and if I could add to the website the day I found it, I would! That’s how passionate I am about product, The Handpicked Collection, The Handpicked Foodstore and our customers. I am now in my 10th year with Foodstore and 4th year working alongside The Handpicked Collection and thoroughly love everything I do and learn new things about our customers and brands on a daily basis.

What are your favourite home products right now and why?

There are quite a number I currently love ranging from our Dachshund silver dish to the personalised Baked By …… cake tin. A selection of favourites include:

Favourites from The Handpicked Collection featured at TheEssexBarn.com

What’s a typical day for you?

A typical day for me starts at home at 5.45am in Whitstable. I live down on the coast and travel in every day. My first job at around 6.30am would be running the daily sales from the previous day so I can see what products have done well. This is the best way to start the day and such a good way to understand buying habits and what our customers love, when new products are being bought, I get that feeling again of excitement and know how the customer will feel when they receive the products.

My journey up to London is around 1 hour 15 minutes which is a great time to go through emails (or write interviews!) and get ready to start in the office. I have a very structured buying plan and focus on products by category. I am starting to source SS16 next week so my focus will be new product to call in and look at, current supplier ranges that we can expand, capsule ranges such as wedding, Valentine’s Day etc., reviewing the show reports put together throughout the previous season and exploring new avenues.

My work day varies hugely from product research, presentations, reviews, supplier meetings and trade shows. For example, the last few weeks have been spent on photo shoots for our AW15 catalogue on location and in the studio making sure we get beautiful images of every product and creating a lifestyle for our customers to relate to so they can recreate at their homes with ease. This week has been packaging and finalising bespoke gift boxes which are looking really beautiful along with creating a new range of 35 food hampers ranging from affordable to luxury, all containing the most incredible food ever (not the kind of hamper with products that get put in the cupboard until next year)!

The Handpicked Collection Light Up Signs featured at TheEssexBarn.com

Who inspires you?

UK Designers using UK producers really excite me. There is so much to offer in the UK and the wealth of knowledge is just vast. With such a huge increase in the demand for handmade, crafted, bespoke and unique products, it’s a really exciting time to see so many new brands coming forward.

A favourite brand we are introducing for AW15 is Raw Xclusive. A truly luxurious English brand using sumptuous crisp English linen for cushions, hand signed prints, fine bone china ceramics, quirky table settings, kitchen linens, classic and contemporary cosmetic bags & purses. Victoria Armstrong, another English brand of ceramics in bold dog prints really stands out. Kitchen goods are really high end from Culinary Concepts, a brand we have stocked for many years.

New brands I am looking at for SS16 include Maxwell & William, some beautiful colourful ceramics, Bake my Day’s range of old fashioned baking bowls, accessories and dishes and a lovely range of bamboo products In bights and pastels from Navigate.

The Handpicked Collection featured at TheEssexBarn.com

What is exciting you about the new season – Autumn/Winter 2015?

Everything! It’s been a huge change this year in our buying pattern and the way we approach this and have such a fantastic team working really closely and the results are quite phenomenal. The range is new, fresh, exciting and cohesive. We have really looked at what the customer is buying historically, how they buy, what they like, the trends and themes in the industry and the age range we appeal to (something for absolutely everyone is the new ethos and I believe we have covered this!)

Natural Luxury is a macro trend and has longevity into 2016 and further.

Key themes include: Earthiness & Glamour / Craft & Culture / Rawness & Refinement / Comfort & Beauty / Rustic & Natural / Simmer & Shine / Luxury & Romance / Calming & Soothing / Simplicity & Precious

Colour palette includes: Neutrals / Metallic – silver/gold/bronze in light shades and matt against shine & warm against cold (think iPhone gold) / Copper is trending / Pale Pastels – pearlescent/blued greens/blush / Warm Greys / Earthy Colours / Teals

The Handpicked Collection Joy Sign 49.95 featured at TheEssexBarn.com

Finally, complete this sentence – “The perfect home is…”

Lovingly Handpicked for you.

And now… that exclusive giveaway! 

Just look at this completely fabulous selection of goodies worth over £100 from *NEW* Handpicked Collection Autumn/Winter range that I’m going to give away to one lucky UK reader!

To enter just use the Rafflecopter widget below and answer the question –  this is the ONLY mandatory task. You can gain extra entries by completing the other tasks and don’t forget to read the terms and conditions that you’re accepting by entering. The closing date for entries is Friday 09 October 2015 at midnight.

Giveaway prize from The Handpicked Collection at TheJoyChaser.com

This awesome prize includes these goodies: Caroline Gardner Ditsy Kitchen Bag Set + Corkcicle Air + The Dog Loves Me Best Mug + Connock London Kukui Oil Nourishing Collection Fifty Dresses The Changed The World + Children’s Art File & Frame (A4) + Hardy’s Original Sweetshop Clotted Cream Fudge In Musical Tin.

P.S. Once you’ve entered why not request the new Handpicked Collection Autumn/Winter catalogue and get even more inspiration for your own dream home?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Q&A with Tamsin from The Handpicked Collection pinnable

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Linking with: ThePrizeFinder, Loquax, UMeandtheKids, MummyTries#TheList, Given to Distracting Others, Mama and More, Let’s Talk Mommy, Honest Mum


  1. Hayley Atkins September 18, 2015 at 5:31 pm Reply

    As a keen gardener (with a birthday coming up in October!!) I would love any, or all,of your wonderful gardening gifts!

  2. MANDY DOHERTY September 18, 2015 at 5:07 pm Reply


  3. Jo Bryan September 18, 2015 at 3:59 pm Reply
  4. clair downham September 18, 2015 at 2:48 pm Reply

    i like the pig out ceramic snack bowl

  5. My Family Ties September 18, 2015 at 2:33 pm Reply

    The wooden heart trays are lovely although with so much choice it’s hard to decide!

  6. Jane Barrett September 18, 2015 at 2:24 pm Reply

    I really like the egg spiral, different but classy

  7. ELAINE DALE September 18, 2015 at 2:21 pm Reply


  8. Tracy Nixon September 18, 2015 at 1:58 pm Reply

    I’d love the labrador throw! Thank you x

  9. kim neville September 18, 2015 at 1:56 pm Reply


  10. Tracey Peach September 18, 2015 at 1:52 pm Reply


  11. Lindsey Stuart September 18, 2015 at 1:33 pm Reply

    Aww wow there are so many nice things to choose from! I am loving the Japanese bowls

  12. Tania Atfield September 18, 2015 at 12:48 pm Reply

    Love the light up words

  13. Fran Lauder September 18, 2015 at 12:08 pm Reply

    I love the heart tea light holder 🙂

  14. Lauren Prater September 18, 2015 at 12:06 pm Reply

    I love the personalised framed map trio!

  15. iain maciver September 18, 2015 at 11:55 am Reply

    The Corkatoo Corkscrew

  16. Kevin Honey September 18, 2015 at 11:29 am Reply

    I’d like the Cricket Loo Roll Holder

  17. Chantelle Binge September 18, 2015 at 11:14 am Reply

    I’d love one of those big letter words. I think they are so pretty! x

  18. adele lovatt September 18, 2015 at 10:52 am Reply

    Set of 3 wooden heart trays

  19. Pearl Davison September 18, 2015 at 10:46 am Reply

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