Alison Reuben and The Bluebell Journey

Alison Reuben and The Bluebell Journey

Next month, our founder, Alison Reuben will head to London for the National Finals of the prestigious Institute of Directors, Director of the Year Awards 2018.

After winning the Award for ‘Director of The Year – Family Business’ at the regional final back in May, this additional nomination is an exceptional achievement for an inspirational lady and the team at Bluebell are beyond excited and have everything crossed for her.

As we celebrate our 25th year, this award really would be the icing on the cake to what has turned out to be a wonderful year for our family business.

Many of you may have already met Alison but for those of you who haven’t, or don’t know much about her, we thought now would be a great time to tell you a little bit more about her – what drives her, what inspires her, where does she get all that energy from!

Below, Alison tells you in her own words..

  1. Tell us what a typical day looks like for you?

A typical day starts around 7am, liaising with the factory manager to confirm our installation diary for the day is running smoothly. I am mostly based at our showroom and to be honest, there isn’t a ‘typical day’ as every day is completely different.

I work very closely with all my team, dedicating a great deal of time helping and supporting each and every one of them in their particular role. As my factory is just two miles away from the showroom, I spend quite a bit of time between the two sites.

I’m also very active in the marketing side of the business which I believe is vitally important in maintaining a strong presence at all times. Dennis, was voted ‘Best Mascot’ by Facebook and Twitter followers of the independent review website Which Trusted Traders

Although the showroom closes at 5pm, my day continues working into the early evening most nights. I find ‘switching off’ quite difficult at times!

Alison and the team celebrating their award as Which Trusted Trader of the Month for May 2018

  1. Did you always know that you wanted to have this career?

Definitely not! From a very early age I wanted to be a dancer with the Royal Ballet but realised I was too tall to ever be considered. Becoming a Bluebell Girl then became my lifelong ambition, which I achieved at the age of 16 years old. Miss Bluebell was without doubt the most inspirational lady I have ever met who showed me hard work and commitment was the only way forward. Her belief in me at the tender age of 19 years old to Captain a troupe of girls to fly out for a year’s contract to dance and deal with the theatres management in Buenos Aires, Argentina, helped me develop leadership qualities which I went on to use when I established Bluebell Fitted Furniture.

Alison with The Bluebell Girls & Tom Jones

  1. What factors do you think have contributed to your success within the industry?

I realised I had a passion for interior design, but also understood I had to stand out from the crowd. I had to offer something completely different compared to all the many competitors around me. It was then I made the big decision to manufacture for myself, which enabled me to be completely bespoke and to push the boundaries, trying new ideas and offering customers exactly what they wanted to create their individual requirements within their homes.

Remaining one step ahead with new, innovative designs and products has been paramount & especially working alongside respected and established brands in the industry such as Hafele UK has enabled me to ‘think outside the box’ and wow my customers with products they never knew existed.

  1. Who and what inspires you?

I grew up surrounded by a hardworking family of entrepreneurs, so my inspiration came from my parents who motivated and mentally prepared me for anything I set my mind to. Nowadays, I take inspiration from my wonderful team of designers most of whom joined me straight from graduating from university. I find they have such fabulous vision with creative minds and so eager to learn. For example, we teach them how to ‘present’ rather than ‘sell’.

As we manufacture, we listen to their innovative ideas and this enables us to push boundaries within our factory. Creating amazing bespoke furniture allows us to stand out from the crowd and we continue to remain one step ahead of the competition. We are without doubt leaders, not followers.

Our latest MMU design graduate, John.

  1. Is there enough support and opportunities for women in your industry?

I personally think there are not enough women in manufacturing in the UK and I would love to become involved with mentoring women to show them what can be achieved and make an impact in this male dominated industry. I truly believe women in manufacturing is good for business but leadership opportunities are with the manufacturers themselves and there is still room for growth for women in this field.

  1. What advice would you give to females starting their career?

Believe in yourself and enjoy the opportunities of being involved in an industry, which will give you immense job satisfaction. If you are committed to do the best design, offer the best service and be passionate about what you do, then success will surely follow.

I think it’s important to remember that there is no better role model for young women than women who break down gender barriers!

 

 

 

 

 

Introducing our VIP Partner – Häfele UK July 2018

Over the years, we’ve been lucky enough to work with some fantastic partners and some of these relationships have truly stood the test of time.

One such relationship is with Häfele UK – a fantastic company based in Rugby who supplies us with some of the most innovative products, fitting and accessories for our fitted kitchens, bedrooms, studies and media areas.

In fact, our relationship with Häfele UK has grown significantly and we’re proud to say that we are not only a Studio Partner, but also a Centre of Excellence for this established brand, recognised worldwide for it’s quality, craftsmanship and customer service.

So what is The Studio Partner Network? The network was established to work in partnership with a host of premium independent Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom Studios across the UK to ensure customers have knowledgeable access to the Häfele product range. As a result, our dedicated in-house team are familiar with all the products available and pride themselves on matching your design and storage needs with the latest innovations for your home. From clever recycling options, wireless charging systems to multi-functional storage spaces – the team knows everything there is to know about the products and accessories available to transform your room into a thing of beauty AND functionality.

Handles

Whether you’re building a completely new kitchen or updating existing cupboards with new handles, Häfele have a broad range of different colours, finishes, materials and styles to ensure you find what you are looking for.

Kitchen & Living Solutions

Offering solutions to suit the latest modern interior or a more traditional classic style Häfele’s fixtures will optimise the space you are working with and improve it tenfold.

Bedroom Fittings

Häfele’s bedroom fittings collection contains everything you need to bring your design to life. They even offer innovative foldaway bed fittings to maximise bedroom space and create a fresh modern feel. We stock a broad range of their wardrobe interior fittings and elite soft close storage systems, such as tie racks, pull-out shoe racks and laundry baskets, all of which are used in many high-end hotels and homes.

To view any of Häfele’s products and to see them in action, why not pop into our Washway Road showroom? – you’d be amazed how many design options you’ll find under one roof and rest assured you’ll receive a very warm welcome from all the Bluebell Team!

Top tips for creating your own home cinema or media area.

Netflix, Spotify, Sonos, Amazon Prime, Sky TV – many of us will be familiar with all or some of these products and we’re finding more and more of our customers wanting to equip their homes with the latest technology to enjoy new films, binge-watch the latest box set or listen to their favourite music.

But how do you do it in style and ensure your home still looks great? The answer is to consider installing a dedicated media area or home cinema – something that’s becoming increasingly popular amongst our clients.

As we always like to be prepared at Bluebell, we asked our experienced designers and in-house installation team what the most important considerations are when planning a media area or cinema room – here are their top tips:

  1. If you’re looking to build a media area, consider the acoustics. Hard floors and glass windows can cause sound problems so have a think about introducing carpeted areas too. You can also install acoustic plaster board and floorboards to help with sound quality in a cinema room.
  2. Look carefully at the technology you need for your media area and plan, plan, plan! Will there be a SKY Q box and a Sonos or Bose speaker system? what about a BT box? Where will you store accessories if it’s going to include a games console too? Hidden storage options are great at disguising all those nasty wires and controller so think about shelving and cupboard space.
  3. Think about the position from which you’ll watch your TV or screen – you don’t want it too high or too low so work out what chairs or sofa you’ll be using before finalising the position.
  4. Will you be using a TV or Projector? Why not consider having both so the projector can be lowered for film nights or big games and retracted for more casual TV watching.
  5. Think about the sound effects for you media area. 5:1 is the rule of thumb for speakers to subwoofer – no-one want a base that’s too heavy or too weak and don’t forget to incorporate them into the design so they are well placed or discreetly hidden!

The most important thing to remember throughout the process is to plan it carefully. Our team has been tasked with creating some fantastic designs and you’d be surprised to know that a media area really doesn’t need to cost the earth. With some clever planning and a little help from the experts, you really can take home entertainment to the next level.

 

 

 

Introducing our Charity of The Year – Act4Africa

This year, we are proud to share with you the story of our Charity of The Year – Act4Africa. As a local business, we are lucky enough to meet lots of interesting people from the area and were introduced to Altrincham-based Act4Africa by friend and business mentor Lily Newman of Morgan James Consulting. Their story really struck a chord with everyone at Bluebell as their philosophy is to help change the future of young girls across Uganda and ultimately their wider families.

So, what is Act4Africa all about and how did it begin, let us tell you more…

The Act4Africa Story

In 2000, co-founder Kathy Smedley returned to Uganda, having worked in East Africa as a young teacher many years before. She was shocked and saddened by what she found. The effects of HIV/AIDS were everywhere and whole communities were being devastated without any hope. Having lost a young, close friend to the virus in the early 80’s, Kathy and husband Martin’s personal experience of this dreadful disease meant they couldn’t just stand by. They decided to try to do something, something which used the talents and capabilities of the local African communities themselves. Back in the UK, they gathered a small group of friends and started raising funds through cake making, car boot sales and sponsored events. They raised enough to start to train a small team as health education community youth leaders in Jinja, Uganda – and Act4Africa was born.

Martin, himself a trained actor, recognized the perfect fit of Theatre for Development (TfD) as a means of communicating Act4Africa’s messages to the rural communities it served. A series of TfD programmes were developed, and the charity’s youth leaders began taking them into communities and schools, educating and informing about HIV/AIDS and stigma.

In 2006 Act4Africa started providing mobile HIV testing and counselling services, and in 2010 they began to address a cornerstone of the HIV/AIDS epidemic: gender inequality.

Their work is increasingly focused on this issue. They believe that by educating girls and women about their rights, their health, the value of their continued education, we can change not only their lives, but those of their wider peer group, family, and community.

In August 2014, co-founder Kathy Smedley sadly passed away at the age of just 65. Her legacy and inspiration continue at the heart of what they do, and they are proud to be raising funds in her name to create a lasting legacy in the form of a multi-functional community health and education centre in Mayuge District, Uganda.

Kathy’s Centre, Uganda

As they look forward, focus has turned to a number of projects. Their ‘Grow a Girl’ programme connects you, our supporters, with Ugandan teenage girls who need sponsorship to be able complete their secondary education, whilst our HEAL project is helping the women of Mayuge District to establish savings groups and work together to create small businesses. They have been recognised for our efforts in sexual and reproductive health with a USAID award for our STRIDES project, and their teams in Uganda, Malawi and Tanzania go from strength to strength building on this success.

Gladys The Goat

We have a number of fundraising events in the pipeline at Bluebell, from swear boxes in our factory, cake sales to our goat Gladys which we sponsor over in Uganda, and we hope you’ll  join us in supporting them by spreading the word and perhaps even donating yourselves.  We’ll be sharing out fundraising and more information on Gladys the Goat in the coming months.

You can sign up for a newsletter of inspiring stories about what they are up to, like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter – or of course, donate to help us continue our work changing attitudes, transforming communities, and saving lives. Click here for more details: http://www.act4africa.org

Alison Reuben with Act4Africa Founder Martin Smedley and Marketing Executive Sarah Istephan.

 

 

 

Media Areas – Stylish, Contemporary and Affordable

Media Areas – Stylish, Contemporary and Affordable

If you’ve passed our showroom on Washway Road in Sale recently you may have noticed a rather beautiful media area in our window.

This stunning media area was designed and installed by our talented in-house team and we always enjoy watching people admire it as they call in or pass by.

As a company who makes everything by hand, it’s sometimes difficult to put a simple price tag on our furniture as cost can depend on so many different things (the material chosen, additional lighting and features, the time it takes to fit it into the space). But to give you an idea, a media area like the one in our showroom window can start from just £1800 (that’s less than some TVs!).

If you’d like to discover more about our Media Areas, click here: http://bluebellfittedfurniture.co.uk/studies-media-lounge/

Our Silver Anniversary – The Birth of Bluebell

A lot of people ask us why we’re called Bluebell – and as we celebrate our 25th year, we’re on a mission to share more of the story of our family business with our wonderful customers.

Many years before fitted furniture and family, our founder, Alison was a member of the Bluebell Girls, the legendary dance troupe led by the inimitable Miss Bluebell – Margaret Kelly Leibovici. Alison was lucky enough to travel extensively with them. She visited Paris and Seoul in South Korea as a Principal Dancer and Buenos Aires, Argentina as Captain of the Troupe. This was an amazing honour and she met a wonderful group of women who, along with Miss Bluebell, inspired her to truly follow her dream to be a dancer.

It was these experiences, which shaped her as a person, and as Captain of the Troupe, helped her develop her keen eye for detail and fostered an entrepreneurial spirit, which she then used to set up Bluebell Fitted Furniture.

Model Behaviour by Dennis The Dog

Our family dog Dennis has been hard at work again modeling for Aldi UK. This time, Dennis has been showing off their new pet beds and has recently been featured in store and online for the famous supermarket brand.

As you can imagine we’re delighted with Dennis’ new career and we’re even considering him modeling some of our own Bluebell designs – what do you think?

 

 

What does being a Which? Trusted Trader mean to us?

Being a ‘Which? Trusted Trader is something that we at Bluebell Fitted Furniture like to shout from the rooftops…. you might have noticed!! Put simply, the reason we like to do this is because we are proud. We are proud of what we have achieved as a business and we are proud to be able to call ourselves Which? Trusted Traders. We were also featured in one of their latest articles, giving expert tips on kitchen installation!! https://trustedtraders.which.co.uk/articles/kitchen-installation-tips-from-our-which-trusted-traders/

In their own words, ‘Which? Trusted Traders is an endorsement scheme which recognises reputable traders. The scheme aims to support trustworthy local businesses and to help customers find the right trader’.

So, what did we have to do to become part of this exclusive scheme?

One of the first steps in the process is a rigorous assessment carried out by Which? Trusted Traders own assessor. This took place on our working premises and included a thorough look at our business processes, insurance, qualifications as well as paying close attention to our dedication to the Which? Trusted Traders code of conduct. The assessor chats to our staff and checks our customer references, going through all the details with a fine-toothed comb!

It doesn’t end there though, to keep our status we must ensure that our work continues to follow our own high standards as well as those of the Which? Trusted Traders brand. We don’t rest on our laurels!! The assessors can pop in at any time and may carry out their own checks whenever they see fit. We were the first business in our industry outside of London to receive this fabulous endorsement and we are proud that we can call ourselves Which? Trusted Traders. You’ll see their logos in our window displays, you’ll see them in our showroom, we shout about it on social media and we print it all over our fleet!!

Now you know what being a Which? Trusted Trader means to us, but what should it mean to you?

When choosing Bluebell Fitted Furniture you are choosing an endorsed trader. This means we are a trusted brand whose business has been vetted for you and who receive consistently high satisfaction ratings from clients. Which? Trusted Traders have done all the hard work for you, meaning you can step into our showroom with confidence that we are right people for the job!

If you haven’t caught our little feature in this recent article from Which Trusted Traders, then you can check it out here…https://trustedtraders.which.co.uk/articles/kitchen-installation-tips-from-our-which-trusted-traders/

How to Design the Perfect Kitchen

How to Design the Perfect Kitchen

Designing a new kitchen is hugely exciting but can also be rather daunting. We find many of our clients have a style in mind but when it comes to the practical aspects they can feel a tad overwhelmed.

Luckily our team of expert designers and fitters have years of experience and know exactly what needs to be considered, as well as the look and feel, so we asked them what advice they’d offer to anyone undertaking a kitchen redesign and here’s what the had to say:

Reconnaissance Mission

Have a walk around your kitchen as it is now and consider what works and what doesn’t. What really niggles you and what do you find useful? Make a note and discuss with your kitchen designer at an early stage.

The Everyday

Think what you need your kitchen to do for you, if you’re a keen cook for example, you’ll need plenty of worktop space, a large fridge and freezer and space to store all your pans, gadgets and accessories.

The Technology

Make sure you plan for lots of electrical sockets and in the right places,

there’s nothing worse than deciding where you want your toaster but then not having a plug socket to match. Retractable sockets on islands are also a great addition when baking etc.

It’s all in the Storage

You can never have enough storage in a kitchen, we find draws are much easier to access than large cupboards so make sure you work out how you’re going to reach these spaces without having to delve into the back where you’re likely to forget the contents!

Think About the People

Are you planning to start or add to your family or are you keen on entertaining? Whatever your situation, check you’ve got room for everyone and also think about who will be using the space in the next five to ten years. It seems silly but circumstances do change and we want to future-proof your room as much as possible!

Go Green

Make sure you also consider recycling in your waste management. There are all sorts of nifty solutions out there to help with this and it will ultimately make your life much easier in the long run.

A Room with a View

Make sure you take into consideration the sight lines when designing your kitchen. Bear in mind how things will look from different angles and heights to ensure the look and feel you imagined is achieved.

Listen

Most importantly, be prepared to listen to advice and suggestions from the experts. We’ve been there, done it AND got the t-shirt so let us help you get the best kitchen you could dream of!

10 steps to creating the perfect wardrobe.

Here at Bluebell we’ve spent a lot of time listening to the needs of our clients and the one thing that repeatedly comes up is the need for more organised storage. As we specialise in beautifully bespoke, handmade fitted furniture we find ourselves perfectly placed to give you some pointers on organising your space.

The big clear-out…. otherwise known as ‘the hardest bit’!

  1. Get the whole contents of your wardrobe, including accessories & spread them out on the bed. You’ll need 3 strong bin bags, one to go to the charity shop, one for clothes you’d like to sell and one for the tip!
  1. Take the time to try your clothes on, we can’t stress this enough! You may remember that it looks great, but how long since you wore it?

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  1. Many of us feel strongly attached to items of clothing due to sentimentality rather than loving and wearing item in question. If you’ve loved an item why not take a picture of it and let someone else have the chance to enjoy it?
  1. When did you last wear it? A general rule is if you haven’t worn it for a year, you are unlikely to do so again, so all these can go in one of your chosen bin bags.
  1. Don’t keep ‘fat’ & ‘thin’ clothes! If you lost weight wouldn’t you rather treat yourself to something new? Keeping clothes in case you gain weight feels rather negative, so bin those too!!
  1. Do you have clothes that have waited years to be fixed? If they were that important you’d have already fixed them. While you’re there, bin all those nasty wire and plastic hangars, your clothes deserve better!
  1. Allow one or two exceptions! If it is a genuine vintage item that will increase in value, you may want to keep it. Likewise, if you have your granny’s beautiful fur stole, for example, it will probably be irreplaceable in terms of value and sentimentality.

Creating the perfect wardrobe…otherwise known as ‘the fun bit’!

To create your perfect streamlined wardrobe or dressing area you’re going to need some nice hangers, we recommend the black velvet ones as they are less bulky than wood. Also, some cedar or lavender to keep any moths at bay, trust us, it works.

A general rule here is the more you hang the more you’ll wear, if you don’t see it, you won’t remember it.

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  1. Don’t hide clothes away. This applies to handbags tucked away in dust bags, and those of you who have gone all ‘Carrie Bradshaw’ and hidden their shoes inside mountains of shoeboxes. Get them out and enjoy them!
  1. Group items together in an orderly fashion. We feel that keeping items together in groups, such as dresses, denims, blouses etc. work well. When ordering, go from light to dark, for example, start with your dark jeans than work your way to white, this is both easy to manage and looks great. Apply this principle to everything. Jumpers are an exception here, hanging usually causes them to stretch so we recommend folding them neatly in a drawer, ordering by fabric and then popping in some cedar.
  1. Think about how you see your shoes. If you’re lucky enough to have an area where you can store shoes consider pointing one shoe forward and the other back, this allows you to see both the front and the heel height. Wipe all shoes down with a baby wipe so they are beautiful and dust free. If you’ve got flip flops and trainers then store those further back, they can make the overall look rather scruffy!

Whilst streamlining your closet may feel like an overwhelming job the long-term joy, not to mention time saving, to be had is huge. Imagine opening your wardrobe not only to know where everything is but also to only see the things you truly love.

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If you’re always dreamt of a wardrobe or dressing room to die for why not pop in and have a chat to one of our design team, obligation free? We even offer a range of payment plans to suit you, including interest free credit, subject to terms and conditions.

We hope you’ve found our advice useful & we look forward to seeing you soon,

The Bluebell Team.

Downsizing often requires bespoke storage as Janice and Tony found out..

Janice and Tony moved from a huge house. It had three cellars, large rooms, garage and plenty of space for the grandchildren when they came to stay.

This delightful couple had reached retirement and, as so many people do, they decided to downsize to a semi-detached home in Flixton where Janice could still have her potting shed.

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Janice explained that on moving here they needed places for “stuff”; bits and pieces, books, videos, table cloths, kids crafts and more besides. In this home they have no garage but every square inch is very well organised.

Despite being aware of other furniture companies, and often passing the Bluebell Fitted Furniture showrooms in Sale, they decided to pop in and were greeted by a very warm and friendly atmosphere.

It’s interesting that, as with all types of things in life, if something catches your eye, then you’re hooked .. and this is what happened to Janice and Tony. They saw textures and finishes in the showroom that they had not seen elsewhere.

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They had considered other cheap well-known Swedish flat pack options, but realised after looking on the Bluebell’s website and in the extensive showrooms .. that it just wouldn’t do…. they wanted it their way!

As Tony was a senior coordinator for a huge international company and Janice a paediatric nursing sister before retiring, they recognised the quality and flexible accommodating professional service that Bluebell offered compared to other solutions.

They are still in the middle of the refurbishment of their new home but the lounge unit is exactly what they wanted after taking an old fireplace out.

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Space was really important to them both, and by working with James, one of the experienced Bluebell designers, together they got exactly what they wanted… without compromise.

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The bedroom for the grandchildren looks bright and modern with sliding doors and custom made storage inside. Even the headboards and drawers match.

The end results were rewarding, with furniture to their taste, their personal requirements met and with a no-fuss approach to problem-solving from Bluebell.

It’s Time To Celebrate!

It’s Time To Celebrate!
17th May 2017

We’ve had a busy few days at Bluebell and we’re absolutely thrilled to announce that we have won the award for the Most Innovative Use of Space. at the annual H’fele Studio Partner Awards which we attended last week. The event took place at Marcus Wareing’s Michelin-starred Gilbert Scott Restaurant at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London and as well as a superb trophy, we also won an all-inclusive five-star trip to Dubai as part of the prize!