Melting Messages – ‘Meet the Designer’

Logo inverted


Having grown up around the Saffron Walden area, it was inevitable that I would come across such a unique shop that Wendy and her team run. My design background has given me a keen eye for what looks good, and from the moment I saw Design Essentials I knew I wanted to sell my candles in this shop. Melting Messages started in February 2015, thereafter came a year of development and seeking out the hotspots to stock them. When I finally launched the business in February 2016, I felt it was time to drop in and meet Wendy herself. I gave her a mini pitch of the business which went a little something like this…

Melting Messages’ journey

Our journey began, when I was searching for a gift for my mother’s birthday. Unable to find that special gift, I decided to create something unique for her. My sole purpose was to create a product which conveyed a message in an original way. Hence why there is a message hidden inside the candle, creating that big ‘REVEAL’ moment.  She loved it and from that moment Melting Messages was born as I decided to share this experience with others. Candles are used in a variety of different ways – to celebrate an occasion, give as a gift, create an ambiance or decorate a home. I wanted to create a product that could reflect these. I wanted to create a timeless product that would allow any moment to be preserved and be something worth remembering.

Our candles

Melting Messages is a UK based company. All our candles are designed in our studio and hand poured here at our factory. We source our wax and other key components from other UK manufacturers. We are proud of our heritage and we can proudly say they are ‘Made in Britain’.

“Meet The Designer” event

Wendy and her customers loved it, so much that we have decided to dedicated a whole two weeks on the collaboration. Saturday 2nd July will be a ‘Meet The Designer’ day at the shop from 11am – 4pm. Please come and see us and these amazing candles. Whether you are searching for a Birthday, Anniversary or even a simple Thank You present, our Melting Message candles will be perfect for these special occasions.

For more information and to RSVP for this special event, please email: or pop into the shop if you’re in town.

Here is a sneaky peak of what’s to come…


Happy Birthday Melting Messages's candle

I Love You Melting Messages's candle

Marry Me Melting Messages's candle

Thank You!


Hope House Press – Hope House who?

Hope House Press - luxury leather notebooks and diaries - for you, for me, for everyone.

Hope House Press is a luxury leather bound, personalised notebook and diary studio based in Cambridge, UK. We have been in existence for a number of years – founded in 2007 by someone who just loved making personalised, luxury notebooks that are very special indeed, for other people. The ‘other people’ loved them so much that it grew into a business and in March this year – 2016, we – the Weston Family – took it on when the original founder decided she wanted to move onto another, totally unrelated project.

Hope House Press notebooks and diaries are the stuff of legend. Not just because we’re loved by the likes of Tatler, the Guardian newspaper and the i newspaper. But because we spend hours working on every piece that we produce. We refer to our products as pieces, styles and collections because to us, they are not simply a product on a production line – they are something to be written in today and enjoyed forever. Whether you’re writing about your wedding day memories, the arrival of your first born child or simply noting your shopping list – they’re all things that you do and reflect on your life and where you are at. Your time, your thoughts and your life deserves to be documented, valued and remembered. And that’s what Hope House Press does – we help you document all those things and more. In a world where everything is about the selfie and a filter over the top of it, Hope House Press notebooks and diaries are hand made from scratch, printed on with ink and hand finished and packaged with a level of detail that’s not far from Rowan Atkinson’s packaging skit in Love Actually.

We’re also popular because we make life easier for people. If you’re ordering for Father’s Day and left it a bit late, don’t worry. Give us a message for your Dad and we’ll pop it into a card and send the gift direct for you. If you’re organising for a retreat or group event and need items posting directly for you, we’ll do that as well. And no, we won’t charge you extra for it. It’s just part of the loveliness that is Hope House Press.

And that’s the reason why we’ve chosen to partner with Design Essentials as our first offline stockist of our pieces and collections. We’re starting small, offering some items that aren’t available anywhere else and with personalisation that’s not available to the world at large. We’re sharing our beloved notebooks which celebrate Father’s Day and all things Wedding related. We chose to partner with Wendy and her team because they too are rather special – their knowledge is extensive, their service exceptional and their ranges are without exception beautiful, unique and in many cases raise a smile that stays with you long after you’ve left the shop!

We’d be thrilled if you’d consider joining us on Thursday 26th May, from 3.30pm to around 8 / 8.30pm for Pimms and cheese and nibbles. We’ll be doing a fabulous giveaway on the night and hosting some one day only deals and discounts on products as well. They’re likely to be for our the most popular ranges at the moment – Father’s Day and Weddings. So if you’ve got something or someone to celebrate in the coming months, please come and visit us so that we can help you find the perfect gift for that occasion.

For more information and to RSVP for this very special evening, please email or pop in the shop when you’re next in town and tell us you’ll be coming!

In the meantime, if you’d like a preview of some of the things we’ll be bringing, please keep reading!!!


Quite possibly the best gift you can buy a Dad - a notebook celebrating his genius!


Best. Wedding. Gift. Ever.


Vintage personalised leather notebook - Progress not Perfection is perfect for yourself as a place to document the things you're working on....

#MySW Launch Event

Wow! I’m still getting over the excitement of the launch event for #MySW, the Town Team’s campaign to promote Saffron Walden. I was so focused on getting ready for the night I didn’t have a moment to think about what happens afterwards. I think there’s a lesson in there for me somewhere! 

I’m sure lots of you will have read Molly’s blog post last week with her thoughts about how it went, so I try not to repeat anything.  Wendy seems to have been even busier in the shop setting up for Christmas, organizing Black Friday’s sales and the Independent Retail Shopping Challenge alongside Jude Cox of Jack’s Outdoor. Does that woman ever stop? I’ve been keeping a much lower profile following the amazing media coverage the campaign received in both our local papers and the number of views the full length video has had on YouTube. So far it’s been looked at over 4500 times. Even using the most pessimistic conversion rates, we’re confident that translates into dozens of visitors to the town’s businesses and attractions.  And that could mean several thousands of pounds for the local economy.

Wendy Howell at the #MySW launch event in Saffron Walden

Lots of businesses are beginning to share the videos on their websites or in messages to their customers.  Only last week I was delighted see that Saffron Hall included a link in their November newsletter. And Wendy has also heard from English Heritage that Audley End House and Gardens will be supporting the video.  Saffron Screen has also promised their continuing support, and if you happen to be in the UDC reception you’ll see the video playing on the screen there.

Whether you’ve got a website and thousands of Twitter followers or, like me, just Facebook entry and a few dozen friends’ email addresses it would be great it if you could share the links anywhere you can.

Full 3-minute version:

30 Second version: 

design essentials mysw event

The support and feedback has been amazingly positive and we also had some really helpful suggestions for the next video.  This film is just the start, and we’d love to hear from you with ideas to make sure we capture more of the great things about Saffron Walden.  Suggestions so far include the football club which is apparently the 15th oldest in the world and the amazing services our County and Town libraries offer.  I didn’t know that there were mediaeval manuscripts to look at, or that library membership entitles us to use many of family ancestry sites free of charge. We want to film and represent the things you love, so please get in touch with Wendy either through this blog or pop into the shop for a chat. We’d love to hear from you if you’d like to be filmed talking about your favourite things in Saffron Walden. The next part of the campaign for the Town Team is a trip in January to attend ‘Excursions 2016’ at Alexandra Palace in London. This is a national trade show for Coach Tour Operators so they can plan their year’s trips and outings. Look out for more next month, but meanwhile please keep sharing the video as widely as you can, and let us know what it is you love about #MYSW.




Saffron Walden Brand Campaign

Design Essentials was very excited to launch the #MYSW campaign on Wednesday last week at Saffron Screen. The evening was very successful, with free drinks and nibbles going down very well with guests. However, the main reason for gathering together an audience of local entrepreneurs and proud Saffron Walden residents was to showcase the wonderful town brand campaign that our very own Wendy had been working extremely hard on for the past six months.

design essentials mysw event

Photo credit to Joe Higham reportage

The aim of the campaign is to improve accessibility and awareness of our fabulous town. In times when the internet dominates it is becoming increasingly difficult for our much-loved high streets to lure people away from their cosy sofas to do their Christmas shopping. So the Town Team has put a huge amount of time and effort into coordinating a radio ad to run until the 24th December on Star FM and a new video for the Tourist Information Centre, created by the talented Jonathan Glazier (from Pepper Raffety and ex head of light entertainment at the BBC). Emma Thomas, who collaborated with Wendy on the project said these advertising channels “aim to promote Saffron Walden and its great shopping to attract tourists and coach parties from the surrounding counties”.

In addition to the brand campaign, the team is also looking to use #MYSW as the foundation for the Saffron Walden entry in the Great British High Street Of The Year competition next year where the prize up for grabs is an impressive £50,000 to invest in the winning town.

design essentials mysw event

Photo credit to Joe Higham reportage

Please do join in with our #MYSW campaign as it is as much for local residents as it if for us as a business so by all means share your own favourite pictures of Saffron Walden or your latest fabulous purchases from the many indie shops on social media with the hashtag – we’d love to see your take on the campaign!

Watch the 3-minute #MYSW ‘What’s Great About Saffron Walden?’ video here or the 30-second one here.

Tag us in your pictures on Twitter (@SaffShopLocal) or facebook (Saffron Shop Local)

by Molly Winter

What’s great about Saffron Walden #MySW

What's Great About Saffron Walden? #MYSW

What’s Great About Saffron Walden #MySW

Wendy has been busy lately, on top of her day job, working with me on delivering a campaign for Saffron Walden Town Team called simply #MySW. We’ll be launching this officially on 18 November at Saffron Screen.

What's Great About Saffron Walden? Video Premier Invitation

I met Wendy earlier this year when I joined the Town Team to look at some accessibility issues and it soon became clear that we were both passionate about Saffron Walden but also that the things we love about it are quite different. During one of our usual catch-ups working on a marketing strategy for the Town Team in Starbucks ( good disability access ) during May/ June this year we were chatting about this and I don’t know quite how we landed on the concept but that’s how #MySW was born and the help of Gareth Wild the designer at Apropos was enlisted

We’re now working to use #MySW as the foundation for the Saffron Walden entry in the Great British High Street Of The Year competition next year. The winners get £50k to invest in their town. For us the most important thing about #MySW is it’s something everyone, residents and businesses alike, can join in. It sums up the pride in our town and also that different people enjoy different things about Saffron Walden.

As part of the campaign a radio ad promoting the town and its great shopping is up and running until the 24th December on Star FM and we’ve coordinated a new video for the Tourist Information Centre to attract tourists and coach parties from the surrounding counties.


Design Essentials letter lights used to promote the Town Team's Saffron Walden #MySW campaign


#MySW also links into the Christmas Indie Retail shopping competition starting on 19th November, and as soon as that’s underway we’ll be working on Saffron Walden’s Summer Of Arts And Culture which will include an event celebrating Saffron Screen’s 10th anniversary, having more art and sculpture in the town, and putting on jazz and theatre in the Market Square as well as spreading the word on the Maze Festival in August.

We will share all this over the coming months and hope lots of you will share your pictures and stories on social media using #MySW so all of us are part of it.


Design Essentials: From Pop-Up to Permanent

We are delighted to finally announce the name of the location we will be moving to – Design Essentials will be moving from 13 Market Hill to 5-7 Market Row in Saffron Walden. We are so excited to start setting up in our brand new location and we can’t wait for you to be able to visit our new shop, which we will be opening to everyone  on August 15th.

Saffron Walden’s first pop-up shop, Design Essentials, is about to become permanent for the very first time. Two years ago, we had just got ourselves a pop-up exhibition at Johnny and Jenny’s in Saffron Walden. Fast forward to the present day and we’re preparing to sign a lease for our own shop!


 Artist’s impression of the front of the new Design Essentials shop at Market Row, Saffron Walden

When Wendy had the idea for the Design Essentials brand, she could only dream of having her own permanent shop where she could sell her unique homeware pieces and gifts. Wendy is thrilled with the success of the Design Essentials concept, which started out as a simple idea she had while on holiday in Bali, Indonesia. She was looking for pieces to finish off the renovation of her own home when she spotted a gap in the market for unusual yet affordable homeware items. Her instincts were correct, and when Wendy displayed her selected goods in pop-ups all over the Saffron Walden area, the customers loved it, and the Design Essentials name was made.



Celebrating the opening of one of Wendy’s first pop-ups at Johnny and Jenny in Saffron Walden

design-essentials-michelle-thompsonThe success of Design Essentials and the creation of its reputation for providing customers with something ‘a little bit different’ has allowed Wendy to support and showcase local artists and designers both at the shop and on the Design Essentials website.

Some top creatives include Michelle Thompson (featured right), who has designed for big names including White Stuff and The Guardian and been featured at Design Essentials since the beginning; Oliver Boyd whose lighting designs we had at the shop in Summer 2014 and whose ‘pimped up’ barbecue for supermarket giants ASDA has just made national headlines; Becky Creed who was a finalist at the prestigious Delight in Light 2014 competition with her unique Turned Paper Lighting Collection.












Designer Oliver Boyd with his ‘pimped up’ barbecue                                    Becky Creed’s Turned Paper Lighting collection




There have been so many highlights for Design Essentials over the last two years, but our biggest has got to be the Tour de Essex range we launched in collaboration with Gareth Wild, a local designer who produced an exclusive range of Tour de Essex mugs, tea towels and prints which celebrated the route of the Tour de France 2014 coming through Saffron Walden and the surrounding area. This time last year, the Tour de Essex mugs and tea towels were flying off the shelves in anticipation of the Tour’s arrival. Wendy even managed to get on BBC Look East talking about Gareth’s collection!




The day the Tour came sprinting through Saffron Walden was a great one for Design Essentials. Locals and visitors alike were getting into the TDF spirit and absolutely loving our mugs and tea towels, which we were selling all around the town as well as in the shop throughout the day.



From left to right: Design Essentials’ Charlotte, Wendy and Lauren selling TDF mugs and tea towels on the Tour de France day.

Since Wendy’s original concept for the shop has been so successful, she is now on the lookout for new up-and-coming local artists, designers and creatives to fill the shelves and walls of our new shop. We want Design Essentials to be ‘the place’ for local, talented people to showcase their artwork alongside our unique and affordable homeware, gifts and lighting in the new

Artists impressions of the back of the new Design Essentials shop at Market Row, Saffron Walden 

We still get asked by our customers whether we are a pop-up shop, and soon we will finally be able to tell them that we’re not! Our permanent shop is set to be the next big step for Design Essentials. From our very first pop-up at Goddard’s in Saffron Walden, our permanent pop-up at Johnny and Jenny’s, and then signing our temporary lease at 13 Market Hill, where we have been for the past year and a half, the Design Essentials journey has come a very long way since it began in 2013.  We’re very excited to be settling down in Saffron Walden for the next few years, and look forward to what the future holds for Design Essentials.

To stay updated with what’s happening here at Design Essentials over the next few weeks, do follow Wendy on Twitter (@WendyHowell) and ‘Like’ Design Essentials on Facebook for exclusive pictures and updates.

Oliver Boyd Hits the Headlines

Designer Oliver Boyd, whose lighting designs we featured here at the shop during the summer of 2014, has recently designed a ‘pimped up’ barbecue for supermarket giants ASDA.

Very different to Oliver’s usual quirky lighting pieces, the barbecue features gadgets such as flashing lights, a sound system and even a selfie stick!

Oliver’s barbecue has been all over the news, and even made it onto the Mail Online. Congratulations Oliver!

To read the full article on the Mail Online website, click here.


photo credit: Mail Online

To revisit Oliver’s time here at Design Essentials, have a read of our conversation with him over on our blog.

May Design Series 2015

So, another week, another trade show.

This week Wendy and I headed to London ExCel for May Design Series 2015, the UK’s definitive international furnishings fair and interior design show. There were over 200 brands from 26 countries exhibiting this year, including some products which have never before been shown or sold in the UK.

With a large area of the show dedicated to all things lighting, Wendy couldn’t wait to get in and find some new products for Design Essentials, and looked like a kid in a sweet shop as she whizzed off down the glowing light tunnel:

Wendy Howell of Design Essentials at May Design Series 2015

First stop in lighting was very cool Danish company Ebb and Flow, and Design Essentials shoppers will soon be treated to a range of their gorgeous glass pendants in the shop, with more available on the website.

EbbandFlowpendantlightsOne of the lighting ranges which really caught our eye was Massow Design with their beautiful Hemmesphere shades made from latticed birch ply. Very unusual and on trend with a 70s retro feel (and pictured in the top left of the mood board below), this is how I’d be tempted to style them.

PowerPoint Presentation

One more thing to show you, and for a variety of reasons I’m sorry to say that I don’t think you’ll be seeing this in Design Essentials any time soon, but nevertheless – how about this for a drinks cabinet?! This absolute beauty, called Enxoval and made by Portugese company Alma de Luce, stands 171cm high, and is inlaid with no less than 36, 123 amethyst coloured Swarovski crystals. Wow. That’s about all I can say.

Simon Vaughan and Richard Fearney of Harlequin Display with Wendy Howell, Design Essentials at May Design Series 2015

We rounded off the day with a catch up and a glass of wine with our friends, the super talented Richard Fearney and Simon Vaughan from Harlequin Display in Derby ( Harlequin are stylish stylists who work on events and exhibitions, window displays, photography, soft furnishings, interior design…the list is endless, and they have just added former Dragon, Hilary Devey, to their extensive client list. How impressive! They are also tons of fun, and it was a perfect ending to a great day at May Design Series. Cheers!

Optimist Design

Father’s Day shopping Event

 Design Essentials are delighted to be hosting another one of our popular shopping events in plenty of time for Fathers Day. The event will feature.

1. Complimentary Wine and Cheese.

2. The launch of OLSA a new collection by textiles designer and printmaker Sara Booth  who will be present to chat to you about her work.

3. Exclusive 20% off all our Life of Riley luxury leather collection.

wine trunk

4. Gift ideas for a variety of Budgets.


5.  Exclusive offers available only on the day.

6. Free gift when you make a purchase

7. 10% off any full price purchase on the day  ( excludes offers ) by emailing and attending or by joining the event on Facebook here.


Shopping Event

Thursday 14th May.



Where   13 Market Hill

Saffron Walden


Cb10 1hq


OLSA: Our Story

In anticipation of OLSA coming to Design Essentials, we thought we’d share this lovely piece of writing done by Sara Booth, the creative brain behind OLSA Textiles & Prints. 

OLSA: Our Story

I hate waste. I love that fabric, textiles, material, silk, wool, cotton are all able to enhance our lives. Old prints, old books, dusty libraries and old pictures, as well as new creations from old or unconsidered things, excite me. Printmaking and using fine fabrics which are considered remnant, waste or redundant – and even the most luxurious textiles can suffer this fate – gives me an opportunity to follow these enthusiasms.

You might be asking where the name OLSA came from. Well my daughter has been a great help and support to me in this and has always been  interested in textiles and art studying both at school. OLSA is a combination of our names Olivia and Sara. Olivia is a geography student and equally committed to  the transformation of oddments, off cuts, remnants and ‘end of line’ fine fabrics into beautiful and useful adornments for everyday life.  When Olivia has finished studying geography at university I hope she will be more involved – she has a great eye and, crucially,  is much better at all the electronic aspects of modern life.


I worked in medical practice for 30 years but kept a finger-tip hold on creating with fabric during that time, attending inspiring classes with Ann Small – a local textile artist who exhibits widely. Working with people who were very ill showed me the importance of creativity in the life of everyone, and how it can improve health and provide solace and inspiration at a difficult time. I always wanted to take this work further, so I started to study quilting in the Thaxted group run by Anne Eddell and exhibited at the Quilts Festival in Birmingham.

When I retired from my NHS post I did short courses at Central St Martin’s (University of the Arts) on upcyling textiles. I studied photo stencilling at Gainsborough’s House Print Studio, and later completed a certificate in printmaking at Curwen Studio (which I recommend to everyone). This summer I am exhibiting with the Gainsborough House Printmaker’s Group in St Peter’s Church, Sudbury between 9-16th May, at Haddenham Galleries in Ely, of course at Design Essentials in Saffron Walden!


Where do we get our fabrics?

We source our fabrics from milliners, dressmakers, mills, shops and upholsterers – anyone who has fine material which they cannot use. Part of the fun is looking and deciding on a new use for the material.

When we find a lovely piece of fabric – most of it is brand new, we label anything that is ‘up’ or recycled – we  study it to consider how it will be best be used and then it is transformed. There are also cushions, purses, scarves, throws, lavender bags, tote bags, quilted cases for phones and soft, padded cases for glasses. We work with a number of talented local seamstresses in East Anglia to make the cushions, scarves, bags and padded cases.



OLSA red tartan throw // £50


If you’re looking for something unusual for your home, or for yourself or to show appreciation to a friend or family member, look no further than OLSA. Give something beautiful, useful, carefully sourced and locally made from a luxurious fabric.  Or an original hand print at the same price as something mass produced.

See more on ‘’ a new, developing website that changes every week.

Catch OLSA textiles and pieces in the Design Essentials shop from May 6th and shop now on our website.