A Q&A with Caroline Lomax, founder of Armadillo Sun – the brains behind the bean bags!
Caroline lives in a converted cow shed in the Kent countryside with her husband and business partner Paul, and their dogs and horses.
What is your background?
I fell into interior design because I wanted a job that fitted in with the children – I have four! I studied with City & Guilds after my first baby was born. The business grew organically, and when we moved from Berkshire to Kent, I opened a workroom making bespoke soft furnishings.
What inspired you to start up Armadillo Sun?
Mainly because, around 10 years ago, a lot of clients would ask me for outdoor cushions and things like that – this was a time when you couldn’t really get outdoor fabrics in this country. I was on holiday in Arizona in the States and I was introduced to solution-dyed acrylic. I decided I needed to source it and make it available here, because the problem we have in this country is that we have a lot of rain. There was a need for garden furniture and accessories that could be kept outside all the time.
What is your favourite piece from the collection?
I am most proud of the Monaco furniture, because it’s something that I designed and it gives people the flexibility to move it around the garden. That’s one of the reasons I started Armadillo Sun. It was to give people the ability to create different looks without spending a horrendous amount of money. Furniture is usually static – you can’t easily move it. Our Monaco furniture comes in sections – so you can move it bit by bit, or you can unclip it and have the odd seat wherever you want. It gives you the ultimate flexibility.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
What unusual thing do you pack when you go on holiday?
Rich Tea biscuits, because we used to go to America quite a lot and they don’t do tea and they don’t do biscuits!
What’s your favourite local beach?
What’s your favourite local restaurant?
Our quick go-to is The Goudhurst Inn. We also like The Queen’s Inn at Hawkhurst and The Milk House, a village pub in Sissinghurst.
What’s your favourite home interiors shop?
Maisie K in Cranbrook – Clare at Maisie K does clothing and interiors and you can always grab something beautiful at an amazing price. And Duck & Dog in Cranbrook sells the most divine candles.
Which other small businesses do you rate?
The East London Parasol company. Lucy Ferguson imports THE most amazing fabric parasols from India. I love them so much we do photo shoots together! And Bundle Beds - Lucy Bartlett has designed the ultimate bed that can go anywhere with you.
What’s your favourite thing to do in the winter?
Walking the dogs.
What are your favourite colours for interior decorating?
At the moment, I’m really into blues with greys, and pumpkin colours. Also, I’m putting lots of blue and green together. If you pair them in fabrics like velvet, it looks really luxurious.
Do you have any top tips for autumn/winter decorating?
Lamps rather than wall lighting - so much better for creating ambience. Whenever you’re looking at changing a room, go with what makes your heart sing. Candles, throws and cushions can transform a room and are very inexpensive.
What are your plans for 2021?
Everything is a bit up in the air! But we have got our new product launches on the go and we hope that our first show next year will be the Farm Business Innovation Show in March. We’re also going to Chelsea!
What’s the greatest challenge that Covid19 has brought about?
Because a lot of our sales happen at RHS shows, garden shows and interiors shows, the challenge has been conveying just how good our chairs and loungers are. When someone comes to see us on the stand and sits down, it’s very rare they don’t buy. They may go away, but they’ll come back and buy, because the bean bags are so comfortable and supportive. They’re not like the saggy bean bag we grew up with – they’re a new spin on an old idea.
What advice would you give to people wanting to start their own business?
Listen to other people who have done it before and go for it!