“This next level of bridal boutique really reflects my ever changing bride and allows me to indulge my own design preferences in confidence.” Jemma Palmer, Founder of Halo & Wren
Halo & Wren, the revered bridal boutique situated in the heart of Hemel Hempstead has entered a whole new phase, and BOY will you want to be a part of it. Not only has the celebrated store shed it’s previously pretty skin (and ditched it for a more minimalist, clean-lined and sophisticated look) but the brand itself has evolved to reflect the true Halo & Wren muse: you – the H&W bride.
Photography by Little White Photography
Breaking forth a soft, sultry palette that will make you weak at the knees, the new Halo & Wren bridal boutique breathes achingly cool elegance with its fresh white walls, curated mix of designer furniture and delicious platter of texture-led neutral tones. This calm aesthetic, when paired with H&W’s carefully selected rail of designer bridal labels, forms a truly irresistible bridal blend, one in which brides will travel far for (we’re talking air miles, people).
We caught up with the bridal boutique ’s founder, owner and creative driving force, Jemma Palmer, to get the lowdown on every detail, from the inspiration behind THAT new interior aesthetic to her new team and favourite corner…
Q1. How long did it take to complete the new store?
“We got the keys on the 13th of March 2021 and we opened the new store on the day non-essential retail opened: 12th April. To say we had a lot of work to do was an understatement. We worked non-stop throughout that four weeks well into the middle of night to get the bridal boutique ready for brides to visit.”
Q2. What was your inspiration for the decor/vibe of the store?
“I had long since known that the brand had evolved, as had I and my brides. Visually, the old bridal boutique was beautiful and pretty and so welcoming, but I knew the designer’s that H&W stock were attracting a demographic of client that was travelling from all over the country and abroad, which meant that I was able to indulge bravely in my maturing chicer sense of style (without feeling like I was alienating brides yet still appealing more to my growing trend of bride). One of my brides runs a home/interior design Instagram account and I contacted Kayley of @woottonlife when I was negotiating the lease on the new store and explained that her style of interior was what I wanted the new bridal boutique to be like, almost like a chic home space (that I can’t achieve at home being the parent of two small people)! I explained the look and she reassured me that the design would work, she pointed me in the direction of furniture, fabrics, made suggestions that I hadn’t considered and generally gave me the confidence to follow the desired look through. Obviously I wondered whether people would ‘get it’ and some don’t but thats okay – H&W isn’t for every bride.”
Q3. Why did you move to the new space?
“In the old bridal boutique, it was just me and my Wednesday night assistant Sam. We never worked together only having one fitting room and the show room, and I was fully booked at the weekend and evenings – sometimes three months in advance – and often seeing between six and nine brides on a Saturday. H&W was busy, the pandemic was incredibly tough in so many ways for my business but, considering we were closed, H&W saw significant growth in the periods of opening. All of the signals were positive and brides were chomping at the bit to get in-store and secure their gowns. The new store became available when the previous business was affected by the pandemic in an irreparable way. During the summer months of being open, I had driven past the new store and noticed that the Auctioneers were in and clearing out. I tentatively enquired inside and as soon as I walked in, I just knew this was the place for H&W. I just couldn’t miss the opportunity to evolve H&W into a space that really allowed me to show and grow the brand to its full potential.”
Q4. What type of experience/journey did you want to create for your bridal clientele?
“The experience was so important for me to maintain, as was the level of care that I had built H&W’s reputation on with the previous story. I fretted day and night that employing staff meant that my customers would be on a lesser journey when in-fact, unbelievably, it’s actually better. When a bride and their guests walked into my old bridal boutique, they were always so happy and would comment about how pretty the store was and how welcoming it was. Now, it’s wow-factor, you can see the party trying to take it all in and savour the surroundings. The showroom floor is incredible, it’s flooded with light, it’s utterly chic whilst remaining calm and welcoming, it’s a real inspirational space that shows the brand’s ethos so beautifully whilst displaying the talented designer’s dresses to their full potential. The showroom is minimal but remains chic, with nods to the building’s heritage with the installation of an ancient olive tree and artistic – yet unobtrusive – lighting. Beige and white tones decorate the walls and furniture, while a cool curved boucle sofa – which is super inviting – and a huge travertine centre-piece table (which is always cooed and ah’ed over by brides and their guests) take centre stage. To say we hear the words ‘wow’ on a daily basis is such a compliment.
The shopping experience has remained the same, the team or myself talk to the bride and get to know them and their day in more detail and then we inform about the gowns and designers talking through how each designer works, the colour possibilities, lead times, customisation possibilities, before assisting the bride in her choices – so, very much the same as before. Once the bride has chosen her gowns, we take everyone downstairs into private suites. Halo & Wren now has three fitting rooms. Virtually the same size, each is minimal in their decoration but effortlessly reflects the design of upstairs. Flaunting large black-rimmed mirrors, incredible floral displays, chic sideboards tastefully displaying cool vases of flowers, rugs to add a touch of cosiness and, of course, those statement boucle sofas – they’re a knockout. Brides and their guests also now have access to their own mini fridge stocked full of canned still water and mini bottles of Prosecco so they can help themselves throughout the appointment, allowing for a truly relaxed environment and an environment where the staff are focused fully on helping the bride find their dream dress. The trying on and buying experience is – as always – made to be relaxed, non-pressured and fun. Having built my reputation upon this style of service and the incredible gowns we stock, the new team are excelling at making sure this reputation is upheld. We still celebrate finding ‘the One’ with a little Boomerang, but this time brides can pick to have it in the privacy of their own room or on the showroom floor. We still give our goodie bags (which I have been doing since the day I opened) as a little thank you for finding your gown with us, and our brides are all invited back for veil/accessory trials and to use our recommended seamstress too, which is also facilitated at H&W.
The team and I have noticed how surprised brides and their guests are to be taken downstairs and how they feel like after being upstairs, the experience can’t get any better – but then they enter their room! You can visibly see their excitement, joy and surprise. Once the appointment is over, brides often want to stay and take lots of photographs, ask where items of furniture are from, give us so much praise and feedback – it really has been a wonderful experience opening the new bridal boutique.”
Q5. What’s your favourite corner?
“There are so many nooks of the store that I am appreciating on a regular basis but I definitely have a few favourite corners. I had my eye on two ‘Kangaroo’ chairs that I knew would never actually see a bottom sit on them but I had in mind their look, and knew exactly where I wanted them to go. I kept telling friends and family about these chairs, the plans for the big curve boucle chair and the travertine table – which were all met with bemused looks at my sheer passion for the new design aesthetic. Once the chairs arrived, they were kept in storage in my garage at home which was painful. I hated keeping them in there whilst the shop renovations were happening but the day we got them in and I put them into place, I breathed a big sigh of relief. Not only did they fit, but they just worked so perfectly, I couldn’t have planned it or visualised it looking any better if I had tried. Not many people sit on them except me, I actually find them perfect for working on my laptop, but boy do they look good! I like to sit in the chairs and look around the store at what we have achieved, we get so many compliments on the store, that I don’t I fully appreciate how amazing it is. That being said, I do desperately need a holiday to go away and come back, refreshed. We – from the moment we got the keys until now – have not stopped. Although we’re not complaining, we just need to be away from the new store to appreciate how truly amazing it is.”
Q6. What pieces of furniture/lighting/accessories did you choose to create the look?
“I knew I wanted to create an almost studio vibe. I almost wanted the store to give off a vibe of an artist gallery with calming spa tones, chic but not cold. I wanted the beige/white aesthetic decor, but I needed reassuring that this wasn’t boring or bland – so I used some key pieces in the palette to ensure that we had striking features to balance the aesthetic out. This included the curved boucle sofa from Stringer Brothers and the lighting (sourced from an independent lighting store in the Netherlands). Kayley Snell @woottonlife (who is one of my current brides) was a huge inspiration and help. I had been a follower of her home account and aesthetic for a while and her interior style was very much what I wanted to achieve for the new store. She not only helped me source items, but inspired me with refreshing suggestions, gave me the confidence to go whole-heartedly into the design that I wanted and when I wavered – whether that be though feeling like we were running out of time or not doing certain things – would send me design options that boosted my imagination and really helped me see the design come to life. The teak Kangaroo chairs are a dark mango wood hue and, situated in the corner, give an impression of a separate area. So, if we do have two brides in the showroom at once, there is enough space so that groups don’t feel pushed to one side. I found a chair on Facebook Marketplace which was a really unusual shape. Made of black metal legs and a rattan seat, it was so chic and I had to have it in the new store – even when we started renovations! It really helped me anchor the design as a constant reminder of what I was trying to achieve (it now sits in one of the suites downstairs).
I was keen to reuse furniture and with the help of the team and Sarah the seamstress we upholstered two of the old pink sofas from the old store in a white boucle fabric for the downstairs rooms, which meant I only had to purchase two new sofas. The glass effect chairs were also reused from the old store along with the acrylic clear table. We reused all the minimal white shelving I used for my accessories, and the white mirrors were painted black to match the new arch black mirrors – the elements of black were a rich statement but they are softened by the creams, whites and beiges of the sofas, rugs, walls and decorations.
The real showstoppers however are the curved sofa from Stringer Brothers, the studio lighting (which is so cool) and the giant travertine table – another Facebook Marketplace find, thanks to Kayley. I get asked on a daily basis where the sideboards are from – one of which was a FB marketplace find which we up-cycled – and another was from Next (we removed the glass doors and replaced them with rattan). We had so much fun styling the furniture to suit the look I wanted, including Sam whitewashing and texturising an Ikea pot for the gnarly ancient Olive tree to be at home in (because the Ikea pot, although the perfect size, wasn’t quite the right shade of white)! The rails are on wheels and they’re white, which means should the store be used as a studio they can all be wheeled out of sight. The palette has been kept neutral to reflect the chic nature of a more fashion-forward bride but also to allow the store and the brand to further evolve.”
Q7. Talk us through the transition from your pinker store to this very cool, calm aesthetic and your thoughts behind it.
“I think of H&W as a leading bridal boutique. Although still considered a new store, I believe that H&W is a leader in the bridal world for the modern, relaxed bride, so I was never going to be one that followed a trend and, when I opened in early 2017, the pink really reflected the bride of the time and, of course, myself. It was fun, relaxed and pretty. The brand had evolved, so had I and so had my brides and I could have made it work in the smaller store but H&W’s growth was definitely ready for a bigger space.
I have noticed there has been a huge rise of new stores opening up (one of my own brides opened a store in 2020) and right now it feels like a fashionable thing to do, and with that came a lot of pink stores – something that I had prided myself on being a leader on. With the new store, I wanted this sense of relaxation to continue but I had noticed that I was attracting a much wider demographic of bride who were searching for the world leading brands that I stocked. I think that brides were pleasantly surprised to visit the pretty little pink shop and always happy but now the new store – which I always knew it would be – has become ‘the place’ to buy your gown. This next level of bridal boutique really reflects my ever changing bride and allows me to indulge my own design preferences in confidence.”
Q8. Where do you source your flowers from?
“I try to use local suppliers and services and I am very lucky to have one of my team members’ (Sam – who has been with me for nearly two years as a bridal stylist alongside her other job as a bridal make up artist) talented Mum Clare from Little Flower Stall create H&W’s blooms. Clare turned up one day and asked to put balloons in the window and now is a daily visitor who not only creates my wonderful displays and is a chosen florist for many of my brides, but a second Mum (she’ll hate me for saying this) and gets to listen to my never-ending plans over a cup of tea, always supporting my vision for the store! In fact, it was Clare who came on my first visit to see the new store and we couldn’t contain our excitement at the possibilities! Clare and Sam were there throughout the renovation with a paintbrush, a heavy dose of a sarcasm and endless banter to help my family achieve the dream store.”
Q9. Talk to us about the new H&W team…
“I have been joined by some really amazing new team members! They were very uniquely recruited and trained! Being smack bang in the middle of a lockdown in March when I got the lease signed and given the keys with only four weeks to completely renovate an old italian restaurant (that had temporarily been used as a prom shop) meant all hands on deck. Add into this a two week half term holiday (so two young children at home) meant that my recruitment and training methods were going to really test the new team.
I met them via email with their applications and narrowed it down to a shortlist for interviews. Interviews consisted of them turning up at the store immaculately dressed to be met by me in leggings, jumper and a paint brush! With my husband, father-in-law, brother-in-law and often Sam all working whilst I tried to interview, it was unconventional to say the least, but, I really bonded with the team members who went on to become team H&W, and they’re all SO different. My biggest fear about the new store was that the brides would feel disappointed if it was not always me serving them. Oh, how wrong I was! I obviously like to credit myself for training the girls but really it’s down to them, their individual personalities, how much they care and how much they love being part of H&W! Now, I’m just the lady with the beautiful shop. I never received feedback after appointments from brides but weekly I get emails from brides about how the girls have looked after them, assisted them and helped them on their dress buying journey. The words I see so frequently is ‘patience, non pressured, helpful, lovely, the best time with’ and I couldn’t be prouder of how they have hit the ground running and made the role their own. I can’t wait for more lucky brides to be assisted by my incredible team.”
Here’s to the NEW Halo & Wren. You’d be MAD not to meet her.
Discover more about the bridal boutique’s new phase via Halo & Wren’s website.
Explore more wedding boutique recommendations on Bridal Editor.