So...we keep getting asked about Tolly McRae and how the company came about so here's our story, the story of Tolly and McRae.

We met in 2010. I had just moved from the local commuter town to a tiny village and Helen - the ‘McRae’ of Tolly McRae - had recently moved to the area from Scotland. We both had big projects on.  Helen had bought a dilapidated bungalow on a great big plot and was project managing its fairly extreme transformation. Having just moved into a 300-year-old farmhouse, I too was up to my eyeballs in restoration and refurbishment. Both of us were juggling these massive projects with work - and bringing up young families to boot, so we instantly bonded over our woes with bogus builders, which windows we wanted and the merits of eggshell versus estate emulsion. 

Firm Friendship

We’d see each other at children’s birthday parties and while other mums shared tips on teething and potty training, we were busy huddled in the corner exchanging numbers for granite people or cushion ladies – tipping each other off on the best deals on kitchen appliances or warehouse clearance sales on stone flooring. Three years on, with both houses finished and a firm friendship established, we spotted a charming retail unit in a local market town up for rent. We’d often have those ‘What I’d really love to do….’ conversations about setting up our own interiors business and so I said to Helen, “Shall we open a shop?” And she said, “Yes let’s.” so we got in touch with the agents that day… 

Supporting the Small Guys

As it happened, the unit had already been taken but that was the turning point which saw us evolve our whimsical fantasies into the business we have today. We spent the next several months researching and number crunching; talking to anyone who’d listen and listening to anyone who’d share their own stories of how they got businesses up and running.  Much inspired, we set to work on sourcing our range and building our company.  It was really important to us that we brought something of ourselves into it. I grew up in Yorkshire, surrounded by mills and with close links to the rag trade.  Helen brought this Scottish element in and started to explore working with artisans north of the border.  We live in the Cotswolds with its beautiful countryside, picturesque villages, and its own weaving traditions. Very quickly everything seemed to fall into place, and we had our vision of really fine quality craftsmanship; of Britishness; of creativity and quirk; of tradition; and of supporting the small guys.

The Fabric of Tolly McRae

We considered profit and of course, looked into sourcing cheaply from the East and decided that for now, we're happy that there is enough homespun talent on (or just close to) our shores, so our blankets are all produced in Great Britain and Ireland and our linen is made from French and Irish flax. Helen has impeccable taste so once we had established a framework she took the lead in shaping our range, while I used my background in marketing to do the practical stuff like set up the eCommerce site and also the ‘fluffy’ branding stuff, like piecing together all the elements that make our company what it is: our histories, our passions and pastimes, the way we work, who we work with, our philosophy, our influences and our aims and weave them all into the fabric of Tolly McRae.

Here we are working on our first photo shoot, Helen left and Me,to the right).

January 29, 2014 — Tolly Tolson