sneak peeks

Shop Tour: Swallows & Damsons

by Grace Bonney

Swallows & Damsons Studio Tour on Design*Sponge
These days, it feels like all roads lead to Instagram. I take at least 10 screengrabs a day from other people’s feeds to contact them about home tours, DIY projects, interviews or to just send a general “Thanks for being so inspiring” email. And today’s tour of a beautiful English flower shop had its beginning on Instagram, too.

Anna Potter is the founder and floral designer at Swallows & Damsons, an incredible flower shop and studio in Sheffield, England. Originally drawn to the area because of its mix of creativity and community, Anna decided to open her own shop six years ago after working with two of the city’s leading florists. Nestled between antique stores and historic homes (basically, my dream), Swallows & Damsons specializes in one-of-a-kind arrangements for private and public events. I first noticed Anna’s work when she shared a few photos in our #dscolor challenge and I’ve been following her ever since. When she briefly shared an interior shot of this space, I jumped at the chance to see more and I’m thrilled to share her very special studio here today. xo, grace

Photographs by India Hobson

Swallows & Damsons Studio Tour on Design*Sponge
Anna's studio wasn't always the picturesque work space it is now. She said, "The flower shop was a huge challenge. When we first opened the space looked like a 1980s browning, stuffy office, with strip lighting and crumbling ceiling tiles. The more we knocked down walls and brought down ceilings, the better we felt. We realized we liked the uncomplicated, bare bones of the timeworn building." The repetition of botanical prints behind Anna was designed to call upon the rows of boxes on the opposite wall. Anna's husband Dan found the prints, by Ferdinand Bauer, at Chatsworth House.
Swallows & Damsons Studio Tour on Design*Sponge
The cool grey walls are a nice contrast to all the different tones of wood, terra cotta and copper in Anna's space. Floral arrangements help the space change with the seasons and bring life to the space in colder months. The base of this shelving unit is an old pew that came from a gothic church built in 1817. The church was ripping out all the pews to replace them with modern plastic chairs so Anna and her husband bought them and gave them a new life at the shop.
Swallows & Damsons Studio Tour on Design*Sponge
Anna chose the studio's grey wall color (Lamp Room Grey by Farrow & Ball) for the way the flowers pop against it. It's a neutral backdrop for any color or style of floral arrangement and changes as the light fades throughout the day.
Swallows & Damsons Studio Tour on Design*Sponge
Anna loves mixing all of her pots and wares with old books and other found curiosities. The book on the right is by Arthur Ransome who wrote "Swallows and Amazons," Anna's childhood favorite (and a big influence on her company's name).
Swallows & Damsons Studio Tour on Design*Sponge
Anna, "couldn't bear to have an ugly electronic till" after finding this 50-year-old beauty, made by The National Cash Register Company. After cleaning it up, Anna was thrilled to find that it still, "works like a dream."
Swallows & Damsons Studio Tour on Design*Sponge
A detail of the cash register.
Swallows & Damsons Studio Tour on Design*Sponge
The cabinet holding terra cotta pots was one of the first pieces of furniture Anna bought. The magpie was a gift from friends, who share Anna's love of shiny things. (The top paint color is Down Pipe by Farrow & Ball)
Further proof that Anna is living the dream: her studio has an entire cabinet dedicated to RIBBONS.
One of Anna's incredible flower arrangements.

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  • There is so much romance in these pictures. This takes me back to my time working in a British flower shop, notice how she doesn’t need a cooler? It was very cold, hard, and rewarding work. Now that I’m in the states I miss the way flowers are such an everyday part of life for people in the UK. But I must also say I have been blown away with the beauty of the flowers here in Seattle.

  • First of all, the new site – wow! It’s stunning. What a beautiful shop, the wall art of botanicals is astonishing. I love the little tip you threw in their about how you contact people. Great idea. Thanks for being inspiring to this chick. ;)

  • I have an unhealthy obsession with botanical prints. I thought I was past it but this gallery wall is making want to get a whole bunch and actually put them up this time.

  • Wow, what a beautiful shop :) I love that wall full of those botanical prints. It’s awesome!!!

  • i will go here tomorrow! after 3 years of following design sponge, i can’t believe a space i am longing to see is just in the next neighbourhood over! lucky me as a fellow sheffielder as already said!

  • Wow! What a dreamy, beautiful and inspiring space!! I love Anna’s instagram and I was thrilled to see her shop!

  • This is beautiful. I’ve always wondered, when you reach out to people in far away locales like this, how do you arrange for the photographs?

    Also, just a quick note about the redesign. I love the cleaner look and slideshow capabilities. I read via Bloglovin, and because the posts come up as though you’ve already clicked through, the slideshows are at the top. You have to scroll down to read the intro to the post, then scroll back up to see the slideshow. Which is a little weird. I know if you’re using the actual site, the intro is what you see on the main page, so it isn’t so odd to click through and see the slideshow at the top. In other words, this is just a quirk for those of us who use blogreaders. So maybe not a big deal, but thought I’d mention it.

    • Hi Jen!

      That intro you’re scrolling down for is the only for the post, so you shouldn’t need to look at that more than once. The majority of people on the site come for images and associated captions so we lead with those to make it more direct for people who (regularly, over the past 10 years) complain about having to read any text before getting to the pictures. If that’s showing differently or I’m understanding things please let me know and I’m happy to troubleshoot :)

      Re: images, most times we arrange with local photographers or photographers who know the home/shop owners to have photos taken. In this case, Anna happened to have a very talented friend, India Hobson, who was friend who was free to photograph her home :)


  • What a lovely place. Such lovely colors. It seems like such a dream. For Anna, it must be like her dream come true. Thank you for the tour.

  • Ever since discovering Saipua, I cannot shake my obsessive addiction to extraordinarily beautiful floral shops and the art that is creating these dreamy boutiques. So glad instagram is out there for phenes like us :)

  • Swallows and Amazons was one of my favorite books growing up in several small towns a few miles to the north of Sheffield. Her store is stunning! Now living 4000 miles away, but best wishes to Anna.

  • Oh….my….word! This shop is absolutely inspiring. From the vintage botanicals they just pinned on the wall to the aged pots on the built in. Subtle, weighty and so romantic. Just lovely!

  • Love the way she set up the wall of botanic prints:) so beautiful and inspiring