BEHIND THE BIZ // The Picnic Shed
How A Love For Nature And The Outdoors Inspired Freya Hilkemeijer To Open The Picnic Shed In Berry
Since 2014, The Picnic Shed in Berry has become a local favourite and must-visit for the out-of-town weekend crowd [pre-Covid, of course] and holidaymakers.
And we reckon The Picnic Shed’s gorgeous store and philosophy has a whole lot to do with that.
“We believe spending time outdoors will feed your soul, so we supply the gear to venture outside and also to take a taste of adventure back home,” says The Picnic Shed’s owner, Freya Hilkemeijer.
And that’s right up our alley, which is why we were excited to hear The Picnic Shed is now online too.
We spoke to Freya about where the idea for this beautiful outdoor lifestyle store came from and may have spent a fair bit of time browsing online ourselves!
1 :: You have an early connection to Berry, don’t you?
I grew up in Sydney but when I was about 16, my parents bought a property in Berry, so I spent many happy school holidays here when I was a teenager.
2 :: Your background is in graphic design and publishing. Tell us a bit more about that and where it took you.
When I left school, I did a Bachelor of Design at COFA [UNSW College of Fine Arts] before working in the magazine industry in Sydney at publications such as Vogue Living and House & Garden.
I ended up moving to London for three years and had a really exciting chapter there, working at Tatler magazine.
But I missed my family too much, so came back to Australia. I was still based in Sydney and was working as an Art Director for an inflight magazine but thanks to my visits to the family property in Berry, I realised I much preferred being in the country so made the move.
3 :: And something else may have happened that helped you make that decision, right?
Ah yes. I met my husband, Jelle in Berry. He had just opened Berry Sourdough Café, I walked in to buy a loaf of bread and now, here we are many years later with three children and a couple of businesses to keep us busy.
4 :: So, where did the inspiration for The Picnic Shed come from?
We renovated an old barn on my parent’s property and raised our children there. They had a gorgeous, almost wild existence there with no TV, just plenty of land, gardens, dirt and creeks to explore and play in.
We’ve always loved the outdoor life, but it was when we travelled overseas as a family that the seed was planted for The Picnic Shed.
5 :: What happened there?
Jelle is Dutch, so we wanted to visit his family and spend some time travelling in Europe and the UK. I had such a positive experience of living in London, so I was keen to share that with both Jelle and the kids.
My family lineage is from Scotland and Ireland so thought it would be nice for the kids to have the opportunity to connect to both the Dutch and British elements of their ancestry, so we took the children out of school for a term and had a great time travelling and exploring.
One day, we were driving from London up to Scotland and I bought a recycled wool picnic rug which we used every day we were travelling, having these beautiful picnics all through Scotland.
That was the seed planted. The Picnic Shed is about encouraging people to go outside, put down their devices and spend quality time in nature and the outdoors, which is what we did.
6 :: When did The Picnic Shed open?
We took the overseas trip in 2014 and as soon as we landed back in Australia, I hit the ground running. There was a charming old timber shed out the back of Berry Sourdough Café, which we still owned at that point. I renovated it and opened the doors.
7 :: What do people love about The Picnic Shed?
I often receive comments on how the store ‘feels’. It’s very relaxed and comfortable. The way we present our beautiful products is not overly curated – it’s a little bit higgledy piggledy, but still stylish.
A lot of guys actually come into the store and comment on how they feel really comfortable in here too, which is unusual for a homewares store. We sell plenty of men’s items too so that gives them something to look at – they’ll always find something. And the big double barn doors give them an easy exit strategy which they seem to like!
8 :: Tell us about how and where you source all the beautiful goodies in The Picnic Shed from?
I actually don’t tend to go to trade shows. I don’t want to sell what the store up the road or in the next town is selling. The way I source items is quite heart-driven and pretty organic. There’s no strategy behind it!
I’ll see something I like from an artisan on Instagram and reach out to them, or I’ll be flicking through a British magazine, see something I love and contact the supplier.
I also keep an eye out for local goods and stock plenty of items from amazing creators on the South Coast, the Illawarra and the Southern Highlands – there is always something magical being created by someone in those areas.
You won’t find mass produced products in The Picnic Shed.
My focus is on sourcing sustainable products that are healthy for people and for the environment.
9 :: And The Picnic Shed is online now!
Yes, I’d been meaning to get to doing that for a while now but obviously Covid forced my hand, so I got it done. I was determined to do it myself – it was a steep learning curve! But now we have a beautiful online store that I’m very excited about.
Customers can jump on to The Picnic Shed and choose from a range of homewares, outdoor adventure gear from picnic rugs to hiking boots, there’s a selection of clothes for women and guys [BTW The Fold is LOVIN’ the VERY cool Stonemen undies!], we stock a range of hats for all seasons, and plenty of garden accessories and books – perfect for lockdown life.
10 :: What do you love about Berry?
The community here is very tightknit, everyone knows each other which is really nice.
The location is unique, too. Having the rolling hills of dairy country so close to beautiful beaches makes it very special.
This region dictates a lot of what I source for The Picnic Shed – items that appeal to both the country and coastal lifestyle reflects what Berry is all about.
Amazing – love it! Thanks Freya.
Okay gang, The Picnic Shed’s new online store is absolutely worth a browse and will definitely sort out any lockdown blues you’ve got goin’ on. Head to The Picnic Shed to get your shop on – they are doing Click + Collect for locals or if you’re further afield, have something spesh from The Picnic Shed sent straight to your door.
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