Case study: Chelsea Textiles

Taking a bespoke shopping experience online

Project duration
2004 - ongoing
Research & strategy
User experience design
User interface design
Front end development
Back End Development & Integration

Having successfully designed and built their first website in 2004, Chelsea Textiles - an upmarket interiors brand a stones throw from Harrods in London - came back to us wanting more. This time they needed an ecommerce solution and a full site refresh - but with a difference. They wanted style. They wanted class. They wanted a luxury experience online. So we created structure. We created flexibility. We created a seamless user experience. We stayed loyal to their brand but gave it a modern edge. In the end we turned their bricks and mortar shop into an elegant online experience for their discerning customers.

Taking an English brand stateside


Chelsea Textiles are known for their high quality, traditional interior products and furniture. Launched in 1990, they faithfully recreate antique hand-embroidered fabrics and cushions, using the best materials and craftsmen, catering to the high end interiors market. They often collaborate with renowned and acclaimed interior designers on embroidery collections and work with boutique hotels on interiors commissions. They're 'the antiques of the future'.

TS "We had already designed a previous website for them back in 2004 which was a static catalogue website - primarily aimed at their interior designer clients. When they came back to us, they wanted was something that would showcase their expanded range of products in the best possible light, as well as give them the opportunity to sell to the UK and US markets. They also wanted a site that could be updated and managed by them - so they could login and update in sale, off sale and manage stock control and so on."

“When they came back to us, what they wanted was something that would showcase products as well as give them the opportunity to sell to the UK and US markets.”

SM "The first site we built was UK focussed, but Chelsea Textiles had recently expanded into the US market. This new site had to cater to the two audiences, both with different requirements. Different currencies, different stock codes and levels of stock and different postage requirements."

Chelsea Textiles's site from 2004

TS "The online shop was based on the same product range and photos, so essentially it meant we could build one system but two sites, and then set different properties dependent on the US or UK market. That way each store can control stock levels, order processes and relations with its own customers. They can be run independent of each other but look and feel very similar."

SM "There weren’t many different properties to consider, but those we needed were critical to both shops working. For example, the US market orders fabric in inches not centimetres like the UK, so that had to be different."

TS "And it was also things like the payment gateway - it’s different in the US than it is the UK. Then you have things like the product numbers and codes and different levels of stock available in each destination."

Exclusive user experience

SM “Chelsea Textiles's audience aren’t just interior designers - they also sell to people looking to purchase interiors for their own homes. The demographics are more mature and discerning so we had to ensure the shopping process was simple and trustworthy for people unused to shopping on the web.”

TS "Essentially we were trying to recreate the bricks and mortar shopping experience - where you receive attentive service and the products are displayed clearly and attractively. It's all part of the Chelsea Textiles draw - you're buying into the whole experience."

A selection of Chelsea Textiles's products

SM "Yep, and with a lot of products and the ranges constantly being updated with new collections and collaborations we had to create structure."

TS "Right. So, we worked on structure charts and wireframes to ensure we got the grouping of products correct and that the grouping could work for future products as much as possible. They also have a large amount of surrounding content, such as brochures, press and regularly updated news so the structure charts ensured all this content and the hierarchy of information was logical and the user journey was clear from the start."

A flexible ecommerce solution

With such a bespoke service, Chelsea Textiles needed a bespoke ecommerce solution. For smaller online businesses, off the shelf systems such as Shopify are great - straightforward to use and quick to set up, but they are commission based so the higher the volume of sales, the more you pay. Instead, we used Magento, which allowed us to create many custom elements and fully tailor the Chelsea Textiles online shopping experience.

TS "In instances like this, we used a popular common Ecommerce system called Magento. It's flexible enough for Chelsea Textiles's needs and it’s been around long enough that we know that it’s going to work for them in the future too. Although it can be difficult to work with, it's well documented and you can build what you like into it, so it’s worth it in the end. We created many custom elements to ensure that it’s a long way from the Magento average and offers a bespoke solution, but it still has the benefits of building on the most popular system."

Benefits of Magento for developers:

  • High performance
  • Hundreds of extensions
  • Open architecture to add even more functionality and to integrate with other systems
  • Gives you and the client complete control
  • Easy to build, edit and publish pages

Benefits of Magento for clients:

  • Your shop works and looks great on desktop and mobile
  • You can tailor your site to provide your customers with a unique shopping experience
  • It gives you complete control over products, stock and content
  • You can use private sales to engage valued customers
  • It’s scalable, so grows as your business grows

TS "In terms of the shopping cart - Magento allows you to build it so the user can create an order, which the system saves, but not hold onto financial data. The credit card data is sent encrypted to whichever payment gateway required (based on location). The gateway takes the money and the system pulls in a digital receipt. This means that it doesn’t store sensitive or financial data on the site, but you can see previous orders and Chelsea Textiles can access those orders and their customer’s data when required."

A modern update to traditional branding

Aesthetically, Chelsea Textiles have a clear design style which is sophisticated and classic with a muted colour palette. As they’re renowned for attention to detail that was key to any branding refresh we undertook. The design brief for the Ecommerce sites was clear - to maintain the aesthetic of their physical shops - calm, traditional and high-end environments.

“It was key for Chelsea Textiles that the online shop didn’t feel like a standard online shop - they wanted an experience for their users that emulated the physical experience, whilst still being easy to navigate and simple to use.”

SM "It was key for Chelsea Textiles that the online shop didn’t feel like a standard online shop - they wanted an experience for their users that emulated the physical experience, whilst still being easy to navigate and simple to use. The level of detail in their products is paramount, so it was really important that we paid careful attention to faithful recreations of colour and showed large zooms of the products and the detail of the embroidery."

Product detail page

TS "When it came to displaying their product ranges there were some key variations which were significant enough to consider displaying in different ways and creating different templates. For example, all the cushions are straightforward products to sell - they’re all a the same size - only the fabric changes. Whereas their furniture comes in colour variations - so the way that’s displayed to the use requires a different set up."

Product listings pages

SM "Their fabrics however required a different way of browsing, so we created a swatch book library, an interactive and tactile UI which builds on the offline shopping experience. Using CSS3 animation transitions, we developed a browseable bookcase based on the fabric swatch books that they use in-store. A contents page gives the user an overview of the section and large imagery shows the quality and detail of the hand-crafted fabrics, with bookmarks showing different colour ways and options."

Chelsea Textiles fabric swatch book library

Ongoing support

SM "When it comes to an Ecommerce site there’s a varying degree of support required ongoing - for example their email newsletters and synced to the website so they can collect emails and grow their list."

TS "But we purposely used Magento for their CMS so they could update their news and press themselves, manage and update their products and stock and access orders."

SM "What’s great is we have an ongoing relationship with Chelsea Textiles - where we offer continued support and maintenance as required but they have the ability to update independently of us."

The outcome

We took an English brand stateside with a flexible e-commerce solution whilst ensuring the user experience felt exclusive and special. We brought a modern update to traditional branding and helped Chelsea textiles deliver the outstanding customer service they’re known for - with a few added special touches and some unique features that their customer’s love. And what’s even better? We’ve further cemented our relationship with the client and continue to work with them as their business grows.

See the Chelsea Textiles site