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Home on The Range



The first store of The Range opened in Plymouth in 1989 since when it has been the fastest growing retailer in the UK with over 140 stores nationwide (latest count, I believe is 148), stocking 65,000 different products across 16 different departments, from Homewares and Furniture  to DIY and Art Supplies.  The beginnings of The Range, like many businesses, were humble:  in 1980 Chris Dawson started business as an open-air market trader and he opened his first retail store in 1989 on a business park in Plymouth, since when the business has grown, and grown, and grown …

In 2015 the above store opened, not far from where we live.  And so we thought we’d take a look-see.  The building had been built way back in the early 1980s when it was a DIY store.  This changed hands several times, each time becoming slightly worse than its previous incarnation and then large building was left empty for several years.  There was even a garden centre on the site (but not using the building) for a few years, and then the garden centre moved, having bought out another local garden centre (it’s where we bought our Christmas tree and saw the ‘singing’ reindeer).

Our first impression of The Range in 2015 wasn’t a good one.  As soon as we entered our eyes were assaulted by the amount of ‘stuff’ in the Home Décor department which is situated close to the entrance.  Low-grade tut didn’t come close to describing it …  mirrors surrounded by gaudy frames, cheap ‘figurines’, a wealth of knick-knacks usually with the word L O V E embellished on them somewhere, metallic vases and so forth, all looking rather like fairground prizes that you’d try and lose on the way home if you were unfortunate enough to win them.   And everywhere, ‘hearts’ that I assumed you were meant to hang up somewhere even though it wasn’t St Valentine’s Day.  Painted hearts, plaited willow hearts … oh, lurve was surely in the air (and in the tills!)

On that first visit I photographed a few items in the Garden section …

Yes, they are amusing, but would you spend money on them?

I couldn’t quite make out what these things above were, they seemed an assortment (jumble) of plastic bugs …

So, I shall get to the point (and not before time!)  Yesterday, we went to Waitrose because we had heard that bad weather was sweeping in from the East. Indeed, it has been named The Beast from the East.  We didn’t wish to be caught napping, so decided to get in some fresh vegetables (funny how our trolley soon held a lot of items non-veg related, but never mind, I’ digress.)

On the way home, I suggested we took another look at The Range.  Husband said, “Funny you should say that, I thought the other day when we were passing we ought to have another look …”

And so we went in.

Still all the old tut- sorry, “delightful accessories” – in the Home Décor department …

What did I say about hearts everywhere?

Elongated figurines and  faux-lanterns

Everything has to have L OV E on it these days …

A flashing-light mirror, anyone?

A Liberace-style candelabra, anyone?

And these faux-tailors’ dummies are appearing everywhere, not only in The Range

However, we continued on our perambulation and once out of this particular department we found that it was a just an ordinary store selling the usual ranges (no pun intended) of ordinary things that were actually Quite Useful.

We all need storage jars and tins, pepper mills and colanders …

Never in my life have I seen so many different sixes and types of frying pan!

And then we came to car accessories, DIY items (husband bought a clamp … no idea what he wants it for, but at under £5 he thought it was worth having … so he was seduced by the prices in The Range which have helped make Mr Dawson a multi-millionaire) and I saw a magnetic fridge notepad for £1, and then I saw chopping boards made from Hevea wood (they are rubber trees from which latex is obtained) and the information on them states that they are from managed plantations in South East Asia, and once they cease producing latex the trees are felled and systematically replaced so they are not contributing to deforestation.  I bought two.

Next we had a look at the Artists Supplies and were surprised that they sold Winsor & Newton and other well-known brands of paints and papers and brushes.  Not that we’re artists, but it’s good to know that they sell such highly-regarded branded products.

What have I learned from this second visit to The Range?  Well, not to write something off by one department’s goods. And if I’m sniffy about the Home Décor items, they must be popular otherwise they’d not be there.  And perhaps some of the items, such as the mirrors, could be adapted, even  transformed, with a lick of paint to their ‘silver’ or ‘gold’ frames?  Even the Liberace-candelabra could be painted and turned into a useful hat stand!  Indeed, I was almost tempted by some cushions (for the garden seats) on a ‘Nautical’ display – everything nautical being ‘on trend’ for the summer, of course …

Well, perhaps NOT the sparkly lobster cushions!

I would add that there is a tiny café.  Of course, I would place such a café at the entrance so the customers would have an exterior view from their seats, if only of the car park.   But I’m not a former market-trader and Mr Dawson obviously knows what he’s about:  you have to go not only through almost the whole of the ground floor but also up the escalator to reach the tiny cafe, as it is situated in a far corner. Obviously, they don’t want people sitting eating and drinking when they could be buying things!  The further they have to walk, the more items they might buy en route. That’s how fortunes are made.  And I say good luck to him and his enterprise.  The items aren’t expensive, they fulfil a need, especially when young couples are attempting to furnish their homes on very limited budgets – I saw a very nice cotton throw for under £7.  Will we go there again? Well, if the light bulb that husband bought doesn’t pop at the first turn of a switch, yes we most certainly will.

Stop Press …

I forgot to add this …

Doggy Restroom?  C’mon!  It’s a wee-wee pad!  Well, I think I’ve seen it all now.  Perhaps this is suitable for a dog-owner who might live in a high-rise flat and can’t be bothered to take the dog out for a wee, but how on earth do you train a dog to perform on a little faux-grass pad?  I suppose like you do in training a cat to use a litter tray!  But it says more about the owner, surely?  Unless you are disabled, if you have a dog, surely it needs to go outside for a wee?  I think what I find more offensive than the actual item is the word “restroom”.  That’s not an English euphemism (all euphemism is bad) and it’s coy.

Until next time.




About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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  1. I have been to a branch of The Range but it was many years ago and from what I remember it was how you described your first visit. I’ll have to get my daughter to take me again one day, she’s always up for a trip and doesn’t pull a face like my husband!

    I’m going out with her today, not sure where yet but it’s going to be outside and it’s pretty cold out there. My husband is staying home in the warm, I think he may be the sensible one.

    • Margaret Powling

      I’m glad I’m not alone in my first impression (and actually my 2nd impression to start with) of The Range, Alison. Similarly, I once went into Iceland (I mean the store, not the country) and soon walked out again, I knew it wasn’t my kind of food nor my kind of store so it failed on both counts. Yesterday, I said to husband, jokingly but half-meaningly, “I hope no one we know sees us going in here!” ha ha! A Very Hyacinth Bucket comment, no doubt!
      If you go out, I know you will wrap up warmly (not wrap up “warm” as we are told to do by the weathermen and -woman on TV!)

      • It started out reasonably with some sun and no wind but the temperature plummeted as the morning went on and my granddaughter started crying so we came home early. She was fine as soon as we got out of the cold so I’m sure it was that. She’s only 15 months so she can’t explain it yet.

        • Margaret Powling

          Oh, the poor wee mite. But it has been very cold today, even here in sunny Torbay at 1 pm the temperature outside the summerhouse was showing as 6C, so in the shade it would’ve been much colder. Glad we have a cosy warm house!

  2. Oh my goodness Margaret, now I have seen everything, a dog potty pad, whatever next! My spaniel would turn her nose up at such a thing am sure and my old Labrador would have tried to eat it!
    I can’t say that I have every visited a branch of the Range, like you say a good place for a young couple on a tight budget to decorate their home and an impressive choice of cookware.
    We have also visited Waitrose this morning to stock up on a few essentials ahead of the forecasted cold snap, it seems as if Winter has quite finished with us yet. I did pick up some scented Narcissi for the vases, pretty little things and hopefully they will have the promised scent.

    • Margaret Powling

      My vivid imagination went to ‘seeing’ it (in my mimd’s eye) being used by a St Bernard and flooding the floor, ha ha! But it was certainly good for a laugh and if they stock it, someone will surely buy it!
      You were fortunate to find the scented narcissi, all our Waitrose has had has been yellow daffodils, pretty, but certainly not the small narcissi.

  3. I must confess that I have never heard of The Range but, after seeing those photographs, I do not feel cheated in any way! (Doggie wee pads? My dog’s aim is definitely not good enough for one of those, besides, it would need to come with a tree trunk…)
    My husband is out in the wood yard, making sure that we have enough logs sawn and stored, ready for the cold weather. He has been hoping for something like this all winter, he loves stoking the fires and keeping us all warm and toasty. My grandchildren are hoping for the worst and lots of snow, of course!

    ps Please do not go back for that lobster!

    • Margaret Powling

      Oh, Elaine, you have made me laugh! A wee-wee pad complete with tree trunk, the mind boggles. But it’s given us all a good laugh, has it not! How lovely having your own wood yard, chopping logs – that sounds very pioneer spirit! We have a living flame gas fire, not as good as a real fire, but at least it’s not one of those electric ones as on this week’s Back in Time for Tea (BBC2) programme, where, in the 1960s, people had electric fires with flickering lights to simulate a ‘fire’.
      Ooh, I’m sooooo tempted with that lobster cushion!

  4. simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

    I confess I did by a heart this week at the charity shop, but it is an outdoor one, made of some sort of willow I think, I hung it on the fence of the chicken housing, and I think it looks good.

    There is just so much “tat” about these days, everything is mass produced, give me a collectables shop, antiques fair, car boot any day!

    • Margaret Powling

      Hearts are very popular, Marlene, and one for outside in which you might even weave greenery could look very nice. Yes, there is far too much tat, but today’s tat is tomorrow’s collectables … think about lava lamps for example, all the rage in the 1960s (not that I ever wanted one, mind) and now they’re collectables! But yes, you can usually find more interesting things in a collectables’ shop.

  5. My daughter in law has a pee pad for her Pomeranian. When it’s -35C, you will try anything to avoid going outside from a third floor apartment.

    The Pomeranian uses it begrudgingly. It’s more fun to bark pathetically, watch your human get dressed , gloved, booted, and scarved to take you down three flights of stairs to turn up your snout and demand to go back inside.

    At our house, the husband opened the back door and watched her fall into a snowbank, the dog, not our son’s wife. The Collie just hold his water and tries to go out twice a day!

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, I wondered if, while it gave me a laugh as I’d never seen one before (and we don’t laugh at cat litter trays, do we, as we’re familiar with those?) it might be a good idea for small dogs if you live in a high-rise and as your daughter-in-law lives on the 3rd floor and it’s -35C, it would be a very good thing for the little dog to have. My goodness, all that snows sounds horrific! But I’m delighted that you have told me about such a little doggy wee-wee pad is in use, this demonstrates that while I thought it was amusing, it really is a useful piece of kit.

  6. Greetings Margaret. I had a smile on my face after reading your entertaining post today (and I mean that in a good way!) It’s interesting to see how words such as restroom have such different meanings all other the world. I know you’ve written about this before but here in the states, it probably the most proper/polite word to use for that need 🙂 Although, it’s funny seeing it written for the dog. It was enjoyable seeing the photos of The Range as I have never heard of this store before. My home is filled with my treasures from my family and travels and that really means eclectic items that one can’t find easily. I believe your home is filled with many one of a kind beautiful items that have meaning. Unfortunately, I find the young people today want nothing to do with quality as they want fashion. And, they get it at these places with inexpensive items mostly poorly made from China. I love going to my Home Goods store (like a huge TK MAXX I believe) and going down the isles looking for the French cookware or English made mugs. Quality and beauty are number one as I refuse to buy anything for my home made in China. Yet, I find interior decorators there with their carts piled high with all sorts of cheap, gaudy items to furnish the homes they are decorating. I think it’s really a different time that I live in. For me, I want something that is classic and timeless and luckily, my little grandson loves Grandma’s old world style. Hopefully you are snug and warm and ready for the stormy weather. Stay safe and I look forward to reading your next post. Sending you my best wishes, Pat xx

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, we all call things differently, don’t we? But I’ve always thought the American way of referring to the bathroom or restroom strange. Here, such places are called Toilets but until recently this was a rather unacceptable word, very non-U (as in non-upper class). Writer Nancy Mitford, many years ago, wrote a list of words that weren’t acceptable in upper class circles and Toilet was one of them. We must call it by what it is, as Toilet (as is Restroom/Bathroom) a euphemism for Lavatory or Loo. I used to make a point of asking in restaurants “Please direct me to the Lavatory …” but now I use the word Toilet as I don’t think many people would use the word Lavatory today and indeed, young people mightn’t even know what it is!
      How lovely that your home is filled with treasures from your travels. I’ve never been far, only once to France, and one to Germany when I was 16, although husband has been to European countries and once to Japan (in his working capacity many years ago.) Most of our things are those which we inherited, but even had we not inherited them I don’t think I’d be filling my home with those items on display in The Range, although some people will love them, and really, I accept that we all like different things. How lovely that your little grandson likes your ‘old world’ style! A little man of taste! And best wishes to you, too, Pat.

  7. A branch of ‘The Range’ opened not too far from us a couple of years ago and we’ve been in it exactly three times!
    We did spend £50 on one item in there on our first visit, our son and daughter in law have decorated their hall in an Art Deco style and we saw a mirror of exactly the right shape, size and design, so picked it up there and then. They have it above the radiator cabinet and it looks wonderful, much better than one would expect for £50! Husband did put new, stronger hanging hooks on it though, as the existing ones looked a bit feeble for the weight of glass they had to support!
    Little signs saying ‘LOVE’, ‘LAUGH’, ‘SLEEP’, ‘BATHE’ et al drive me to distraction as do ‘crystal’ lights and chandeliers made from plastic, tacky-tacky-tacky.
    Husband and I play a game now whenever we find outselves anywhere that sells ‘tat’, we look for the tackiest, most awful thing we can find and give it our special ‘Grottiest object award’. Believe me, we’ve seen some crackers!
    Our daughter in law is a very talented artist, (just as a hobby) and buys most of her brushes from The Range as they’re so much cheaper than our local specialist art supplier.
    I will confess to buying a remarkably tacky plastic puffin, six inches tall, which lives in a Wisteria trough in the back garden. Our grandson loves it and got so upset every time I took it from him that I gave in gracefully! Hopefully the ‘Beast from the East’ will shatter it, giving me a valid reason for getting rid of it!
    Go on Margaret, buy a sparkly lobster cushion, I dare you!

    • Margaret Powling

      That’s what I said to husband, Colette … our mission was to find the most awful thing, but once in there we forgot to do this, except I found the Liberace candelabra and the sparkly lobster cushion. I can’t include the doggy wee-wee pad because Wondercollie tells me that her daughter in law has one for their doggy, living in a 3rd floor apartment and temperatures at -35C, so it saves taking doggy out when it needs to ‘go’, so the wee-wee mat is actually proving useful. But next time – and husband said only this morning, “I wouldn’t mind another trip to The Range!” which really surprised me, but he loves to look around the tools sections. Yes all those LOVE, LAUGH, LIVE et all notices are ridiculous, as are homilies like that in little frames. Oh dear, I fear I’m going to upset some people by saying that, but I’d rather see a pretty scene than a few words. Of course, letters and ampersands have become popular to prop up on bookshelves and mantelpieces in recent years.
      My husband was looking at the artists’ brushes and said how expensive they are, but it’s years since he did any watercolour painting and no doubt they are much more expensive in specialist art supply shops.
      I think it’s perfectly alright to buy something tacky provided we know it’s tacky and we do it for a laugh. I confess I was tempted with a pair of the Nautical cushions which could ‘live’ in our summerhouse, but as the summerhouse is rather colonial in look, with basket chairs and an old Persian rug that my late uncle bought in 1939 (2nd hand, of course) and which he gave us as a wedding present in 1964 (along with some pretty Chippendale style chairs) and which we had in our hall in our previous home for 21 years and then here for a further 17 years before it was put in the summerhouse in 2010 (so was pretty worn by then) I really don’t think Nautical-look cushions (or even the sparkly lobster) would look quite right! Well, the lobster cushion would never look right ANYWHERE, would it? I expect it’s their best seller, ha ha!
      I tell you what is becoming a bit of a décor cliché now, too: little piles of old Observer’s books (without the dust jackets, so only the colours of these little books are showing.) I buy several style magazines each month and almost without exception I can usually find a home with a little pile of Observer’s books. Nothing wrong with the books, just that they are becoming used as décor objects (and, I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that until everyone is doing it.)

  8. I still have two of my old Observer’s books; Horses and Ponies, and Grasses, Sedges and Rushes. They live on the biggest bookcase in the hall though, they’re well used, so not really fit for display purposes!
    I know someone who would love the sparkly lobster, she’s actually my best friend of 56 years! It’s said that opposites attract, and there have never been two more disparate women. I’m sure that’s why we get on so well, all we seem to have in common is being Godmother to one anothers children.
    We never buy anything ornamental for each other, as our tastes are entirely opposite, or as I keep telling her, I have good taste and she likes trash! She actually agrees with me, she knows she has dreadful taste, but as her husband does too, it’s all fine!

    • Margaret Powling

      I also have my Observer’s books, Colette, they are still very useful books to have – Horses and Ponies, Wild Flowers, Birds, etc. I do think these books were well-used, in the main; there was nothing else like them at that time, and they were often given to children as presents, and they were just small enough to go into a pocket. Oh, your friend must be a very good friend if you can say to her that you have good taste and she likes trash! Not many people would stand for being told the truth as bluntly as that! Anyway, now you know where you can find her a sparkly lobster cushion if you decide to buy her something totally tacky as a present!

  9. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    We recently had a branch of The Range open in town. I don’t like stores like this with their rows and rows of dubious brick-a-brack and cheap chocolate. Granted, if you trawl through all this there is the odd quality item if you are prepared to find it but most of the time I just can’t be bothered. When I first saw a branch Of Dunelm I thought it interesting and often had a look at what it had to offer bUt now there seems to be no difference between it and Wilkinsons, B&M, Home Bargains and Home Sence. The Range is just another in a long line of the same shops by another name all selling the same goods and I am so fed up with them.

    • Margaret Powling

      I don’t think there’s a B&M, Wilkinsons, Home Bargains or Home Sense anywhere in this area, Eloise, but I could be wrong as we seldom go to out of town shopping parks where these places tend to be. I thought Dunelm might be worth a try when it first opened and I have bought a few things there, including the little dishes we use on our table when we have individual bowls of butter for meals, or the little white dish in which I put marmalade, and also our white soup/cereal bowls are from Dunelm, and they are a lovely quality which surprises me when there is so much rubbish there, too. Now I’ve been to The Range I’m not going to write it off as, after all the tat (the Liberace candelabra, the faux tailor’s dummy complete with ballet tutu, the word L O V E on so many things, and the ubiquitous hearts) there are some half-decent kitchen wares, proper saucepans, kettles and toasters.

  10. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    I think those shops are fine for bakeware etc but I just find it easier to pick it up in Tesco. Fortunately we have a very good branch nearby. What on earth would anyone do with tutu clad faux tailor’s dummy, I wonder!

    • Margaret Powling

      I bought my last roasting tin in Bazaar, the shop we go to in the village near Torquay which is run by an Indian family and it has just about everything in it, but it’s also small so not overwhelming. We love it. Everything from candles to light bulbs, Vick vapour rub to Antiquax polish.
      Those awful faux-tailor’s dummies which I’ve seen in magazines are usually draped with beads when a few hooks inside the wardrobe door would suffice and keep them dust-free, too.

  11. We don’t have that particular store in Australia but we do have many equivalent types. Shops filled with crap (an Australian term similar to your tut). Strangely enough (to me, anyway), people shop in those places. I think even when household incomes are low, many still want to buy things. Is it to fill a void ? I don’t know. But I’m sure someone out there has one or two of those glittery lobster cushions, an oversized candelabra and several large mirrors faux-gilt edged with love in their home and are quite chuffed. Some people prefer new stuff over secondhand items and like to buy new items each year or season so as to freshen up their homes. All the same, me not big on glittery lobster cushions …..


    • Margaret Powling

      Oh, yes, we call certain things ‘crap’, too, Lara. Do you know how the word originated? As you know it refers to ordure, to put it politely. Many years ago, a chap called Thomas Crapper produced flushing lavatories, and so going there was “having a crap”, i.e. using a truncated version of his name, since when nasty things have been referred to as crap.
      Oh, I’d not be surprised if that sparkly lobster cushions isn’t a best seller! But you are right, some people will always buy new, even if the quality is suspect, over 2nd hand although the quality is better. I once knew someone who wouldn’t buy a 2nd hand book as someone else had ‘handled it’.

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