Local Spotlight: Harriman & Co

Meet James and Drew, Founders of Leicester's Harriman & Co

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful,” said the Victorian textile designer William Morris. Two centuries on – and less than a ten-minute walk from our front door – Harriman & Co. is breathing life into Morris’s manifesto with homewares that combine beauty and function.

We asked owners James and Drew for their tips on honing your sense of style (Drew recommends plenty of side tables “as somewhere to place the after-work gin”), the joys of natural scents and how they created a space for people to feel at home.

You talk about being drawn to products with a natural, nostalgic feel. What makes something feel nostalgic to you?

The nostalgia part applies more to our household and utility items. These are mostly classic designs that have stood the test of time – their functionality, simplicity and the fact they’re generally made from good, honest materials make them a joy to use. Who wouldn’t want to use a brush made from natural bristle and beechwood instead of some plastic nonsense that will pollute the planet?

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Tell us more about the Harriman & Co. store space. How do you want people to feel when they step into your shop?

Our concept was to showcase our values and display our ever-changing collection in as simple a way as possible. When you visit, you’ll immediately smell the candle of the day and the cumulative effect of all the other candles and body care products that give the space a comforting feel. Our aim is for you to have a warm welcome, a smile and a hello. If you need help finding things, learning about them or deciding what to choose, we’ll be there for you. If you want to wander around peacefully on your own, you can do that too.

How do fragrances affect the way we experience our homes?

Fragrances offer so much to the home experience. They welcome visitors, help balance our mood and counteract the stresses of everyday life. Natural fragrances are essential as they don’t pollute the household, and essential oils have therapeutic qualities. They can calm you down, perk you up, promote harmony and help you sleep. They evoke the seasons and festive moments as well. We’re working on our own signature fragrance as we speak!

You source products based on two criteria: beauty and functionality. Why are both important to you?

It’s a cliché really, but William Morris said that you should never have anything in your house that isn’t beautiful or functional. And this mantra was something another one of our heroes, Sir Terence Conran followed. We agree. Why wouldn’t you want a product that not only looks good but does the job it’s designed to do?

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What does your own home look, feel and smell like? Do you have any favourite items?

It’s a late-Georgian house with a mix of classic and contemporary art and furniture. There’s a plentiful supply of candles – we like the natural beeswax candles from the shop. We practice what we sell! When it comes to scent, we like smoky, oud and vetiver scents. We love to bring the outside in, so there are usually some flowers or plants, or some sort of indoor gardening project on the go. There’s an unsurprising emphasis on the natural elements, whether that be in the furniture, fabrics, wooden serving boards, cleaning products or what we cook and eat. A favourite room is the kitchen: it’s the hive of activity for cooking and baking, catching up on the day and welcoming guests.

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If someone was moving into a new apartment today, what advice would you give on finding their style?

Don’t be a slave to fashion or Pinterest; choose pieces that reflect how you like to live and what gives you joy; take your time to feel and live in the space before jumping in and buying everything in one go. Thinking about storage and furniture placement is vital for a small space – everything should earn its place. A common mistake is buying furniture that’s too big. Don’t buy that oversized sofa just because it looks good in the showroom – pair a smaller one with occasional chairs. And you can never have too many side tables. They’re often overlooked and offer great flexibility, as well as somewhere to place the after-work gin.

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