Four – minute read

If the hectic Manchester shops have tired you out, step into Form Lifestyle Store on Bradley Street in the Northern Quarter for a breather and some carefully curated interior design. It’s a haven of hand-crafted pieces, in serenely minimal surroundings – so serene, in fact, that people often come in mistaking it for the spa next door.

Opened by fashion grad Elly Amoroso and her graphic designer boyfriend Harry Williams just over six months ago, Form Lifestyle Store is a celebration of slow-living; a less-is-more approach to home style. Even its location, a Georgian former servants’ quarters tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Manchester’s chain shops, offers a welcome change of pace.

Here we catch up with Elly, 32, originally from Bedford, to find out what brought the couple to Manchester and how they’ve found their first six months in business…

What made you want to open a shop?

We were living in London and wanted to do something different, so we decided to move to Manchester. We wouldn’t really have been able to do what we wanted to do in London, and we were a bit fed up of living there. We both come from creative backgrounds and are interested in design.

Tell me about Form Lifestyle Store’s slow-living ethos.

We don’t really like the idea of mass-produced things; throwaway fashion, that sort of thing. So everything in here is mainly handmade and is all made by small independent designers and makers. We try to encourage people to buy something a bit nicer and keep it and treasure it, rather than buying new things all the time.

How do you find your suppliers/designers?

A lot of them we already knew in person before we started the shop; people we’d just kind of come across. But it has to be someone who has a good story and is really interesting. We try to pick makers who specialise in one thing and do it well, rather than doing a million different things perhaps not so well. We’re also looking to stock some more Manchester makers; our scrubs and skincare are from Manchester-based Tuk’r and are made by a lady who owns a café in Levenshulme in Manchester. She uses the leftover coffee grounds from her café to make the scrubs and they’re all in recycled, reusable jars. It’s nice when we find local makers like that.

Do you make any of the products yourself?

I make the plant hangers [see pic]. Before we found the space for the shop we did the Makers Market in the Northern Quarter, selling the plant hangers to get our name out there. The market moves around, so it’s in a different place every weekend.

How did you choose the premises?

It was really difficult to find somewhere, especially being such a new company. Many landlords say they will take a start-up, but when it comes down to it, they want someone who’s more established. We’d nearly given up when we found this place. It has an unconventional layout, so when we came to look around, we weren’t sure it would work. But we love it; it’s really unusual, we really like the natural light and the spiral staircase. It was used as offices before and had three layers of horrible, glued-down carpet; Harry pulled it all up and we added the concrete floor. The lighting was office strip lighting, so we changed that, but the spiral staircase was already here. We did most of it ourselves and Harry’s dad helped with some of the more difficult things.

You run workshops in your upstairs space. What was the thinking behind this?

We had a lot of space to use up and didn’t want it to go to waste. But we also love the idea of getting to know our makers better and allowing our customers to get to know the makers behind the products – and have a go at making themselves. We’ve also had a lot of local creatives approaching us to do workshops too. We have brush lettering and modern calligraphy workshops about once a month and that’s very popular. Most of the workshops take place upstairs because there’s so much natural light up there with the sloping glass roof, but we also have space downstairs for larger classes.

What’s been most rewarding about running your own business?

To have finally done it! There was a lot of planning and waiting when we were trying to find somewhere and doing a business plan etc. But now, whenever people walk in they really love it straight away. Everyone says how calming it is in here – and that’s really rewarding.

Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

We were in a big rush to get open on time, so we maybe rushed things a little at the start. We would’ve really liked to have finished refurbishing the other two floors before opening, but we’re now finally in the middle of replacing the floor downstairs so that we can use this space for more workshops, events and pop ups.

Do you have any future plans you’d like to share?

We’re trying to organise a wider range of workshops; in May we’ve got an amazing hand-embroiderer coming up from London for a day-long workshop, an introduction to screen printing workshop, and a ceramic workshop with a potter from Leeds in June. We’ll also be hosting a pop-up in the summer with Fetch and Follow  [a dog lifestyle brand from London] who’s handmade collars and leads we already sell. We’ve already done a few smaller pop-ups in store, but now that we’re finishing the basement level we’re hoping to use this space for other things like events, product launches and exhibitions. We’re really keen to make it so other independents can come in and use the space too.

If you are an independent business owner and would like to know how we can help you take your interior design and branding to the next level, get in touch.