Since opening in the Northern Quarter last September, Elly and Harry’s beautiful curation of independent designers and makers has become my first port of call whenever I’m on the lookout for a stylish, unique gift or something to treat myself to on payday.
It’s also a lovely place to stop by simply for a natter about all things design, craft and the latest Northern Quarter openings (as well as a chance to pet the utterly gorgeous Rudy!), which meant that when I first conceived of the idea to start a new series of ‘Secret City‘ conversations here on the blog, Elly and Harry were one of the first I thought of to interview.
Tucked away down a side alley between Oldham and Lever Streets, the store may not be the easiest to stumble upon purely by accident, but is definitely one worth hunting down. Housed in an architecturally striking listed building (one of the city centre’s only surviving examples of one-up one-down house), the interior centres around an elegant winding metal staircase, flanked by Northern Quarter-friendly exposed red brick, under an expansive glass ceiling that floods light into the store no matter the weather.
The ground floor houses the main store across two rooms, with an additional mezzanine level and basement space playing host to regular intimate workshops led by many of their makers and other local creatives, including screen-printing with Aeand Studio, calligraphy with Artsynibs and terrarium workshops with Maybe May.
Elly and Harry have a shared love of well-designed and perfectly-formed products, and all of the pieces in store have been carefully selected with a focus on design, function and simplicity. The couple like to spend time getting to know the designers and makers whose products they showcase, with each chosen for their unique attention to detail and craftsmanship, as well as a passion for small scale crafting processes.
The Form Lifestyle ethos is to champion slow-living, and this is reflected in Elly and Harry’s thoughtful approach to buying; choosing to buy fewer, well-considered products that have been built to last and will take pride of place in our hearts and home. Everything you see in store, they would genuinely love to have in their home – and in most cases do!
I’ve discovered so many wonderful new (to me) makers whilst perusing the displays in store, including beautifully minimal geometric lithograph prints by Laurie Maun, delicate sterling silver jewellery from Wild Fawn, simple recycled glassware by The Atlas Works, tactile hand-thrown stoneware by Consall Forge Pottery, and dreamy hand-dyed linen textiles by Stoff Studios.
So, knowing how much they love the city and how on-the-ball they are with all the cool hotspot in their local neighbourhood, I thought I’d ask Elly and Harry to share a little insight into ‘their Manchester’ and spill the beans on some of the coolest places for you to discover..
Let’s meet.. Elly & Harry, Form Lifestyle Store
How long have you been living in Greater Manchester, and whereabouts are you based?
We moved to Manchester around 3 years ago now, after living in London for uni and for several years after. We live in a flat in Ancoats in an old textiles mill with high ceilings and loads of natural light and we absolutely love it!
What drew you to the city initially?
We’d grown sick of living in London but still wanted to live somewhere with all the excitement and variety of a big city. We came to visit Manchester for just one day before we decided to move here and were immediately attracted to the Northern Quarter and Ancoats – we just knew we wanted to live here and open our own business amongst all the other great independents here.
What’s your favourite thing about the city?
I think our favourite thing has to be the size and location, we love that we can walk almost everywhere in the city but also be able to get in the car and drive to the Peaks, National Parks or Formby beach in under an hour. In London it could take much longer than this to get to work on the tube each morning!
Best place for a morning cuppa?
We’ve loved going to Foundation ever since we moved here; they were just opening when we were looking for flats, I (Elly) also spent a lot of time in there on my laptop working on our website and searching for the perfect location for the shop! We also love newly opened Just between friends on Tib Street, and also the beautiful interior and light in Atkinsons coffee.
Favourite place for a design-fix?
Our shop – we’re in a very unique Grade II listed building with exposed brickwork and an amazing spiral staircase. It’s so close to the city centre but at the same time manages to feel so calm and tranquil, especially with all the greenery inside!
Can you share an insider’s secret spot you discovered in the city?
Ancoats ‘beach’. It’s right by where we live but we didn’t actually know about it when we moved in, then just stumbled upon it one day! It’s so nice to sit out there and relax on a summer evening and we walk Rudy there every day. Our friends at Pollen bakery (currently in another secret spot in the railway arches) are opening there soon too and we can’t wait!
Favourite way to spend a weekend in the city?
I’d love to have a really exciting answer to this question but as we’re such a small business and it’s just the 2 of us that run and work in the shop, all of our weekends are spent working… but we’re right in the heart of the Northern Quarter which is one of our favourite areas anyway so it’s easy for us to pop out to one of our favourite coffee shops for a caffeine fix, to Siop for a doughnut fix or over to Mackie Mayor, or to Rudy’s on our way home, for food and drinks at the end of a long day!
Everywhere we like to go is dog-friendly as well, so we’ll usually take Rudy along with us too.
→Form Lifestyle Store, 6 Bradley St, Manchester M1
All photography © Kate Baxter.