When and why did you decide to open Map Stores?
The website was launched in September 2018, and after a few pop-up shops in locations from Gloucestershire to Hertfordshire, we decided to plant our roots in Harpenden. We renovated the space here in February 2020 and the store opened to take on its true form (as it is now) in March 2020.
At the start of 2017 I was at a crossroads after the loss of my father, so I had decided to take six months out to heal and reflect. During this time, I started the business concept, and things just grew from there. I wanted to cultivate a stylistic and functional range of contemporary design, considering every product for its beauty, simplicity, craftsmanship and quality.
Who is behind Map Stores?
Map Stores was founded by me, Pam, originally from Edinburgh. ‘We’ are now a tiny, but perfectly formed team of three. There is Fabian, originally from South London. A master of all things logistical and who makes sure the day to day running of the store is smooth. Including the soulful sounds, carefully considered to create the right ambience, which is very important to the vibe we want for our customers. Then there is Emma, the original local St Albans girl, who has huge influence on the product and creative, conceptual side of the business.
What had you done before? Did any of these skills help?
I had worked in the fashion industry for 20 years as a textile designer, product developer, garment technologist and technical manager. Working with high end brands, high street and online retailers. It was a career I loved, and it took me all over the world, but I could start to feel a wind of change, so it was the right time to do something different.
The skills I gained in my career, gave me everything I needed to create Map Stores. Everything from the creativity of my design background to my buying and negotiation skills, and then also understanding manufacturing and logistics. I am very grateful of so many of these skills and how they have enabled me to grow a strong foundation for the business.
As a team, we have all come from similar creative industries, so we have always spoken a very similar work language, which is a big part of our strength as a team. Not one of us could do what we do without the other and I am so grateful for the dynamic we have.
How did you decide on the name?
There are a couple of reasons, one simply is that it is my name backwards, and the other represents the place I was in when I started the business. This was a place of growth and change so the word ‘Map’ felt like it symbolised a plan or route out of where I was in my life.
How would you describe the interior style of the store?
I would describe our aesthetic as a blend of Scandinavian and modern Japanese interior design styles. Both, rooted in minimalist design principles, with a focus on warmth, natural elements, and a muted colour palette. We designed the store alongside Katie Seidler of Hello Haus Interior Design, whose mission is to create simple, beautiful and timeless spaces, which I think we achieved.
Tell us about the range of products you stock…
We strive for all our products to have value, design and function. To have meaning to our customers and to perform in their homes. A Map Stores product should be an investment, have longevity, sustainability and become better over time.
We have some really exciting new brands coming onboard this year and into early 2022, including the beautiful Form & Refine. Form & Refine is a Danish design brand that celebrates materials, form and sustainability equally. Using pure materials, carefully select from around the world, their products are skilfully crafted using local time-honoured Nordic traditions to celebrate the natural form of the materials and create a refined collection of Scandinavian design.
We are also very proud to be working with By Lassen, who are reintroducing one of the most iconic Danish design partnerships to a new era of homes. The Lassen brothers were among the first architects to work with Functionalism in Denmark and by Lassen’s vision is to share this design legacy with future generations.
Sounds exciting! What does a ‘normal’ day look like for you?
There really is no such thing as a normal day for us. Being a micro-business has meant we have all had to adapt and pivot, especially through the terrain of the last couple of years. A ‘normal’ day can be anything from organising our warehouse to being on a client visit or researching new brands to loading product onto the website. Planning and thinking one step ahead is definitely the key.
How do you choose your wares?
When building our edit, we will always consider the essence of a brand, their inspiration and standards of quality and design. All the brands we work with have a set of values that include design heritage with a contemporary element, as well as meeting the highest standards for social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. This means we have a great affection for all the brands we consider working with and view everyone in our collective as a partner in what we do and what we are working towards.
Which item is your bestseller? Why do you think that is?
One thing we do try to do is to keep newness in our range all the time so we can keep the edit fresh but, I would say (at this moment) our bestseller is the Menu Carrie Table Lamp, designed by Norm Architects. The perfect example of Scandinavian design principles: bringing together simple design and function.
What items are your personal can’t-live-without?
It is so important for me to stop and relax at the end of a long day so the Earl of East Onsen collection is a must. An uplifting blend of peppermint, eucalyptus and mandarin helps to cleanse body and mind to help me relax and empty my mind of any stresses. The Earl of East Mezame Shower Spray also helps me wake up in the morning, not one of my strengths!
What do you enjoy most about running Map Stores
I literally do what I love every day. It’s certainly challenging at times but that’s part of what I love, I need to be creative, and I need to be constantly challenged.
What has been your career highlight (so far!)?
Probably the vision we had for the store and to see it coming to life. We planned the process from the foundations of the project up, managing every element from concept to the doors reopening. It was everything I wanted to achieve for so long and had really dreamed of for the business.
What is the neighbourhood like around the new store? Do you have a community of independent stores around you?
We are based in the beautiful Hertfordshire town of Harpenden. I discovered Harpenden after doing a pop-up shop there in Easter 2019 and found that there was a clear demand in the local area for a design led store. It is a very London centric demographic, yet there was nowhere to go, but into London, if you had an interest in Scandinavian inspired homeware.
In Harpenden, there is a unique, old-school sense of community and a real vibe to the High Street, which is hard to find. There is also a lovely growing pool of independent, really creative businesses, which is exciting.
What do you wish you’d known before opening the store? Any advice to share?
I wish I’d known there was a global pandemic on the horizon! No, seriously, I think you just need to be prepared to be adaptable and to allow your business to evolve organically. Don’t be so stringent with your ideas and just let things happen, you can’t always be in control.
Photography: Issey Rider