91 catches up with Hattie Crook, owner of Yorkshire-based contemporary home store Maud’s House.
Nestled in the north Yorkshire Dales, Maud’s House is a warm and welcoming store with everything one’s heart might desire to make a house a home. Tactile ceramics sit alongside unusual textiles, with artwork and gifts from independent designers and accessories sourced from around the world. Behind the counter and the online store is Hattie Crook, who started Maud’s House in the summer of 2016.
The Skipton store has recently been revamped with a fresh look for Spring and brings together the artistic community feel that Hattie has loved curating. ‘I guess the essence of MH is created by all the people who supply and shop here,’ explains Hattie. ‘Those who share the same or similar aesthetics and outlook as we do, and through this understand each other. And those who appreciate the craft and effort of something handmade, as well as a well-designed printed editorial or beautifully illustrated card.’
The picturesque location of Maud’s House is just one draw of being in Skipton, and Hattie enjoys the independent and creative businesses in the town, as well as the stunning surrounding countryside. ‘I left the city a few years ago now in search of a different approach to working life,’ says Hattie. ‘I knew it was possible to do what you want and most importantly be where you want to be, not restricted by the confines of an office or hectic commute.’ This epiphany is what drew Hattie to opening her own store, creating a free lifestyle that has influenced the aesthetic. ‘In honesty, it was very much a mindful decision, what would be best for our happiness in the long run,’ Hattie admits. ‘There’s an abundance of space to walk and take time out here, a great community of existing and emerging businesses and - most importantly - a network of supportive customers who equally live here to escape their weekday city jobs and enjoy dropping in the shop on a Saturday for a chat and a browse.’
Hattie’s dream was to open a shop that reflected her love for illustration and design and her own personal style, and the items in the store (which was named after Hattie’s great-grandmother) come from a predominantly British design background. ‘I come from a creative background: my dad was a designer and so I had an understanding from an early age of the importance of supporting emerging designers and profiling work I felt had integrity and thought behind it,’ she explains. ‘Alongside Maud’s House, my partner Jonathan runs an illustration and graphic design studio, Little Tail, and between the two of us we are always keeping an eye out for something we’ve not seen before, designers who spark excitement and we feel are a good fit for the shop.’
Hattie is a self-confessed ceramics fan, and now stocks pieces by Laura Bird, Tilly Hemingway, and Alex Sickling, among others, and locally, she has worked with illustrator Olivia Holden, who designed exclusive Christmas cards featuring the shop dog, Lily! ‘A lot of makers and wholesalers approach the shop, but I always message directly the ones I can see working in the shop and online,’ she says.
‘I have a strict rule that we don’t stock anything we don’t love,’ continues Hattie. ‘I always ask myself “would I buy this?” “does it have function?” “would I have this in my home?” “would I give this to someone?’ and if the answer is yes, then it makes it onto our shelves.’ Recent favourites have been the iconic moccasin slippers (‘they are the cosiest clouds to walk around in!’) but Hattie admits that often the small-batch quantities mean that favourite products sell out long before she gets to take them back to her own home. The Maud’s House blog extends the shop beyond the bricks and mortar and delves into more cultural and artistic endeavours across the UK and, indeed, the world. ‘It was never intentional for my personality to be so present within the Maud’s House brand, we even opted to name the shop after my great grandmother (I get people calling me Maud all the time now),’ Hattie muses. ‘However, when you own such a small business and ultimately you’re the only person doing the day-to-day operations and marketing, it’s hard not to make your voice heard, especially when you’re so passionate about what you do.’
The blog covers indie mags (yay!), new music and shop news, as well as fun cocktails and in-depth features on the designers arriving at the shop. ‘Maud’s House isn’t just a place where you can pick up your bestie’s birthday present or your ace new slippers, it’s about a lifestyle we share with like-minded folk and the topics on the MH Journal reflect that,’ adds Hattie. ‘It’s all the stuff our customers can relate to, particularly our regulars who like to look out for more personal updates.’
The blog and the Instagram account portray a cool, creative approach to shop keeping. ‘IG is the main way I connect socially with our online customers, I think it works because it’s so visual and I have fun curating the feed, posting vignettes of the shop much like how I enjoy merchandising products in-store.’ Like many of us, the app opens up a portal into the world outside Hattie’s own, and offers inspiration, as well as the instant interaction with customers. ‘When I’m having a quiet day in Skipton, IG manages to keep me focused on the bigger picture and even just the smallest of comments brightens up my day!’ admits Hattie. ‘I tend not to follow many shops on IG, simply because it can become a distraction from my own creative vision, but on a personal level I receive lots of warm and supportive comments and DM’s from fellow indie owners which is pretty humbling when they’re out there doing amazing things of their own.’
Hattie’s positivity and pure love for the business seem to extend to all aspects of running a small indie, and so far she has found that the positives of her job far outweigh the challenges. ‘In the early days, I found that going from working in a bustling creative studio environment to spending the best part of the week working solo from the shop could be quite lonely, without having colleagues to critique your work and give you valuable feedback,’ Hattie says. ‘But as the MH community has grown, so has my confidence - I’m never alone for very long and my ‘team’ is made up of regular customers, some now good friends, who visit on a weekly basis.’ And her advice for budding indie shopkeepers? ‘I think if you’ve got passion, drive and vision then go for it - don’t deliberate, or imitate others, just do it, once you’ve got over the initial hurdles of setting up shop you’ll thank yourself.’
All photography by Scott Cross