A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting the founder of The Small Home – a beautifully curated homeware, clothing & accessories site comprised of artisan and sustainably-made pieces that you’ll want to keep for years to come. Ayshea McCormack, a former fashion buyer, has the most exquisite taste and eye for interiors; and I had the pleasure of spending a glorious day photographing her stunning south London home…
Over a delicious fig salad and buckwheat bread lunch, Ayshea told me all about how it all started. A wonderful idea that began small with a clear intention that quickly took root and grew – there’s such a lovely story behind the Instagram hit sheepskin moccasins!
Needless to say, I’ve completely fallen in love with the woven leather Mohinder City Slippers slippers (wearing on Instagram here; and The Small Home is the only European stockist for these!) – handmade with stunning craftsmanship, super comfy and effortlessly cool! And you may also recognise another Insta favourite, the jute macrame shopper, a favourite of Ayshea’s and in a very useful larger size.
Ayshea has also designed a capsule wardrobe of beautiful quality cotton pieces: the handwoven cotton Festival Top is gorgeous to wear and the dresses – modelled beautifully on Instagram – are just the kind of thing you want to throw on on a hot summer’s day (basket in hand, woven slippers on foot!).
I absolutely love The Small Home vibe and aesthetic and am taking lots of home styling tips, as well pouring over the beautiful cushions, plant pot baskets and tableware – all of which are so perfectly incorporated into Ayshea’s inviting home…
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and why you started The Small Home?
Before launching The Small Home, I worked as a fashion buyer and director for nearly 20 years. I loved my job, but having taken time-out following the birth of my two daughters, I decided that the almost throw away, mass-produced nature of retail on the high street now held less appeal for me.
I felt that there was a real opportunity to develop a much more meaningful brand – one that champions integrity and authenticity above all else, and that very much stands opposed to that modern mind-set of disposability.
The Small Home was also created as a lifestyle choice for my family and me. As a fashion director working for a big retailer, I would have had to spend Monday to Friday away from my children and home.
The business is run from our family home and in many ways it morphs into our daily life. My daughters love to get involved in what I am doing; they constantly sketch out new ideas, which often get added to the office’s inspiration pin board. I love that I can come downstairs for a cup of tea with them when they come home from school. I feel like I am a good role model to them, as they often talk about starting their own businesses, which is so lovely to hear.
“The aesthetic is paired-back and understated. I’m inspired by the Japanese Wabi Sabi concept – seeing the beauty in imperfections…”
What type of product and brands did you want to focus on?
The Small Home is a mixture of items that are designed by and exclusively made for us, and curated branded product.
The collection is very personal to me. The clothing range is what I want to wear myself, and the interiors collection is what I like to surround myself with in my own home.
The aesthetic is paired-back and understated. I’m inspired by the Japanese Wabi Sabi concept – seeing the beauty in imperfections – and so The Small Home very much hails the handmade, the natural and the unique.
We are also committed to supporting small, socially-responsible craftspeople and producers. The result is product with provenance, and artisans with interesting stories to tell.
I know your sheepskin slippers are hugely popular – how did they come about?
The design of our sheepskin moccasins is based on a traditional Polish mountain slipper that has been made in the beautiful Tatra mountain region for generations.
My daughters were initially given them as a gift when they were very young and I loved them so much that I managed to track them down in an adult size for myself.
I knew when I launched The Small Home that I would like to stock them, but all of the examples that I could find were no longer made in the traditional handmade way. Instead they were made by machines in factories. The sheepskin quality was rough and the colours were garish.
I therefore decided to buy all of the raw materials myself, and find someone who could make them for us. I found a family in the Tatra Mountains who made moccasins using the traditional skills passed down through generations.
I buy the softest sheepskin shearlings from reputable sources. I use high quality hand-moulded suede soles made in the traditional way. I also send out rare-breed British embroidery yarns. This way I can control the quality and design of the moccasins that are being produced.
I’ve always thought that there was a gap in the market for great slippers. We are all creatures of comfort at heart – simple, comforting daily rituals are so important, and so for many people, putting on their slippers after a hard day is a lovely moment!
What is the vision for the clothes you are designing?
Our clothing range is a capsule collection of modern, timeless pieces – items that are not fashion fads, but instead, favorite, ‘go-to’ pieces that you can return to season after season.
The shapes are simple, but always cut to be flattering. And it’s about being ‘style conscious’ in every way, so we use only sustainable, ethically-produced hand-woven cloths, many of which are produced by remote Indian communities that use traditional weaving and natural dyeing techniques.
Our attempt is to apply these traditional crafts to create modern and beautiful, cherished pieces.
What pieces do you like to wear and use yourself?
The Festival Dress and Top are personal favourites of mine. I have them in all the different fabrics and colours. The white Festival Top looks fab tucked into denim, and I tend to wear the orange cheese cloth version in a more bohemian way, worn un-tucked with gold jewellery.
The dress is my absolute favorite. I love it unbelted with flat shoes for a cool daytime look, but it looks great with heels or boots, belted for more ‘dressed-up’ occasions.
And tell me more about the gorgeous Mohinder slippers?
I came across Mohinder last year on Instagram and became obsessed by getting my hands on a pair personally before my summer holiday. They are a Californian brand and at that point were only stocked by a few US retailers – all of which had sold-out.
I was also delighted to read that their business ethos was so perfectly aligned to The Small Home. Michael, the owner, has an uncompromising view when it comes to the ethics and sustainability of his brand. His shoes are made with amazing skill, by third and fourth generation master shoemakers in India.
We are lucky enough to be their sole European stockist. I feel passionately about their shoes and am wearing them constantly at the moment. They look effortlessly cool; they are really versatile and go with pretty much everything. But best of all, they are incredibly comfortable and as with so many of our pieces, and anything that’s really well made, they just get better and better with age!
How useful have you found Instagram for building the business?
Instagram has been my shop window to the world. We have customers far and wide across the globe, and this is mainly down to Instagram. It really has been a game changer for small businesses.
Our customers have been incredibly supportive – sharing and tagging our product in their pictures. We have been very lucky that a number of social media influencers have supported us from early on. These posts are so important to small businesses and we always feel incredibly grateful for all mentions no matter how small.
Any new products you’d like to tell us about?
We are very excited to launch our new Sheepskin Moccasin Beaded Boot this September. Handmade with the same craftsmanship as our Moccasin Slippers, but in a taller boot, which can be worn up or folded down. They are hand-beaded in vibrant-coloured, opaque, Japanese glass seed beads.
These are definitely slippers that you wouldn’t be ashamed to open your front door in!
Your home is so beautiful – can you tell us a little about the renovation and how you’ve chosen the pieces that make up your interior style?
We lived in our south London home for over 10 years before renovating it. The need for the renovation came from our growing family and The Small Home. I was adamant that I wanted to work from home, but we needed to create more space. I’d seen some inspiring work/live spaces in California and I wanted to create something similar.
We wanted open and light spaces that inspired good living, working and entertaining. Our style is eclectic, I really dislike soulless ‘showroom’ type kitchens, and I like the texture of natural materials mixed with plants, books, old artwork and random but beautiful items found on markets and brocants.
I have married a Francophile, and we spend as much time as we can spare in rural France. I have a penchant for slightly dusty old brocante finds. I like bringing them back and mixing them with more clean and modern pieces.
Our kitchen is always a hub of activity. My girls are both really into art so there is always a masterpiece on the go. We really enjoy good food so there is usually something bubbling on the stove. And, as both my husband and I run our own businesses, there are usually a couple of laptops perched within arms reach!
The snuggest sheepkin slippers! Adults and kids sizes…
Absolutely love the blue trim on the Festival top!
Some gorgeous pieces for the home…
The perfect way to house your plants…
All photography by myself on Olympus Pen F