A House Like This is a homegrown mindful interiors and fragrance business. Founded by James Burrow and Ky Ismet, AHLT is a world of immersive scent and homeware, designed to help its customers' houses feel more like a home. We caught up with this pair of creative co-founders to talk about their mission to transport customers on a journey through scent, as well as all things product development, and how their evocative brand came to be.
Hi there James and Ky, please introduce yourselves! Could you give us some background on how you got into developing your mindful interiors and fragrance brand, A House Like This?
Hello! We always wanted to use our collective creative skills to make a business of our own since we got together in 2010.
We created AHLT off the back of renovating our home and learning how important it is to choose mindfully-made, eco-friendly products to style and scent your home. We documented our renovation on Instagram and after using much of our savings to fund it we began making candles for Christmas gifts in 2016. A year later, and because our family and friends loved them so much, we’d launched AHLT!
You’ve created a truly expansive scent library! Where did you begin in building this up and bringing each collection and scent family to life?
Many of our fragrances are inspired by memories and family members, with a little bit of magic and mythology. The twelve Signature scents, available as scent solutions, candles, wax melt bars and skincare, were designed to be combined and work into the seasons and months of the year.
Our immersive aromatherapy collection, The Mindful Edit, was crafted during the first COVID lockdown and was inspired by the idea of summoning a character hidden within yourself when you need a helping hand to feel energised, uplifted or to sleep soundly.
Tarot card descriptions and the idea of a self-care guide helped us develop three distinct characters for The Mindful Edit. It was important for us to create something different with both aspects of our collection, but to have them harmonise in terms of the blends used and their fragrance compositions. We encourage scent layering which helps elevate our core collection when combined with the aromatherapy oils.
Every aspect from the design, the scents, the stories and music is fully homegrown and such an enjoyable creative process that we’re so incredibly proud of.
Your branding and packaging are on point, simple yet beautifully evocative and elegant. What were your influences and inspirations, design-wise?
James is the Creative Director and takes much of his inspiration from botanical art and the paired back, timeless design draws on a monochrome palette that is deliberately gender-fluid. For us fragrance has no gender but is a part of the identity you or your home possesses, so this has been a staple in our design since the beginning.
We first introduced colour with the wax melt bars, specifically knowing that we’d want to reference the fact we’re a proud Queer-owned business in a way that felt authentic to AHLT and the diversity of our range and how it makes you feel, which echoes our community. When the full scent library of wax melt bars are lined up they actually look like a colourful collection of books, subtly referencing the colours of the Pride flag in a way which isn’t contrived or forced but a nod to our LGBTQIA+ roots.
The Mindful Edit collection is monochrome with a gold accent, a way to distinguish the Aromatherapy range from our Signature Scent Library. The gold accent itself was used to display the artwork on each bottle and the packaging, each a window into the characters we created: DREAMER, STORYTELLER and EXPLORER. This was where the tarot deck inspiration really came into the design and how we described the way in which each immersive blend would make you feel.
We love how you’ve created mindful playlists and tracks to pair with your blends, it creates such an immersive experience for your customers. Did this come about from Ky’s background in music? How did you come up with the idea?
When making sensory products it always felt like we needed to incorporate sound into the mix, and with Ky’s background in music it was a no-brainer to find a way to blend the two. We wanted to elevate the way the core range could be used to help alter your state of mind through the use of aromatherapy oils in a way we hadn’t seen before. Fragrance is so powerful and aids memory recall, but music and simple mindfulness techniques can also really help bring about a shift in your mood.
During the COVID lockdown, a trying time for all, we began crafting The Mindful Edit and Ky wrote all three original compositions which were intended to be played, a long with the curated playlists, whilst diffusing the oils. The QR code on each bottle takes you to a home of mindfulness tips which is more accessible than a separate wellness app. DREAMER is a calming scent to help promote better sleep and the two tracks that accompany it bring about a dreamlike state. EXPLORER, an energising blend, has two versions of the track that build up in momentum as you experience the aromatherapy treatment to give you a rush of motivation and take off to distant lands. STORYTELLER is a comforting treatment and the atmospheric nature of the track we created for this essential oil blend feels nostalgic and washes over you like an aromatherapy hug.
How easy is it to innovate and come out with radically different, newer fragrances?
It isn’t easy at all but the concept of scent layering and building a library designed for enhancing your mood is what makes our library so effective. Even your staple favourite scent you use in your living room, bedroom or bathroom can be elevated with other complimentary blends from our collection to help create new moments that harmonise and feel like a cohesive scent journey from room to room.
Could you describe your creative process? From inception to creation, how long does it take?
It really depends on the project and what we’re looking to achieve. We always put a lot of emphasis on making our products as eco-friendly as possible — we’ve developed the range over the years with the 'buy less but better' mantra, but it does make things harder to scale. That said we’ve found ways to create the right variations of each scent and each evolution is meaningful and authentic; we’ll never just create something for the sake of it, and would rather spend months perfecting a product so that we can be 100% happy it’s fully sustainable and true to our values.
Most projects start with a scent or treatment in mind and then we think about the story behind the scent and everything else flows from there.
How do you ensure the quality of your products?
We make all of our products in small batches and do rigorous burn and diffuser blend tests until we can be satisfied with the scent throw and quality of each product. During each batch we hold back products for testing before we release them to our customers. This allows us to make sure we’re happy with the experience we’d have using our collections in our home which is why we longed for a mindful interiors and aromatherapy brand like the one we’ve created when we tried to create calm amongst the chaos of our house renovation.
What are some of your current bestselling fragrances and what, in your opinion, makes them so popular?
The year-round core bestsellers from the Signature Scent Library are FYGGE, PERSEPHONE, ATLANTIS, TONIC and PYRIGE. These are so popular because they offer comfort, mystery, refreshment or joy, no matter the season.
During autumn and winter the focus shifts to HALLOWS, an autumnal hypnotic blend and WYNTER, a festive heart-warming scent. GARLAND is also a beautiful scent which blends wonderfully with EXPLORER from The Mindful Edit — it really does help you escape and feel energised.
How do you manage your workload, and what tips would you have for other indie makers and creatives?
Put simply, you can make anything work if you make a decision in the moment and don’t put something off — but always trust your gut if you’re not 100% happy with something.
We balance a lot with AHLT with our renovation Instagram and partnerships too, but our love for what we do keeps us going. We play to our strengths and get help where we need it. Don’t be ashamed of admitting that you can’t do it all, and don’t be disheartened by vanity metrics on social media or periods of uncertainty in retail. If you love what you do and can find the balance of making more of what your customers love, then let that guide your prioritisation and help you stay on track.
What are you currently working on?
Due to the success of The Mindful Edit we are currently working on the next phase of our Aromatherapy range. We’d already decided on the blends and characters over a year ago and have been creating the musical accompaniments over the past months.
This year also saw us launch more collaborations with other creators.
We’ve launched a beautiful candle with Claire Downes, the ceramicist behind Silverceramics and a collection of candles made in partnership with actors from the TV show Charmed as part of their rewatch podcast the House of Halliwell.
When did you decide to sell your products wholesale, and how has selling wholesale with CREOATE helped grow your business? What advice would you give to artists and makers looking to take the leap?
We’ve found both new partners and helped convert existing wholesale partners onto CREOATE after joining during Summer 2020. We couldn’t justify the expense or even go to trade fairs that year but wanted a sustainable way to grow our small business. CREOATE offers that and more and we’re so proud of every partner we bring on board, and help them find a way to bring AHLT to their customers in a way that feels personal and true to their business, too.
Our tips for other artists and makers is to still be honest with yourself and what your products and values are. Partnership should always feel natural and aligned — everyone benefits if both the maker and retailer find a natural alignment in both offering and brand values.
Thanks so much for telling us more about AHLT, Ky and James! You can shop AHLT's gorgeous line of fragrances and accessories wholesale on CREOATE, and follow AHLT on Instagram @ahouselikethis.shop to keep up with their journey.
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