If you’re anything like me, you’re a sucker for a bit of Northern merchandise. I returned home in 2010 and, since then, I’ve fully embraced my Northernness. This includes waxing lyrical about the North to anyone who’ll listen, buying coasters inscribed with Northern vernacular (‘Bobbins: eh, that’s bobbins, that is’ – that’s not very good), and wearing t-shirts emblazoned with proud Northern phrases.

Needless to say, retailers have caught on to this demand for proper Northern goods. One of my favourites is Northern Power Garms, a relatively new online company which styles itself as ‘unapologetically Northern and overwhelmingly real’. I love their designs. From hoodies to hats, totes to jewellery, Northern Power Garms sells quality gear. Last year, my sister gave me their ‘Chufty Badge’ tee for Christmas. I laughed myself silly and haven’t stopped wearing it since. 

Photo courtesy of Northern Power Garms

So, when I heard that a Derbyshire interior designer had been tasked with designing the company’s first physical store, I was intrigued. How would they encapsulate a definitive Northern identity in a shop? How do you make slogans like ‘It’s not grim up North’, ‘Ey Up’ and ‘swear down’ appealing in a Halifax shop window? 

Enter Helena Harrison from Beam Design, based in New Mills. By carefully considering how this workplace and retail outlet would perform, Beam Design set about creating an appealing shopping experience, including front-facing rails to show off the brand’s eye-catching logos and translating the triangular logo onto walls and floors. There was also a collaboration with Crown Paints (whose head office is based in Lancashire) to source just the right shade of pink.

Today, Northern Power Garms is a dynamic presence in the up and coming Westgate Arcade area of Halifax, which already supports lots of local independent businesses. I spoke to Harrison to find out more about her business and her inspiration.

Northern Soul: When did you first know you wanted to be an interior designer?

Helena Harrison: It has always been a passion of mine, ever since I was a teenager. But I was good at science so I was persuaded to take that path initially and qualified as a pharmacist in 2006. The need to do something creative never left so I started a portfolio course and then got accepted into Central Saint Martins to study Fine Art. In 2017, my husband and I built our own house and that gave me the opportunity to really explore my interior design ambitions. This led me to undertake a post-grad diploma in interior design which I completed in 2021 and, since then, I ‘ve never looked back really. I love how the considered design of a room can make an impact, can make you feel uplifted or transported

NS: Tell me about your business, Beam Design.

HH: I started the company just over a year ago and have been slowly building up my portfolio working with a breadth of clients from private homeowners to people with small businesses in both the retail and hospitality sectors. Aesthetically, I want the spaces to be bold and inspiring, yet functionality is at the heart of all projects. I want the client to be able to get the most out of their environments. At the moment it’s just me running things but I have some trusted trade partners to help realise my vision and strong project management skills to get the job done.

Photo courtesy of Northern Power Garms

NS: What kind of projects do you love to work on?

HH: I love injecting a bit of playfulness into a room and keeping the viewer engaged. If clients are ready to embrace something a bit quirky, we can create something unique. Colour always plays an important part in my portfolio, and I like to explore diverse palettes and not just give something run of the mill.

NS: How did the collaboration with Northern Power Garms come about?

HH: I have known Jules [Daniels], the owner, for over 10 years. When she decided to open the store, it seemed like a natural collaboration – her branding already complements my love of colour but I was able to give her guidance and consideration to how she would actually use the space and how customers would engage with it once it was finished. She really valued this input as it made the most out of how the store functions.

I created 3D visualisations that she could share on social media to help garner some hype and publicity in advance of the shop opening. This gave a flavour to her loyal followers of what they could expect – an impactful shopping experience where customers can see the printing happening in store. Working closely with Crown paint (another respected Northern brand) ensured we got the right hues of paint to really make things pop.

NS: How important is it to you to be based in the North of England?
HH: It’s an area that is close to my heart. I’ve put down roots here, building my house in the High Peak. I’m proud to live here and want to be able to impart some of my creative flair locally. So much these days is seen to be London-centric but the interior design industry in the North West has lots to offer and is internationally acclaimed so I’m excited to be part of that. I come from Shetland originally so have that bucolic background but have spent time living in cities over the years. I love the mix of metropolitan and rural that Northern England offers. People here are honest and matter of fact, I appreciate that and it means my practice can constantly evolve. 

Beam Design. Photo by Mitsi Mouslon.

NS: Can you tell me what you’re working on at the moment? And are there are future projects that you’re excited about?

HH: I’m currently working on a gym where the female owner is hoping it will be a space to empower women. There will be no mirrors (typically associated with fitness rooms), the focus is more on wellbeing. It’s a really exciting project to be involved in and is also based in the High Peak so it’s nice to think of locals immersing themselves in an environment I created. 
NS: What advice can you give to someone who wants to become an interior designer?
HH: Don’t just focus on trends, stick to your gut and push boundaries. Also, quality is key so really strive to make good, reliable connections with suppliers and tradespeople.

Helena and Jules. Photo courtesy of Northern Power Garms.

For more information about Helena Harrison and her company Beam Design, click here.