Pampas and Bloom founder Amelia Harker shows us round her apartment in Leeds and reveals why fish are the perfect pets

Pampas and Bloom founder Amelia Harker turned a negative into a positive sparking a life-change and a new home

While the pandemic has been devastating in so many ways, it has also sparked fresh ideas and new ways of living. Amelia Harker’s own experience of this torrid time is a good example. She swapped her student digs in London for a lovely flat in the Roundhay area of Leeds and launched what is now a successful business.

The changes began when Amelia, 22, was all set to start the third year of her Product and Furniture Design degree at Kingston University in London. Covid had forced the first lockdown and she had come home to Roundhay, where she and her partner Taran now rent an apartment. Meanwhile, Amelia’s sister Louisa was just back from a trip to Copenhagen, where she had spotted a surge of interest in dried flowers.

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“Denmark is always ahead of us in terms of design and interiors, so we did our homework to see whether they were being sold in the UK and couldn’t find much choice at all,” says Amelia. “We are both creative and we are always coming up with business ideas and so we thought we would test the market.”

Amelia's home has a Scandinavian look and feel thanks to her Danish heritage

Naming their fledgling floral start-up Pampas & Bloom, the sisters, who are half Danish, put in a small order with a supplier based in the Netherlands. With just 10 bunches of artfully arranged dried flowers, they decided to see what interiors-loving Instagram followers would make of them.

“We put the pictures on Instagram and asked people to direct message us through the site if they wanted to buy them, and all 10 bunches went within a week,” says Amelia, who immediately ordered more and opted to take a year out of university to devote time to building a business that has blossomed.

Pampas & Bloom now has its own website, pampasandbloom.co.uk, and a legion of loyal followers. Among the stock are dried meadow flowers, dried giant daisies, hydrangeas, eucalyptus, Bunny tails and palms. Pampas is especially popular due to its height, which can be up to 1.5m.

Minor setbacks have been dealt with, including Louisa moving to Australia, which saw the sisters’ mum Susan step into the breach. Finding good quality cardboard boxes was also a headache, now solved, though padding has never been a problem as Amelia recycles newspapers, including The Yorkshire Post, some of which she gets from her granny and her neighbours in Roundhay.

Amelia opted for fish when she was denied a dog and loves the serenity they bring

Finding somewhere for the flowers and boxes also became an issue, which has recently been resolved. “We started by keeping the stock in my old bedroom at my parents’ house and then we expanded into their spare room and then their garage. We knew then that we had to find premises,” says Amelia.

Pampas & Bloom is now based at Sunny Bank Mills in Farsley( Read more), not too far from her home, which also bears the fruits of her labour. Dried flowers and foliage feature heavily and the arrangements bring colour, interest and height to the rooms in her rental apartment.

Art prints and other accessories have also helped bring personality to what was a largely neutral flat before the couple took up the tenancy. “It was furnished when we moved in and luckily the landlord has good taste so all we had to do was add some colour, though nothing too loud,” says Amelia. “I like a simple aesthetic and so I tend to choose muted greens, greys and cream.”

Her favourite shops for homeware include H&M Home, Zara Home, Ferm Living, Oliver Bonas and Ikea, along with independent artists and makers, usually discovered on Instagram.

Amelia has used prints, her dried flowers and accessories to turn a rental flat into a home

Plants are also a feature thanks to their ability to bring life to a room while also improving the air quality.

Candles are another staple and the most commented on are her slightly risqué candles from www.caiacandle.com, which showcase the human form in all its naked glory. Bargains include the rattan-topped side table from B&M, which looks classier with the rim and legs now painted black.

Desperate for a dog, Amelia had to admit defeat as her landlord doesn’t allow them. Instead she and Taran opted for fish and can highly recommend them. Tiny balloon mollies Rusty and Dusty share a small tank with Tonio the shrimp and Tina the guppy. “You can’t take them out for a walk but watching them is so relaxing,” says Amelia.

Their calming presence will be extra helpful now that Christmas is coming and sales of the dried flowers look set to boom. “I like being busy and we will carry on for as long as the interest is there,” adds Amelia, who is now combining the business with completing the final year of her course remotely.

Creating stylish vignettes. Dried grasses and flowers from Pampas and Bloom

The two are compatible, says Amelia, who is planning to design some vases and vessels for the dried flowers as one of the final-year projects for her degree.

*Pampas & Bloom, which also runs workshops, is at Sunny Bank Mills. Orders are online via www.pampasandbloom.co.uk and on Instagram @pampasandbloom.

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A neutral backdrop allows for colourful prints and home accessories
Amelia in Pampas & Bloom's HQ at Sunny Bank Mills
Pampas & Bloom specialise in dried flowers and grasses