Heather Parry


November 21, 2018

Life Story brings its beautifully-curated, Nordic and Japanese design-inspired wares to Custom Lane this December

From December 1st, boutique lifestyle store Life Story, owned and curated by Susan Doherty, will be spreading its wings from its London Street location and running a pop-up shop in the heart of Leith, just ready for Christmas.

Susan’s passion for the clean, minimalist lines and the quietly innovative style of Scandinavian design means that Life Story is perfectly at home at Custom Lane, Leith’s hub for design and making.

We caught up with Susan to gain a greater insight into her curation process and what we can expect to see at the pop-up.

life story custom lane

What was the path to the creation of Life Story?

A long and winding road! I was already running another business but I wanted to create a concept/lifestyle store that supported the changing way we shop as modern consumers. I visualised this beautiful hybrid of coffee and design, focusing on Scandinavian and local, design-led products for the home and self.

In the end the location and name was all by chance. I bought the lease and name ‘Life Story’ from its original owners, both designers, who had decided to move on and focus on other ventures. It fit and I decided to go with it; everyone was a winner. I launched the business under my own limited company within a week of getting the keys and in time for Christmas 2014.

Year 1 was about bringing on the brands that I wanted as the cornerstones of the business (HAY, ferm LIVING and Nomess Copenhagen, for example) and then I refurbished and expanded the interior, increasing the retail space by a third and adding the coffee bar and customer toilets.

All of this was in support of my original vision and business plan for a lifestyle store. I always thought I would change the brand name in time but I have decided to keep it and evolve it through a brand development project – which is just about to launch!

custom lane life story ferm living

Credit Ferm Living

Credit Ferm Living

I curate by eye and instinct, I source items that bring me joy and that I know will fit with the current or future themes in the store that my customers will love.

Who/what are your design influences and why?

Design that is inspiring to me has a level of sophistication, simplicity and practicality and I find that in Nordic and Japanese design. Whether seeking rainwear for the Scottish climate (Rains, Denmark) or a chair for our home (Hans Wegner and HAY are currently competing to sit around our new table).

The minimalist design philosophy that sits behind Scandinavian design appeals to me as someone who appreciates a functional, user-centred experience that is both beautiful and simple. I truly value simplicity and peacefulness and continue to edit my life towards these values.

What advice would you give people starting out in design or hoping to open a design-focused store?

For any venture I believe that passion and a willingness to work are more important than experience or training. Stay true to your own vision. Appoint and invest in competent advisors e.g. don’t attempt to be your own accountant (unless you are an accountant…). Be inspired but don’t copy. Write everything down when you are in the excited stage of planning or you may forget some of your best ideas!

custom lane life story
custom lane life story

What’s next for Life Story?

Expect to see the new brand identity emerge in store and online around the same time as the Custom Lane collaboration is in place. I’m delighted with it and can’t wait to roll it out in 2019.

This will provide a platform for the next phase. Last year was all about the sale of Hula, my first business, then stepping back and assessing my new landscape having run both for almost four years. 2019 will be Life Story’s year and I plan to have a lot of fun with it!

The Life Story pop-up store will be at Custom Lane from Dec 1st to Jan 20th.

Find out more about Life Story here.

You can follow the store’s design story here.

Photos by Trouva unless otherwise stated.