For many, the perfect home represents a sanctuary from the stresses of modern-day life; a place of calm offering the opportunity to unwind, relax, slow down, and feel truly comfortable.
For Ambleside-based home and lifestyle store Firera, this ‘perfect home’ should also be a space mindfully created from natural, yet cruelty-free materials, free from synthetics and pollutants. “We believe in using a blend of simple, soft tones, textures, and eco-friendly materials, in a way that mimics nature, to help you stay connected with Mother Earth,” says founder Maria Ilves. “It can also create a welcoming and peaceful atmosphere with a feeling of serenity, even in the busiest of homes.”
The name ‘Firera’ reflects our values and intentions – fair + era.
“The inspiration for starting my own business came when I moved back to the Estonian countryside after months of travel in Europe,” says Maria. “I lived in a tiny village in the middle of beautiful nature, life was quiet and peaceful, and for the first time in my life I had a chance to experience nature as it changes throughout the seasons. I was so taken aback by the beauty of it all, and it inspired me to create something of my own.”
Another important thing she noticed was the effect that human behaviour has on the environment, which she says made her acutely aware of every business decision she made right from the start, and her desire for Firera to be kind to nature. “Spending the majority of my days outdoors I noticed the destruction that people caused in the surrounding lands. The thing that hurt the most was finding out that the heavy spraying on the rapeseed fields lying next to us had seriously polluted our drinking water,” she tells me. “Experiences like these make you stop and think, and from that point on, I have always kept sustainability at the forefront of my business. The name ‘Firera’ reflects our values and intentions – fair + era,” she says. “We believe in a fair world, for the planet, the people, and the animals for now and future generations. Our aim is to offer sustainable, environmentally friendly, ethical and cruelty-free products, to help people live more intentionally. For us, creating a conscious home means a balance between beauty, design, practicality, and sustainability.”
Originally established in Estonia in 2016, Firera has since expanded and started to sell internationally, with Maria now managing the store and worldwide shipping from her Ambleside studio. She keeps the business in the family, with he mother Kati designing and making all of their own-label textiles collection, Linen by Firera, back at the family home in Estonia. “All of our products are inspired by the stunning Estonian countryside surrounding our farmhouse,” says Maria, “and our love for natural, sustainable, and slow living. We use only pure linen fabric to ensure that all of our products are high quality, long-lasting and gorgeous pieces, which help bring beauty and harmony into our homes and lives while being environmentally friendly. Linen is a material that we have cherished as a family for generations, and from the start we have been using only linen fabric for our products. This decision came very naturally; historically, linen was the most common fabric available in Estonia, and so the love for linen was simply inherited to my mother and then me. We were amazed at how durable and versatile linen fabric is, and still think of linen as the most beautiful fabric there is.”
“When we first started out and were looking for linen fabrics to use for our products, we were lucky to find a linen mill in Lithuania that made beautiful fabrics that worked for our projects, and as a wonderful bonus, is a Masters of Linen® Certified company.” This means that the linen Firera use across all of their collections is 100% made in Europe, from field to fiber to yarn to fabric, following sustainable production methods and respecting the environment and social ethics.
“Many of our products, like our lightweight linen blankets and towels, can be used both indoors and outdoors,” she says, “meaning that in addition to bringing a touch of nature into your home, they can help you feel comfortable in nature too.” All of their pieces are designed to support the ethos of “sustainable living”, offering products that help people choose better, natural & reusable alternatives to synthetic or single use items. Any leftover pieces of fabric are used to make linen bags for package-free shopping, giving gifts, or storing small items. “In the last year, fuelled by our passion and deeper understanding of sustainability and ethical living, we have developed and introduced beautiful, stylish, natural zero-waste items to our growing range,” she says, “and have also begun collaborating with other talented makers to showcase further sustainable materials and products in the store.” Every product they stock is cruelty-free and vegan, and in the UK parcels are sent and delivered by Royal Mail, rather than other couriers, as they believe using a service already delivering door-to-door is more sustainable than one making specific journeys.
“I see the world differently than I used to,” Maria tells me. “I am taking more time with making decisions and I am no longer only considering my own needs when making choices even about the simplest everyday matters. I spend more time in nature than I’ve ever done before and try to make sure that I will never lose that connection again. It is easy to take care of the things you love, so I am always sharing the beauty I see in nature through my photography, in the hopes of inspiring other people to discover and see it too.”
“Back home in Estonia, we are actively planting trees on a small piece of land to create a beautiful forest,” she continues. “We’re adding to the vegetation already there, using the same species of trees, to extend the area for wildlife. The lower ground is mostly birch trees, whilst higher up it is pine trees, providing a wonderful mix of deciduous and evergreen flora.” She hopes to be able to participate in a similar project here in the UK in the near future.
As lockdown measures came into effect in late March 2020, Maria was just about to open up her studio space in the Lakeland town of Ambleside to visitors a few days a week, forcing her to pivot quickly and focus her full attention on the Firera online store for a while. “Practically though, not much has changed for us because I work alone here in the UK,” she says, “and my mother works alone in Estonia, and we both have dedicated spaces close to home to do the daily tasks.”
Maria does hope to have her own bricks-and-mortar store in the future though, because she can see the difference it makes when customers can pick up one of their linen items, feeling the texture and thickness, and envisioning the item in their home. “Along with friendly service and a calm atmosphere, I am certain that nothing will ever replace the physical shopping experience,” she tells me, “and I will continue to support small local businesses with physical shops as much as I can.”
⊗ Firera studio, Unit B, 101 Lake Road, Ambleside, LA22 0DB. View map
Lead image © Angie Wendricks, images 2 & 3 © My Kind Lifestyle, all others © Firera, all used with permission.