“You’re going to open a cleaning shop?!” questioned Bella Middleton’s mum when she came up with the idea to create eco-friendly cleaning products. Now a fully fledged member of the Norfolk Natural Living team, Bella’s mum works in their shop in Holt, which has maintained one of Norfolk’s unique high streets.
Clean, like green is currently trending, but Bella delved into cleaning’s past to develop her natural formulas. We’re hearing more stories about the murky supply chains behind some products driving the clean living scene, so it is reassuring to know that Bella sources ingredients from skilled British artisans – from local lavender fields to English beeswax. Everything is mixed, bottled and labelled by hand in (as the brand name suggests) Norfolk and each ingredient is fully traceable.
Respect for materials runs in the family, from her sister with roots in ethical fashion design to her granny, who was a costume designer. Bella still has many vintage pieces from her grandmother’s collection and evidently loves vintage as much as I do, but also gets excited by the cleaning challenges presented by vintage garments and different old fabrics: “I’m constantly on a journey” says Bella.
Family was also a driving force behind the conception of Norfolk Natural Living. Having children made Bella think even more about the clothes we pass through generations and so wanted to create an heirloom-worthy garment and home care brand, designed to care.
Of course the cleaning collection is not just for special pieces, as whether vintage or new, the biggest environmental impact of everything we wear is most likely to come from how we care for it and wash it. The better we look after things, the more sustainable the contents of our homes and wardrobes and that means washing things less often, cue Norfolk Natural Living’s handy range of refreshers, like one dedicated to denim.
There’s a lot to take in with the sustainability seashore of choices that impact things in different ways, so Bella’s aim was to keep things simple with products that are naturally potent, not preachy, look good and to provide proper instructions on how to use them.
Combining modern scientific research and age-old techniques, the first creation was scented vinegar. However, if you’re after fish and chip scents then you might like to head to Holt for Eric’s sustainable MSC-certified fish instead, because Bella’s all-purpose vinegar cleaner is scented with natural essential oils.
“I wanted to create a product that does all the things it’s supposed to do and do it really well, but also in a way that’s desirable.” [Which I can vouch for because after using the scented vinegar for the first time my husband walked into our bathroom and said how great it smelled; and before you think our household is stuck in the era of my vintage silks, we each have our cleaning domains – his is the kitchen and mine is the bathroom]
Projects in the works for Bella include renovating her kitchen and looking for a second shop in Holt, so that they can also hold workshops. Recently mulling over the purchase of an antique kitchen table marked with children’s names, Bella and I agree that there is a happy balance between clean and not too clean, and that sometimes signs of life are what makes things. She wants to give people confidence to take care of things in a natural way:
“Clothes can change your attitude and it’s good to know that they’ll last so you can wear them and enjoy them without worrying…let them live.”
© Photographs courtesy of Norfolk Natural Living & Reclaimed Woman