A Sense Of Place

In recent weeks we’ve been looking at the importance of good design so we thought we’d continue on this road by catching up with James Simpson. James is the Senior 3D Designer for Bright, a creative studio full of incredibly talented people based in Edinburgh and the man behind the interiors of the Isle of Harris Distillery. 

In May 2013 James and his team were appointed as our interior designers and tasked with taking on the role of helping us to shape our distillery’s visitor experience. Their remit was broad and included bespoke furniture, finishes, decoration, lighting, flooring, signage, and other important elements to the distillery interiors.

Working closely with our key team members, James and the Bright team set out to capture the essence of our island to create a welcome environment, a place to gather, to belong, to want to return to. The process was almost two and half years in the making and they completed the project just before the distillery opened its doors in October 2015.

James tells us...

“We wanted to reflect and capture the place and personality of Harris…we set out to do this not in a literal fashion but taking the spirit of things and presenting them in new ways. For example, we wanted to use natural materials from Harris such as the Anorthosite stone and, naturally, Harris Tweed and use elements of craft and detail through bespoke items of furniture or finishes. We aimed to create spaces that had a design quality to them but also had an honesty and a welcoming feel.”

The result was the creation of comfort with a focus on quality rather than luxury. There is an elegant simplicity, a sense of ‘less is more’ as tradition is drawn upon without pastiche, being contemporary without being generic or over-designed. The distillery is a place of work after all, elemental, timeless and solid, confident yet quietly-spoken, simple and unfussy.
There are great examples of this philosophy embodied all over the distillery but two elements particularly stand out for James…

“I am particularly pleased with the Harris Tweed panelling that covers an entire wall of the main space. The form was drawn from the red oxide corrugated roofs often seen on buildings in the area, but we created a new expression of this, using a specially commissioned tweed for the distillery. I very much doubt there is a wall quite like it anywhere else in the world. The tasting room with its smoked oak walls and bespoke copper light channeling the daylight down, focussing the mind and the nose on the task in hand is another favourite.”

Visitors can also enjoy a myriad of other design elements which speak to our island heritage and home. An open fire, burning bright with locally cut peat, is the first thing to greet those who walk through our doors, offering the warmth of a Harris welcome. Simple, solid oak benches allow guests to join together around its hearth, right in the heart of the building.

Underfoot there are areas of locally quarried stone, striated with greys and echoed in other discrete areas such as the tasting table in the flavour room or a plinth for the Guest book pen. The Canteen is communal, with sturdy, long oak tables and benches to gather around in good company, just like you’d find in any hospitable Hearach’s kitchen. Burnished copper flashes in discrete details here and there, in among large local maps and tactile tour tables. 

Throughout the whole building there is a real feeling of care and consideration and we thank James and the Bright team for taking our hopes and ideas and translating them into reality. We hope that everyone who visits us and experiences their work will enjoy a quiet appreciation for the efforts put into the endeavour and trust that, even without having the elements explained outright, a real sense of this wonderful place and people manages to be conveyed.

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