Brothers Stories

The power of beauty and colour with Laurence Hiller.

The power of beauty and colour with Laurence Hiller.

“Isn’t it crazy that you can just look that up on your phone. It’s too much”

When I first met up with Laurence in Dalston’s Dusty Knuckle Bakery, it didn’t take long to hear his regret for how fast-paced and distracted London living had become.

For Laurence, an architect living in East London, taking things slow is central to how he lives, works and styles his clothes. You’re far more likely to find him with pencil in hand or crouched by a budding flower than scrolling through social media or rushing for the tube. Because, Laurence spots things others don’t. Forms, colours, man-made details or natural beauty. And then takes them into everything he does. Picking outfits full of colour, building BMX jumps in the woods, or redesigning an old Liverpool narrowboat.

He’s someone with style and a way of living we can all learn from. So, we spent the day with him in his local coffee joint, old skate spots and the boat that has become his main design project. 

Tell us about the Canal Boat

The idea for the canal boat was my partner’s. She wanted to renovate an old narrowboat so she could live closer to nature, and move in and out of London when she liked. Repurposing is important to me, so I jumped at the idea of helping her design and build that dream. It’s all been about getting away from constant consumption. We’ve used materials that were going to be thrown away - an old cedar tree that was destined for wood chips, and most of the furniture is second-hand, too. As with any design or architecture project, it takes longer than you think it will, but I’ve loved the challenge of making such a small space feel youthful, homely and calm.

Laurence picked out Knowledge Cotton Apparel's Organic Poplin Cotton Shorts and Silverstick's Organic Hope Socks to go with his renewably-powered Shark Fin Delivery Tee by World Supporting Goods.

How would you describe your work as an architect?

I want to bring joy to the everyday human, and give them a framework to connect with the simple, beautiful things in life. Like the sky, for example. When you look up at the sky, it’s easy to say “oh well it’s good weather and it’s bad weather”. But, actually, this sky will never formulate this way again. This is a gift we’re given. I’m not quite there yet, but I want my work to make people stop and say “Wow, look at this…”.

In the cooler outdoors, Laurence layered up with the bright yellow of the Brava Fabrics Organic Cotton Light Corduroy Shirt over his Shark Fin Delivery Tee by WSG.

What’s inspired you so far?

Growing up I struggled with text, reading and writing, so I preferred image, form and space. At school, I had some amazing teachers who encouraged me to never stop looking. It can get quite tiring, but I’ve kept at it ever since.

Outside of education, my skateboard and BMX introduced me to new materials, sculptures and spaces. We’d wax a curb in the city or build a ramp in the woods, learning about angles, distance and how different materials worked. And, there was the social side, too. I observed how people use space and how they interact with the city. So, despite struggling with academia, I was always learning - what started as something negative actually helped me develop my skill as an architect and visual thinker.

Laurence paired the yellow Silverstick Organic Cotton Hope Socks and Adventure T-shirt with the complimentary blues of Yarmouth's hardwearing Mechanics Jacket, and MUD Jeans circular Relaxed Fred Jeans.

Let’s talk about style. What do you think about when you’re putting your outfit together for the day ahead?

For me it’s purely about comfort and colour. I go for block colours in particular, wearing the same colour in a few places and pairing it with a complementary colour. I love what colour does for me, but also what it does for others.

"I go for block colours in particular, wearing the same colour in a few places and pairing it with a complementary colour."

What’s your thought process when it comes to buying clothes?

I have no interest in constantly consuming, so I very rarely buy clothing. But when I do, I prefer it to be something special. I want it to be well made, last a long time and then wear it to its very end. I’m also really into wearing things that have been made close to home. My most recent purchase is a pair of Trickers. They put me back £550, but they’re the oldest shoemaker in England. They’ve been made using manufacturing techniques handed down through generations, so they’re full of character, craft and history.

And, finally, your sensitivity to beauty and artistic eye give you a unique view of the world. What message would you leave for our community as we head out of the pandemic and continue to wrestle with climate change?

Embrace the simple things, and communicate with others. The pandemic showed us that, without others, it can be a very lonely world. But, being able to communicate with others is a beautiful gift. So, when you’re walking down the street, try to meet someone’s eye and smile at them or say hello. It’s one of the most beautiful things when you look at someone and simply notice they’re there.

Photographer: Sam Glazebrook

Interview: James Venvell