Having recently celebrated five years in business Lizzie Evans is justifiably proud of her small shop SMUG in Islington's Camden Passage, just a short walk from Angel tube. "To get to five years is nice, you feel established, like it's going to be ok!" she says. You may be thinking what I was thinking when I first came across it - funny name for a shop.
"The old definition of the word smug was to smarten up yourself or your home", says Lizzie, [not for the first time, I'm guessing] "it was about making things look nice. Now it's come to mean a bit pleased with yourself". She found the definition (along with the guinea pig illustration which became her logo) in an old illustrated dictionary she inherited from the former owner of her house. In other languages the word smug means different things - one definition is "beautiful" - and people often come in and say "is it Danish or Swedish?"
She recently opened a small cafe in the shop, it's only open weekends at the moment, but by September it will be open full time. Far from being pleased with herself Lizzie is realistic about her new venture: "We've been open for four weekends, which is actually only 10 days, it's hard to get people to change their habits and to know we are here".
She sells interior accessories for the home from great brands including the popular Dutch ceramics company Scholten and Baijings, plus vintage furniture, so if you pop in for a coffee you could take home the chair you've been sitting on. Just try not to be too [current definition of the word] smug about it.
Who are you? Lizzie Evans, owner and creative director of SMUG.
Describe your store in five words: Curated, Kooky, Design-led, Homelike, Original.
What makes you different? I'd like to think that SMUG strikes the balance between great design (particularly our exclusive products) and a homey, light and airy space that you want to spend time in. We want you to feel welcome, to stick around as long as you like, be inspired and maybe even feel a little SMUG. I'm always trying to think of new ways to do this. This year we've starting running workshops upstairs and have opened CAFE SMUG downstairs at the weekends.
How you decide what makes the cut? I've got a pretty clear vision of what SMUG is and the sorts of products that work with what we do. Colour comes in to it a lot. I'm also led, of course, by what I like personally and to a certain extent by fashion. But every piece should stand the test of time, be good quality and be reasonably priced [with consideration for the work that has gone into it]. Curating the shop is my favourite part of the job so I'm always thinking about and looking for things that will fit in, fill the gaps and create new collections.
What were you doing before you did this? I studied Interior and Spacial Design at university in London before spending a short time in Melbourne doing a bit of graphic design. While I was there I designed the interior of our shop and the graphics for the brand. I then returned home to manage the building project and source all of the products for when the building was ready and we could open our doors to the world.
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? You'll get there in the end. Just keep pushing and working to realise your vision. Keep dreaming big dreams.
What are you most proud of? I'm most proud of the collaborations and exclusive products I've worked on with designers over the years. It feels really special to have so many special products that you can only buy here.
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? I'm particularly taken at the moment with our new ceramics collection from Lenneke Wispelwey. I think my favourite piece is the Canard Goblet but it's all pretty breathtaking.
'Indie of the week' celebrates the best independent stores around. These places sell interesting and varied collections of design-related things you don't see everywhere else. They may support young or local designers or be great at finding unique things from around the world. By thinking a little more creatively about what they stock they are fighting the bland homogenisation of so much of the high street. And since I'm down with the realities of modern life, online only stores count too, because a beautiful and easy to use website is just as delightful an encounter in cyberspace.
Do you you have a favourite store? I'd love to hear from you.