Indie of the Week #26: Article

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“It’s all about having the right product and keeping it fresh”, says John Adams of Article in Dublin. And he should know. With a 20 year retail career behind him - including being operations manager of Habitat in Ireland, until it closed in 2008, and before that working for David Mellor in London - he had all the right experience to set up his shop in 2010.
Despite opening in a recession his decision to be in the centre of the city has paid off with around 30% of passing trade being tourists. The shop is located an elegant Georgian townhouse which was once home to a Viscount, and is now a (considerably nicer than your average) shopping centre with lots of independent traders. “It’s a nice adaptation of a historic building”, he says of the Powerscourt Centre which has retained the generous proportions of the era and original features such as a beautiful rococo ceiling (see below) which dates from 1780. Article sells lovely things for your home which while not always cheap are good value for what they are. 
Who are you? John Adams owner of Article
Where can we find you? Inside an 18th Century townhouse in Dublin - Powerscourt Townhouse, South William St, Dublin 2; www.articledublin.com
Describe your store in five words: welcoming, inspiring, colourful, useful, edited.
What makes you different? It's a personal collection that changes regularly, I don't try to have something for all tastes, I focus on what will work in a home together.
How you decide what makes the cut? I ask myself would I have it in my house and is it worth the money.
What were you doing before you did this? I've spent 20 years in homewares retail, across a range of functions.
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? Go bigger from the start!
What are you most proud of? Taking the risk to invest my savings to launch a business in Ireland after the economic crash and growing a loyal customer base and business.
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? Contemporary Irish linen napkins embroidered by Jennifer Slattery.
What's hot for 2013? I think copper items will continue to be a trend through to autumn/winter.
Every Wednesday '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.

Indie of the Week #25: Places and Spaces

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I used to live round the corner from Places and Spaces so I'm possibly slightly biased about this week's indie. This little shop has been in Clapham, South London, for years - it was here way before most people had cottoned onto the idea of 'design' and possibly before the rest of us had really got to grips with the concept. It stood out - and still does - by selecting items from interesting brands which offer an alternative aesthetic to mainstream interiors. The shop window has never failed to attract my eye with its colourful and engaging displays. It's run by a husband and wife who also offer an interior design service for domestic and commercial clients. Long may it continue.
Who are you? Laura Rippington of  Places and Spaces.
Where can we find you? 30 Old Town, Clapham, London, SW4 0LB.
Describe your store in five words: Colourful, friendly, diverse, a definitive style.
What makes you different? We offer customers the opportunity to find pieces that really work for them. Applying our extensive product knowledge and matching requirements with our friendly manner we can source and supply inspiring interiors. The end result is repeat custom - and that’s what we like: great design and happy customers. 
How you decide what makes the cut? We often follow a theme which can be a colour reference, a material, a look, maybe a statement or a phrase. A product can be chosen to be in store for any reason we see as valued even if just to question or entertain. What is value anyway? Mostly a piece has to have a sense of presence - whatever that might be.
What were you doing before you did this? Fashion mostly and having fun.
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? Stay ahead - hunt for the makers and brands the bigger stores are slow to pick up on. Invest online earlier and design and make your own collection.
What are you most proud of? What people say to us about us. A book I wrote that is now in paperback and sold in over 5 languages even though it was written about design products and processes over 6 years ago.
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? I tend not to have favourites but to like everything in store. I guess if I really have to then the Catellani & Smith eco light: an LED is set into a lens that projects an immaculate sphere on the wall. It is not just a light - it’s art. Also a pretend taxidermy white owl in a glass cloche and maybe the cute home desk that seems to float out of the wall it is fixed to.
What's hot for 2013? The brand Droog has been busy designing products and re-defining its design prowess. Lots of great new happenings within this cult brand. Also Roll and Hill lights are just extraordinary both in their design and crafted quality. In gifts, well I am very into Puebco from Japan for the best of traditional austerity and Japanese Englishness.

 

Every Wednesday '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.

 

Indie of the Week #24: The French House

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The French House has been online for the past ten years, but since 2010 they've been on Lamb’s Conduit Street - that brilliant little enclave of interesting indie shops in central London. It’s the right location for this shop run by Susanna Housden as she specialises in well-crafted, timeless, authentic goods. Items are sourced in France and the surrounding countries and over the years the company has formed relationships with artisans and small manufacturers, whilst also creating new lines. You’ll find classic rise and fall lights, blankets, hand-turned pottery, copper cookware, pewter ware and vintage finds from fabulous French brocantes.
Who are you? Susanna Housden of The French House.
Where can we find you? 50 Lamb's Conduit Street, London, WC1.
Describe your store in five words: Artisan, Quality, Unique, Delicate, Wrought.
What makes you different? It is our products that make The French House brand so unique. Our buyers have spent years hand-picking artisan suppliers who are making high quality hand-made products to our own designs, often using techniques passed down for generations. Our buyers also regularly visit antiques markets to gather great one-off pieces for the shop. 
How you decide what makes the cut? We focus on quality of materials, great craftsmanship, and simplicity. Over the years we have developed a house style, which above all shuns anything too fussy as we believe good design is generally simple and uncluttered by superfluous embellishments.
What were you doing before you did this? I have worked extensively in public relations for a variety of clients. 
If you were staring again what advice would you give yourself? For a time we outsourced our order fulfillment to a specialist warehouse and call centre. This soon proved unsatisfactory as our customers did not get the personal service they were expecting and the staff had little product knowledge. Bringing it all under one roof has been the best decision as no one else can represent our brand better than our own team, and we should have done it from the beginning.
What are you most proud of? I feel proud when we receive a call or message from an impressed and happy customer. People are often pleasantly surprised when they can actually phone us and talk to a human being, so I am proud that we are able to offer such a personal service.
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? I am very fond of our new Portuguese milk soaps; they smell amazing and make your skin really soft. I also have my eyes on one of our new pastel pink merino wool blankets, and our new French Violet scented candle. 
What's hot for 2013? It's always hard to guess trends, but we are observing a trend to spend money in a more considered way. This is where one quality item can make the difference. People are doing more home entertaining again and our ranges of beautiful glassware, table linen and ceramics are proving very popular at the moment.
Every Wednesday '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.

 

Indie of the Week #23: Pitfield London

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Pitfield London is the kind of place that could probably only happen in East London. It's half shop and half cafe and when it launched last year it was immediately popular. It's as much of an example of slick lifestyle branding as it is of shop-keeping; it's rapid growth has come about through a combination of good location, fun concept, smart use of social media and genuine enthusiasm by the owners who bring with them decades of design experience.
You'll find a joyful mix of feather dusters, re-uphostered 70s furniture, ceramics, vintage glassware and an exhibition space at the back to support new designers. I heard a talk by the owners Shaun Clarkson (who appeared on The Apprentice last week) and Paul Brewster at Decorex last year where they explained that they'd only planned to open a shop underneath Clarkson's interior design studio and that the cafe was a late addition to the plan. The cafe proved to be such a big draw that it took over to the point where they've had to get someone else in to run it. 
Who are you? Shaun Clarkson of Pitfield London.
Where can we find you? 31-35 Pitfield Street, London, N1 6 HB (5 mins from Old St) www.pitfieldlondon.com; www.blogpitfield.com 
Describe your store in five words: eclectic, colourful, experimental, curious, quirky.
What makes you different? We are an eclectic mix of new, old, invented and re invented. We build fantasy environments and you can buy a tiny price of the dream, or the whole look.
How you decide what makes the cut? We try to build stories inspired by one object, or idea, and run with it.
What were you doing before you did this? Hotelier and interior designer (Clarkson) and textile designer (Brewster).
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? Get a bigger space - and more stuff. 
What are you most proud of? The fact that the shop has so quickly positioned itself in the market. We invented a cool brand.
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? A midnight blue velvet buttoned wingback chair. It's sexy!
What's hot for 2013? Parrots, dogs and yellow.
Every Wednesday '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.

Indie of the Week #22: Utility

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Anyone can sell sexy, but how do you sell sensible? At Utility in Brighton, Martha Tiffin and her crew have landed on a way to make shopping for traditional no-nonsense goods for the home more fun than it should be. First there’s the music - anything from a bit of C&W, to Bowie, Gerry Rafferty, Supertramp - which reflects the era of the products and Martha's own upbringing. Then there’s Colin, a straight-talking gentle rockabilly loved by customers, who has been with them from the beginning. And then there’s the product - solid, well made, inexpensive (£3 for a glass jug) - that's more traditional than retro. A shop like this could be a bit humourless, but by engaging enthusiastically with customers (who keep asking for a mixtape) and possibly by channelling a friendly Americana vibe (25% of their stock is from the USA) they have, in the past four years, grown a loyal following. (And they don't ALL come from London). 
Who are you? The shop is called Utility. I'm Martha Tiffin and I run it with my other half and my brother-in-law, and with the excellent help of Colin, Lee and Jerry.
Where can we find you? In the North Laine of Brighton - 28a North Road, BN1 1YB; the website is www.utilitygreatbritain.co.uk.
Describe your store in five words: An excellent household goods store!
What makes you different? We stick to our guns.
How you decide what makes the cut? Do we like it?  Do you need it? 
What were you doing before you did this? Allsorts: I was a cleaner, a signpainter, I worked in floristry, horticulture, in shops, offices - just like everybody else, I guess.
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? The best advice in the world is "Turn up on time, and do your best."  
What are you most proud of? I was asked this once before, and no doubt the proudest moment for me was when my Dad (who was a huge influence) saw the shop for the first time, and "got it".
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? I am in need of new plates so I have my beady eye on the Dudson crockery.
What's hot for 2013? When you stock really traditional things, there aren't really seasonal trends (hurrah!). But actually HOT, would be the Tennessee-made Lodge cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens. It's getting to that outdoor-y time of year and they are great on a camp fire or at home. We're also very excited about our own brand enamel range.
Every Wednesday '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.

Indie of the Week #21: Aram Store

 All photos by  Paul Raeside

All photos by Paul Raeside

It’s a biggie this week: Aram Store - the original independent design store. It's owned and run by the Aram family, and has been for the past 49 years. Founded by Zeev Aram, it was the radical home of shiny, sharp, modern design when it first opened on the King's Road in 1964 - a few months before Habitat. People didn't really know what to make of it. But we've all caught up with this 'futuristic' vision of furniture now and the existence of this shop is in part why.
Aram Store holds the global licence for Eileen Gray designs (E1027 table, Bibendum chair) because it was Zeev who approached her, when she was in her nineties, rescued her designs from near obscurity and put them into production. Gray is considered one of the central figures in the history of 20th century furniture design.
Zeev and his daughter Ruth's continued enthusiasm for the new is evident in the shop's current Covent Garden location where they host regular exhibitions. This cavernous four-storey warehouse on Drury Lane is a must-visit for design fans seeking inspiration and a gawp at the most comprehensive collection of modern furniture around. Standards (and prices) are high, but this is an indie - albeit a big established one - and as such is rightfully celebrated here. 
Who are you? Ruth Aram, of Aram Store
Where can we find you? 110 Drury Lane, London WC2; www.aram.co.uk
Describe your store in five words: Huge, inspirational, welcoming, carefully curated, ever changing.
What makes you different? Every top end furniture brand wants to be represented in our store because throughout our fifty years we have upheld our core values: to offer the best quality modern design, manufacture and customer service.
How you decide what makes the cut? We have many criteria on which to judge product under consideration such as originality of design, functionality, reliability, value for money, sustainability…the list goes on. On top of that is good old fashioned gut instinct.  
What were you doing before you did this? I was a newly qualified landscape architect.
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? Great product is not enough – you also need effective marketing and a good location.
What are you most proud of? Customers want an enjoyable retail ‘experience’ when they visit and I have worked hard to create this whilst still respecting my father’s original vision.
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? My favourite thing is the Kaleido collection of trays for Hay.
What's hot for 2013? The Bell tables, launched to much acclaim by ClassiCon last year, have been updated using copper - and a range of pendant lights with interchangeable diffusers, by the same designer, has been added to the collection.
Every Wednesday '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.

Indie of the Week #20: Cow&Co

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To Liverpool this week where Nicola Holroyd and her husband Benji run Cow&Co. It’s a tiny shop that you are unlikely to find unless you know about it, but that’s not really a problem as most of their customers are already loyal fans. Cow&Co started out life as a Tumblr looking at nice products from emerging designers. Within six months they’d got 1,000 followers and thought "hmm there might be something in this" - and there was. In December 2010 they flipped the blog into an online shop and launched the physical shop in July last year. Most people who come in know who they are and love the brand already and they’ve found their customers like to actually feel the products, and get a bit more knowledge, rather than googling and hoping for the best. Death of the high street? Think again people. This is shopping 2.0
Who are you? Nicola Holroyd, co-founder, Cow&Co
Where can we find you? 15 Cleveland Square, Liverpool, L1 5BE or online at www.cowandco.co.uk
Describe your store in five words: Design. Superstore. Magnifique. Shop. Now.
What makes you different? Online and instore we're stocked to the hilt with the most unique products from around the world, from limited edition prints to knitted jewellery, lighting and stationery to magazines and books, gifts, vintage, garden and kitchenware - if you can name it we've probably got it.
How you decide what makes the cut? We search endlessly for products that show a high level of design and craft. Some of our products are fun others are practical but they have all been made with real passion and a mutual love for great design.
What were you doing before you did this? We also run a brand & ideas agency, SB Studio (sb-studio.co.uk) which is where Cow&Co was born. It's a labour of love more than a business venture; a hobby that has grown into a business and something we're very proud of.  We used to collate a lot of nice products we'd find online and on our travels — things that were not accessible to everyone, or tucked away in the depths of the internet, so we setup a blog, gained a surprising amount of followers and then flipped the blog into a shop. SB (the agency) work with like-minded ambitious brands large and small, and a lot of our values cross over, so the process of setting up shop has been an organic one.
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? Write a business plan. 
What are you most proud of? Our shop and brand and customers! We have a very loyal following and have always said we're keen to develop a customer service that's long forgotten on the high street. We care about the little things, the space between letters, the sharpness of a fold - those sorts of things. Because in the end, anything big is made up of big details, so if you look after those you look after everything. 
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? My personal favourite is definitely the songbird mobiles, Simple, bright and fun.
What's hot for 2013? Lighting is very popular at the moment, the Strand Lamps proving our most popular and most recent addition. What's hot for the rest of 2013? A lot of new products will be on the shelves within the next month. Think BIG, BRIGHT, SHAPES.
Every Wednesday '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.

Indie of the Week #19: A Vida Portuguesa

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On my recent trip to Lisbon I visited this hip shop in the Chiado district. A Vida Portuguesa is an old fashioned goods store selling traditional wares (soap, stationery... sardines) in a very stylish way. It has a lovely feel to it with ceiling-high vintage glass cabinets full of items wrapped in beautifully illustrated paper packaging and the most chic display of tinned fish I’ve ever seen. Founder Catarina Portas set up the shop in 2007 when she realised some of the traditional products she grew up with were disappearing. It began almost as a way to save the packaging, but it has become more about building relationships with the producers. It's interesting to see that the grass roots movement of supporting and promoting and celebrating "local" is going on outside the UK as well. 
Who are you? Catarina Portas, founder and owner of A Vida Portuguesa (The Portuguese Life).
Where can we find you? Rua Anchieta 11, 1200-657 Lisbon, Portugal www.avidaportuguesa.com; online shop http://loja.avidaportuguesa.com/en/
Describe your store in five words: Old-style, charming, delicious, genuine, Portuguese.
What makes you different? I believe objects can tell extraordinary and revealing stories about a people and its taste, about a society and its context, about a history that is, after all, a common identity. I realized it is also possible to tell the story of a country through its consumption habits. I also love to tell stories and reveal the history behind a brand or a product. And this became a part of our attitude: we believe it is possible to do business with respect for the traded goods, those who buy and those who sell. And we call it “delicate commerce”.
How you decide what makes the cut? A Vida Portuguesa was born out of the will to create an inventory of the brands that survived the passage of time, to highlight the quality of Portuguese manufacturing and to showcase Portugal in a surprising light. Therefore, we mainly choose products that stand out for their quality and charming packaging, including: toiletries, stationery, books, jewellery, food, handicrafts, toys, utilities. We have also started (re)creating exclusive products with some brands and developing our own range. 
What were you doing before you did this? I was a journalist, having worked for magazines, newspapers, radio and TV. While doing research for an article I came across many of these products and realized they were vanishing from the market. I loved and used many of them and felt an urge to bring them together, first in gift boxes, and then under the same roof in a shop.
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? Always face the future with the eyes set on the past.
What are you most proud of? Mostly, I am proud of the dedicated producers I find all over the country. I consider some of them to be true heroes. They manage old factories that have been around for several generations. These people refuse to give up, even in the most difficult situations, and continue to make things and make them well.
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? I have a special fondness for the swallow, a traditional symbol, that we recreated as a sticker. And there is an interesting story behind it too. In 1891, the genius artist Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro shaped a few swallows in ceramics to hang from the ceiling of “Tabacaria Mónaco” (an Art Nouveau tobacco shop) where they have remained to this day. He then got carried away and released them on to tiles and other decorative pieces. And it didn’t take long before the swallows were common in Portuguese homes, both inside and out, becoming a true national icon – the most beautiful and perfect of them all.
What's hot for 2013? We have launched recently a delightful box of chocolates together with the brand Regina, that bring back old style 1930s holiday packaging. 
Every Wednesday '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.

Indie of the Week #18: Folklore

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Danielle Reid is making ecology and ethics sexy through her chic shop in Islington. Folklore is a business built on design principles (craftsmanship, simplicity, durability and quality in all the items they sell) but it wears them lightly. The shop has a distinctly pared down aesthetic of bare boards and rough edges, but rather than preach it sort of gently nudges you think a bit more deeply about what you buy . . where it came from . . how it was made. The ethos here is: "good design is mindful design" and I'm inclined to agree.
Who are you? My name is Danielle Reid and our shop is called Folklore.
Where can we find you? Our website is www.shopfolklore.com and our bricks and mortar store is located at: 193 Upper Street, Islington, London, N1 1RQ.
Describe your store in five words: Simple, clean, calm, modern and natural.
What makes you different? We have a strong ethos and distinct aesthetic that informs all of our buying choices. We focus on the idea that better living is possible through design and stock an edited selection of homewares, furniture, lighting and lifestyle goods.
How you decide what makes the cut? Our focus is on mindful design for home and life – items that are created with care and made to last. We look for craftsmanship, quality, simplicity and durability in all of our products. This means many are handmade, antique or made from recycled or found materials. For products that don't tick these boxes, we choose items made from materials that are at least easily recyclable at the end of their life. 
What were you doing before you did this? I’m an interior designer and stylist so previous to Folklore I had been working in this field for about 10 years.
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? Don’t try to do everything at once! We opened our store and launched our website at the same time. It was a huge challenge as both are equally huge projects and at times quite stressful. We got there in the end but next time I would be more inclined to do things one at a time.
What are you most proud of? I’m very proud of the lovely old sign we have above our door, it reads ‘Berwick’ and was the name of an old traditional ‘bra and knicker’ shop that was there for almost 50 years. At first lots of people couldn’t find us as it doesn’t say ‘Folklore’ above our door, but now people associate the sign with us as much as anything. It’s very striking and almost a landmark of the area.
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? That’s a difficult question, there are many. I love our Nicolle range of metal chairs and stools. Created in 1933 they were designed by Frenchman Jerome Lepert for use in factories and workshops. The design hasn’t changed since. Made entirely from metal parts they are incredibly durable but also beautiful and they come in any RAL colour meaning they are very versatile. You can still find the odd vintage Nicolle chair in France but they’re much more rare in the UK. To me they are a relatively undiscovered design classic and definitely an investment into a piece that will last forever.
What's hot for 2013? We have a new pendant lamp in called Egg Of Columbus. It’s fun and made from 100% recycled paper waste meaning it’s an innovative use of materials too. I’m also very excited about a new range of furniture we have on the way from Slowwood who are based in The Netherlands and focus on timeless pieces that have a raw natural elegance. Everything is hand made in their workshop and they use 100% natural finishes and mineral paint; we’ll have the Grut 4 table on display in our shop from mid-May.

Every Wednesday '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.

Indie of the Week #17: Oswell's

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We head north east this week to County Durham where sisters Lisa and Julie run their fab shop Oswell's from an 18th century building in the pretty town of Barnard Castle. The town is famous for two things: the castle and The Bowes Museum which looks like a giant French chateau and is home to an impressive collection of decorative arts. With three decades of major league retail experience behind them the sisters initially focused on their online shop, but soon realised they needed a physical presence on the high street. The result is a chic rural indie with a metropolitan edge.
Who are you? We are Oswell's - Lisa, Julie, Mark and Bob (the dog). I [Lisa] do the buying whilst Julie looks after finances and marketing, and Mark takes care of the website.
Where can we find you? 10 The Bank, Barnard Castle, County Durham, DL12 8PQ; www.oswells.co.uk; Facebook; Twitter
Describe your store in five words: Beautiful, curious, useful, grounded, attentive.
What makes you different? There seems to be a trend at the moment for virtually cloned high street home and gift shops, and we consciously set out to buck this. We have a strict buying policy and spend a great deal of time ensuring that each and every product is different, beautiful, useful and, most importantly, has the right quality and feel to work in our shop. We also pride ourselves on bringing a feel-good factor to shopping and strive to provide top-notch customer service both in-store and online. 
How you decide what makes the cut? I decide! (with input from Mark and Julie). We are quite strict and stick to our philosophy when buying: products have to be of great design and quality, useful (the form over function debate is one that Mark and I have frequently), and inspired by nature, either in form or material; you won't find any plastic in Oswell's.
What were you doing before you did this? I have worked in retail for 30 years. I started out at Liberty and went on to Borders and Books etc before completing a stint at Harvey Nichols. Julie has a background in marketing, whilst Mark has 22 years of experience in military intelligence. All in all a useful and eclectic mix of skills.
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? Go straight to the high street. When we started out a year ago our emphasis was on the website and so we took premises in a lovely old converted stable block with stunning views across the Tees Valley. But I quickly realised this location was no substitute for face to face customer interaction, and the hustle and bustle of the high street, so within four months we moved to our current location in the heart of Barnard Castle. I believe passionately that it is the small independent retailers that are the lifeblood of our town centres and am very proud of the, albeit small, role we play in making Barnard Castle the lovely shopping destination it is.
What are you most proud of? Standing out in a very crowded market place.
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? Hobnail pitcher. Handmade in Bohemia, there is nothing nicer to serve your Pimm's in.
What's hot for 2013? Eleanor Pritchard blankets, handmade in Wales with beautiful, subtle colours and urban, almost architectural, designs. The quality and workmanship shine through.
Every Wednesday '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.

 

Indie of the Week #16: Vessel Gallery

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There’s something uniquely captivating about glass and ceramics; I’m not sure whether it’s the appealing colours, the inherent fragility of the materials, or the winning combination of utility and beauty, but whatever it is I’m a fan. Since 1999, Vessel Gallery has been the place to go to in London for the world’s finest contemporary glass and ceramic art. Forget glitzy department stores filled with miniature crystal animals, this part shop/part gallery space has cutting-edge collections which range from functional Scandinavian pieces to flamboyant Italian art glass, and regularly holds exhibitions open to the public. 
Who are you? Angel Monzon, co-founder and creative director of Vessel Gallery.
Where can we find you? 114 Kensington Park Road, Notting Hill Gate, London W112PW. www.vesselgallery.com
Describe your store in five words: Exquisite, Quality, Handmade, Collectable, Bespoke.
What makes you different? We offer the best in contemporary art glass and decorative lighting from British and International artists. Our recent Vessel lighting editions have just been presented in Dubai and now we are off to Milan. 
How you decide what makes the cut? First all of all there must be quality in the choice of materials and the highest craftsmanship involved in the making process. We are also looking for products that tell a story, that are innovative or push the boundaries of the material. We work with both established artists and newly graduated ones.
What were you doing before you did this? My first career was in fashion. Then I relocated to the UK  (from Sweden via Spain) for furniture and product design studies at Kingston University and at the Royal College of Art. I made my own furniture collections for some time and designed for companies in Japan.
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? Set up business with a finance partner who can advise you about the ups and downs of the game.
What are you most proud of? I am proud of projects where Vessel has acted as catalyst between talents and industry, like our Salviati Meets London exhibition a decade ago where we worked with Tom Dixon, Anish Kapoor, Nigel Coates and Thomas Heatherwick among others.
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? I love everything but recently we started showing wonderful glass centre pieces by Danish artist Tavs Jorgensen, they are very large so you need a BIG coffee table. I also love the work by French/American glass artist Jeremy Maxwell Wintrebert and we recently sold an installation to the Mudac museum in Switzerland.
What's hot for 2013? Our new Balustrade collection of lighting and object d'art by Simon Moore
Every Wednesday '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.

Indie of the Week #14: FAO Shop

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I first saw the FAO Shop pop-up at Design Junction back in September where it had an excellent spot near the entrance and opposite the Artek bar. And, as you can see from the pictures below (top left and bottom right are of their stand at the show) they also had some pretty slick presentation skills, in the form of artist and set designer Andy MacGregor. FAO Shop is a real passion project, and a true indie: run by two friends who source and edit all the products on the site, they run a quarterly online magazine which tells the stories behind the artists/designers, and they organise pop-ups to ensure the brand has a physical presence and isn't solely online. They're doing all the work, so you don't have to.
Who are you?  Gemma Fabbri, Creative Director of FAO 
Where can we find you? www.fao-shop.com
Describe your store in five words: Curated, Contemporary, Fashion, Art, Objects
What makes you different? Our collection is a carefully curated selection of the best in independent design from across the globe. We are passionate about design and promote the talent we represent. Our quarterly online lifestyle magazine features interviews with selected designers and art directed photo shoots. We also do regular pop-up shops and designer launches. 
How do you decide what makes the cut? We look for beautiful innovative pieces by independent designers that fit the FAO style. 
What were you doing before you did this? I was busy running Scene my design studio. We design furniture, interiors and curate design shows.
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? Don't be so hard on yourself and trust your instinct.
What are you most proud of? I'm really proud of our achievements at FAO. The team are really passionate about the brand and work so hard. All the incredibly talented designers on board have been really supportive of us too and have helped create an amazing collection to be proud of.
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? Of course I love it all but what particularly stands out for me right now is the graphic collection of products from CUSTHOM. I also love the Brogue Table by Bethan Gray.
What's hot for 2013? Bright, bold and colourful pieces are hot. I love the geometric scarves by Clare Gaudion and colourful works of art by Emma Lawrenson.

 

Every Wednesday '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.

 

Indie of the Week #13: B&T Antiques

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French-born antique dealer Bernadette Lewis has been involved in the trade for more than 40 years. Through her shop B&T Antiques in west London she sources French mirrors and glamorous Art Deco mirrored furniture, as well as other period pieces such as 1950s Scandinavian furniture. After twenty years in Notting Hill, the shop has cult status in the area and a loyal following.
Who are you? Bernadette Lewis of B&T Antiques
Where can we find you? 118 Talbot Road, London W11 1JR (020 7229 7001) www.bntantiques.co.uk
Describe your store in five words: French, eclectic, different, original, welcoming.
What makes you different? I source all my antiques myself and then put everything together in my showroom, mixing period and vintage pieces. Ever changing stock makes frequent visits a must and original window displays attract people day and night.
How you decide what makes the cut? I have been collecting and dealing in antiques for over 40 years and I follow my taste, my eye and gut feeling.
What were you doing before you did this? Bringing up kids and living in both Paris and London, but I have always collected and dealt in antique furnishings.
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? Always be curious and stay enthusiastic.
What are you most proud of? That my clients have remained loyal, have followed my evolution and keep coming back after all these year and also bring with them a younger generation of inspired customers.
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? Not really as I only buy things that interest me.
What's hot for 2013? Colour as opposed to muted tones. I've just bought a gorgeous red leather sofa by Borge Morgensen.
Every Wednesday '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.

[Indie of the Week #12: The Lollipop Shoppe]

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*************** PLEASE SEE COMMENTS THREAD BELOW ******************* 
If you are looking for an injection of sleek, contemporary design then this place is your go-to destination. Located on the edge of Spitalfields Market it's part shop and part shrine to the Modern aesthetic. The collection is edited with a discerning eye and ranges from classics, by manufacturers such as Vitra, Knoll and Fritz Hansen, to up and coming designers. Enjoy the visual feast, but be mindful that a stool can cost nearly £400 here. 
Who are you? Marco Di Rienzo of The Lollipop Shoppe.
Where can we find you? www.thelollipopshoppe.co.uk; 10 Lamb Street, London E1 6EA.
Describe your store in five words: Style. Design. Art. Evolving. Exciting.
What makes you different? Exclusive product lines, inclusive customer/product interaction and straight up honest advice when it comes to large furniture purchases. 
How do you decide what makes the cut? Aesthetics. Function.
What were you doing before you did this? Working in the energy markets.
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? Only focus on what you are doing and where you want to go. 
What are you most proud of? My twins.
Do you have a favourite thing in store right now? Re-Turned birds by Discipline.
What’s hot for 2013? New ranges from Hay and Discipline
Every Wednesday '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.

Indie of the Week #11: Life@Nettlebed

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To the country this week and the Oxfordshire borders where just outside Henley you will find this delightfully unexpected interiors shop. Located in a converted church hall with vintage chandeliers hanging from the vaulted ceiling Life@Nettlebed is a glamorous outpost nestled deep in the English countryside. Most of the items are sourced from Europe, the owners buy from Belgium, The Netherlands, France and Sweden. It has a sort of Country Life meets Richard Curtis's Notting Hill vibe with a cafe and deli, The Field Kitchen, functioning post office and village shop next door. 
Who are you? Sue Beales & Karen D’Arcy of Life@Nettlebed
Where can we find you? Church Hall, High Street, Nettlebed, Oxon, RG9 5DA (01491 642062) www.lifeatnettlebed.co.uk
Describe your store in five words: Glamorous, Eccentric, Individual, Unique, Inspiring
What makes you different? Scale of furniture and mix of styles, from large pieces of bleached oak furniture and giant chandeliers to bespoke hand dyed silk velvet cushions and antler footstools. Our services range from interior design, upholstery and paint consultations to styling events and property staging.
How you decide what makes the cut? Instinct - we look for things that excite and inspire us, hopefully they will inspire our clients too.
What were you doing before you did this? Karen was doing graphic design and property development, Sue was involved with IT sales in Europe.
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? Don’t expect too much too soon, it takes a long time and a huge effort to establish a following. Be open to change as your business will evolve, and get used to the sleepless nights.
What are you most proud of? Our beautiful new premises in a newly restored church hall and the way we have grown our business organically, on our own terms, over the last eight years. We always manage to achieve the ‘wow’ factor – customers walk in and say “what an amazing shop”.
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? The 6ft wide vintage French bed which we have restored using Farrow & Ball’s Down Pipe and re-upholstered in a soft grey French linen.
What's hot for 2013? Mateus ceramics, especially their butterfly plates and bowls, painted by hand, beautiful pastel shades, definitely raspberry for this year.

Every Wednesday '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.

Indie of the Week #10: Roost Living

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Flying the flag for Britain is Laura Binns of Roost Living, born in England but brought up in Australia, she only sells things that have been designed and made here. Passionate about craft and interiors she has been supporting British designer/makers, such as Nadia Sparham and Rory Dobner, through her online shop for the past six years. 
Who are you? I’m Laura Binns from Roost Living, a curated collection of homeware designed and made in the UK.
Where can we find you? Online at www.roostliving.com; Twitter; Facebook; Pinterest.
Describe your store in five words: Beautiful handmade products for the home
What makes you different? The selection of products is out of the ordinary, it brings together some of the best designer makers in the UK plus a few more up and coming ones too.  Many of the products are designed exclusively for Roost Living so you won’t find them anywhere else.
How you decide what makes the cut? It has to be beautiful and it has to be made in the UK.
What were you doing before you did this? I was a PA, so completely different – but always working in the creative industries.
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? Plan Plan Plan!  I think I went into it all a little blind and without a grand plan. But with planning comes vision and direction, I’ve learnt that now.
What are you most proud of? I feel very proud whenever there is great press. It always makes me stop and think wow, here is this thing that I have created, and the press think it’s pretty good. That is a great feeling.
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? Has to be Fliff’s Golden Hare Butter Dish and Sugar Bowl – elegant, but a bit quirky at the same time. 
What's hot for 2013? Great designers coming up including Tori Murphy, Richard Brendon’s Reflect cups and saucers, plus more great designers yet to be revealed... watch this space.

 

Every Wednesday '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.

Indie of the Week #9: The Mint List

The Mint List is furrowing a path to interestingness on the internet. If you are looking for something a bit different you will certainly find it here. Since September 2012, Camilla Kelly has been selling items on behalf of eccentric antique dealers, and carpenters working out of barns in Wales, who might otherwise not be seen online. "It has quite a tailored feel to it," she says, with some understatement, of the items which range from tables to taxidermy. Yep, those are squirrel lights (see below).
Who are you? Camilla Kelly, of The Mint List.
Where can we find you? Online www.themintlist.com; Facebook; Twitter; Pinterest
Describe your store in five words: handpicked, offbeat, unusual, original homewares.
What makes you different? Quality control. Every single one of our pieces is unusual, hard-to-find and in most cases unique, but even though each of our items has stand-out appeal, they all sit together well as a one strikingly eclectic collection. When you buy something from us it's a certainty you're friends are going to ask where you got it from. We've put in the hard work finding independent sellers offering hard-to-find vintage, antique and designer finds so that style enthusiasts can now shop online from one well-curated, easy to use website. We also do wedding gift lists and couples can spend their gift money by shopping directly with our artists, antique shops and design studios so because of this our partners [sellers] are not solely vetted on their creative credentials - we make sure they're lovely people too.
How do you decide what makes the cut? It's hard to say exactly what draws me to products we sell. Having grown up in the antiques industry, I have a genuine love of all things antique and vintage and I think that reflects in the pieces.  I want to emulate the joy that you get from stumbling across a wonderfully stylish item in a french flea market, a salvage yard or an unknown artist's gallery; that excitement of knowing you've found a real gem that you can't wait to take home. Every item that goes on the site should evoke that feeling, whether it be an artwork a china plate or a piece of furniture.
What were you doing before you did this? I worked in advertising, specifically commercial TV production. 
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? Slow down, not everything needs to happen all at once. Make sure you get one thing working properly before you move on the next.
What are you most proud of? All of our partners [sellers] have something completely original to bring the the site and I'm proud to have found such an incredible collection of creative individuals.
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? I think it would have to be Daniel Heath's antique mirrors etched with hand-drawn imagery of birds and foliage. These can be inscribed with personal messages or dates. So romantic.
What's hot for 2013? Bold, colourful design pieces like Melanie Porter's upcycled, vintage cinema seats reupholstered with brightly coloured knitted wools - seriously cool and incredibly cheerful too. If you had these in your home you couldn't help smiling all day long.

Every Wednesday '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.

Indie of the Week #8: Papa Stour

Every Wednesday '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.

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Former London interiors stylist Rosie Brown has been championing the work of Scottish designers and makers for the past eight years. She set up Papa Stour - an online showcase for local craftsmen - after moving back to Scotland to sort out her work/life balance. It's the kind of company the internet was made for, giving these products an audience way beyond national borders. Brown has also refurbished, and rents, a holiday cottage called Callakille so you can live out your Highland fantasy, if only for a week.
Who are you? Rosie Brown of Papa Stour
Where can we find you? Online at www.papastour.com
Describe your store in five words: finest contemporary scottish craft & design
What makes you different? Papa Stour is a curated collection of work by designer/ makers based in Scotland. We like people to think about how they source homeware and gifts and we offer beautiful handcrafted work at affordable prices.
How do you decide what makes the cut? Our artists are often Art School graduates based in their own studios all around Scotland, they produce fresh designs and a quality product which we feel shows off the finest of Scottish design. Our Collections show pieces which we believe would look fabulous in any home.
What were you doing before you did this? I graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone Art School (Printed Textiles) and Glasgow School of Art (MA). I was then a freelance stylist based in London working with interiors editors at magazine such as Elle Deco and Living etc. I loved London, but returned home to Scotland to get the right work/life balance.
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? Planning is all important, make a date to regularly review how you are doing. It's too easy to focus on what you are doing and not how you are doing it - take a step back and you'll get lots new ideas.
What are you most proud of? I set up Papa Stour in 2005, and it has continued to grow from 20 artists (many of whom are still with us) to over 60. We are proud to support them and delighted when we can get them national and international press coverage and awareness. We're also proud to get mentions such as The Sunday Times Style section saying we are one of the online retailers: "revolutionising the way we kit out our homes".
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? Ooh... a luxurious handmade suede Kindle case which is handcrafted using local leather and lined with charcoal coloured felt. It's fun because it's embroidered with a graphic embroidery motifs in sign language to spell out the word B -O - O - K.
What's hot for 2013? We love the fresh colour in Yoke's bright prints such as Hello Sunshine, the ethereal quality of Elin's hand blown glass work and Sharon's beautiful wooden Key Hooks which are sculpted using the shape of the wood so each is unique and unusual. 

Indie of the Week #7: Ben Pentreath

Every Wednesday '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.

 

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Ben Pentreath is an architectural designer who set up his eponymous shop just off Lamb's Conduit Street, in Bloomsbury, in 2008, with his friend the decorative artist Bridie Hall. The pair sell well designed, beautiful and often quite unusual things that are not easily found elsewhere. They also run an interior design service and last year Ben published this book
Who are you? Bridie Hall, Creative Director of Ben Pentreath Ltd
Where can we find you? Ben Pentreath Ltd, 17 Rugby Street, London WC1N 3QT; 020 7430 2526; www.benpentreath.com; Facebook; Twitter
Describe your store in five words: Good things for the home.
What makes you different? We only stock what we would like to own ourselves, and normally do own ourselves.
How you decide what makes the cut? Whether or not we could live with it ourselves.
What were you doing before you did this? I was a specialist painter.
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? Be confident in what you are doing and just get on with it!
What are you most proud of? The reaction we get from customers who are fans of what we do.
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? The Tiny Trays by The John Derian Company.