Category Archives: Shops

Urban Outfitters makes good (kinda)

In my twenties I used to love Urban Outfitters’ homewares; fun and affordable, they were a good way to spruce up your flat with what little money you had left at the end of the month, and there wasn’t really anything else like it on the high street. Some of my purchases endured, like the scandi-style graphic ‘bedspread’ (ie giant square of cotton) that my mum made into a roman blind for me, but I’d never think of going in there now – too much plastic, too many office novelties (step forward, Jesus action figure. Or perhaps, wheel forward).

But I urge you to take a look at its online shop at the moment, because there are good things to be found at small prices there. It is true that there is a lot of nonsense to wade through (iffy art by Rankin, toucan-shaped shower caps); I have no idea who their buyer/brand manager thinks their customer is. But clicking on the ‘online exclusives’ filters out a lot of it; bedding, rugs and retro-style furniture are particularly strong. Squint a bit and it could be Anthropologie, but without the heart-attack at the till. Here are some best bits (I bought the grey bedspread. Happy customer).

Multi half stripe rug, £65

Grey tufted cotton bedspread, was £75 now £40

Colour block quilt, £120

Yellow Brimfield Bookcase, £80


Laura Ashley contemporary

Laura Ashley is not a brand well-known for contemporary design – quite the opposite in fact – but I’ve been a quiet admirer of the brand’s (rather well hidden) more modern pieces for a while now. Speed-browsing the latest catalogue at a friend’s new home, I was stopped mid-flick on several occasions, especially by the lighting, but also by other products such as the neutral Logan wallpaper (a fabulous £26 per roll), with its graphic mid-century nod. And of course no one would suspect that your amazing gold-lined ceramic pendant light (a homage to Pols Potten’s extremely wonderful Buffer light, I suspect) or angular steel floor lamp was from Laura Ashley, because they’d never think to look there.

Colinton upholstered chair

Logan natural wallpaper

White ceramic pendant light

Bradie cream task floor light


New store: Tiger Stores

These images show the Stratford branch of Tiger Stores, a franchise from Denmark that’s expanding all over Europe, including in the UK. They’re value-focussed (ie cheap) but manage to do it in a way that results in a vastly better shopping experience than the pound stores, although it’s barely more expensive. A good dose of Scandi design sensibility really helps – soft pendant lighting hangs low over the display areas, giving a cosy domestic feel, and despite the fact that it sells a dizzying array of products (from spice mixes to art stuff, toys and colourful reading glasses that can only be described as ‘jazzy’) everything’s arranged neatly and attractively, like the huge bank of colour-coded candles at the rear of the store. The best analogy I can think of is the IKEA marketplace, but it’s better than that. There’s plenty of homewares with a high hit-rate, especially the ranges that stay true to Danish tastes – simple graphic prints, a bit of whimsy, lots of charm. If there isn’t one on a high-street near you, I expect there will be soon. Or you could buy a franchise and open your own…

Online store:

If you like beautiful furniture but (crucially) you’re prepared to wait for it, have a look at Invented by a clever person, entrepreneur Ning Li, and backed by among others Brent Hoberman of, it cuts out the middle man so you’re effectively ordering straight from the manufacturer. Ning is Chinese, and a lot of’s furniture is manufactured over there, and you could be looking at a 12-week-wait for your new favourite thing. If you can get over all those furniture miles and not supporting Dear Old Blighty’s furniture industry some of the products are really wonderful, like Steuart Padwick’s elegant contemporary Stroller desk for £299. You can also vote for the next batch of items to be made – the most loved get put in to production.

Stroller desk timber/white, £299 from

Forte table by Sean Dix, £279, from

Hive pendant light, £69,

Urchin pouffe

Spotted today in Darkroom on Lamb’s Conduit Street – Urchin, the squashiest, most touchable and most, um, knitted, pouffe ever. By Thomas Eyck, a Dutch publisher and curator with a little sideline for commissioning designers to make products for him (how do people find the time to do three jobs? I always wonder). Darkroom is launching an online store soon so hopefully they will be available to buy from there.

Emery et Cie

Goodness me, I have been remiss with my blogging while my worklife goes haywire. Here are some pictures of Emery et Cie from a recent jaunt to Brussels. It would be no exaggeration to say that it was the highlight of a weekend that involved being sick in the street (non-alcohol-related) and nearly every shop and museum we came across being closed. Except this beauty, a grand Belgian townhouse that Emery et Cie have transformed with their tiles, paintwork, soft furnishings, lighting, kitchenware… It’s not simply the products themselves, which are all sensational, but the styling, choice of colours and attention to detail that make it one of the most atmospheric shops I’ve ever visited.

Online store: Culture Label

There used to be a really good shop in Covent Garden called, I think, The Museum Store, which brought together the best bits from all the museum shops. I was sad when it closed, and since then museum shops have come on loads, so there is obvious potential for bringing them together in one place, and here it is in the form of Culture Label. The site certainly reflects how much cooler museums are now: it sells things from big cheeses such as Tate and the V&A, and small ones such as Deptford’s Bearspace, and the more trad end of the market is also catered for with goods from the Royal Parks and Glyndebourne (and confusingly there are also some non-museums/galleries represented). It is a bit of a guilty pleasure in some ways as a part of me thinks that you have to struggle through some challenging modern art before visiting the shop, as some kind of reward for your patience. Ditto visiting the caff for a nice cup of tea. But here you get all the pleasure of shopping with none of the pain of intellectual stimulation.

Matt Pugh wooden owls, via the Barbican (click on the image to go through to the site)

David Shrigley duvet cover, via Third Drawer Down (click on the link to go through to the site)

Mum rug by Sally Spinks, via Bearspace (click on the image to go through to the site)