Tag Archives: shop

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


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…

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.

Jaime Hayon’s Octium jewellery shop

Not a house, but taking plenty of inspiration from residential design, Octium is a fancy jewellery store in a Kuwait mall that has been designed by Jaime Hayon (if the name seems familiar, he created that giant porcelain chess set that check-mated its way across Trafalgar Square during the last London Design Festival). And it is a fabulous place indeed – I love the contrasting blues of the carpet and the enormous buttoned seat/ottoman thingy, the gold ceramic lighting and the massive creamy curtain that creates a backdrop to it all. Super-glamorous.

This is not Ikea

It is a good job that an awful lot of miles separate me from LA vintage store This is Not Ikea, because a visit here would have me emptying my purse in no time. They started off online, with the aim of providing cool old stuff to the masses, but at the kind of low prices we’ve all come to take for granted. Considering Ikea’s leviathan buying power it was never going to be a fair fight, but buying cheap-ish vintage does mean that you can take something home in the knowledge that a billion other people round the world don’t have it. It looks a hell of a lot more fun to shop here, too. They should rename themselves This is Better than Ikea. (But I suppose that might result in a court case.)

Store interior

Store interior

Bakelite cart

Bakelite cart

double sided clock

Double-sided clock

fibreglass school chairs

Fibreglass school chairs

lucite lamps

Lucite lamps

metal kitchen cabinet

Metal kitchen cabinet

Orange chair

Orange chair

Anthropologie makes it to London

Urban Outfitters’ older sibling, Anthropologie, has finally made it to London, with a flagship store on Regent Street. Its homewares are known for their ‘European’, eclectic look, and mixture of peasant chic, ‘fake vintage’ and a few industrial/sciency bits thrown in. (I’m cool with fake vintage. As long as no-one but me buys it.) Anthropologie’s chief buyer, Keith Johnson, has such an enviable job that there’s even a TV show airing in the US at the moment that follows his treasure hunt, Man Shops Globe. Lucky, lucky man. Until I can get Up West – and I now have a really good reason to brave the hoards – here’s what I’m hoping they’re gonna sell me (but also available online, if you don’t mind a big ol’ price hike cos of the shipping costs from the US).


Clockwise from top left: Lady of the Manor wallpaper; Royal Menagerie Goat knob; Royal Menagerie Squirrel knobWire shelf; Who’s the Fairest mirror; Fair Isle Sweater Wolf clock; Checkmate Queen candlestick; Picnic Condiment Caddy; Milkmaid butter dish; Golden Odonata bowl

Design hub: Columbia Road

Long famous for its exuberant Sunday flower market, London’s Columbia Road is now also a hub for independent design shops. It’s not really a shopping experience for those who enjoy quiet, reflective browsing; Columbia Road on the Sabbath is more of an elbows-in experience as you fight the tide of people who stop by for a bunch of tulips and then accidently come away with a vintage armchair or a brilliant contemporary print. Many shops only open on Sundays to coincide with the market, but a lot of them have an online presence too: not quite as exciting as being there, but the next best thing. Try Elphick’s and Nelly Duff for prints and other affordable art, Treacle for kitchen stuff old and new (and frivolous cakes) Supernice for cool wall stickers, and round the corner in Ezra Street, Ben Southgate for time-mellowed early-20th-century furniture and lighting.

Urban alphabet tiles by Big Tomato (A is, of course, for Anglepoise), as spotted in Supernice

Urban alphabet tiles by Big Tomato (A is, of course, for Anglepoise), as spotted in Supernice

3-D stag screenprint by Miss Aida Wild, on sale at Nelly Duff

3-D stag screenprint by Miss Aida Wild, on sale at Nelly Duff