Design tourists have plenty of great shops to visit in the UK capital, where they can see the latest lighting, the coolest sofas and quirkiest ceramics.
For anyone interested in contemporary furniture and cutting-edge design, London is a city not to be missed. From one-off independents to the major Italian brands, design aficionados will find plenty to inspire them.
On Drury Lane in Covent Garden, Aram is a family-run business that showcases high quality furniture from brands such as Cassina, Edra, Moroso, Flexform, Vitra, Porada, Knoll and Porro. The 20,000 sq m store is light and airy and covers five floors. A real design mecca.
On Vigo Street in London’s West End, Alma is know for its leather and suede furniture that encompasses simple seating cubes and bean bags to floor and wall tiles, sofas and headboards. This is a magnificent shop, with high ceilings, oak flooring and cosy fireplaces. If you have ever wondered about the design potential of leather, then a visit to this store will get your imagination working.
Aria is on Barnsbury Steet, just off Islington’s famous Upper Street. It’s a friendly, slightly chaotic emporium that is choc full of product to suit every budget. Busy and bustling, it has a fun and relaxed atmosphere – you’ll find high end brand furniture to decorative accessories and quirky one-offs. Downstairs you’ll find glassware and bathroom products.
On the Brompton Road, close to Knightsbridge (about a ten minute walk from Harrods), is this wonderful flagship store for renowned Italian brand B&B. The store has a glass front but once inside you’ll find an immense almost cathedral-like showroom, with a double-height ceiling. See the latest furniture and kitchen collections from B&B Italia and sister company Maxalto.
Bowles & Linares
Based in super trendy Notting Hill, Bowles & Linarea is a small showroom that displays the furniture, lighting and glassware designed by owners Sharon Bowles and Edgard Linares. Many of the pieces are made in the duo’s West London workshop – hand-production is very important to them. They use materials such as metal, horsehair, enamel, ceramic, cast concrete, wood and borosilicate glass. A real gem.
On Blandford Street off Marylebone High Street, Century has many furniture and lighting designs from the big names (such as Eames’ chairs manufactured by Vitra) as well as more one-off and idiosyncratic pieces from Europe, the US and Canada.
On Fairfax Road, close to Swiss Cottage underground station, this superb 10,000 sq ft modern furniture store was founded in 1921. Ninety years on and its ethos remains the same: to introduce clients to the best in understated contemporary design. You’ll find collections from top European manufacturers including Molteni, Flexform, Maxalto and Minotti among many others.
Considered by many interior designers to be the best modern rug designer in the UK, Christopher Farr’s rug store on Burnsall Street off the Kings Road will have you drooling with desire. Many of his creations are hung on the wall and have the impact of great art. Farr also offers fabric collections, with designs printed on linen and cotton. Rugs are expensive, his fabrics are not.
The Conran Shop
With splendid stores on the Fulham Road and Marylebone High Street, the Conran shops, founded by Sir Terence Conran, aim to make good design available to all. The stores are vibrant but not intimidating and you can find everything from huge leather sofas to bars of soap.
A much-loved stalwart of the Kings Road (textile designer Tricia Guild set up the store in 1970), Designers Guild is a store to lift the spirits. That is because of the jewel-bright colours combined in the room-set displays, which have made the brand so instantly recognisable. Tricia Guild fabrics are world-renowned and this flagship showroom stocks some 3,000 designs. It also offers furniture, bed linen, and accessories such as cushions, glassware, ceramics and tableware. This is a store for those who want to know how to use colour and pattern in their home, without creating a kaleidoscope effect.
A very smart, sophisticated showroom in Notting Hill, Gotham offers a carefully edited selection of high end classic contemporary furniture from designers such as Hugues Chevalier and Knoll. See seating, tables, lighting, case goods and wall hangings, as well as antiques. A good place for those who like combining antiques into modern displays for an eclectic style.
On Marylebone High Street, Skandium showcases the best of Scandinavian design. See furniture and lighting by such 20th Century luminaries as Arne Jacobsen, Alvar Aalto, Hans Wegner, Poul Kjaerholm, and Eero Aarnio. It’s a very cool and spacious store, great for browsing.
London has many more independent design stores, for example you’ll find plenty in the Brick Lane area of east London. Habitat is a chain in mid-range modern design stores, with showrooms across London and a flagship store on Tottenham Court Road. Next door to it is Heals, a more high end interiors store with extensive collections of seating, bedding, fabrics and accessories.