Though it may seem like every other shop in London is a Zara, Tesco or Starbucks, there are still many eccentric, vibrant independent shops thriving among the high street mega-brands. Here is a small list of some of the best quirky shops in London.
Jessie Chorley & Buddog
Originally a stall in Broadway Market, Jessie & Buddug was transformed into a beautiful, creative shop on Columbia Road in 2008. The two friends / artists from Snowdonia dig back to their Welsh roots to create beautiful handmade pieces like greeting cards, decoupage picture frames and photo albums, engraved jewellery and embellished vintage clothing. There is enormous attention to details and the girls are wonderfully inviting.
The Bridge Coffee Shop
While the coffee and cakes are great, it’s the sensory overload here that’s the real draw. This Dickensian-style coffee shop is nestled under the bridge on Shoreditch High Street and contains a fascinating array of décor from Tiffany lamps to vintage fluorescent signs to old photographs and gilt mirrors. Upstairs, on creaky wooden floorboard sit quirky fuchsia pink chairs where you can sit and chat with friends for hours.
The Village Bicycle
Kitsch and quirky The Village Bicycle just around the corner from Westbourne Grove is full of knickknacks picked up by owner Willa Keswick on her travels – glittering skulls, glowing crucifixes and Spiderman furniture. There are towering studded heels, leopard print trousers and Lulu Guinness accessories.
In Japanese, the number three is “san” and the number nine is “kyu”, meaning the name of this clever shop is actually “Thank you, Thank you”. Its eccentric name matches the fashion inside, a colourful and vibrant shop that doubles as a gallery showing off the wok of contemporary artists. It’s also a great place for those hard-to-find magazines and pretty art books.
Step into Radio Days and walk through multiple eras of vintage clothing, accessories like glittering broaches, bullet bras, stacks of old magazines and home decor from the 1920s to the 1980s amid a nostalgic soundtrack that takes you back in time. Staff are knowledgeable and welcoming.
Fernandez & Wells
Those who stumble upon Soho’s coffee heaven that is Fernandez & Wells speak of it fondly and nearly always return. Rustic wooden floors, a relaxed vibe, giant picture windows for people watching and, of course, fresh and delicious food makes the original shop a favourite central London lunchtime haunt. There are now five branches in London including a brand new addition recently opened in South Kensington.
That’s French for “attic”, a great description of this treasure trove of vintage goodies. For the last four years, husband and wife team Jean-Louis and Yuko have scoured markets and antique fairs in the UK and France for pieces of furniture, kitchenware, jewellery and other knick-knacks they are proud to sell. They even have a lease service if you’re after a prop for a special event.
The Make Lounge
Not only is this a shop which stocks all sorts of lovely craft supplies, the Make Lounge also holds regular workshops where you can learn to make homemade jam, a bespoke lampshade or even a pair of knickers. With wine and biscuits at hand, socializing while learning a new craft is highly encouraged!
A magical place of oddities with under floor lighting, fake flickering candles and a disco ball, stop by for delicious smoothies, original cocktails (one, for example, made with water from bags of mozzarella cheese) and French film nights. Be sure to venture downstairs and make sure you pop into the memorable loo.
This one does what it says on the tin in that it sells unpackaged food to avoid so much unnecessary waste being sent to the landfills. It started back in 2006, but in 2012 relocated to a larger space in Hackney. On your first shop, your containers will be weighed and given an official unpackaged sticker. There is also a café, but remember to bring your own cup!
Wouldn’t you agree that despite the wonders of technology, there’s something to be said about flipping the pages of a real book or magazine? East London’s Artwords has a great selection of art books and those hard-to-find independent fashion magazines galore that cater to the creative local community.
A tiny unassuming gem hidden behind Southbank on Lower Marsh Street, walk inside and you’re hit with the aroma of ground coffee beans. They could also possibly have the best hot chocolate in London. But the real charm is in the mismatched décor with its vintage sign and odds and ends as well as the resident cat who is normally curled up on a chair but is quite happy to receive attention. Head to the basement to settle in with free wi-fi and old school jazz.
Stumper & Fielding
Think country chic tweeds, classic union jacks, riding coats, tea towels embellished with bicycles, brogues and wellies. Quality style for the gentleman is this tiny shop’s main focus but there’s plenty for the ladies as well. Stop by to visit on Portobello Road. They don’t have a website yet.
Described as “furniture combining the decadent and quirky with the nostalgic and urban”, this Kensington Church Street shop is full of one-off chairs with sausage dogs, graffiti covered wardrobes and other items for the home designed in bold colours and pop-culture imagery. With a celeb following, designers Jimmie Karlsson and Martin Nihlmar have created pieces for Kelly Osbourne, Pete Townshend, Kylie Minogue and Madonna among others.
Drink, Shop & Do
Tucked away in an old Victorian bathhouse in King’s Cross, this is a hidden gem where you can indulge in an afternoon of tea and crumpets while playing board games and shopping from the collections of local designers. They play host to a variety of quirky activity nights where you can create Lego robots, get a pin-up girl makeover or learn the official dance to MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This”.
An Islington lifestyle and design shop housed in the spacious Barnsbury Hall where you’ll find furniture, headphones, recipe books, jewellery and everything in between. Brands include Paul Smith, Cowshed, Jonathan Adler, Vivienne Westwood and many others. Many of the staff are designers themselves and love to talk about their products.
Also worth a quick mention, pop in to The Last Tuesday Society for the underworld of taxidermy, Tatty Devine to pick up a colourful and witty Perspex necklace or The Merchant for second hand high end designer clothes.
By Stephanie Sadler http://littlelondonobservationist.wordpress.com