Here is the second of my series of blog posts written for KLC School of Design. You can see the original here.
Since graduating from KLC last October I have been working two days a week in Chelsea, a mere 10 minute walk from the college. This part of London is undoubtably the epicentre of interior design in London – there are design stores to be found on pretty much every street – but it’s not by any means the only worthwhile shopping destination and it’s certainly not the cheapest. In fact, I would go so far as to say the sheer number of shops can be overwhelming, intimidating and exhausting and sometimes it is a very good thing to have a respite from the posh antique shops and eye-wateringly expensive furniture and lighting showrooms and head East.
One of my favourite shopping streets in East London is Redchurch Street in Shoreditch.
Redchurch Street flanks the bottom end of the Boundary Estate which was built at the end of the nineteenth century on the site of one of the capital’s most notorious slums, The Old Nichol. The estate became England’s first public housing estate, essentially the first council estate, and its tall, red-brick mansion blocks are monuments to Victorian philanthropy.
As an ex-City worker I have always loved the proximity of this gentle, attractive area to the altars of commerce that rise skywards with such confidence just a few minutes’ walk down the road. The Gherkin, Heron Tower and others seem to peer inquisitively over this small, quaint part of London, curious about it in the way a lion might be with a mouse.
The streets around the estate have, of course, smartened up considerably in the last few years. Gentrification appears to have been done sensitively and one can easily get a feel of how these streets once were. Hotels and members’ clubs are hidden within tea warehouses and shops have the awnings of old fashioned grocers. There’s something timeless and captivating about these charming little streets set back from the unrelentingly urban Shoreditch High Street.
Redchurch Street itself is a narrow, quiet, shop and cafe lined street which appears to be walking the tightrope between still-grotty and over-gentrified. To my mind has much in common with the cobbled streets of Soho – the shopfronts are simple and understated and there is a definite masculine vibe to the collection of home, clothes and personal grooming shops.
Shopping on Redchurch Street is bite-sized and manageable but will take more time than you anticipate as one of the greatest things about this street is the people who work in the shops. They are knowledgeable and friendly and love nothing more than chatting to you about their products. If, like me, you are a sucker for a product with an authentic story behind it, you will love it here. The service is personal and unhurried and you will arrive home feeling relaxed and inspired, traits that are often noticeably absent in the shops with the SW postcodes.
Starting at the Shoreditch High Street end, I usually begin with food and coffee at the Albion. They serve genuinely excellent British food including fish and chips, sausage rolls and sticky toffee pudding served in suitably-Shoreditch enamelware. It’s hard to resist stocking up on the iconic red striped Cornishware pottery on the way out.
Albion, 2-4 Boundary Street, 0207 729 1051, albioncaff.co.uk
After here, try not to be tempted by the lovely clothes in Sunspel and A.P.C. but instead take a slight detour up Chance Street to find the hidden Santa Maria Novella shop. I love the contrast of this centuries-old traditional Florentine pharmacy with the distinctly New York industrial style of some of the other fragrance stores in the area. Santa Maria’s pot pourri is an absolute must, as is their terracotta pomegranate, both of which fragrance a room better than any scented candle ever could and represent excellent value for money.
Santa Maria Novella, 9 Chance Street, 0207 729 4409, smnovella.it
After this, head to Aesops. Their shops may be cropping up all over the place at the moment, but there’s something charming and pared-back about their tiny Redchurch Street store. I love their Poo Drops and their essential oils and, of course, their now iconic Resurrection hand wash and hand balm, spotted on self-respecting bathroom basins on Pinterest boards everywhere.
Aesops, 44 Redchurch Street, 0207 613 3793, aesops.com
Next up is my favourite store, Klaus Haapaniemi & Co. His name may be unpronounceable and hard to spell (for me, anyway) but his Finnish folkloric designs utterly captivate me. His cushions are surprisingly affordable and his throws and blankets are beautiful.
Klaus Haapaniemi & Co, 81 Redchurch Street, 020 7 729 6677, klaush.com
Finally, to Labour and Wait. This famous hipster hardware store sells everything from balls of string to bone egg spoons and everything in between.
Labour and Wait, 85 Redchurch Street, 0207 729 6253, labourandwait.co.uk
Redchurch Street is a truly lovely place to spend a few hours pottering in and out of shops and chatting. And the great thing is that the quality of goods and craftsmanship here easily rivals the shops in Chelsea but offers an unpretentious, fun and friendly place to hang out.