London’s Best Independent Shops

I wrote this originally for TownFish, but I wanted to share a slightly modified version with you featuring some of my favourite independent shops in London. 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. This is not an extensive list, just a taste. Quite frankly, I’m not very inspired by the high street shops at the moment so tell me your own favourites in the comments and lead me out of my London shopping rut!

Aria

Barnsbury Hall, Barnsbury Street, London N1 1PN

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.

Photo from Aria’s website

Artwords Bookshop

20-22 Broadway Market, London E8 4QJ

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.

Photo from Shop Ikon

Daunt

83 Marylebone High Street, London W1U 4QW

Hands down my favourite bookshop in London, this independent gem is housed in an old Edwardian building with oak columns and skylights with two floors of books arranged by country or area in which they are set. They not only have travel guides but plenty of fiction, non fiction and those wonderful, beautiful, photography-filled coffee table style books (which, I keep trying to remind myself) are a bad obsession to have when you know you won’t be living in the same house forever…)

Photo from Urban75

Drink, Shop & Do

9 Caledonian Road,  London N1 9DX

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”.

Photo from MyCityVenue

Fernandez & Wells

43 Lexington Street,  London W1F 9AL

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.

Photo from You Should Go Here

Jessie Chorley & Buddog

58 Columbia Road, London E2 7RG

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.

Photo from Bird In The House

Jimmie Martin

77 Kensington Church St, London W8 4BG

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.

Photo from Creative Mapping

Le Grenier

146 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 6DG

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.

Photo from Twenty Something London

Liberty

Regent Street, London W1B 5AH

Who doesn’t know of London’s famous Liberty? I’ve included it mainly becuase they stock French clothing brand Sessùn which I love. Also the old tudor building is stunning and, having been around since 1875, a piece of British heritage and an emporium housing some of the world’s most luxurious brands.

Photo from Liberty’s website

Lumiere

88 Chatsworth Road, London E5 0LS

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.

Photo from Scout London

Radio Days

87 Lower Marsh Street, London SE1 7AB

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.

Photo by LLO

Scootercaffe

132 Lower Marsh Street, London SE1 7AE

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.

Photo from Fluid London

Stumper & Fielding

107 Portobello Road, London W11 2QB

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.

Photo from Stumper & Fielding Facebook page

The Bridge Coffee Shop

5 Kingsland Road, London, E2 8AA

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 bridge cafe shoreditchPhoto by LLO

The Make Lounge

3-4 Waterloo Gardens, Barnsbury Street, London N1 1TY

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!

Photo from The Make Lounge

Unpackaged

97 Richmond Road, London E8 3NJ

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!

Photo from Singaporean in London

Also worth a quick mention, though there are many more, 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.

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Listen to a Londoner: Emily Webber

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview post with people who live (or have lived for a while) in London. If you fit the bill and want to be interviewed, give me a shout at littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk. Always looking for new volunteers.   

Emily Webber,
(Photo by Mike Laurie)   

Emily is a native Londoner. You’ll most likely find her cruising around London on her bright green Vespa seeking out cool photos for her blog London Shop Fronts.

LLO: How long have you lived in London?
EW: 
I was born in London, so pretty much all my life. I grew up in the south east but crossed north of the river to east London.   

LLO: What gave you the idea to start your blog, London Shop Fronts?
EW:
 It started when I was taking photos of my local area in 2004. I always found them fascinating and an interesting insight into an area, its history of affluence and diaspora. In 2008, I finally put some online, which sparked my interest to take more. Shop fronts are fascinating for so many reasons and as the collection gets bigger it only gets more interesting.       

LLO: Which shop front that you’ve captured is your favourite so far?
EW:
I couldn’t choose just one. I have so many I like for many different reasons. The first photo I posted on my blog was Get Stuffed (taxidermy) in Islington and probably my favourite types are Cafes, Launderettes and Chinese takeaways. These seem to have the most original signage and layering of history.  

  

  

LLO: Favourite place in London to take your camera?
EW:
I am never without my camera, so everywhere! But I’m most excited when I find a new street full of independent shops that I haven’t been to before.  

LLO: Somewhere in London you’d like to explore but haven’t had a chance yet?
EW:
  I’d love to get the chance to see some of secret London, the places that are locked most of the time like the closed underground stations (see http://underground-history.co.uk). Last year I got the chance to explore Savoy Cafe (http://www.flickr.com/photos/emilywebber/sets/72157619950686676/detail/) which has been closed since the 80s, it was an amazing chance to see something that has hardly changed since the 50s.

LLO: Loving the bright green Vespa! Have you found it to be the best way to get around the city?
EW:
I love my vespa for many reasons and it really is a great way to get around. It beats sitting on a bus or a tube and of course looks great.

LLO: Best London discovery?
EW:
London has so much to offer once you start exploring, I love summer walks along the canal to the parks and marshes around Hackney and Walthamstow.    

LLO: What’s your favourite London shop?
EW:
I do a lot of my shopping online and I particularly love finding unique stuff on Etsy and eBay.    

LLO: If I only had one night in London, where would you tell me to eat and drink?
EW:
  Cocktails at Saf then dinner and drinks at Bistrotheque.

LLO: Describe your perfect Saturday in London.
EW:
Probably start with brunch in Springfield Park cafe if it’s warm and sunny, then out (on the vespa) for some photo taking, then back to Hackney’s numerous pubs for some drinks with friends. 

Thanks Emily!  

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

A Visit to Columbia Road Flower Market

Hoping it would feel a bit more like Spring, I walked down to Columbia Road Flower Market on a Sunday afternoon, following the opposite direction of everyone who had armfuls of flowers already. It did, at least a bit. The vendors looked like they were having a lot of fun, it was colourful, the shops along the pavement behind the flower stalls are quirky and interesting (all independent – art galleries, vintage shops, cafes, bakeries, garden shops) and, at the end of the afternoon, the flowers were going cheap – “Everythin’ a fiver!” they call out, and some are even a bunch for £1. Here’s a few photos:


This is the stall owner’s teenage son, Frankie, who is helping out his dad yelling for customers.


Didn’t get this guy’s name, but he was a good laugh. I asked if I could take his photo and he said, “Course you can, darlin” and went right on yelling about his daisies with his hands on his hips: “How dare you not stop to look at my gerberas!?” to anyone who passed.

For more info including interviews with vendors and a great list of the shops, here’s the website.

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