The Best Gift Shops
In the age of Amazon, it’s completely feasible to cross everyone off your list from the comfort of your desk. That said, so long as you don’t find yourself somewhere too overcrowded, there’s really nothing that inspires holiday spirit more than a day spent picking up special, unique pieces for loved ones in person. Here, our favorite shops for perusing with an armful of shopping bags in tow and Christmas music playing in the background (plus a few online favorites for emergencies).
Native & Co.116 Kensington Park Rd., Notting Hill | +44.20.7243.0418
Form and function is the resounding thesis at Sharon Jo-Yun Hung and Chris Yoshiro Green's shop of Japanese and Taiwanese discoveries, from the most beautiful brooms and simple, graphic tenugui cloths, to super useful and elegant porcelain ceramics from Akira, to those gorgeous copper tea canisters, to the most fundamentally perfect stationery. Everything in the shop adheres to a subtle palette of brown and greige and comes together picture-perfectly, so beyond the objects, the shop is an aesthetic experience in and of itself.
Botanique31 Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell | +44.20.3638.5621
Flowers in antique glass jars, succulents large and small, steampunk kids clothes, pressed flowers, it all may sound a little Etsy-esque, and well, it is, but it's so well achieved and so aesthetically pleasing that it's hard not to fall for. Botanique, both a florist and a shop for artisan wares, opened up its sprawling, wood-lined space on Exmouth Market in October and already promises to be a fixture on the local craft scene with a series of seasonal workshops for those interested in picking up a few skills.
Clerkenwell London155 Farringdon Rd., Clerkenwell | +44.20.3826.1142
This concept store/restaurant/martini bar/wine cave/piano lounge/women's store/men's shop/gallery is pretty jaw-dropping: It does so many things—all in one location—and so well. This shop is a world unto itself, mixing design objects, antiques, fashion magazines, and home accessories high and low in a sprawling space in its namesake neighborhood. You might find a nostalgic and scrappy old pencil case appealingly arranged next to an antique brass protractor, right next to a Palomino pencil. There are also ceramics, glassware, throws, and pillows—all at a surprisingly affordable range of prices (you get the sense that everything here is priced for exactly what its worth and no more). The clothing array revolves around mostly British heritage brands like Olivia Von Halle, Zoe Jordan, J.Lindenberg, Troubador, and more. They're basically out to outfit all the hardcore design types who live in the neighborhood, of which there are many.
Hall52 Lonsdale Rd., Notting Hill | +44.20.7229.0266
Affordable jewelry by lesser-known designers is nearly impossible to find in London, which makes Hall, a hole-in-the-wall shop tucked away behind Westbourne Grove, so special. Here, owner and designer Min Lee gathers her favorite designers and displays them along with her own designs. You'll find Annette Ferdinandsen's organic, insect-inspired pieces next to Ilana Ariel's more angular designs, along with Min's own collection of fashion jewelry—everything from simple bangles to gemstone earrings and cuffs, to signature wave rings, and more. Look for Min at the shop for inspiration on how to put it all together—she truly is the master of layering jewelry, high and low.
Alex Eagle6-10 Lexington St., Soho | +44.20.7589.0588
Alex Eagle's eponymous concept store has moved from its Knightsbridge townhouse local to an expansive loft space in Soho. The owner stocks hard-to-find brands like Isa Arfen, Lemaire, and Protagonist mixed in with homewares by hip design studios like Makers & Brothers. With the odd Jean Prouvé stool or Alex Eagle collaboration—many are her takes on classic heritage brands like Swaine-Adeney—dotted here and there, this shop is always packed with discoveries.
Summerill & Bishop100 Portland Rd., Holland Park | +44.20.7221.4566
Born out of a friendship between June Summerill and the late Bernadette Bishop, their store is one of Holland Park's hidden gems, worth venturing a few minutes out of Notting Hill to visit. With an eye for hand-crafted home goods - June & Bernadette forged relationships with many international ceramicists, textile artists and glassblowers - and merchandise their goods in their own style. The best hand painted tablecloths, in an array of patterns all designed in their in house studio, handblown glassware, plus essential kitchenware round out the offerings. This is a dreamy, beautiful store that is 24 years strong. They've also recently opened a second store in Belgravia at 58 Elizabeth Street, and sell internationally through their website summerillandbishop.com
Tom Dixon344 Ladbroke Grove, Ladbroke Grove | +44.20.7183.9737
Tom Dixon is undoubtedly the British designer of the moment, having just completed the Mondrian at Sea Containers. His shop, located underneath the delightful Dock Kitchen, features picture windows looking out onto Regent's Canal and stocks Mr. Dixon's pared-down furniture, lighting, and accessories. You've probably seen his brass and copper light fixtures around town and if you haven't you'll be sure to fall for them here. The shop is also packed with delightful knick-knacks scoured from all around the world.
The New Craftsmen34 North Row, Mayfair | +44.20.7148.3190
Previously a pop-up, The New Craftsmen has found its home on a refreshingly quiet street near Marble Arch. There, you’ll find the handicrafts of makers from across the British Isles, whether it’s reed baskets and place mats from a basket weaver in Devon, or the young illustrator Rose de Borman’s folky and exquisite silk cushions, or custom light-fixtures (both the glass cloche and the cord can be specified). It all may sound a little crafty, but it comes together in a totally livable, contemporary way. Plus, many of the artisans carried do custom-work, which can be commissioned through the shop.
Another Country18 Crawford St., Marylebone | +44.20.7486.3251
Blush pink walls and a warm grey ceiling complement the beautiful furniture and accessories sold at this relatively new Marylebone shop and design studio. Handcrafted wooden furniture, jacquard throws, simple terracotta ceramics, and beautifully turned-out desk accessories are just a few of the things you'll want to schlep home. While the shop is off the main street it's worth the detour to see. They also take custom orders.
Cire Trudon36 Chiltern St., Marylebone | +44.20.7486.7590
Appropriately tucked away on a quiet road behind Marylebone High Street, this store creates the perfectly fanciful setting for its perfectly fanciful candles. Get a whiff of Versailles' wooden floors with the Solis Rex candle, or a glimpse of the Marie Antoinette lifestyle with Trianon. The brand has been around since 1643, when the original perfumer, Trudon, lived and served the royal courts. Photo: Paul Raeside
Claire de Rouen13 Brewer St., Soho | 44.207.734.4334
This place is frequented by serious photo aficionados, from librarians to collectors to students, looking for rare and out-of-print books and magazines. The old gallery location has recently moved into Soho concept store Machine-A.
Couverture and the Garbstore188 Kensington Park Rd., Notting Hill | +44.20.7229.2178
Run by husband-and-wife team Ian Paley and Emily Dyson, this multilevel space is stocked with independent designers from all over the globe. While the women's section is home to plenty of international names that are hard to find elsewhere (along with a strong NYC contingent like Rachel Comey and Steven Alan), it's the meticulously edited kids’ selection—Morley tees, Oeuf toys—that's earned the shop praise from locals and visitors alike.
House of Hackney131 Shoreditch High St., Shoreditch | +44.20.7739.3901
This brand originally caught our eye with its wry animal print textiles and wallpapers for the home, all made traditionally in sumptuous fabrics, but with a slightly subversive edge. They've now taken their prints and turned them out in clothes, wrapping paper, and more which actually totally works.
John Sandoe10 Blacklands Terrace, Chelsea | +44.20.7589.9473
Here, you'll find around 25,000 books piled on every imaginable surface, from tabletops to the staircase. The shop has a literary slant but stocks all sorts of titles, from architecture tomes to cookbooks to thrillers.
Labour & Wait85 Redchurch St., Shoreditch | +44.20.7729.6253
Even the wooden brooms are carefully selected to fit in with the artfully stark aesthetic at Labour and Wait. Come for striped sailing shirts, Japanese enamelware, hand-forged gardening tools, leather satchels, and polka-dot primary-color handkerchiefs. In sum, a slightly random selection of household goods that come together beautifully.
Luna & Curious24-26 Calvert Ave., Shoreditch | +44.20.3222.0034
Run by a collective of designers and craftsmen, Luna & Curious brings together a pretty outstanding (and affordable) assortment of home wares, clothing, toys, and curios made by young, predominantly British makers. Every few weeks, they turn a section of the shop over to a new designer to arrange and display their wares however they'd like; it's always pretty inspiring.
Pedlars128 Talbot Road, London W11 1JA, UK | +44.20.7727.7799
It's all about bright colors and all things British-made here. Favorites are the selection of vintage globes, satchels, enamelware, and classic old-school bus paraphernalia.
Pentreath & Hall17 Rugby St., Bloomsbury | +44.20.7430.2526
Located in a tiny Victorian shopfront in the heart of Bloomsbury, Pentreath & Hall sells carefully chosen homewares and an ever-changing variety of unusual delights. Many of the objects for sale here satisfy the "looks great under a glass cloche" category requirement. Photo: Simon Bevan
Persephone Books59 Lamb's Conduit St., Bloomsbury | +44.20.7242.9292
The books here are by women, about women, and for busy women who don't have time to wade through bigger chains in search of that perfect book. The collection contains 96 beautiful, unique and intelligent books, which make wonderful gifts for the women in your life. The beautiful reprints all feature a custom Persephone grey jacket, the same color as the shop's façade, which remains virtually unchanged since its construction in 1702.
Taschen12 Duke of York Sq., Belgravia | +44.20.7881.0795
At this Philippe Starck–designed (and gilded) shop, you'll find all Taschen's trademark tomes on art, photography, fashion, architecture, film, erotica, and more. Conveniently placed right across the street from the Saatchi Gallery, this is a shop for the well-heeled art lover. The gallery space downstairs shows off certain titles in more detail.
Liberty LondonRegent St., Soho | +44.20.7734.1234
This legendary store opened in 1875 on Regent Street, and to this day maintains its beautiful wood-paneled interiors and grand Tudor revival exterior. While the Liberty brand is alive and well, still selling their trademark flower print fabrics, so is their buying team with small capsules from all our favorite brands including Frame, Acne, Alexander Wang, Isabel Marant, and Kenzo. Treat yourself to a scarf here as they always have the widest and most wonderful selection, and the staff in the Scarf Hall on the first floor are famously good at advising you on how to tie them.
SCP87-93 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill | +44.20.7229.3612
SCP works with a closely curated group of designers to manufacture the furniture and home accessories in workshops around the world. Donna Wilson's playful knits get a lot of airtime here, as do designers like Lucy Kurrein, Michael Anastassiades, and more. Owner Sheridan Coakley does a fair amount of travel and always brings back great finds with him. Aside from the high-concept furniture, lighting, and accessories, this shop is one of the best in town for gifts. The other location is in Shoreditch.
Toast44 Marylebone High St., Marylebone | +44.20.7486.9272
With more than 11 stores in London, this English staple is a great place to pick up kitchen and picnic materials (though their mens and womens collections are also worth a look). Their streamlined and affordably priced homewares include utilitarian blankets, rustic terracotta bowls, enamel-dipped cutlery, and more. If you're hoping to impress friends from home with seemingly simple basics they can't get at home, this is your spot.
The Conran Shop55 Marylebone High St., Marylebone | +44.20.7723.2223
Terence Conran of Habitat fame is one of the—if not the—most prominent figures in British design, and his legendary shop is just one of his many legacies. His son Jasper is heir to his throne: He's recently overhauled the store's layout, style, and feel. Mixing furniture into realistic and enticing home-like vignettes, the shop is now a source of inspiration as much is it is the place to buy 20th-century design large and small. Along with all the Eames, Saarinens and van der Rohe's—not to mention, Donald Judd's furniture designs, for which Conran has the exclusive—the knick knacks, stationery, and design books are unparalleled, making it hard to walk out empty handed. There is also another location in Chelsea.
Momosan Shop79a Wilton Way, Hackney | +44.20.7249.4989
Momosan, a teensy, whitewashed space a few doors down from Violet Cakes on the up-and-coming Wilton Way, is a collection of beautiful, useful objects owner Momoko Mizutani has found on her travels. While there is a definite Japanese bent to the look and feel of the delicate glassware, quirky ceramics, and home-y odds and ends, these are her finds from friends across the world. Ceramic mugs by LA artist Peter Shire, London-based Jochen Holz' delicate colorblock glassware, Japanese incense, and more: It's a hodge podge, but a painstakingly edited one—and at great prices—making this an ideal gifting destination.
London Design Museum Shop224-238 Kensington High St., Kensington | +44.20.3862.5938
While the new Design Museum isn't open quite yet, the shop is already up and running and provides a tiny sneak preview into architect John Pawson's vision for the museum. Colorful design objects, gadgets, toys, and gizmos are carefully arranged on a Vitsoe shelving system on dark grey walls, creating a beautiful and contrasting display. It's a great selection of small, affordable gifts and more high-concept pieces for the real design lover like John Pawson designed ceramic bowls, a Barber & Osgerby teapot, Artek's Alvar Aalto stools and the like. It all bodes well for the grand opening in late November.
Canvas Home57 Amwell St., Clerkenwell | +44.20.7833.2000
From the team behind Ochre, makers of objects, lighting, and furniture of pure beauty, Canvas is their showroom for basic household items like serving dishes, utensils, and vases, turned out in muted tones and delicate finishes. After launching first in the US, Canvas has finally opened its doors on a quiet street in East London, a perfect spot for a brand as elegantly understated as this one.
Moda Operandi Mews32 Grosvenor Crescent Mews, Belgravia | To schedule an appointment, please contact: [email protected]
Tucked away in a listed Belgravia mews house—appropriately upmarket for the luxurious runway online retailer—Moda's first European showroom has been sumptuously decorated by the local design house, Fran Hickman. With warm, pink walls and a spiral staircase that leads to the upstairs of the historic townhouse (which was previously listed as a stable block), the entire space is reminiscent of an enormous, luxurious dressing room—especially fitting since the experience is totally private and by appointment only. In London, Moda fans get first dibs on straight-off-the-runway collections, ready-to-wear collections, and giftables.
Geo-Fleur15-19 Penny Brookes St., Stratford
Geo-fleur specializes in houseplants—and while this is a great place to come for plants themselves (they've got a gorgeous selection of bonsais, cacti, and succulents), we also love coming here for accessories like copper-bottomed planters and macrame hangers. Their plant subscription, which mails a new plant and its associated trappings every month, makes a great gift for gardeners—or, alternatively, friends with black thumbs.
Smug13 Camden Passage, Islington | 44.020.7354.0253
Long-time Islington resident Lizzie Evans set up shop in her hometown below an upstairs space where she offers workshops in weaving, terrarium making, calligraphy, and more. The shop itself, which locals know from her iconic guinea pig logo, carries design-minded home accessories, prints, and stationery. Her display of wrapping paper and ribbons makes it a great spot for holiday and birthday shopping.
A Portuguese Love Affair142 Columbia Rd., Shoreditch | 44.0.2076131482
This sweet shop in Shoreditch was founded by Portuguese owners Olga Cruchinho and Dina Martins in an effort to bring their favorite staples from their home country to London. There's a range of products, from foodstuffs (tinned fish, jams, honey, olive oil) to beauty products (creams, soaps, even specialty toothpastes) to Portuguese wine, notebooks, and stationery. It's a great spot for hostess gifts, in particular.
Present & Correct23 Arlington Way, Clerkenwell | 44.020.7278.2460
Started by two graphic designers who use the store to present their own designs as well as favorites from others, Present & Correct stocks everything required for old-school correspondence, including stamps, shelves and shelves of stationery, and boxes of specialty pens and pencils. There's also star-shaped erasers, vintage calligraphy sets, brass paperclips, and wooden tape dispensers. It's perfect for grown-up back-to-school.
Seeds3 Launceston Place, Kensington | +126.96.36.1997.9477
The name Seeds has several meanings. For starters, it's a nod to the store's physical space, which occupies what used to be a flower shop in Kensington. It's also a reference to what the owners describe as the store's duality as a place to see (they host exhibitions and special projects with artists and designers) as well as a design store (hence the DS). The entire space is completely shoppable, so you can find everything here from hand-thrown clay pots, to art-inspired jewelry, to works of contemporary art.