As a frequent contributor to The Independent’s regular 50 Best features, I have been researching and discovering new places to shop for over ten years now. This directory aims to provide you with details of the ones that I think are the best. It will start off alphabetically because that is the easiest way to compile a list like this, but I will try and highlight each site’s strengths to make it easier for you to track down what you are looking for. Perhaps in time, it can be rearranged by subject.
Feel free to add comments below and make suggestions for places that you think should be included. Or even “disincluded” if that is a word. I want this directory to be as comprehensive as possible, so if you know of a fabulous shop in a tiny corner of Scotland, tucked under a mountain in Wales, or nestling by a lake in Ireland we want to know about it.
By the way, none of these companies has paid or asked to be included in this listing. They are there purely and simply because I rate them.
Alessi; powerhouse of Italian design, still family-run.
The Alternative Flooring Company; 01264 335111. For natural carpets and runners. Particularly for the new QUIRKY range. I have their spots carpet on my stairs and I love it.
Appliances Online; 0871 641 1560. Does what it says on the tin. Lots of choice, competitive prices. Prompt delivery.
Artisan du Chocolat; 0207 824 8365; because life is just easier with a box of their salted caramels
Baileys; 01989 561931; a mix of vintage and new and combinations of the two that have been lovingly restored. Their home is often featured in glossy interior magazines as they have a style we all aspire to.
BHS; 0845 196 0000; because if you check out their home section you might be surprised. There is a good, and very affordable, lighting department and if we can now mix designer and high street in our clothes we should be able to do it in our houses too.
Bisca; 01439 771 702; beautiful staircases and balustrades, just flicking through their gallery will have you wondering why you have paid so little attention to your own set of risers.
Bodie and Fou; I love everything on this site. I have bought the wallpaper among other things. It’s modern, cool and eclectic. Run by a Frenchwoman with a hint of Scandi chic.
Bouf; 0845 519 2259; products with a twist – unusual homeware items with a bit of wit that will bring a smile to your face. I do find the constant requests to update my country of choice and to sign up with facebook mildly irritating as it tells me every time my preferences have been saved, but, that aside, there’s some interesting and different stuff to be found.
Chaplins; 020 8421 1779; a huge, huge range of contemporary furniture. Some of it is eye-wateringly expensive and, as they don’t print the prices online, there is an element of if you have you ask you can’t afford it about the whole enterprise.
Children’s Lighting; www.childrenslighting.co.uk; 01934 608176; fantastic range of great lights for kids
The Conran Shop; 0844 848 4000; because Sir Terence might be over 80 but he’s still churning out cool contemporary designs (see his latest at M&S). He gave us Habitat, brought the duvet to the UK and introduced the chicken brick. This store brings together a number of other designs and vintage classics making it a must for anyone who loves modern design.
Cox & Cox; 0844 8580734; this site has just got better and better as they find their niche. Lots of gorgeous accessories for the home from clocks and candlesticks to shelving and home office essentials.
John Cullen; 020 7371 5400; it is expensive but, as their design director Sally Storey says: “You can can hide a multitude of cheap furniture with clever lighting.” Visit to be inspired, to learn and perhaps to treat yourself.
Davey Lighting; 020 7351 2130; founded in the 19th century as a marine lighting manufacturer, Davey’s lighting fits perfectly with the current ethos of industrial chic. Their bulkhead naval lights are fabulous both inside and outside and I know that because I have three of them in my kitchen.
Design House Stockholm; with the current mania for all things Scandi it’s no surprise that this store has been included in the list. Working with more than 60 designers, the company is bringing Scandinavian style to everyone. And we love it.
Design My World; 0844 357 4508; sister site to Dutch by Design (see below); DMW is full of modern designs from the up and coming to the well-established. Lots of wit and lots of Brit, which is always a good thing.
Design Shop UK; 0870 2424 128; a huge collection of contemporary designer furniture and accessories. Hours of happy browsing. But it may be more about the browsing as the lack of a search function means you have to go through all the armchairs rather than look for a specific one that you might have had in mind.
Dutch by Design; 0844 884 2340; they may not be as well known as the Italians or the Scandinavians, but the Dutch are actually incredibly stylish. Renowned particularly for bring a touch of wit to their products, this site has a range of fun and funky homewares.
Established & Sons; 020 7608 0990; innovative British design was the original concept. Thanks to its huge success, it has now attracted designers from overseas but it remains loyal British design at its core.
Eva Solo; bringing a Danish design twist to everyday household objects. The storage jars will make your shelves look more beautiful, the vinaigrette holder won’t drop oil like all the others do. This is the website but it’s freely available at John Lewis, Amazon and Madeindesign.
The French House; 020 7831 1111, before we all went mad for Scandinavia, French chic was already cool and aspirational and that hasn’t changed. Gorgeous bedlinen, lighting and fabulous copper sinks.
Garden Trading; 0845 608 4448; so much more than just garden accessories, you can now buy a range of retro homewares or, best of all, some great lighting among other things.
Go Modern; 0845 652 0332; huge range of contemporary furniture, much of it from Italy, which, along with Scandinavia, must rate as among the most stylish nations in the world. But there’s also a good range of Portuguese furniture which is often more affordable than the flashy Italian so it’s worth having a look at.
Graham and Green; 0845 130 6622; This is a family-run business which I love but I do find it vexing when you click on three items and they’re all out of stock. Sort it out please Mr Green.
Habitat; 0844 499 4686; Producer of many a modern classic and, when it was opened by Conran in the Sixties, its catalogue was so beautifully produced it was an instant coffee table classic. Tragic that the high street stores have gone, but keep looking online for modern design classics and great ideas.
Handpicked Collection; 0844 482 9708; begun as a repository of great gift ideas for all the family, it has developed into a site that has so many good ideas it will make you want to buy yourself presents all the time. The Home section is divided up into rooms, you will find something you want.
Heals; 08700 240 7780; at the pricey end of the High Street, but Heals, which is now 200 years old, is the doyenne of furniture stores and has long been a champion of British design. It has recently perked itself up with a revamp new styling and feels exciting once again. As it should.
H A M Love these products from designer Jo Robinson. Follow the adventures of the lawn-moving pig, the skiiing bunny and the plant-watering horse on mugs and tea towels. Gorgeous monochrome prints with wit and style. I own a mug and tea towel and I haven’t finished yet.
Humade This Dutch company makes lots of great things but my favourite is the Kintsugi gold glue which you can use to mend broken plates so they become arguably even more beautiful. Read more about it here
Ikea, I don’t care what you say, it’s my list and I will include Ikea. It’s affordable and many of the designs will be classics in years to come. Their lighting department is particularly good. The key is to mix up the Ikea products with other shops so you don’t end up with a house that looks like everyone else’s. Another tip is to seek out the PS range, which is slightly more contemporary and edgy than the classic range.
Joseph Joseph; 020 7261 1800; taking boring kitchen gadgets and reinventing them so they are better and more fun to use. Their Chop to Pot is in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, their lemon squeezer with pip -catching guard is in my drawer. Along with plenty of other products.
Kenwood; for all your kitchen mixer needs. Many of their products are design classics and they last for ever. And, did you you, it was actually founded by Kenneth Wood?
KitchenAid; see above. They’re both good.
Labour And Wait; 020 7729 6253; bills itself as simple functional products for the home and garden, but it’s a little more stylish than that. One look at these dustpans and brushes and you will be dying for someone to spill something.
John Lewis, 08456 049049; long regarded simply as a safe place by the unadventurous middle classes, this high street favourite has hired new buyers and now stocks some much more funky homewares. The old stuff is still there but take a look at the new House range. The store has also started to champion small British designers and given them an outlet. Bravo.
Little Paris; 020 8340 9008; it’s French, it’s industrial and it’s vintage. There is a shop in Crouch End, London, N8 but use the website to browse for what you like and then ring them up.
Made In Design; another Anglo-French hybrid, this site has a massive collection of contemporary homewares from furniture to teacups. You could lose hours browsing here so best set a time limit.
Caroline McGrath; 01869 340 479; a well-curated collection of items for the home with lots by Normann Copenhagen and Isak and plenty by other designers that you might not have heard of.
Marks and Spencer; another High Street stalwart, they’ve even got Conran designing for them these days. The clothes might not be want you’re after but don’t rule out the interiors.
Nest; 01142 433000; sells a rosta of all the top designers you’ve ever heard of. And plenty you haven’t. But we like them not least because they’re in Sheffield and it’s good to find places that aren’t all in London.
Not On The High Street; designed as a place where you can find all those unusual quirky little ideas in one place, the site is now so enormous that it can be slightly unwieldy to randomly browse. But if you have an idea of what you are looking for, you might well just find some of the best examples of it here.
Olive Loves Alfie; 020 7241 4212; calls itself a family lifestyle store. In fact there’s great stuff for kids and they recently launched a range of rather gorgeous paints which definitely aren’t just for children.
Panik Design;01908 307020; so they’ve cut straight to the chase – it’s either Danish or it’s Italian, the two great behemoths of contemporary design, and there’s masses to see and they’re very friendly and knowledgeable too.
Q? No me neither. Wait, hang on Quirk and Rescue specialise in wallpaper, textiles and furniture. Their music cushions (punk, disco, pop etc ) are a visual delight and their “punking” of an old fashioned nest of coffee tables with the words Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, will delight many. Perhaps not Granny. They have also just started making their own range of wallpaper.
Quirk custom-made lampshades in any combination you can imagine. I am particularly keen on the dark grey with neon pink lining.
Re-found Objects 01434 634567; Based in a giant warehouse in Northumberland stuffed full of old treasures that have been lovingly restored and refurbished. It can be tricky to navigate your way around the clever titles but stick with it because you will find good things.
Rockett St George 01444 253375; another of my all time favourite stores. I just want all of it. Vintage, industrial, eclectic, unusual, that sort of thing. But you probably already know about this place.
Roullier White;020 8693 5150; lots of lovely things for the home, not least a great collection of stuff for the laundry room – which will make you wish you had one so you could display Mrs White’s Gossamer Wash.
Skandium; 020 7584 2066; no surprises where this store gets its inspiration from. Very mid-century modern, very fashionable, and yes very expensive, I’m afraid.
Toast, 0844 557 5200; their clothes are very expensive but they needn’t concern us here. The home collection is well edited and rather covetable. Even the dustpan and brush is stylish.
To Dry For; takes the humble tea towel and turns it into a work of art. Well almost. It will take you hours to choose one from here, there are many, many gorgeous designs here.
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Urban Cottage Industries 0207 193 2119 has a huge range of vintage shades, old fashioned lightbulbs and fabric cables in masses of funky colours. You can build your own personal light by choosing all the bits you need. One day I will change all my plastic cabling to fabric twist.
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The White Company; 0844 736 4222; still going strong, still lovely, especially the bedlinen. Under my 13 tog duvet is one of my favourite places in the world
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Zoffany and not just because it’s a Z but because their paints really are beautiful. Flat, chalky and with a fantastic depth of colour. I have used lime and ocean in my sons’ bedrooms to great effect and their purple Persian tulip wallpaper is in my bedroom.