So after all the hype and the previews, the latest arrival from the US is finally here. West Elm opened its doors yesterday and, while there wasn’t exactly a Black Friday style riot, there was a long queue of very polite shoppers all waiting patiently to be let in.
I had been invited to the preview the day before but was unable to attend (my 12-year-old was, frankly, inconveniently sick). In the end, however, I’m rather glad I went on a day of real trading because I can report, live from the scene, that the punters were proper smiling.
Laid out over two floors, there’s so much to browse around it’s hard to pick a favourite part. There’s a coffee bar – such a clever idea that. It will be open early to catch commuters on their way to work and is situated in the market place where there are all sorts of gorgeous things to pick up for presents, or for yourself. I’m told the mini whisks are very popular. I wanted this clever magnetic bin, with a lid that doubles up as a dustpan.
Heading downstairs to the bedding section, creative director Vanessa Holden told me this is her favourite part of the store: “It’s where you get to see everything that west elm is about,” she said. “There are beds made from reclaimed wood, next to our take on mid-century modern and the more ornate carved beds.” The idea being that you can pick and choose and mix and match the styles to create your own perfect space.
The walls are also lined with what seems like an infinite number of throws, duvet covers, bedspreads and cushions, ranging in colour from warm chocolate and golds to greys of every shade.
Fifty per cent of the range is made from organic cotton, a fact of which west elm is both proud and prepared to try harder. The company also works hard to make partnerships with designers – local and international.
Indeed, one display, by New York-based Eduardo Garza, includes a rather lovely box, which is, apparently, Oprah’s Christmas present of choice this year. He came up with an exclusive collection for west elm. As has Sebastian Conran for the market department.
In addition to the shopping, there is also a design hub where trained interior designers will talk through your decorating dilemmas and point you in the right direction. And it’s not just about buying everything in the store. They will also come to your home and help you style it if you want.
As Jim Brett, the president of west elm, said at a dinner the night before, it’s about how west elm can help you make your home tell your story.
At the core of the west elm philosophy is a desire that good design should be affordable to all. And it pretty much is. I have sat on the chairs and stroked the bedding and lifted the lids of pots and pans. It’s good stuff. I’m definitely going back for duvet covers. And this mirror below.
I have used the photographs from online here, because the shop was full when I went round and my pictures were terrible. But everything included here I saw in the store. And, I have to say, I have also chosen the photographs of the things I want.
But, fear not you out-of-towners. The online store is coming in January. And if you are in London before then do go and have a visit. It’s on Tottenham Court Road, seconds from Goodge Street tube station, which is on the northern line.
I, for one, think it’s a welcome addition to our high street. Now, where’s my credit card …