west elm is here … a new interiors shop

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.

glass boxes from westelm
pretty glass boxes from westelm

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.

pintuck grey bedding from westlem
loved this pintuck grey bedding in cotton

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.

trash can with dustpan from westelm
how clever is this? a magnetic bin and the lid doubles up as the dustpan and the brush is magnetic. Now this I want.

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.

sheets from westelm
mix these stripy cotton sheets with the grey linen duvet cover

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.

inside new westelm store in london
inside new westelm store in london

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.

linen duvet cover from westelm
really wanted this linen bedding set to go with the stripy sheets

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.

eduardo gara box for westelm
Oprah’s buying these for her Christmas presents this year

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.

marble coffee table with brass legs from westelm
I saw a smaller version of this for £149

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.

cutting board mirrors from westelm
I absolutely adore these cutting board mirrors and will definitely be buying one

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.

gold lacquer tray and magnetic dustpan and broom
gold lacquer tray and magnetic dustpan and broom

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 …








Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. Why is parity not achievable? Only for as long we support this sharp practice.

    Absolutely, we have the choice. Mine is to not shop at such places and also to draw attention to the utter contempt these so-called ‘global brands’ like J Crew, Gap, Apple, West Elm hold for the British public.

    They pick a price they think they can get away with. Parity doesn’t come into it.

  2. I like the wares; but I dislike the price conversion from their US equivalents.

    They attempted to fob me off with the usual VAT and import duties, but that does not stack up.

    e.g. ‘Dekalb’ sofa at $2699. Add VAT at 20% gives $3238. There is no import duty applicable to upholstered seating, so 0% import duty added. Convert $3238 at the current exchange rate of $1.62/£1 gives £1987.

    Penalty for being British – £712.

    1. Well perhaps we can ask them to reply to that. I know the feeling was that the prices were as fair as they could be and it’s not as bad as J Crew and even The Gap, where I think things from the US have come out much more expensive. We should perhaps try and find a couple of British brands that are stocked over there and see how prices compare. I guess you are never going to get total parity and I suppose, if we don’t like it we have the choice not to shop there. On the other hand, the magnetic dustpan and brush, pictured in the post is $79 and was, if I remember correctly, £49 in the shop which is pretty bang on according to my Google currency convertor. But your point is valid and readers can take it on board when making their shopping decisions.

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