From left: Chevron grain dresser, £699, at the first UK West Elm store, opening December 5 at 209 Tottenham Court Road (0800 404 9780); Market shelf by Lostine, £750 at SCP (scp.co.uk)
Already an important part of the London shopping scene, American homeware from Stateside stores and designers get a significant addition next Thursday when Brooklyn-based home furnishings and gifts chain West Elm opens its first UK store in the capital.
In Tottenham Court Road, it's taking on a street already saturated with furnishers including Habitat, Heal's, BoConcept, Futon Company, Sofa Workshop, Natuzzi, Raft, Dreams, Lombok and DFS.
So what can West Elm do differently at number 209? It has a huge breadth of merchandise and styles — the fat catalogue is stashed with upholstery, tables, cupboards, chairs, rugs, linens, mirrors, tableware and more.
From left: Slice café and dining chairs from Seattle-based Graypants (graypants.com/slice-chairs); Adelphi Lounge Chair designed by Sally Sirkin Lewis at J Robert Scott, Design Centre Chelsea Harbour (020 7376 4705)
There's no particular "look". You'll find simple, modern pieces — plump sofas, glossy white coffee tables, sleek storage — alongside rural stickback chairs, reclaimed wood, and deluxe satin cushions, ready-to-hang velvet curtains and metallic finishes. "I'd say our magic is in this mix," says creative director Vanessa Holden.
West Elm's plans include British merchandise and ideas — there's a wall of British art, for example — free consultations from stylists and fun workshops. "Our stores are hands-on creative spaces," says Holden.
Other Americans in London include:
Arrived on Regent Street in 2009 with fashion and furnishing. King's Road followed the next year, and another branch has just opened in Guildford. The merchandise is bijou, with quirky furniture plus china, glass, quilted and embroidered linens and decorative cupboard knobs.
Clockwise from top left: Brook Street Club Ottoman from Ralph Lauren, from £1,514, ordered from the US online store at ralphlaurenhome.com; 36cm pottery Peace Hand (£225) from Jonathan Adler, Sloane Avenue (jonathanadler.com); Bel Air mini scoop vase, £98, from Jonathan Adler (as before); Megatropolis ceramic collection by Brooklyn-based illustrator Mark McGinnis for SCP, from £16.25 (scp.co.uk)
This potter-turned-retailer has 25 US stores and a South Kensington satellite which opened in 2011. He calls his style "cheeky chic". Bold ceramics and gold/neon accessories are mixed in with classic sofas and lighting, and hand-loomed rugs.
There are two stores with pricey, sophisticated homeware. Think posh hunting lodge, Long Island drawing room or American-in-Paris apartment. Furniture is oversized, with layered berry shades, rich chocolate and cream, glossy lacquer, vintage leather, tweed, cashmere and tartan. There are also cut-crystal goblets, manly chessboards, tasteful crockery and huge, luxurious cushions.
The founder of SCP East and West, two of London's favourite design stores, is cultivating a new wave of US design talent, inevitably labelling his project the "special relationship". Many American designers are also makers. Coakley says: "US design is genuinely different, and uninfluenced by Europe."
From left: Westley Thunder carpet (2ft 6in by 9ft) from US designer Madeline Weinrib’s flat weave range, £325 (madelineweinrib.com); Beaded pillow in Topiary design from Jonathan Adler, Sloane Avenue (jonathanadler.com)
DESIGN CENTRE CHELSEA HARBOUR
At Design Centre Chelsea Harbour, beloved of interior designers, more than a fifth of the 550 luxury décor brands spread over 89 showrooms are now American. At its best, America can offer a glamour that owes a lot to Hollywood and art deco, delivered with impeccable craft and bespoke options taken for granted.
J Robert Scott's craftspeople in California excel at cabinet-making, gilding, inlay, upholstery and stonework, and have perfected a new technique for dip-dye veneers. Donghia stocks deluxe furniture, plus gold and silver, textured and light-reflecting, creamy fabrics. There are tiles and taps at Ann Sacks, rugs at Stark Carpets and top-quality leathers at Edelman.
Samuel & Sons Passementerie stocks more than 10,000 tassels, borders, braids and fringes. The Nanz Company offers extravagant hardware that turns doors or cabinets into statements.
Fabrics and papers abound, many from old-established names with awesome archives, such as Brunswig & Fils and Ramm, Son & Crocker. Artisanal specialist Tissus d'Hélène, has hand-blocked, hand-screened and/or hand-dyed and washed fabrics and papers from 23 small American studios.