Lots Road seems quiet and unassuming, running towards the river at the far end of the King’s Road. But it leads to the treasures of Chelsea Harbour Design Centre, has a famous auction house, and some brilliant shops for bespoke designer furniture.
It is outside the congestion zone. And the new Imperial Wharf overground station (opened last autumn) now means you can get there direct from Clapham Junction in the south, and Willesden Junction in the north. Indeed you can get to Westfield at Shepherds Bush for a double shopping whammy in only nine minutes.
First, the Harbour. This is decor to die for. Three glassy modern domes are filled with 82 showrooms over four floors, presenting over 400 international brands.
This is where the professional decorators come to shop. It’s their sourcing service - the largest of its kind in Europe. But you, the public, are also welcome, and entry is free.
Browse the very best of fabrics, wall coverings, furniture, lighting, accessories, kitchen, bathroom, outdoor living, tiles and carpets from brands such as Allegra Hicks, Anna Casa, Andrew Martin, Calvin Klein Home, Colefax and Fowler, Fired Eart Fabric, Jane Churchill and many more. If it is all too much, use the interactive screens to plot your visit, or simply put a question to the friendly information desk.
Also here is the RIBA book shop (020 7351 6854) - perhaps the best place in London for interior design and architecture titles. They are also selling charming mugs and plates in aid of the children’s charity Kids Co (left).
Twice a year, the Harbour goes into overdrive, as they launch their new collections at London Design Week in the spring, and Focus in the autumn. The showrooms are closed to the public for the first few days, but then it’s a free for all - there’s even a free mini bus service from Sloane Square. This has to be one of the best-value events in town. Check the website (details below) for upcoming dates, and watch out for our special Homes & Property reports.
There’s more: Design Centre personal shopping is one of the best kept secret services in London. You can have a one hour consultation with Harbour design guru Charlie Ford free of charge, and then buy more time for £75 an hour. Bring measurements, photos, samples and colour references to make the most of your visit. Email email@example.com for an appointment.
Every so often the showrooms in the Harbour hold a sale with huge discounts - up to 80 per cent off end of line ranges, display models and so on. Next sale dates are Saturday 26 June 2010, and from Monday 28 June to Friday 2 July, 10am to 5pm.
Oh, and watch out for the sheep. These enchanting sculptures (right) have been created by illustrator/designer Natalie Ferstendik. Look closely: they are made from rolled-up pages of second-hand books in a wire grid - cue for a personal craft project?
The Harbour is open from Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5pm; 020 7225 9101; secure underground parking costs just £1 for up to 30 mins, and £5 for two hours.
Chelsea Harbour Design Centre, Lots Road, London SW10 0XE; 020 7225 9101; www.designcentrechelseaharbour.co.uk.
Lots more to see
Lots Road does an unexpected right-angle at Chelsea Harbour, past the chimneys and red brick of the old power station (built in 1901 and finally closed 100 years later) for London’s underground. It seems unpromising territory for shopping. But press on to find to find Fens Restorations (about five minutes walk).
This most unusual corner shop has stock overflowing onto the pavement and a window crammed with door handles (their speciality). They’ve been trading here in antiques and salvage for over 20 years. A lot of their finds are from France, and include unusual furniture hanging quaintly from the ceiling.
There are also cupboards and shelving, architectural fittings, huge mirrors, and interesting lighting, with a workshop for restorations out the back. Well worth a special journey.
Fens Restorations: 46 Lots Road, SW10; 020 7352 9883.
Walking back again, and round the corner, towards the Kings Road, find Nicholas Herbert’s charming shop at number 118. Lengths of casually-draped furnishing fabrics with intricate period patterns line an entire wall. Nicholas Herbert himself trained at Colefax & Fowler before setting up his own interior design business in 1980. He started his fabric range in 1989.
Printed onto cotton and linen, the fabrics are based on an extensive (and ever-growing) collection of old designs, and largely preserve the faded, softened look of the originals. “So you get a beautiful ready-made aged look,” says Nicholas. Production is at two mills in France, and prices range from £60 a metre to £80 a metre.
Wallpapers are also available. A modern collection, printed in the UK, is by new designer Rose de Borman, with appealing designs of birds and deer (right) that have the simple feel of lino-cuts (around £70 a metre.) A full interior design service has kitted out apartments all over town. More unusual commissions have been a horse box and a train.
Nicholas Herbert: 118 Lots Road, SW10; 020 7376 5596; nicholasherbert.com.
Next door, delicious designs featuring delicate cherry blossom, heavy Wisteria bunches and more, are hand-printed onto glass for a unique finish on graceful furniture at Knowles & Christou, where Yiolanda Christou and Jonathan Knowles have been working together since 1992. There is also a more simple mirror finish. Do visit, and see unique bespoke pieces, such as cocktail cabinets, dressing-tables, console and side tables, chests-of-drawers, and mirrors. They also print their own wallpapers, and everything is made in their own Welsh workshop.
Knowles & Christou: 116 Lots Road, SW10; 020 7352 7000; knowles-christou.com.
And for the ultimately ethereal, visit Carew Jones in Fairbanks Studios (opposite the auction house) making bespoke furniture in the UK, and specialists in Perspex and glass.
Call by and discuss a commission - it will take about four to six weeks. Or there are stock pieces - this Perspex coffee table with glass top (left), 120cm by 80cm by 40cm costs £1,200 plus VAT.
Carew Jones: 0845 230 2411; carewjones.co.uk.
Across the road (but with the same Studio address), find Kathryn Ireland’s Mexico Meet Moroccan zingy fabrics printed in hot hues (the turquoise is marvellous) onto heavy linens, from £174 a metre. This LA celebrity decorator also does a quieter “English” line.
Kathryn Ireland: 020 7751 4554; kathrynireland.com.
And here’s a gem: Casper Slieker, lighting specialist. He can make you any lampshade, any size, any fabric: bring your lamp base to discuss. Also “conversion”: vases etc into lamps, British to American or French (and vice versa), and so on. Plus brilliant slim halogen reading lights with touch dimmers, and many more made to order designs (including mirrors).
Casper Slieker: Fairbank Studios, 65-69 Lots Road, SW10.
On Sundays, Lots Road really wakes up - this is the day for sales at its celebrated auctions house; celebrities over the years have include Bob Geldof and Virginia Wade (both regulars). The friendly experts at Lots Road Auctions have been trading from two vast salerooms since 1979. They’re good bets for quality second-hand furnishings, and antiques alike (see sample bargains on the website).
Find furniture, paintings, carpets and textiles, needlework and many decorative items, with 500 to 600 lots every Sunday including bank holidays, at 1pm and 4pm. A fully illustrated catalogue goes online each Thursday after 6:30 pm. See viewing times (from Wednesday to Sunday), how to buy and sell, conditions of sale and more on their excellent website.
Lots Road Auctions, 71-73 Lots Road, SW10; 020 7376 6800; lotsroad.com.