My design London: artist Barnaby Barford reveals his favourite spots and secret shops

Artist Barnaby Barford spent two years photographing shop fronts in every postcode in the city. He then created 3,000 bone china replicas of the shops — each one unique — and assembled them into a sculptural installation, The Tower of Babel, currently on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum...
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The artist spent two years on his bike exploring London, sometimes 50 miles in a day, to photograph shops in every postcode in the city. He then created 3,000 hand-made bone-china replicas of retail outlets from every postcode of the city - and assembled them into a teetering tower, currently on display at the V&A.

Where I live
I live in Highams Park. No one really knows it, which is quite nice. It is three stops after Walthamstow on the Chingford line. We used to rent in Hammersmith and my wife worked up near Walthamstow. And when we were looking to buy nine years ago, the house prices had gone a bit nuts, and she said: “Let’s go and look in Highams Park.” And it’s lovely. We’re five minutes walk from Epping Forrest, and there’s a beautiful lake in the forest. We’re 20 minutes from Liverpool Street. I cycle a lot and it gets me out into Essex quickly. And all the boring things - it’s got great schools, a nice community.

My home
We live in an Edwardian semi. Highams Park has a real mix of architecture. I think people just took over fields at various points and built something. So you’ve got Thirties next to Fifties properties, really beautiful houses next to horrible blocks of flats. It’s really not a cool place where I live but I quite like that. My Decor It’s pretty simple. It’s white and stripped back and colour comes from the pictures and the art. I mean we’ve got two kids; you spend years trying to make your house beautiful, then it gets filled with toys. My studio is hugely chock-a-bloc full of stuff that we’re doing.
Stamp of approval: Barford loves Blade Rubber Stamps in Bloomsbury

Secret shop
Shops are the wallpaper of our streets, aren’t they. We walk past them, day in day out, and don’t notice the changes. They’re beautiful, even the ones that you might deride. It’s somebody’s business, somebody’s hard work and aspiration. A nice shop in an area becomes a community meeting place. I love the Atlantis Bookshop, a great little magic and occult bookstore on Museum Street near the British Museum. You can go in there and buy spell books. It’s close to Blade Rubber Stamps, which is another interesting shop; they just sell rubber stamps - how cool to run a business like that in the centre of town nowadays.
Feather your nest: furniture studio Fredrikson Stallard’s Blue Feather Table, right, catches the eye

Favourite Designers
I like furniture design studio Fredrikson Stallard, which is online and is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a new collection of work inspired by its very first collection, revisiting some of those ideas and techniques. I especially like the Blue Feather Table. Jewellery designer Jo Hayes Ward had a great new collection called Golden Popcorn for London Fashion Week - she makes beautiful jewellery utilising 3D scanning and printing techniques, then rendered in precious metals. I also like South-London based Laszlo Beckett who has been making fine furniture for many years, but has launched his own collection of bespoke furniture, mixing traditional fine cabinet-making skills with super up-to-date technology. I think these pieces are of their time but will last well into the next century.

Cultural Hotspot
I especially love Walthamstow market. It has got to be one of the liveliest places in London. It’s like going round the world in the length of a road. It is the longest daily open-air street market in the world. You can get absolutely anything there and the food is amazingly cheap. There are so many different characters so it is a wonderful place for people watching with loads of different languages, accents and conversations going on.
Old and new: Laszlo Beckett combines fine cabinet-making skills, above, with up-to-date technology

My wife Valeria Miglioli is a toy designer and works for a company called Fiesta Crafts that makes wooden toys, finger puppets, fabric toys, learning games, all educational stuff for children aged 0-6. Absolutely fantastic stuff. It impacts on children when they’re at their most sponge-like, in a good way - it’s not super heroes and computer games, it’s learning through play.
Striking: the Hindu temple in Neasden, above, is an architectural highlight

Amazing architecture
The John Soanes Museum of course, the original space saving architect - everyone should go there, and the Hindu Temple over in Neasden - it’s absolutely bonkers that there’s a temple in Neasden. I love London because it’s got crap architecture next to beautiful things, next to really old things, next to Eighties stuff next to Sixties stuff.

Most Coveted Design Object
It would have to be my bike, it’s quite nerdy. It’s a Canyon carbon fibre bike, and it’s the closest feeling I think that you’ll get to flying. There’s no noise apart from the wind in your ears. Its an absolutely wonderful experience.

Favourite Gallery
I walk around the contemporary galleries in Mayfair. It’s just a wonderful resource, and a great juxtaposition with Walthamstow. My Escape People think artists sit around in cafes but that’s not true. I arrive at my studio in an industrial estate in Edmonton at 7.30am and finish at 6pm. I’ve got an allotment where I grow almost all our veg and fruit. We grow everything: salad, carrots, potatoes and broccoli, to chard, strawberries, baby corn, peas, rhubarb, artichokes. My mum grew some veg in a greenhouse when we were younger; my in-laws in italy near Modena, grow everything, they even have rabbits, chickens and ducks that they eat, too.
Favourite market: lively Walthamstow is believed to have the longest outdoor street market in Europe

Tech tip
WAZE, the free sat nav app on the iPhone that gets users to say when they are in traffic and gives you absolutely amazing short cuts if there’s lots of traffic. It also give you an ETA to the minute. It has made the regular car arguments with my loved one a thing of the past.

My Dream Property
Where we live is perfect for us now. But if I didn’t have children, I’d like to live at the Barbican. It’s an amazing building architecturally; I love how everything, down to the nuts and bolts, has the same level of consistency and attention to detail. And there’s everything on your doorstep.
  • Barnaby Barford: The Tower of Babel, on display in the V&A’s Medieval & Renaissance Galleries until 1 November;

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