Our design London: the window-dressers

The West End's most dazzling shop window-dressers offer a masterclass in how to create impact in small spaces on the tightest of budgets. Amira Hashish meets London's top window designers and discovers their style secrets
Selfridges window display celebrating British weather
Selfridges celebrate traditional British weather with their window displays

Head of visual at Selfridges, Ein Thompson
Erin Thompson, head of visual at Selfridges

Erin Thompson
Head of visuals, Selfridges

Selfridges windows
We started this summer with the Big British Bang windows, celebrating the country. Next we will have an amazing partnership with Louis Vuitton and Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Look out for a giant statue of Kusama and night-time light effects.

Secret Shops
The Darkroom (darkroomlondon.com) in Lambs Conduit Street in Bloomsbury is a little jewel of a shop and Battersea Boot (batterseaboot.com) is a lovely Sunday market full of retro treasures. I've been buying vintage shop fittings from D&A Binder (dandabinder-london.co.uk), in Church Road, north-west London, for 20 years. It is an insiders' institution.

Most-coveted objects
My design team and I have an endless list. Highlights include an Erco love seat; a Balzac chair; Lee Broom crystal bulb lights and Zaha Hadid Alessi Crevasse vases. Plus, anything by the artist Polly Morgan. We also especially love the mid-century modern look — G Plan tables and chairs are very coveted in our studio.

What I love in London
Frank's Café (frankscafe.org.uk) on the roof of Peckham's multistorey car park is such a joy. It has amazing London views and excellent food and in summertime is set in the middle of a sculpture project showing new art.

Top tips
A lick of paint in a surprising colour transforms any space. Our window design manager has the Farrow & Ball paint chart with him at all times. It also works for furniture. Instead of throwing a really awful three-piece suite away, I once painted it with black emulsion paint, giving it a new lease of life. Colour blocking is also a great way to group your items — especially your books.

Janet Wardley, head of visual displays at Harvey Nichols
Janet Wardley, head of visual displays at Harvey Nichols

Janet Wardley
Head of visual displays, Harvey Nichols

Harvey Nichols windows
I have been lucky enough to work in window display for 30 years, 17 of them here. Our current front windows are all about movement and colour, with fantasy animals appearing to smash through the windows with explosive effects flying around the space. The models are made from electrical cables and elastic bands.

A Harvey Nichols window display
Janet Wardley shows what a creative mind can do with electrical cable and elastic bands
My home
I live in a lovely Victorian house in South Woodford, west London, with my partner Duncan, our 12-year-old daughter Eleanor and cat Bebe. It has beautiful deep skirting boards, decorative ceiling plasterwork, stained glass windows and eight rooms with fireplaces.

Secret shops
Barnett Lawson (bltrimmings.com) in Little Portland Street is a treasure trove, with boxes full of braiding, fringing, tassels and feathers. DZD (dzd.co.uk), a display supplier we use a lot, has plenty of quirky bits that can be used at home.

For a culture fix
I like the Geffrye Museum (geffryemuseum.org.uk) in east London. It's an area that's quiet and magical when the rooms are decorated for Christmas. The V&A Museum of Childhood (museumof childhood.org.uk) in Bethnal Green is also great, with lots of fun exhibits in a lovely old building. I also adore walking around the National Portrait Gallery (npg.org.uk), looking at all the people in the portraits and imagining their lives.

Maxine Groucutt, head of visual display at liberty
Liberty's head of visual display, Maxine Groucutt, in the London shop

Maxine Groucutt
Head of visual display, Liberty

Liberty windows
Windows are theatre sets — you don't have to build items to last but they must capture the imagination. Our new season windows celebrate texture, mixing patterns and fabrics with very opulent overtones. The mannequins are gold and bronze with collections shown with decadent accessories.

My home
My husband, Darren, baby daughter Theodora and I live in a Victorian house in east London. It has hardwood floors, a flagstone kitchen and my walk-in wardrobe. We've spent years filling the place with pieces we love from markets, art fairs and shops around the world.

Lui 5 armchair
The Lui 5 armchair by Swiss designer Philippe Bestenheider is Maxine's most coveted object
Where I go for ideas
I love the Rook and Raven Gallery (rookandraven.co.uk) in Rathbone Place in Soho, and the Sumarria Lunn Gallery (sumarria lunn.com) in South Molton Lane. Both focus on contemporary artists such as Penny Weight and Little Whitehead.

Prized possessions
I adore my limited-edition print of Anita Page by Frank Martin, which I found in a Knightsbridge charity shop when I was 17. I borrowed money from a teacher to buy it. It hangs between two hats above my dressing table.

Most coveted object
The Lui 5 armchair by Swiss designer Philippe Bestenheider (fratelliboffi.it). I first saw one in the Maison Martin Margiela Hotel in Paris. It would sit perfectly in the bow window of my living room, the light streaming through its woven honeycomb back.

Top tips
Move ornaments, change coffee table books or rearrange pictures as an inexpensive way of reinventing your belongings. I have three Victorian domes in varying sizes on my dining table that I rework with different pieces.

Betsy Smith, head of visual merchandising at Conran
Betsy Smith, head of visual merchandising at Conran

Betsy Smith
Head of visual merchandising, Conran

Conran windows
I work closely with our chief creative director, Jasper Conran. We create displays that have a sense of fun and theatre and have married our e-tech range with the outdoors for this month's beach hut windows. I thought about who would live in each space and then tailored the look. The colours were inspired by photographer Tim Walker. I love his surreal and playful styling.

My home
I live in a compact Seventies ex-council flat in Peckam Rye. It has a calm, Scandinavian feel and is a labour of love. When I bought it there were fake Victorian cornices and Artex ceilings. I've knocked down walls to change the flow of space. It's all white, including the floor. I created different areas by painting highlight shades. Peckham is a great place to live because of the variety of styles and shapes in the buildings and public spaces.

Favourite designer
Le Corbusier, for his use of materials and accent colours. His storage ideas are ingenious, with designs that fold out and flap down to make the most of space. I have based my kitchen on his work. It has white walls with birch ply cupboards and one hit of colour — a bright orange Formica door.

Beach hut-themed windows at Conran
Betsy Smith enjoyed creating Conran's current beach hut-themed windows. The result of her work combines economy, colour, fun and theatre.

Secret shop
Unto this Last (untothislast.co.uk) in Brick Lane for furniture, lighting and small accessories. Everything is made to order from ply or laminate so you can choose an exact colour and finish. You can see the CNC router cutting away in the back. The products are amazing value for money.

Must-have materials
My best suppliers also provide materials for theatre. I use Russell & Chapple (russellandchapple.co.uk) for fabrics — it does wide scenic pieces, which are particularly effective in the garden, for zoning areas and creating drama. Bristol Paint (bristolpaint.com) is incredible — the high pigment content offers such richness. I have painted fluorescent pink on the underside of a cupboard, which transmits a wonderful glow on the white floor below.

Top tips
Try Ruskin's two-part wood bleach, which turns dark and dirty timber to a beautiful pale timber. I have just used it on my now glistening stairs — with a pavilion grey-painted banister (farrow-ball.com). Invest in floor-to-ceiling storage. I have Muji boxes stacked behind a hanging panel made from Japanese paper, stapled to a wooden dowel rod. Nothing in my flat is expensive. And fit a dimmer switch — soft lighting hides a multitude of sins.

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