John Lewis, Britain’s largest department store retailer, has torn down the hoardings at its flagship Oxford Street store to reveal its revamped home department — the latest offering to those with a seemingly insatiable appetite for home improvements.
After a £14 million makeover, which has taken a year to put together, the company has reconfigured the second and third floors of the store, aiming to make the confusing and time-consuming process of interior design easier and quicker. Managing director Andy Street has described the new offering as “the biggest choice of home design in central London”.
The revamped floors — furniture, lighting, fabrics, carpets, kitchens and bathrooms — offer a multitude of choices from 1,000 brands, as well as a panel of centrally located expert advisers on hand to guide shoppers through the options.
John Lewis, known as one of the UK’s most steady, trusted retailers, has played it safe over the years and the store’s injection of style is not before time, with design names at the cutting edge, such as Tom Dixon (lighting), Little Greene (paints), Timorous Beasties (fabrics and wallpapers) and interiors brand House of Hackney all featuring.
The store’s escalators lead directly into a second-floor home design “hub” — a large, glass-walled studio within a striking house-shaped metal frame, stretching up to the next floor, with its own staircase.
Here — with no appointment needed — experts will help shape a personal style for the home. You can get instant update ideas for tired rooms, access to 12,500 curtain fabrics and more than 5,000 wallpapers. You can then book a longer fine-tuning session. “We curate and then create,” says operations manager Ruth Payne.
Bright new look
Lighting is ambitious, with designer shades in clean-cut metal, glowing copper-coloured glass, colour-changing LEDs and warm wood among hundreds of options on offer. All are fitted to a central bar, enabling customers to experiment with up to 70 types of modern bulb.
Around the corner are rack upon rack of fabrics, from big names to niche names such as Louise Body, Margo Selby, and Lindsey Lang. There are enough cushions, it seems, to circle the globe, and a new Sleep Room offers plenty of slumber options, including a new high thread count for linens of 1,200.
A climb to the third floor opens up a fabulous range of fitted kitchens. If you’re dreaming of a glass extractor hood or a touch-controlled induction hob, here they are — sleekly set in quartz worktops. Alongside are bathrooms, with oversized shower heads, glass cabinets and taps of every metal, shape and size to go with your body-hugging bath.
The furniture room offers a similar range of grand designs, as well as an interactive sofa studio. With a large screen displaying 100,000 fabric and sofa combinations, you shouldn’t stray too far from the right decision. In-store iPads are available to help visualise rooms.
In the “Creative Spaces” department, there are style cameos from leading designers. Timorous Beasties, the Glasgow design duo famous for subversive patterns, have created a dark and dramatic hallway. Tom Raffield, who hand-makes wooden lighting, has made a corner like a Cornish woodland workshop.
British handmade goods are everywhere, from hand-thrown pottery to handwoven textiles; there are even chopping boards made from London plane trees.
The best advice
Posters outline the services John Lewis can offer, including design consultations in store or at home, with mood boards, room plans and project management all available.
Curtain advisers can help you select fabric and style, and add trimmings — getting orders made up within a week if necessary. Fabric samples can be delivered to your home and paint tester pots taken away, while fitters can install lights and fridge freezers.
The carpet department offers home measuring and estimates, plus a full fitting service including stair rods. Rugs can be ordered in almost any colour and you can choose from four types of pile. Headboards can be covered — with a range of more than 50 fabrics — and favourite furniture reupholstered.