Whichever direction you travel, there are plenty of passionate specialist independent shop owners and designer-makers in London to inspire you with brilliant ideas for Christmas presents.
THE CENTRE OF TOWN
Slip around the corner from the West End frenzy into Bloomsbury and to another age, where gracious shops sport elegant Georgian façades. Here, amid niche fashion boutiques, jewellers, a florist, a bookshop, cafés and pubs galore — and even a barber — is Pentreath & Hall (17 Rugby Street), which has architect/artist owners and sells marginally eccentric homewares.
The all-white purity of plaster casts by craftsman Peter Hone — corbels, a lion, roundels, a foot — contrasts with coloured handmade glass from Paris, German household brushes/buckets, perfect linen napkins, and the edgy geometrics of the shop’s own-brand stationery.
Adjacent, just into Lamb’s Conduit Street, is Darkroom’s inky-black shrine for the cognoscenti, with accessories for men, women and the home, while hand-printers Thornback & Peel’s shop, offering slightly surreal household textiles, is at No. 7 Rugby Street.
EAST: fill your boots
Don your walking shoes tomorrow evening and explore the 27 tightly clustered traders of the Shoreditch Design Triangle — each merchant will be happy to give you a map. They are open late and will be serving drinks — same again next Thursday. Pulling out the stops is old-established SCP (135-139 Curtain Road), a top shop for design and quirky gifts.
In Rivington Street, designer Lee Broom combines solid marble with glass to produce an exquisite single vase, but it is pricey, at pushing £400. Chill out at the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch High Street, with its Christmas gift store and fun festive shops. Amid the trendy shops of Redchurch Street, Labour And Wait sells fine kitchenware (85 Redchurch Street; 020 7729 6253).
The girls at Luna & Curious offer gorgeous jewellery, ceramics and fashion (24-26 Calvert Avenue), and there’s a designer market at Rochelle School from Friday to Sunday.
Local designers have also made gifts for under £15 at One Good Deed Today, (73 Kingsland Road) with a pottery/cocktail beano tomorrow evening. In Kingsland Road, Geffrye Museum has good gifts galore — and lovely festive period room displays. Albion café in Boundary Street is selling puddings and craft beer.
Brick Lane’s buzzing weekend markets offer fashion, design, vintage and food.
At Columbia Road Sunday market, the barrow boys will be selling trees, exotic flowers and unusual greenery, but get in quick, as they vanish by about 3pm.
And the 50 independent shops are irresistible — find top-make blankets (Harry Brand), fine art, design, vintage, and white china “seconds” at Pot Luck. Late-night Wednesdays on December 9, 16 and 23, from 5pm to 8pm.
NORTH: under canvas
Islington Green has a new Christmas market marquee with good-quality UK gifts, including fine woollens and exclusive honey. Smug, off Upper Street, is a little haven for hand-picked and handmade products.
Down the road, Twentytwentyone (274/275 Upper Street) leads the field in good design, while Gill Wing at No. 190 is a specialist cook shop. At Aria in Barnsbury Street, a Victorian school hall is stashed with good design ideas.
Browse the wooden chalets of a continental Christmas market by the Thames. Then a short stroll leads to Gabriel’s Wharf, with shops around a courtyard/playground, where Ganesha is celebrating 20 years of fair trade.
SOUTH WEST: for robots
Start at The Conran Shop (81 Fulham Road), where Christmas is in overdrive. The walk-through windows have huge rockets and giant robots for their “space-age Christmas”.
Inside, browse the smartest gifts in town, neatly wrapped for free. Opposite, Jonathan Adler (60 Sloane Avenue) is a brash American with exuberant homeware — not for the faint-hearted.
In a quiet side road is Mint, always a trendsetter plus a pop-up with Tiipoi metalware, Kit Miles silk cushions, flowers and ceramics (1 North Terrace, until December 18). B&B Italia, at 250 Brompton Road, has lined its long entrance with Italian design (all for sale, from £15).
Do a detour to the V&A for superb embroidered decorations commissioned for the museum’s Fabric of India show.
Finish at Harrods, that festive mecca, where the world-famous windows have moving marionettes and mice to delight the crowds. Inside are decorations handmade in Britain — with inspiring “gift carts” placed strategically around the store.
SOUTH: it’s a breeze
By the breezy river, Southbank Centre Shop Festival Terrace is a reliable place of good UK design. Set back a little, Oxo Tower Wharf, with its clanging exterior metal staircase, has three floors of shops/studios.
It includes the headquarters for a plethora of top design outfits — try Black + Blum for neat kitchen notions, Innermost for lighting, Suck UK for London’s best brainwaves, and Snowden Flood for original glass and china. We love the china baubles with London scenes (Tuesday to Sunday).