So here I am, day four in London, and I have to say, despite a hail storm in July, I’m in love with this city. My career goals have gone back and forth between gut renovating an old warehouse and creating the world’s most fabulous hotel, to marrying extremely rich and spending all my time and someone else’s money shopping all day every day. Design inspiration and painstaking attention to detail are everywhere. Below is a close-up of the wallcovering in the hall on the way to the business center at The Langham. It’s extremely touchable gray felt, with little pops of the hotel’s signature pink in these 3-D felt flowers. Very cool, and in such a random place, I felt the need to share.
Yesterday I had lunch at a very unassuming vegetarian salad-bar concept called Tibits, a Swiss import, located off Regent Street. The whimsical interiors are changed every two years, courtesy of London designer Tricia Guild, of the fashionable Designers’ Guild wallpaper. (I literally stumbled upon this seating area on my way to the loo.)
And then there’s the shopping. Maybe I’m the only person in the design industry who just discovered Liberty and Selfridges, but the combination of these two department stores has me seriously questioning if I’ll ever look at Bloomingdale’s or Saks the same again. The Liberty building front, in case you didn’t know, is one of the most prominent Tudor Revival buildings in the city, and the wood used in the construction was taken from two British naval ships. And then once inside, forget it…they had me at the scarf room, but the top floor, usually reserved for art exhibitions, had some fantastic furnishings and lighting (and unbelievable sales, if you’re here right now too) and the custom fabrics (below) are downright inspiring.
Then there’s Selfridges, and our extremely knowledgeable tour-guide Bruno’s enthusiasm for this store, and its founder, was just contagious. A veritable treasure trove of “did you know?” facts about the history of department stores, I left somewhat ashamed that I hadn’t known that I owed so much to Harry Selfridge. Now celebrating its 100th anniversary, did you know that Harry, an American who worked at Marshall Fields for 25 years, created his namesake store in London out of loyalty to his Chicago mentor? He couldn’t bare to compete with him, but he did take a notebook full of ideas he had been collecting for a quarter of a century, and put them all into place in his new venture. So, did you know that Selfridges was the first store to take the merchandise out from behind the counter and let customers touch it; the first to create experiential shopping and the fine art of browsing; the first to bring American-style entertainment to shopping; and, due to the smell from the horse-drawn carriages driving by in 1909, the first to move the beauty counters to the ground floor. (The beginning of the perfume spritzing profession.) If you’re in town, definitely check out the store’s Centenary Exhibition, a celebratory, and seriously informative, retrospective. And ask for Bruno while you’re there. (I promise even the straight men will leave with a bit of a crush.)