The little squares dedicated to the world’s most beautiful independent shops.

Call us terrible consumers, but we’ve missed shopping since coronavirus descended upon our lives. We are, of course, truly lucky to be able to get everything we could conceivably need online, but we’re not talking about that kind of shopping, and nor are we talking about necessity. In fact, we’re not even necessarily talking about actually buying anything at all, at least certainly not on every visit.

No, what we’re seriously missing is the joy of perusing shops of true wonder for big hits of inspiration. We’re talking about places so beautiful and creative that they seem like stepping into an idealised world, one where the shopkeeper’s imagination is made flesh to the delight of us all. One such is Petersham Nurseries’ original shop on the banks of the Thames in Richmond, where we love to coo over French armoires and picturesquely rusted furniture in its exquisite rustic greenhouses – all the while knowing they won’t look the same in our homes – and walk away inspired, having often only spent our pennies on a cup of tea and a slice of cake in its café.

We’re talking about places like the beautiful French kitchenware shop Summerill and Bishop in Notting Hill, which even makes doing the ironing looks appealing; or the Sussex homeware shop Freight HHG in Sussex, whose stunning classic minimalism we can but aspire to; and the tiny antique shops of North Norfolk that don’t even have websites; or the capital’s glorious Straw London, a shop where everything is made, funnily enough, of straw; or AG Hendy’s Homestore, the most sublime Edwardian-style homeware shop in existence.

We could go on; happily, these special shops exist all over the world, and we’ve missed them so, during these days when travel is iffy at best, and shopping trips without a specific purpose seem somewhat indulgent. (We have, where we can, bought from their websites; these places of beauty must not be beaten by the pandemic.)

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Halle Saint Pierre, Paris ????@windmilldreams I'm happy to share that the most liked post of 2019 is a bookshop @hallesaintpierre What's on your reading list for 2020? I hope you all continue to support indie bookstores around the world! #bookshop #bookstore #sharingaworldofshops????????? .????????? .????????? .????????? #hallesaintpierre #tskmapsparis #tskmaps #booklover #books #prettycityparis #seemyparis #bookfinds#booknerds #abookisalwaysagoodidea #dustyatticrarebooks #shelfjoy #parislove #secretparis #parisjetadore #parismonamour #parismaville #mydomainetravels #theprettycities #iamatraveler #travelinspired #wanderlustparis #mytinyatlas #prettybookplaces #shopkeeper #theshopkeepers #ihavethisthingwithshops

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We are, then, eternally grateful for the small slices of bliss proffered by @the_shopkeepers, an Instagram account dedicated to just such places all over the world, its mission to ‘share the world of small shops’. Just one look and we’re transported to perfection of Parisian bookstores, to exquisite Japanese florists, and to heavenly hat shops et al, their charming idiosyncrasies speaking of the love lavished upon them by their clever owners. Some may once again now be open, while others remain shut; but @the_shopkeepers has kept us dreaming of life poking around the prettiest of shops once normality reigns again, as it surely must do.

By Nancy Alsop
August 2020


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Nancy Alsop


Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.