Some shops are truly special. These are the ones we’re really missing – and supporting online.

Do your weekly dashes to the supermarket feel like a genuine treat right now? We’re with you. Browsing the aisles for our fruit and veg is the closest we’re getting to a proper outing thus far in 2021. Yet, however hard we try not to dwell, we really are missing shopping for fun. We’re not talking about jostling with the crowds in the chain outlets found on high streets everywhere, useful though they frequently can be. Rather, it is the really special independent, creative and beautiful shops that we’re dreaming of the moment – the kinds of places that are the extraordinary physical manifestations of their owners’ imaginations. We’re longing for the shops that – whether we buy something or not – never fail to leave us inspired. We pledge, then, to support them online where we can for now, for never has the phrase ‘use it or lose it been more apt.’ These are the shops we can’t wait to browse again IRL – where are you looking forward to returning to most?

Petersham Nurseries

There are now two Petersham Nurseries shops, a second in Covent Garden having opened a couple of years ago. Our hearts will, however, always lie with the original Richmond store. A garden centre that also stocks eclectic, artfully dishevelled homeware as well as housing a sublime restaurant within a garden shed, it is one of the most beautiful shops we’ve ever seen. A visit, whether you leave laden down or empty handed, always lifts the spirits in a way that being immersed in true beauty reliably does. Even if you decide that you don’t need a distressed French armoire or to snaffle some reliably enticing piece of Astier De Villatte pottery, we suggest – when it’s back, of course – that you never leave without sampling the cake. Slices of pure heaven.

Cabbages & Roses

Until a couple of years ago, Cabbages & Roses laid claim to having run two of the most beautiful shops in London: first on Langton Street, and secondly on Sydney Street, both in Chelsea. It subsequently took its business, which purveys the most romantic dresses and fabrics, online, leaving aesthetically inclined west Londoners bereft. Now, however, west Londoners’ loss is West Country dwellers’ gain, as the beautiful brand has, once again, moved into a new physical premises, this time in fashionable Bruton, Somerset, closer to Cabbages & Roses’ design HQ. The biggest space it has ever had, it has had owner Christina Strutt’s full treatment and is every inch as gloriously lovely as the London shops; expect the full complement of fabrics stocked and huge botanical displays, all of which induce shoppers to swoon appropriately. In the meantime, do show some love at C&R’s lovely website.

AG Hendy & Co Homestore

We have written before of our unending love for the world of Edwardian below-stairs utilitarianism as created by Alastair Hendy in Hastings Old Town. We would give more than we care to admit to be able to coo over the ostrich feather dusters, enamelware and heritage treasures found within the four characterful walls of this repository in real life right now. And that’s without even considering refuelling on some sardines on toast in its courtyard café. Sigh. Yet you can, of course, buy the collection online and we urge you to do so.

Old Town

A self-described ‘micro clothing’ company, Old Town in Holt, North Norfolk, is a picture-perfect shop which sells made-to-order clothing, created by former Woolworth’s Saturday girl, Marie Willey with her partner Will Brown. When normal service resumes, we vow to visit their shop, peruse our favourite styles and then make an order, which we can expect through the post six weeks later – the very best present to oneself.

Wild Sussex

Wild Sussex has many strings to its bow; it does conservation, ‘habitat management; and events. What we’re here for, though, is the absolutely magical pop-up shop, which sells firewood, trugs and baskets and other locally made artisan products: in short, all the accoutrements of a bucolic cosy life. The absolute dream of a rural shop.

The Goods Shed

For anyone lucky enough to live near it, The Goods Shed in Canterbury is classed as an essential shop and is, in fact, still open. Selling seasonal and local veg, meat and fish, everything comes straight from nearby growers and farmers, straight to the market. And once life begins to get back to normal, we’re getting straight on a train and booking into its on-site restaurant, which is the stuff of food dreams.

Much Ado Books

In the sublimely pretty East Sussex village of Alfriston sits a sublimely pretty independent bookshop. Much Ado Books stocks new books, second-hand volumes and antiquarian treasures, amongst which are scattered art installations courtesy of its artist-in-residence programme. There is also a haberdashery and a dreamy shepherd’s hut full of vintage tomes on site too (bit of course). This is truly the sort of bookshop in which you want to plonk yourself down and get lost in other worlds for days. Want a slice of it? Its team is working hard to fulfil orders in lockdown – do buy bow, and also do go yourself when it opens once again.

Straw London

Straw London on London’s famous Columbia Road Flower Market specialises in products with a story. Most particularly, the focus is on – you guessed it – straw. We love the minimal yet folksy aesthetic, and cannot wait to resume shopping for all our basketry needs.

Freight HHG

Lewes in East Sussex is a town brimming over with beautiful shops. But most beautiful of them all is Freight HHG, the home store of mother-and-daughter duo, Helene and Adele Adamczewski. Their collection comprises the platonic ideal of simple and useful homeware that will last forever and, as they say, ‘wear even better’. Refined, unfussy and run by two completely brilliant women, we long to visit once again when all is right with the world.

Worm London

Worm London began in east London in 2016, the dream of florists Katie and Terri. Since then, they have become legendary, in great demand for editorial and conceptual work, as well as for occasion flowers. The duo is inspired by ‘the imperfect wild flowers that grew around us when we were growing up on the coast of southern Ireland.’ In turn, we too are duly inspired by Worm’s cascading and becomingly undone arrangements.

Aran Bakery

Do you miss artisan bakers? We miss artisan bakers. And none is lovelier than this one in Dunkeld, Perthshire. Run by GBBO star Flora Shedden, it is housed inside a formerly derelict 200-year-old building, which is now white-washed to perfection, from where she sells the most sublime confections. Heaven. Order online until we can while away hours of coffee and cake once more.

Mainstreet Trading Company

Books, coffee and deli goods: three of the loveliest things in the world coalesce beautifully at Mainstreet Trading Company in the Scottish Borders village of St Boswells. All presented for our delectation within a former auction house, it won Britain’s Best Small Shop in 2018, and it’s no stretch to see why. It is one of the most inviting shops we know – who could resist the beautiful converted barn, from which the aptly named Tom Kitchin runs the delicatessen? Heaven.

Hole & Corner

We first knew Hole & Corner as a magazine celebrating craftmanship in all its myriad forms. Today it also exists online, as well as in the physical form of a shop in Bruton, Somerset. It stands to reason: after eulogising all that is handmade, it makes sense to create a temple to showcasing rotating examples of the best of it. A fascinating shop that we will never tire of.

The Country Brocante Store

Lucy Haywood has run Country Brocante events for years, where the most stylish end of the shabby chic brigade peddle their wares. In 2016, she decided to, in addition to the fairs, give the carefully honed aesthetic a permanent home in Midhurst, West Sussex. The result is achingly beautiful, all housed within a medieval timbre-framed building. As soon as it opens its doors again, we urge you to go. See you there for mandatory sighing, exclaiming and cooing.

Persephone Books

Dedicated solely to publishing beautiful grey-jacketed editions of twentieth-century women writers, is there anything not to adore about Persephone Books on Lambs Conduit Street? Go when it’s open, but do order in the meantime: for what better way to get through lockdown than by devouring such great works of literature?

By Nancy Alsop
January 2021

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Nancy Alsop


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