Interiors: Birthday buys from the big British brands
- Credit: Archant
Just like old friends who are perfectly in tune with us, some home stores seem to know exactly how we want to live, and become favourite destinations for browsing or buying.
The enduring success of four of them is reflected in their ages - John Lewis is 150, while Lakeland and Habitat both celebrate 50th birthdays this year, and relative new kid on the block, Oliver Bonas, has come of age and turned 21.
Instead of celebrating with cake and candles, they’ve treated fans to new pieces and ranges. Join the party and gift your home some ‘birthday’ presents.
Offering everything for the stylish home, John Lewis has won a place in our hearts over the past century and a half. The formula is simple - an insistence on top quality at the right price, summed up in its company motto, ‘Never knowingly undersold’, and ranges that appeal to a diversity of tastes.
How it began: A humble draper’s shop in the cobbled streets of London’s Victoria, where John Spedan Lewis had the revolutionary idea that all workers should be co-owners and share in the success of the company.
Nowadays, there’s plenty to appeal to decor divas in its impressive range of fabrics, and furniture by celebrated designers, including Philippe Starck, Conran, Eames and Nick Munro. Those in search of purse-friendly interior pieces are even better catered for, with its House by John Lewis range of contemporary pieces, launched in 2012.
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A collection of homeware to mark the anniversary includes much with an appropriately retro feel. An Ercol Studio Couch upholstered in a silver Archive Cummersdale print, £2,750, is an iconic piece. A bestselling Daisychain print by Pat Albeck, first sold in the Sixties, now adorns a Daisychain Cushion, £25, which may appeal to nostalgic baby boomers. It could be nicely matched with an Emma Bridgewater Daisychain Teapot, £59.
Lakeland, 50 years old, could be said to offer products you never knew you needed, but once found, you discover you can’t live without. The Banana Tree, for instance, or the genius Stay Fresh Longer bags, to keep salad leaves crisper for longer.
How it began: Three young schoolboy brothers - Sam, Martin and Julian - in need of pocket money, started counting and collecting plastic bags which they ended up supplying to the poultry trade, under the name Lakeland Plastics. Over the years, the company grew, dropped Plastics from its moniker, and now offers everything from home freezing - its original speciality - through to kitchen and home equipment for every room in the house. It now has a global reach with stores in the Middle East, India and Europe.
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An eye for practical, as well as innovative, ideas means there’s an ever growing array of items to make life easy, from liners for an oven, sprays for removing stubborn mould from shower tiles, or a robot carpet cleaner.
Its new Autumn range has a host of desirable items.
Coffee lovers could opt for a state-of-the-art Sage The Oracle Espresso Machine, £1,599.99. Baking enthusiasts are among the company’s biggest fans, and a Lakeland Adjustable Nozzle set, £9.99, is a typically smart piece of kit which makes swapping one size of icing nozzle for another a piece of cake.
One of the most intriguing items is a Molecule-R Aroma R-Evolution set, £44.99, which hs forks and 21 aromas to challenge our sense of smell and recognition of flavours.
Fifty years ago, Habitat helped changed the face of Britain’s homes, and although it was nearly sunk by the recession in 2011, it’s been successfully revitalised. The store’s now wooing and winning a new generation of fans - the grown-up children of the Sixties’ generation, its original devotees.
How it began: Designer Terence Conran’s winning formula, launched in 1964, was selling an easy-living but stylish, colourful lifestyle, characterised by affordable modern design. It also popularised duvets, woks, globe-shaped Japanese paper lampshades, flat pack furniture, and Le Creuset casserole dishes.
Current creative director, Polly Dickens, firmly believes Habitat is an integral part of Britain’s “interiors DNA”, and she’s slaved to return it to its rightful place as a leading destination for home buyers. She’s skilfully retained the essence of the original brand while creating up-to-the-minute designer collections, boasting beautiful crafts pieces, that are on-trend and frequently ahead of the rest of the decor field. Its ranges are available in its stores, online, and in Homebase and Argos.
Seating’s always been one of Habitat’s strongest suits. A Natalie Sofa, £1,200, captures the familiar sleek look which has characterised the brand, and this piece is comfort enhanced, with large pillow-shaped cushions in striking red.
Check out the Autumn range, available mid-September, with its brilliant reinvention of one of its best-selling lights; the Garland, designed by Tord Boontje, which originally launched in 2003. In glossy white plastic, the new Bouquet is a style steal at £70, while the original silver metal version is in stock now, £20. Designer Aaron Probyn, once a tableware designer for the company, has created a celebration chair, the sculptural Smithfield leather and suede armchair, £,1,300.
Oliver Bonas comes of age, turning 21, in the Autumn, and despite its tender years compared to its competitors, it’s already become a favoured source for those who seek highly individual furniture and accessories for homes which boast character and personality.
How it began: Founder, Olly Tress, was just 25 when opened his first store on London’s Fulham Road, with a second hand till and a shoestring budget.
As a student, he’d travelled abroad and discovered he had a keen eye for design and a talent for spotting unusual pieces, which he sold to his friends to supplement his student grant. There are now 42 Oliver Bonas stores throughout the UK.
Tress refuses to chase trends and says, “We often draw from different eras and the world around us, rather than just one style in particular. On the homes front, we want to expand more into rugs and textiles.”
Brightly coloured wooden furniture from India features in its Old Boys Club range, and the nostalgic feel evocative of school studies. Edgar Wood Chest, £365.
Banish boring storage and opt for Decorative Storage Suitcases, from £30. Undoubtedly one of its stars is the Velvet Tub Chair, £445, which can be upholstered in a choice of luscious fabrics including velvet.