As well as being lined with coffee shops, bars and restaurants, Islington’s Upper Street has a wide range of designer furniture and accessory shops to suit your look, whether your style is European contemporary, midcentury, country cottage, or antique. In the first of two profiles of Islington, we take a look at the northern end of Upper Street and the surrounding streets to find some distinctive looks for a contemporary interior. Our shopper today is Madeline, visiting family in London but normally based on the Isle of Wight. Formerly living in Stoke Newington, she’s interesting in finding some distinctive pieces to complement her seaside Victorian house in Cowes. Most people when they think of a coastal look imagine that the style is all sun-bleached rope and driftwood, but Madeline wants something much more contemporary to take back with her.
IDEALIST: What are you looking for today?
Madeline: I’m keen to see some distinctive pieces that I wouldn’t be able to find on the island. I’ve just ordered a new sofa from Loaf but I want some pieces to complement it. We’ve just extended our Victorian house and have got all the major pieces covered, but I want to bring some colour into the open plan kitchen/dining area.
IDEALIST: How are you going to get everything back to the island?
Madeline: Well, it’s not the Outer Hebrides! You can get things delivered like anywhere else – it just comes on the ferry. And we have just bought a camper van that I travelled up in today, so I’ll be taking any small to largish pieces back home with me myself.
We started our hunt just beyond the top of Upper Street on the Holloway Road. This is Jeremy Corbyn’s parliamentary constituency and shows all the signs of a nation in confusion: boutique coffee shops rub cheek by jowl with takeaway shops and discount stores. In amongst everything are some great little antique and collectable stores, such as Ooh-La-La, where we found some some curious nauticalia that caught Madeline’s eye.
A couple of doors down from Ooh-La-La is D&A Binder, who are specialists in traditional shop display fitting, counters, cabinets, vitrines and other storage. This really is an Aladdin’s cave of curious and beautiful antique pieces. If you’re hankering after some distinctive traditional-style furniture to complement a new sofa or contrast with a high-gloss kitchen, D&A have some beautiful pieces. It’s really hard to describe the kind of pieces you can get in here other that to say, imagine an Edwardian barbers shop, or Victorian ladies’ outfitters with glass displays of beautiful and somewhat random pieces and you won’t go far wrong.
Next we turned the corner to Upper Street itself. There’s nothing transitional or up and coming about this part of town: it’s always been the wealthier side of Islington and the shops and cafes bear that out. Madeline was looking for something for the island house to remind her of her days in London and a good few of the design and furniture stores in Islington carry London-themed prints, signs, or other ephemera.
We landed on some stylish vintage London maps in Oakvill Custom Made Furniture, which also carries a wide range of antique-style accessories and a lot of reclaimed and custom made furniture (as the name suggests). Despite her protestations about boaty themes being cliche on the island, Madeline landed on some furniture made from recycled boatwood. Each piece is unique and carries original features from its life on the waves, such as paint, etchings and worn timber.
After a coffee break in Euphorium, we headed to our final two stores for the morning, both of which offer something distinct and different and shout quality. First up is twentytwentyone, named after the periods their pieces come from, rather than their street address. The owners here really focus on the best of modern design-led furniture, lighting and accessories. Along with the obligatory (and authentic) Eames chairs in beautiful colours, many other classic and contemporary designers are featured, such as Robin Day and Prouve. Across their two floors they also have a great range of kitchen and household accessories, decorative pieces and gifts, for those kinds of friends who are impossible to buy for. Everything is beautifully chosen and elegant.
Our final stop for the morning was Aria, where Madeline landed on some beautiful cushions to go with the blue Atticus corner sofa she’s just ordered from Loaf in Notting Hill. Aria is two and a half floors of designer goodness in a beautiful old building, which Madeline described as like twentytwentyone has gone technicolor like when Dorothy wakes up in Oz. It’s a beautiful store over two and a half main floors, but apart from the cushions, Madeline found the furniture a little too austere for her tastes.
So, by the end of the morning we had:
- 3 cushions from Aria (£95 each, but made by a British local designer) to go with the sofa on order from Loaf
- 1 antique-style framed River Thames map of London from Oakvill
- 1 glow in the dark Moon poster from twentytwentyone (£40)
In our next piece on Islington, we’ll be exploring Camden Passage and following the road down to Angel.
- Aria – Barnsbury Hall, Barnsbury Street,Islington, London N1 1PN, 020 7704 6222
- D&A Binder – 101 Holloway Road, London, N7 8LT, 020 7609 6300
- Ooh-La-La! 147 Holloway Rd, Holloway, London N7 8LX, 020 7609 0455
- Oakvill Ltd Custom Made Furniture – 263 Upper Street, London N1 2UJ, 020 7288 0080
- Twentytwentyone 274/275 Upper Street London N1 2UA, 020 7288 1996
- Loaf – 2nd Floor, Studio Building, Evesham Street, London, W11 4AJ, 0845 468 0698