Make a trunk call in Adelaide
Louis Vuitton luggage, Danish designs and Aboriginal art in the South Australian capital
Leigh St Luggage, City: Established more than 30 years ago by former Ansett flight attendant Julie Barnes and located in quaint Leigh Street, Adelaide’s first nod to a laneway culture, this charming shop is stuffed to the gunwales with the world’s best luggage brands.
Barnes’s collection of vintage ports is scattered about the shop and includes 19th-century Louis Vuitton as well as a gigantic trunk used by a German couple to tote their pots and pans en vacances to the Baltic.
There are more old cases in the workroom (Barnes stocks nothing she can’t repair), and shelves of useful travelling accoutrements such as pigskin money belts, writing compendiums, even an inflatable exercise cushion intended to ward off (heaven forbid) economy-class syndrome.
Barnes has served three generations of many families and elderly clients pop in to discuss their travel plans, others to admire the ‘‘golden age of travel’’ window displays. The creme de la creme of luggage? Globetrotter, ‘‘as used by the Queen’’ and ‘ ‘ toted to base camp by Edmund Hillary’’, says Barnes, as she produces several todie-for, old-fashioned and handmade leather cases, but on wheels and in colours such as cool blue or Hermes orange.
You can begin your holiday by wheeling them across the street to Udaberri, Adelaide’s first pintxos bar and the hottest ticket in town after 5pm. More: leighstluggage.com.au. Danish Vintage Modern, Norwood: Adrian Cutting and Amelia Ansaldi have been visiting Scandinavia for more than 12 years to source classic furniture.
They specialise in the golden age of Danish design, the 1950s and 60s, and their store on Magill Road in Norwood (a street dotted with antiques and vintage emporiums; Khai Liew’s showroom is nearby) is a modernist’s dream, arrayed with sleek side- boards, tables and easy chairs. Pre-loved, fetchingly worn leather sofas and Danish landscapes in oil are good buys. Trading hours are limited (Thursday-Saturday).
If you’re visiting the Adelaide Hills, the couple also keeps a small but very charming antiques store, selling Scandinavian and French furniture and art, in Meadows ( open Sunday afternoons at 76 Mawson St). More: danishvintagemodern.com.au. Better World Arts, Port Adelaide: Established in 1996 by Carolyn Wilson, this wonderful social enterprise brings together Aboriginal artists, many from the remote Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara and Yuendumu communities, with artisans in Kashmir, Peru and Nepal. The resulting rugs, cushions and jewel- lery are distributed across the world but at the home base in Port Adelaide you can see a wide selection of art, textiles and gifts beneath the soaring ceilings of the art deco-era Masonic Centre built in Egyptian revival style and daubed with hieroglyphics.
Together with a fair-trade shop and gallery (staging regular exhibitions), Better World Arts is home to a studio and cultural centre, so you might be lucky enough to see painters at work. Prices range from about $12 for a Kashmiri-made Christmas bauble to $4000 for a rug handcrafted by Tibetan weavers in Nepal.
Chain-stitch kilims can be had for as little as $230 and the cushions are particularly beautiful. Many products feature the work of celebrated artists, including Imiyari Yilpi Adamson and Rama Kaltu-Kaltu Sampson, but Better World Arts strives to support the work of artists of all skill levels. More: betterworldarts.com.au. Council of Objects, City: With a background in interior architecture and an unerring eye for cutting-edge design, Elise Short curates, rather than stocks, her delightful little store, opened late last year at 248 Grenfell St in Adelaide’s fashion and foodfocused East End precinct, with must-have, handmade objects. Selling pieces only from Australian (and mostly South Australian) artists and artisans, Short is expanding upstairs with work by local furniture makers Oak & Elm, Lex Stobie, Andrew Bartlett, Caren Ellis and John Quan (whom Short has commissioned to make pieces especially for the shop). Pop in here for Nick Moran’s intricate and beguiling paper-art Peacoat Pocket brooches and Susan Frost’s dainty hand-thrown ceramics in pastel hues (a real steal from just $20).
And there’s a lovely selection of textiles (scarves and cushions), cards and jewellery. More: councilofobjects.com.au. Push Pin, City: The popularity of Mad Men has seen a corresponding rise in the fortunes of vintagefashion retailers.
At Push Pin boutique, Clare Matthews crams the racks with glam 50s and 60s fashion, including frocks and coats sourced from as far afield as Berlin and Paris (with a buying trip to New York scheduled for later this year).
On Compton Street just off the bustling Gouger ‘‘eat street’’, this yesteryear salon is situated in a peeling but very pretty, heritagelisted building that a century ago was home to a famously raffish tea room and two-up den. (Next door, Mark Heidenreich throws elegant garden pots and urns in the rather more sedate surrounds of the former Housewives Association headquarters.)
In addition to vintage clobber, Matthews whips up gorgeous 40s and 50s-era frocks using old fabrics and is happy to take bespoke commissions. More: 8 Compton St, Adelaide; (08) 8410 9707. Imprints Booksellers, City: Every great city has a bookstore that’s become part of the furniture. In Adelaide it’s Imprints, in the everso-slightly seedy West End at 107 Hindley St and a favourite haunt for bibliophiles since the early 80s. It forms a bookend, as it were, to another favourite, the Mary Martin Bookshop on Rundle Street East (established in 1945).
At Imprints, the small but very charming room is laid out along old-fashioned lines, with gleaming shelves devoted to everything from film and music to politics, history, food and fiction.
Owners Katherine Woehlert and Jason Lake keep a good selection of performing arts and poetry titles and the tables are fetchingly arranged to encourage leisurely browsing (more recently, e-books have become part of the mix). When you’ve found something to read (the store is open seven days and late Wednesday-Friday), pop across to The Apothecary 1878 wine bar, a place even more loaded with old-fashioned charm, for a glass of South Australia’s finest. More: imprints.com.au. B. Heaven, Antiquarian, City: This shop is so secret it’s open by appointment only and caters to serious collectors, but I mention it because there are few stores or galleries so evocative of an undiscovered treasure trove.
Barrie and Judith Heaven, who long ago owned several Indian restaurants in Adelaide, have in recent decades specialised in antiques from the subcontinent and the Islamic Mogul period in particular, including statues, fabrics and paintings.
This is most certainly not curio territory; you’ll need to bring a very fat chequebook or loaded credit card, but the network of dimly lit rooms is an Aladdin’s cave. Nestled on Synagogue Place, moments from Rundle Mall but a thousand miles from modern-day retailing, the Heavens’ handsome shop, with Rajasthani doors guarding the goods entrance, is tucked between a new 15-storey apartment block and Adelaide’s oldest synagogue (today a nightclub).
There’s no website, of course; (08) 8223 3418.
Those on a tighter budget might want to check out the always diverting Antique Market (at 32 Grote St), for everything from books and vintage clobber to toys and bric-a-brac. More: antiquemarket.com.au.
southaustralia.com NEXT WEEK in our Secret Shopper series: Sydney
Julie Barnes serves a customer at Leigh St Luggage, which stocks the world’s best brands as well as shelves of travel accoutrements
Jason Lake, co-owner of Imprints Booksellers and, right, Council of Objects’ handmade pieces