THE STORY BEHIND…
In 1875, British merchant Sir Arthur Lasenby Liberty opened the doors of a shop on Regent Street called East India House, with just three staff. It offered furniture, fabrics and porcelain from far-flung, exotic destinations, including Persia, Asia and Japan, to a Victorian public intrigued by the East. The store proved a huge success and, in 1924, it relocated and expanded into the eponymous emporium of today, located on Great Marlborough Street, just a stone’s throw from the busy throngs of Oxford Street.
The Tudor-revival mansion housing Liberty was built in 1924 from the timber of two ancient battleships – HMS Impregnable and HMS Hindustan – and has since become a London landmark and tourist hotspot. Fashion, cosmetics and fragrances, accessories, an in-store florist (Wild at Heart), a café, stationery shop, rug room, interiors floor and, since last year, the Mini British Food Hall, all reside under one awe-inspiring roof, from which hangs one of the longest chandeliers in Europe. Designed so that shoppers feel they’re walking into a home, the store is spread over six floors and consists of a large atrium surrounded
by smaller rooms, complete with grand fireplaces and luxurious furnishings.
Since the mid-20th century, Liberty has been synonymous with the Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau revival-style fabrics designed by its in-house team. The shop’s archive contains more than 43,000 designs, and many are still available to buy by the metre in-store. You’ll also find furniture by British brands Another Country and SCP, alongside Danish design heroes Carl Hansen and Hay. ‘Prices range from £10 to £10,000,’ says homeware buyer Bryony Sheridan. ‘There are one-offs, such as a vintage Peshawar rug, alongside plenty of pieces from the big brands.’
The instantly recognisable purple carrier bags are as cheering as the rattle of a Liberty gift coin in its beautifully-wrapped box, but there are some lesser-known details to look out for, too. Inconspicuous carved wooden animals are joined on the staircase by memorials commemorating the staff who lost their lives in the Second World War. Finally, take a moment to look up before entering the building to observe the gilded copper weathervane perched on the roof depicting the Mayflower, the ship famous for transporting pilgrims to the New World in 1620.
CLOCKWISE, FROM ABOVE RIGHT The store’s beautiful interior. Morris velvet cushion, £125; Heron small bowl, £125; Heron tea cup and saucer, £85; all Liberty London (libertylondon. com). Many of the store’s famous fabrics are available to buy by the metre. The Tudor-revival façade on London’s Great Malborough Street