THE STORY BE­HIND…

Lib­erty Lon­don

House Beautiful (UK) - - CONTENTS -

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

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