The last decade has been a turbulent one for the country’s independent shopkeepers with several beloved design and homewares stores closing their doors at a record rate as they feel the fallout from the rise of online shopping, but now things are looking a lot brighter. We look at the shops that are bringing colour and originality back to the high street.
They’re the places that will enable you to bring out your individual style. Remember a really interesting house is rarely one look, or period. The shops we’ve listed are all brilliant examples of their kind. Get out there and make the most of them.
The seeds of the industry’s current turmoil date back nearly three decades, when retailers, in the throes of a consumer-buying spree and flush with easy money, rushed to open new stores. Loads of new doors opened and rents soared. This created a bubble, and like the rental market, that bubble has now burst.
The over-storing, including the influx of fast-fashion and off-price chains, resulted in a brutally competitive landscape that made it difficult to compete. A bookcase costs less today than it did a decade ago. The shift has come at a high cost to retailers. It is less profitable to do business online than in a brick-and-mortar store, largely due to the higher shipping, customer-acquisition and technology costs of the digital world.
The internet has also made it easier for consumers to comparison shop, thereby erasing any pricing leverage retailers may have had. The internet has acted as the great price equaliser.
Of course, retailing has gone through shakeouts before, whether it was the superstores that killed convenience and corner stores, or category killers that did the same to smaller rivals.
And even today, there are chains that continue to grow, such as Kmart as it steals market share from other traditional department stores. Plus structural changes where people no longer view shopping centres as entertainment destinations. The good news is that interesting, innovative shopkeepers are here, and we are all the better for them. The stores listed are here to help us create well-balanced homes for style and enjoyment.
The online store opened its first showroom last month, which is the place to find its covetable English-made wharf lighting and steel industrial pendant exclusives such as Original BTC and Davey Lighting, that suit modern and traditional settings equally well. Dunlin has also made campaign chairs its own – which suit our easy-going Australian lifestyle well. Plus, the place to pick up the best J’Jute baskets – in natural or black weaves. Plus Santa Maria Novella soaps, scents, candles, lotions and creams. A must-visit. Old Albury, Oxford Street, Paddington, 1800 649 586, www.dunlin.com.au
THE VAULT SYDNEY
Fancy some affordable antiques like you see in London or New York? The Vault Sydney is a fantastic source of big-impact collectables – Baroque mirrors, French commodes, marble pedestals, Italian campaign, Regency writing desks, stone busts, lamps, modern sculptures, handpicked by dynamic young Sydney couple Phoebe Nicol and Jeremy Bowker. The pair trained while working with Australia’s best (Nicol at The Country Trader and Bowker with legendary dealer Martyn Cook where he helped fastidious collectors fill their houses). There’s 18th century gilt girandoles, demi-lune side tables, the odd Austrian ebonized settee, Anglo Indian plantation chairs that are filling a gap in the market. But you need to be quick – those-in-the-know buy this stuff fast. 377 Gardeners Road Rosebery, 0414 502 159, www.thevaultsydney.com
LIVING BY DESIGN
It opened in 2015 and already has five stores in South Australia, with an influential aesthetic that is shaping the way Australia lives. There is a great mix of tables (console to coffee, farmhouse, dining and side) in concrete, oak, zinc, teak, marble, bleached elm, and copper in amazing styles, looks and finishes that will make your jaw drop. Mostly from Denmark, Europe, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Japan and Australia, the look is ideal for laid-back living in a palette of white, smoke, tobacco and charcoal.
They seem to be getting this tough sector of the market right with an ever-changing product offering from barn-style chests to campaign leather chairs, slip-cover linen sofas, modernist teak desks and bureaus in smoked birch and disrupting the industry with fast, efficient delivery. You can expect a dining table (or sofa) within one week, nationwide. (08) 8388 4213, www.livingbydesign.net.au
It opened a triple-fronted showroom in Paddington last year as well as a showroom at Waterloo with one of the biggest furniture collections in the country for casual modern living. Its latest stools and dining chairs for 2018 say it all. Its sofa Joe, has become a Sydney classic. It comes with a linen removeable slip-cover in colours that will outlast fashion, (charcoal, espresso, ivory, white, denim, etc) so you can change your look for summer. And the simple, subtle sofas feature serious eco details, like a timber-frame that uses water-based glues, and cushions made from natural latex with goose down and wool. A great range of cutting-edge classic safari chairs, armless sofas, frameless mirrors, dining tables, armchairs, and vintage pieces. The brand has also introduced campaign-style directors chairs, French-style chest of drawers that pair the unexpected and mixes up genres, old and new, to give rooms energy. Expect simple linen seating, timber tables. 16-18 Oxford Street, Paddington, (02) 9698 4511, www.mcmhouse.com
THE ORANGERY ON GREEN LANE
A soaring white conservatory-style space that serves up the kind of thing to create an endless summer at home: topiary, unusually lovely planters and pots, fishbone ferns, orchids, silver birch, and phlebodium (blue star fern). Also chandeliers, candles, vintage silverware, willow obelisks, hurricane shades, mirrors, consoles, birdcages and the most darling twig trays (big and small, $10-$55, vintage white ceramic lamps, white porcelain, provencal pottery that is unlike anything else around. Plus, the kind of conservatory furniture, the style set is buying in London. Owner Maureen Gardener has a very easy style with plants that feels relevant to today’s interior.15-17 Banyette St, Bowral, 0419 154 860, www.harryswinebarbowral.com
Anderson opened a mega five-room, emporium-style shop in Moss Vale in May, 2016, which is leading the Southern Highlands retail revival. Everything to do with French, Belgian and Hamptons-style living with a great mix of affordable farmhouse tables, rattan chairs, metal pendant lighting, linen sofas, painted commodes, and chunky knit throws. There are champagne buckets, hurricane shades, wicker trays, oversize baskets, bowls, dipping dishes, candlesticks and lamps, all displayed in an environment that will you take your breath away. It’s the shop you’ve been waiting for! All in drop-dead shades of white, ivory, pepper, sable, pearl, coffee, butterscotch, tobacco, grey, blue and charcoal that you can coordinate (or contrast) to taste.The shop really captures the mood of the moment: it’s stuff is simple, tactile and versatile. Filled with shoppers everyday. 409-411 Argyle St, Moss Vale, (02) 4868 2662, www.suzieandersonhome.com
The Balinese-based retailer opened its first Australian shop in Collingwood late in 2017 with a range of exclusive piecess from the Indonesian Archipelago that are part Dutch Colonial, part French and part Boho. There is profoundly beautiful hand crafted furniture, mirrors, and ceramics, made using everything from tactile woods, metals, stones, wickers, textiles, grass and papers – keenly collected by an international clientele. Laneway, 6 Stanley St, Collingwood +61 405 827 984, www.kimsoo.com
The vintage marketplace moved from its former landmark building on Bowral’s main street to the rear corner building and extended its warehouse space by more than a third last year, revamping the façade and internal fitout in the process. The result, now called ‘The Acre’ is more than 75 stores, with lots of newcomers across three warehouse spaces, and one of the best vintage hunting grounds in the country. A mind-blowing collection of items from the 19th century to the 1950s, 60s and 70s, from dinnerware, retro collectables, faux bamboo, etageres, industrial workbenches, enamel teapots, old phones Welsh pine pews, Australian paintings, quirky collectables, garden chairs, French salon chairs, cane sofas, bookcases, and much more – things that will add a personal touch to your space. 13 Banyette Street, Bowral, (02) 4861 3231, www.dirtyjanes.com