New York - the ultimate shopping trip
Every day we’re in Toronto, we start the morning on our terrace. No matter how cold or hot the climate, we fill our lungs with fresh lake air and stare longingly at the island airport. We love watching the planes come and go and like nothing better than observing their delicate vapour trails chasing silken threads across the sky. Who knows why, then, in the years we’ve been on Canadian soil, we hadn’t used the airport for any of our short haul trips. Recently, however, all that finally changed….
Arranging travel to get to and from a clutch of meetings in New York, we decided to island hop and determine whether the Porter experience was all it’s cracked up to be. And thank heavens we did. Walking to the airport from our downtown condo took precisely nine minutes and check in, thereafter, was amongst the smoothest and most efficient we’ve ever experienced. Add in the glossy Porter terminal which hosted complimentary drinks, snacks and magazines (not to mention free internet and uber friendly staff) and we were soon seduced by the simple - and as we saw it - no fuss service. For fear of delivering news with which you’re already familiar, we’ll declare that Porter makes sense and that, from now on, we’ll allow Billy Bishop to ease our pressure whenever we can.
Arriving at Newark in just seventy five short minutes, we jumped a yellow cab and drove straight to The Surrey, our beautiful hotel of choice whenever we’re in Manhattan. Last time we were in town we partied there with Sean Connery, having been invited by everyone’s favourite Bond to take part in ‘Dressed To Kilt’, a fashion event that promotes tartan to a global audience. An explosion of high style attired predominantly in dramatic monochrome, it would be The Surrey that provided the inspiration to reno’ our own Toronto bathrooms, both of which we’ll reveal shortly. Think sharp suited Tom Ford meets casual Amalfi Coast glamour to imagine just what we’ve planned.
After depositing brand new Louis Vuitton luggage (a gift from a British TV exec’) we dashed out, downtown, to our first meeting. Then it happened. Out of the corner of our eye, through a glass wall, we spotted the entire cast of Dr Who holding court in a connecting room. As our minds tried to compose, our legs had different ideas and, without even thinking, we shot from our meeting like lasers from a sonic screwdriver. Within moments we were having our picture taken with Matt Smith, while Karen Gillan (she plays Amy Pond) and Alex Kingston (she plays River Song) waited patiently to reclaim their star from our vice like grip. We generally respect showbiz’ protocol preferring, as we do, to leave celeb’s in peace (hey, we once sat next to Madonna in a London resto’ but remained utterly mute) but come on; we’re British and this, after all, was Dr Who!
Our meeting and celebrity snapping in the bag, we turned our attentions to the second purpose of our NY trip; retail therapy. And take it from us; this city has some of the coolest stores in North America. From boho, to bling and from retro to renaissance there’s something in the metropolis for everyone. This in mind, we thought it might be fun to compose a guide to the Big Apple’s most wonderful home stores. Some of our preferred destinations are small independent traders while others are corporate concerns, but they all share aspects in common; each is crammed to the gunnels with inspirational product, they all have good websites (so you can browse from Canada) and most will be happy to help with shipping. So polish your Manolo’s and prepare for a mercy dash, Colin and Justin stylee, around New York’s most fabulous stores. In no particular order, here we go…
ABC Carpet and Home
This is one store you cant afford to miss. As much about case goods and accessories as it is inspired and beautiful floor coverings it’s a monolithic retail emporium that simply bulges with inspiration. Of post and beam construction, ABC is crammed to the gunnels with retro, antique and ultra modern kit and has a particularly gorgeous selection of candles and home scenting products. Merchandising is divine and stock covers, in style terms, ‘global village’, mid century modern’ and ‘urban cottage’ as well as a massive range of artisan manufacture lovingly sourced from around the globe.
Room and Board
This beautiful red brick building is located in uber cool Soho and boasts 35,000 square feet of home shopping. Particularly strong on lighting, mirrors case hood and bedding, it carries Eames, Herman Miller and Philippe Starck to name but a few. We fell in love with the gorgeous Bradshaw coffee table (a circular design fashioned from solid walnut) and are currently plotting where it might fit in our condo! Room and Board staff are particularly helpful and went out of their way to tour us around stopping here and there to explain product origin and provenance.
As huge Crate and Barrel fans we were thrilled to discover this ‘diffusion’ shop which we stumbled across, quite by accident, during our trip. We already know that Crate and Barrel sell super stock (and value for money) but CB2 is even better value thanks to inspired merchandise, most of which compliments its big brother perfectly. We loved everything but were particularly drawn to geometric table wares, quirky artwork, cute wall clocks, condo sized furniture and funky bed linen.
No trip to NYC is complete without a visit to our favourite American ceramist. These day, however, the talented Mr A has developed his product line to indulge every aspect of home styling and, while ceramics are still a stalwart, he also creates case goods, area rugs, sofas (and more) most of which feature his now famous retro ‘happy chic’ twist. Adler is a personal design hero and you may remember him as a judge on Bravo’s ‘Top Design’. We’ve collected his quirky ceramics for years and have to admit leaving the store carrying two piggy banks; one in the shape of a donkey and the other in the shape of an elephant. A great wee haul!
Bobby Berk Home
This eclectic emporium sells everything from dustpans to dining tables and cushions to alarm clocks and each product is imbued with serious design flair. Okay, so it’s not the city’s cheapest retail destination (they’ve got pillows priced at $125, for heaven‘s sake) but the stock is fresh and bright and much of it redolent of Miami where, in fact, you’ll find a sister branch. We particularly admire Bobby Berk’s range of modern fires and nearly swooned when we espied their beautiful Chimo, a freestanding steel drum structure that requires neither chimney nor natural gas line. Again, it’s costly ($1970) but its functionality and sleek lines would make a powerful focal point in a modern condo or loft.
Yeah, we know, we know; there are Restoration Hardware branches across Canada and they’re all perfectly lovely But take it from us, you ain’t seen nothing till you’ve visited the massive RH branch on Broadway. Dark and mysteriously lit, it reminds us of the Andrew Martin store in London’s South Kensington which is, if we’re entirely honest, our favourite store in the whole wide world. But anyway, we digress. The Broadway branch of RH is staggeringly wonderful. Full of stunning vignettes and wonderful handmade treasures, we love the way glittering storm lamps are intertwined with sparkling chandeliers and all manner of rugs, trunks and table lamps. OMG; to the power of ten.
Opened ten years past, this quaint wee boutique has established an enduring reputation and we visit every time we’re in NYC. Two weeks ago we left with a stack of Missoni towels and a bundle of soaps to decorate our new bathrooms when they’re finally fitted in the coming weeks. We also plundered an extensive range of candles and our favourite, by far is White Mint, part of the range by Agraria.
Kabinett and Kamner
For something completely different, we recommend a trip to this quirky store where you‘ll find beautiful specimen shells, weathered antlers, ancient cartology and vintage taxidermy all vying for your considered attention. Quite different, in style, to any of the other stores we normally favour, we’re nonetheless smitten by Kabinett and Kamner’s maximalist decorating vision that intertwines impressive antiques and curios with Danish modern and occasional Americana pieces.
If, like us, you enjoy the delights of romantic tea lights, hand woven rugs and eastern design you’ll love this store. Sheherazade stocks a veritable cornucopia of furniture and accessories from Morocco, Turkey, Egypt and Central Asia and the store’s merchandisers take a particular interest in artisan production that respects both the maker and the customer.
Lighting by Gregory
From Flos to Starck and from Holtkotter to Moooi this 75,00 square feet monolith is The Big Apple’s largest contemporary lighting gallery and features a revolving stock of breathtaking kit. Ceilings bulge under a weighty collection of chandeliers and pendants while every wall surface is encrusted with Art Deco, Art Nouveau, cutting edge modern and mid century inspired design. If you’re looking for lighting inspiration you’ll genuinely need several hours in this store alone. So pack a sandwich and a soda and prepare for an illuminating time.
www.abchome.com 212 473 3000
www.cb2.com 212 219 1454
www.jonathanadler.com 1 800 963 0891
www.bobbyberkhome.com 212 925 3635
www.restorationhardware.com 212 260 9479
www.stellastore.com 212 233 9610
www.kabinettandkammer.com 646 476 5565
www.sheherazadehome.com 212 539 1771
www.lightingbygregory.com 1 800 807 1826
www.thesurrey.com 212 905 1477
www.flyporter.com 416 619 8622