As you’d expect, a city the size of London has a multitude of places where you can purchase furniture. Of course, your circumstances will dictate both the type of furniture you’re looking for, and the price. Broadly speaking, this will probably end up being in one of the following camps:
Cheap and cheerful, functional furniture for a shorter stay
Good quality furniture for a longer period of time
Individual, perhaps bespoke, pieces that may (or may not, depending on where you purchase them) come at a higher prices
Vintage or retro furniture
Or, of course, a combination of the above…
Cheap, cheerful and functional
If you’re looking for ease of purchase, functionality and great value for money furniture, then one of the best places to head is Ikea. These huge display room/warehouse shops provide everything you need to kit out a home, at reasonable prices. There are four or five in and around London. The only downside to Ikea is that pretty much everything comes flat packed, so expect to spend a goodly amount of time putting it all together.
Good quality furniture
Still shopping in high street stores, it’s possible to buy excellent quality furniture at many locations around London. John Lewis is perhaps the best known of these, providing an excellent selection of high quality furniture and electrical items, again with an in store or online purchase and delivery options. Once again, they have a selection of stores in and around the London area.
Individual, Top quality furniture
When you move to this level, London is second to none when it comes to choice. In fact, even if you’re on a tight budget, it’s possible to turn your home into something individual and fabulous, simply by introducing a few key pieces of furniture. And that great thing is that this doesn’t necessarily mean breaking the bank, if you know the right places to look.
These days, charity shops are an Aladdin’s cave of treasures. And if you’re lucky, it really is possible to pick up a bargain. Charities such as Oxfam, The Salvation Army and the British Heart Foundation all have dedicated furniture stores.
Antique and Flea markets:
Browsing around one of London’s many flea markets can see you stumbling across eclectic, unique and amazing pieces of furniture – if you have the patience. The best way to approach furniture shopping in this fashion is to treat it as a day out. One of the best is the East End, Brick Lane Flea Market, with allsorts on offer and a trendy, urban vibe.
Portobello Road Market is perhaps London’s best-known antique market, and also the largest in the world. Thousands of antique dealers gather on a weekly basis to sell their wares. And whilst it might not be the cheapest place in the world to buy, you’re certainly bound to find some interesting pieces of furniture.
Alfie’s Antique Market in Marylebone is London’s largest indoor market – so perfect for a rainy day’s browsing. There are many different, permanently based antique dealer’s here, so don’t expect the prices to be cheap. But it certainly is a great place to find individual items.
Aladdin’s Cave, in South East London is a reclamation centre where you’re likely to stumble across the most unusual of items. From weird mannequins to sinks, chairs and storage units, you’ll find pretty much every type of furniture possible here.
Individual and bespoke furniture shops
Many of these are a cross between and antique shop and a modern retailer. The most beautiful of furniture ends up in shops such as these; just be sure to bring deep pockets…
Pentreath and Hall, in Bloomsbury, is a small, yet superbly stocked shop where you’re sure to find individual items. From small, decorative pieces to larger items such as dining tables, this is the place where those who value individual style choose to shop.
Chaplins is a wonderful, contemporary furniture store that’s well known for housing the very best in designer furniture. It has two outlets; one in Chelsea Harbour and the other just outside London in Hatch End. They also offer the ability to purchase online.
The Design Centre in Chelsea Harbour offers (in their words), ‘the best in design and decoration’. If you’re looking for the ultimate in designer furniture, then this is the place you’re going to find it.
Decoratum is a superb vintage and retro furniture outlet, described as the largest commercial gallery in Europe. Expect to find top quality pieces from the 1950s through to the 1980s. This is the place interior designers visit to find unique items for their projects.
Heal’s in Tottenham Court Road is a combination of old-school retailer and up to the minute design. You’ll find an eclectic mix of established designer furniture, young talent and vintage furniture from Denmark.
If you’ve the time to spare, shopping at auction can be a fun and exciting way of finding furniture. And London has many auction houses to choose from.
Chiswick Auctions hold sales every Tuesday at noon, and you can view the lots on the preceding Sunday and Monday, and in the morning before the sale on Tuesday. These ‘general’ sales include a good amount of furniture, as well as natty objets d’art to decorate your house with.
Criterion Auctioneers have two auction rooms – one in Islington and one in Wandsworth. Again, they have a weekly auction (every Monday) that includes a large amount of antique and contemporary furniture.
Lots Road Auctions in Chelsea holds auctions every Sunday. Expect to find a combination of modern and antique furniture items, as well as smaller decorative items.
When buying furniture at auction, be aware that there’s usually a commission paid on the winning bid (of around 10-20%). If you can’t be present for the auction itself, it’s usually possible to leave a bid with the auction house, or even to bid online in real time. Auctions are a fabulous place to find unique pieces of furniture, as well as being a fun and different place to purchase.