On a sunny Wednesday, I find myself walking up the Colombia Road, a road that could be named one of the most charming in London. As a West Londoner, and a lazy West Londoner at that, it is good for me to get out of my five-mile radius and this is never more apparent than when I go to East London. If you, like me, have perhaps forgone a pilgrimage in a while, I have a place that will make the journey worthwhile - Straw London. Run by Emily & Hugo, it is quite the most beautiful shop I have been in for some time. Emily, unlike me, is considered, and the shop reflects that. There are arms full of things that you would want to take home, yet you don't feel overwhelmed; there is space enough for each piece to sit comfortably in its surroundings until you inevitably have to buy it for yourself.
A huge thank you to both Emily and Hugo for letting me come in and annoy them with all my questions and never-ending picture taking.
When did you start Straw? What was the catalyst?
Straw started in June 2018, my personal vintage basket collection had grown far too big and it was time to share my beautiful baskets with others. What started as an Instagram account quickly turned into a series of pop-up shops which has led us to where we are now.
What made you want to have bricks and mortar shop?
As much as I love sharing images of my baskets and other homeware on Instagram, there really is nothing quite like sharing the story behind the piece with a customer. Everything in the shop is carefully sourced, whether that be vintage pieces from our travels or working with craftsmen to develop a piece we have designed. There is a very personal element to what we do and I think it’s very special to be able to share that personal experience in real life. We also really love creating spaces. We were incredibly lucky to find our space on Columbia Road (we started on this street in 2018 with our first pop-up so it really feels like home) and spent perhaps a little too long making it ours. We love to change the space frequently and I’m always buying too many bits of furniture which we are forever rearranging.
Favourite piece in the shop at the moment?
My favourite piece has got to be our hand thrown wavy terracotta lampshades. We work with an incredibly talented potter who lovingly makes them by hand for us. We wanted to create a softer alternative to the vintage enamel lampshade. If you asked me to choose my favourite basket, that would probably be impossible, I love them all! I give each one a name and always share where I have found it. I spend a lot of time with them as they often need to be given a bit of tlc, we also take collections of them on day trips to create our imagery.
What is the best thing about the Colombia Road (apart from Straw!)?
Aside from Pavilion’s Tumeric Buns, the flower market really does have to be the best part of being on Columbia Road. From 7am in the morning the street is bursting with energy and most importantly flowers and plants! We’ve recently got our first garden so Sunday shopping is just too tempting. On a Sunday the street has so much energy and we are constantly meeting people from all over the world. It just so happens that I also meet a few fellow basket lovers each week and it’s so great to be able to talk about them with fellow enthusiasts. Come September we will be launching a series of basket weaving classes which I really can’t wait for!
Best thing & Worst thing about being a shopkeeper?
Best thing about having a shop is meeting people you usually only talk to virtually! Alongside seeing the things you’ve imagined come to life. We then get the added bonus of sharing these items with lovely people and seeing what they do with them in their own homes.
The worst thing is parting with vintage items I love and hoping they will continue to live long lives in beautiful homes.