Is Northcote Road the perfect shopping street?
Nappy Valley it may be, but it’s well worth braving the high-octane pushchairs that throng this lovely half-mile shopping street. The jewel in the crown of South London yuppiedom, Northcote Road embodies all the positive attributes of a stereotype delivered with plenty of charm and disarming sincerity. Organic groceries, vintage boutiques and miniature galleries create a context in which, miraculously, even baby yoga begins to seem endearing. The odd chain store outlet looks suitably ashamed of itself, and is hemmed in by independent boutiques and a vibrant, gentrified market.
Of course, community – like fake fur – is terribly fashionable this winter, but in the warm relationship between customer and shopkeeper in Northcote Road, Carrie couldn’t help but feel that maybe, just maybe, they actually meant it. In Huttons, which offers a gentle palette of clothing and homewares, she engaged in a long conversation about the beautiful fossil and shell-imprinted concrete tiles covering the floor. Other customers had, apparently, enquired previously and the lovely lady who runs the place was gathering names to buy another crate. In Braemar Antiques, where the assistant was unable to answer her enquiry about hire terms, she found herself ushered her into a tiny back room so she could talk on the phone to the owner. This tiny shop contains an idiosyncratic selection of nineteenth-century decorative antiques; predominantly French, they spill onto the pavement like guests leaving a tea party. Much of the furniture is, like this nineteenth-century corner cabinet, painted a pale French gray. The lighting selection is, likewise, elegant and discrete; Carrie particularly like a double-cut basket chandelier from the 1930s.
There are plenty more antiques to be had at the deceptively small-fronted Northcote Road Antiques Market. Opened in 1986, it contains around 30 dealers offering everything from classic nineteenth century to modernist. Admittedly, on the day of Carrie’s visit, the floorboards squeaked awkwardly in a very empty setting, but it was a Tuesday morning. The market is a great resource for the decorative arts, trinkets and domestic items, with furniture taking a backseat. Carrie enjoyed rummaging for inexpensive bric-a-brac – ooh, she loves her bric-a-brac – and was impressed by the wide selection of retro kitchenware, including a 1930′s weighing scale in cream enamelled metal, rusted and chipped to perfection.
La Maison Des Roses is a refined florist that specialises in roses. With over 100 species in stock, it’s a romantic floral arsenal catering to ardent lovers and quietly unrepentant husbands. Popular blooms include the Avalanche (in cream and lightest pink), Grand Prix (large headed, deep red and Dutch) and Aqua (a vibrant powder pink). Ultraviolet Flowers, on the other hand, offers a contemporary selection of plants and some pretty avant-garde bouquets. On the day of Carrie’s visit, cymbidium orchids, amaryllis and euphorbia were all in stock. If you’re into the whole natural cycles thing, you’ll be pleased to hear there’s a specialist honey shop on the same stretch. If you’re just into things that are sweet and sticky, you should probably go too.