Lost in Liberty

There’s no denying that shopping in London is world class. From high-end fashion houses to vintage thrift stores there’s something for everyone…but there’s only one place you’ll find it all under the same roof.

Welcome to Liberty.

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With a name almost as iconic as the mock-Tudor style building that houses this shopping mecca, Liberty London has been catering to the discerning Londoner’s tastes since Arthur Lasenby Liberty opened the doors in 1875.

Now, back then it looked a little different then it does now. For one thing, there were only three members of staff. For another, the roof over the shop (which was on Regent Street) was barely big enough to cover their heads! But they had the all-important can-do spirit and were dedicated to helping Mr Liberty achieve his vision of an Eastern Bazaar right in the heart of London.

In 1924 the addressed changed when the shop moved to Great Marlborough Street during renovations on the original shop and then stayed. Designed by Hall & Son, the iconic storefront was made from timber from the HMS Impregnable and the HMS Hindustan and built the same length as the Hindustan. And what an image it is.

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There are many ways in and out of Liberty but to get the full experience head for the blooming bouquets out front, pass the watchful lions and make your way into the scarf salon.

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Bathed in light, with wooden columns and beams stretching into the sky it’s a riot of colour and noise.

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In a place like Liberty it can be hard to know where to start.

But that’s why you have me! Follow along, friends…

If stairs aren’t your thing head to the wall on the back left directly facing the entrance across the scarf salon. There you’ll find one of the only working elevators in the store. It’ll take a couple of minutes but when the lift finally arrives hop in and head to the fourth floor. We’ll meet you there!

If you’re up for the walk, follow me to the right, passing by the classic liberty print silk scarves and bags, through the glass jewllery cases to the ornate, wooden staircase. Get ready to climb.*

(*There’s strategic reasoning for this – I promise!)

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We’re going to be approaching this in a top down fashion for a variety of reasons including:

  1. It’s the only way to make sure you don’t miss things
  2. Gravity is on your side
  3. There are fewer people on the upper floors so you can catch your breath before descending to the madness of the ground floor (that’s the first floor to us, North American compatriots!)

The fourth floor is home to furniture and home goods year round but in November and December it transforms into one of London’s best winter villages. If you’re in London make sure not to miss it.

The prices on this level can be a bit crazy but the sales people remain ever optimistic. One once tried to convince my visiting friend that shipping a couch to Canada was no problem at all!

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Ooh! Make sure you stop to take in the views from up here. They’re quite a treat!

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Wind your way around the floor in a leisurely circle, ending up back at the stairs you began at so you can head down one level to the third floor.

Here you’ll find all the knickknacks your heart could desire….and a haberdashery full of beautiful fabrics and everything you might need for a craft attack.

The same rules apply – circular and leisurely, if you please!

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The third floor is also home to the best smelling room in London – the bath shop. Even if you have no intention of buying anything make sure you linger here. I promise you’ll walk out feeling relaxed and as if you’ve been to the spa!

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*Important Insider Info Alert!*

Though every sales assistant and sign will point you towards the basement if you’re in search of an *ahem* room of rest (wink wink) do not listen to them! The basement bathrooms are tiny and dark and always queued up to high heaven. Instead, head to the eastern wall of the third floor (the opposite end of the building from the staircase you’re using as your anchor) where you’ll find not one but TWO ladies rooms with no one else in sight! When free, non-busy bathrooms are as hard to come by as they are here in London this is the kind of thing you need to know. You’re welcome.

Thoroughly rested and ready to face increasing crowds, make your way down to the second and first floors which are filled with fashion and shoes (for women) from every brand and designer imaginable.

(Men’s is in the basement but we’re going to skip it today. Sorry, fellas!)

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At last we’ve reached the final frontier – the ground floor.

As you’ll remember from your entrance (several hours ago now) it’s a hectic, crowded place but approach it with patience and it’ll be a breeze.

The stairs will set you down in the land of sparkling diamonds from whence you can make your way through the papered wonderland of the stationery shop back towards the hall of scarves and handbags.

Once you’ve oohed and aahed over the sumptuous silks (return to the Stella McCartney puppy-filled beauty above as a reminder, if you like. I’ll wait for you here.

…Welcome back! Let’s continue.) and boggled over the price tags on the designer bags you’ll find yourself in the beauty trenches. With a truly astounding stock list and some of the most famous brands in the world the best advice I can give you is that the tiniest Liberty bags are often filled with the priciest pieces – so be careful!

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With a final stop in the chocolate shop – where you can grab a treat for the road – you’ll find yourself out the back door and on Carnaby Street wondering what to do now that the Liberty voyage is at an end.

Do you think I’d leave you here? Of course not!

The best pizza in the world can be found just down the road and what kind of tour guide would I be if I neglected to mention it? Grab a table inside or on the patio at Pizza Pilgrims and rest your aching feet and bag-laden arms while you dive into the delicious dough, marvelling at the fact that you’ve lost the day in one single ‘department store’….and that you’re already planning a visit back 😉

Happy shopping!

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