Posts Tagged ‘Carnaby Street’

Habitat Regent Street Store

March 27, 2011

When the Habitat Flagship store in Regent Street opened in April 2006, it was hailed as another example of how art and design can enhance the surroundings of a space; a fact central to the mission of the Habitat brand. Respecting the architectural characteristics and the breathtaking original features of the building – a former cinema with vaulted ceilings and neo-Egyptian details – Tom Dixon, the non Executive Director of Habitat, who worked on the project, built a store around the cinema space, keeping intact (and restoring) every small detail. He even built an extension to the stalls in the form of a wooden structure, which was connected to the ground floor via the stare case at the centre of the store The result was a unique store: a 21-century environment selling affordable furniture and accessories, housed in an old cinema space restored to its former glory.

Almost one month ago, while walking past the store on my way to Carnaby street, I was saddened to see that the Habitat store was closing down. Huge, ugly banners were peppered on its window displays, informing of the unfortunate event. The place was full of people in search of a bargain and reminded me of a pirate looted-ship with items being scattered everywhere. In desperate attempt to find out why this was happening, I entered the store.

As I wandering up and down the aisles glancing at the battered shelves and unappetising signs of “Closing down” and “Sale”, guiltily trying to find an item on offer, I could not help but wonder what will become of the Habitat Regent Street store. Maybe a Gap or perhaps a Primark? An ill fitting departure from the character and charisma of its predecessor.

A small desk lamp and a wooden bus toy was what I could find I liked from the stock in a generous 30% – 50% markdown. And while I was going out,I clutched the bag with my newly purchased item and was confident enough that I had taken with me and saved a tiny bit of the store’s dignity.


[all images © LambdaPhage]

P.S. 29 May 2011: The old Habitat store in Regent Street will now become a Burberry store.


London Christmas Lights 2010 (and 2009)

December 19, 2010

It has been almost two years since I started writing this blog and one of my most successful posts (in terms of hits) has been my very first one: the London Christmas lights. This is a tradition I started a 5 years ago: to go out each year and to photograph the Christmas lights of the busiest shopping streets around London.

I used a cheap digital camera to capture the images the first two years but then I bought a digital-DSL camera and a tripod; so hopefully my images have improved. Here are the Christmas lights of the big street arounds London for 2010 (and 2009):

New entry: Marylebone street

I wouldn’t have realised the Christmas lights at Marylebone street, if it hadn’t been for a friend who invited me for his birthday party at a restaurant close to the street. i then noticed the Christmas lights; they were unique, featuring decorations that I had not seen before.

New entry: South Molton Street

South Molton Street is a small diagonal pedestrian road starting from Oxford street, very close to Bond Street tube station. It is filled with shopping boutiques (among them Browns is the most famous one) and interesting coffee shops and caters for a refined, eclectic crowd. This year, the street featured lit arches, whereas in 2007, it featured Christmas decorations with giant lit angels.

New entry: Coventry Street

Coventry Street is the little street between Picadilly Circus and Leicester Square. I was positively surprised to see that it has its own Christmas lights decorations, and that they are more inspiring that the decorations one may find in bigger shopping streets.

Last place: Oxford Street

I have to admit that Oxford street managed to make a difference last year, just because they changed the Christmas decorations, after running with the chandelier theme three years in a row. In 2009, they unveiled their new design based on huge Christmas presents and umbrellas. Interestingly, the same theme seems to have prevailed in 2010. If you ask me, they should not have bothered, as the theme is not very inspiring.

I understand that producing decorations for the biggest shopping street in Europe can present with some challenges, but with all the money they have been receiving from sponsors, I expected them to have come up with more interesting Christmas lights.

Second runner-up: Regent Street

Regent Street is also running with the same Christmas lights theme for a third year in a row. Only this year, they have decided to add some elements. Some light signs, advertising the characters of The Chronicles of Narnia, this year’s sponsor, have been scattered among the Christmas lights making the theme to verge on absurdity.

First runner-up: Bond Street

Bond street is having the same Christmas lights for a consecutive third year. At least the ribbons are three dimensional and tasteful. But above all, Bond Street has not allowed for any sponsors to put distasteful signs at their Christmas lights.

Biggest surprise and disappointment: Covent Garden

Covent garden is a big surprise and a big disappointment. Surprise, as in 2009, it featured lots of shiny decorations and a big chandelier-like light installation in the middle; a theme which was very tasteful. Disappointment, because for 2010, it featured lots of red christmas tree balls and a weird light installation in the middle. If you see this year’s theme in broad daylight, it is acceptable, but if you see it the dark, they is not, as it is dimly lit. (Needless to say that a red Christmas tree ball theme was also featured in Selfridges a year before, and was better executed than Covent Garden).

And the winner is: Carnaby Street

Like every year, Carnaby Street proves to be a small gem. Not only for the shops but for the inspiring Christmas decorations, which are unlike any other. Moving on from the giant inflatable snowmen in 2008, they used a similar principle for their “reindeer-peace-hope” theme in 2009. For 2010, they have had another inspiration and presented a space-like theme, which blends marvelously with all the colours of the buildings around this street.


[images © LambdaPhage]