Liberty was opened by one Arthur Lasenby Liberty at the height of the Arts and Crafts era in 1875 as "East India House" in Regent Street. It imported luxury oriental goods (blue and white china, rugs, cashmere, for example,) and began producing its own fabrics and then furnishings and also retailed metalware and jewellery all in the distinctive Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau styles. The shop remained in private family ownership until as recently as 2000. The exterior of the shop would make you think it had been built around the time of the Tudors, being beamed and painted black and white (as was popular in the Arts and Crafts era). There is a gorgeous Paula Pryke flower concession at the front doors on your way in. I know, I should have taken a photo; I'm sorry I was too eagerly running inside! The interior of the store is a sight to behold and a lot of the original details have been retained. It is a delight that not only does Liberty sell beautiful things, they are housed in such splendour. There is a fantastic old turned wooden staircase, even some of the lifts are wood panelled, the floors are wooden planked and there are carved stone fireplaces with wooden surrounds and overmantels on many of the floors. There are period light fittings, beamed ceilings and stone mullioned iron casement multi-paned windows. There is a full height atrium in the centre of the store and each floor has a galleried landing surrounding it.
There is still a department within the store which sells Arts and Crafts antiques, many of which might originally have been retailed by the store. There is also a very good choice of William Morris and Liberty Arts and Crafts fabrics.
First stop (and the only one if I'm in a rush,) has to be the fourth floor, home to Haberdashery, Rowan knitting and fabrics, Liberty fabrics and housey goodies. The lift usefully ejects you straight into the Rowan department. Ahh, what a chore...
They have a good range of fabrics from the well-known Rowan designers: Kaffe Fasett, Philip Jacobs, Amy Butler, Tanya Whelan etc. There are lots of books too, mainly about knitting, and lots of those written by Kaffe Fassett. The yarn selection is very good; at least, to me as a beginner and this being the first time I've paid any attention to the wool, I was very impressed. The Rowan yarn in particular, is very well represented and there is a larger variety than in John Lewis. I managed to add three more colours to my Rowan DK stash. Granny squares here I come! In this area, there are also a lot of tapestry kits, including Elizabeth Bradley and scattered around, lots of items actually made up which have you drooling away! There are also some stunning patchwork quilts casually draped over the displays made from glorious Rowan fabrics.
Moving through into the inner shopfloor (generally feeling a good deal poorer by now,) you are impressed by the sheer beauty of this very special shop when you see that central atrium with its galleries and the ornate carved wooden staircase. There are some gorgeous eye-catching displays.
If you have a spare £1,850, you can buy your very own Liberty covered mannequin. I'll take two, did I hear you say?!
There was a lovely selection of little haberdashery items: silk flowers, vintage buttons, crocheted brooches. (I'm sorry some of the photos are really dark but the display units were black which didn't make for great photography, at least not by a rubbish amateur photographer like myself!)
All you crocheters out there, you could be getting £3.50 for one of your granny squares...
And about £30 each for these corsages!!!
I'm hoping Father Christmas has Liberty on his list when he's out and about shopping for my pressies...
There is a very large selection of Liberty print fabrics and lots of shirts ready made up to buy.
Well, I can report I was very restrained on Friday and came away with just one metre of (pink polka dot) fabric and three balls of wool. Oh, I am feeling very virtuous indeed. (Then again, I was just bearing in mind that I had to pay for my new sewing machine the next day!)
Upstairs we couldn't resist taking in the awe inspiring Christmas department. Something about this beautiful old store makes such a sumptuous setting for all that glitz and all those fairy lights.
The section which housed all the Christmas decorations had been turned into a series of log cabins within a Winter wonderland. I think I might have to return with the Munchkin closer to Christmas.
Throughout the store, many of the original architectural details are still apparent and have also been subject to a Christmas makeover.
By this time, we were flagging although we did rather admire this cosy looking sofa covered in the most lovely soft velvet...
There was nothing for it after the exhaustion of admiring all that loveliness than to repair to Pat Val, as it is affectionately called, to top up the sugar and calorie quota!
Well, it would have been rude not to!