by Rachel Felder
With the recent opening of Ben Pentreath's new boutique in Bloomsbury, the area's up-and-coming status as a destination in its own right gets a boost. London's got no shortage of neighborhoods packed with tastemaker boutiques, from Hoxton to Notting Hill, but Bloomsbury doesn't typically make that list. This truly quaint enclave on the north side of the city is probably best known for historic residents like Virginia Woolf and for its neighborhood landmark—appropriately enough, the British Museum.
But one small stretch of the neighborhood, Lamb's Conduit Street, has become an insiders' favorite over the last few years, as small clothing boutiques, cafes, and specialist bookshops have nestled in amongst the street's old school thrift stores and classic men's tailors. And now, Ben Pentreath's enticing spot continues that row of appealing stores around the corner to neighboring Rugby Street.
Ben Pentreath is an acclaimed architect, with design awards and many projects in Wales, Cornwall, and Dorset under his belt. Late last year he decided to transform the front of his Rugby Street design studio into a retail space stocked with more than a few of his favorite things, including John Derian decoupage, La Rochere glassware, ornate (and über-collectible) pottery from Leeds Greenware by Hartley Greens and Company and letterpressed posters with archival type by the East End's Hand & Eye Press.
Although its retail area only recently opened, Ben Pentreath's base already feels wonderfully lived-in. In fact, at times it feels more like a cozy domestic sitting room than a store with a few personal tidbits, like the odd dinner party invitation, left out amongst the hand chosen books, candles and antique British furniture that's also on display (and actually for sale). But it's that individual touch that makes the store so inviting. Even wandering in, the store has the feel of visiting an old friend, albeit one with an impeccable eye.
Incidentally, Ben Pentreath's new shop is adjacent to The English House, the London showroom of a company that handmakes elaborate light fixtures like chandeliers and candelabras. It's certainly not a place for impulse—or even portable—purchases, but this cozy and welcoming little store is worth a visit as well.
17 Rugby Street
London WC1N 3QT map
tel. +020 7430 2526