Parkhurst's benchmark of taste
THERE is a sign on a bench outside Bedtime Stories, one of the newest and prettiest shops on Fourth Avenue, Parkhurst, which just about sums up the spirit of the village. It reads "Bench for bored husbands", implying that you are going to linger inside, testing the patience of your husband who you've had to cajole into coming with you in the first place.
What it should read is "Bench for anyone who is not that interested in the look of his or her home".
This is because, now that the interior designers and the dealers in decorative accessories have followed the antique trade to the thoroughfare, Parkhurst is a mecca for those afflicted by the cocooning bug. The suburb has more than 30 dealers in things - from the small to the large and the inexpensive to the wildly costly - for your home.
I recently moved from the village after seven years in which I witnessed it transform from shabby gentility to newly desirable. Though older residents resent the crowding out of haberdashers and butchers by dealers in antiques and collectibles, it is the newcomers who've smartened up the suburb and given it that unmistakable whiff of good taste.
In the past year or so, the trend for Parkhurst to become a haven for magpies has firmed. Simon Leighton-Morris, perhaps the doyen of dealers in Georgian and Victorian antique furniture, was the first to convert an old Fourth Avenue house into a showroom. Shortly afterwards, interior designer Ronnie Wilkens moved her glamorous business from Mutual Square, Rosebank.
Wilkens stimulated an outflow of home furnishing shops from Mutual Square. Interior designer Sarah Walters took Leighton-Morris's old premises for Heaven Sent, which she has filled with stylish furniture and decorative accessories. Bedtime Stories, owned by Lyn Houghton, Winks Kaplan and Miranda Riviera, is another émigré. Its branches in Mutual Square and in Hyde Park Corner have been brought under one roof.
Houghton, who started the business 10 years ago, says it "was a case of soort soek soort in Mutual Square. It's the same in Parkhurst. And we all add to the wonderful village atmosphere."
With the breezy, welcoming air of a home in Cape Cod, Bedtime Stories, originally specialising in bedroom and nursery interiors and hand-embroidered bed linen, now includes all aspects of the home. "We're pitched at young people who want to decorate but who don't have to rob a bank in order to do so," says Houghton. "Everything we sell is styled, sourced or made by us, or by people who work for us."
The big news last week was the long-awaited relocation of Lynn and Ashley Grant's Take It For Granted from The Cobbles to a converted house opposite Bedtime Stories. While Lynn is the darling of a growing coterie of collectors of early 17th and 18th century oak and country furniture, her daughter, Ashley, deals in antique and antique-style jewellery. Son Greg is joining them in the showroom with his affordable painted and rustic furniture and objects.
Take It For Granted is my favourite Parkhurst shop in the can't-afford-it-but- aspire-to-it sense. I also love Alf Stewart's Buckhouse, a florist as well as a treasure trove for the unusual; Claire Behrmann's Chameleon, basement premises crammed with interesting things; the Colonial Trading Company adjoining equally inviting By George; and Shop No 1, which sells interesting objects, furniture and paintings.
Two new gathering places have also added flavour: a restaurant called Cosmo Junction and the excellent Espresso Caffé & Bistro. I've been told a sushi shop is soon to open - which is bound to spark a groan from the wrinklies.
Isn't it time you spent a morning - make that a day and remember Bedtime Stories' bench if you are bringing your Philistine - in Fourth Avenue? ý Linda Stafford is a senior editor of the Financial Mail.