The French House has been online for the past ten years, but since 2010 they've been on Lamb’s Conduit Street - that brilliant little enclave of interesting indie shops in central London. It’s the right location for this shop run by Susanna Housden as she specialises in well-crafted, timeless, authentic goods. Items are sourced in France and the surrounding countries and over the years the company has formed relationships with artisans and small manufacturers, whilst also creating new lines. You’ll find classic rise and fall lights, blankets, hand-turned pottery, copper cookware, pewter ware and vintage finds from fabulous French brocantes.
Who are you? Susanna Housden of The French House.
Where can we find you? 50 Lamb's Conduit Street, London, WC1.
Describe your store in five words: Artisan, Quality, Unique, Delicate, Wrought.
What makes you different? It is our products that make The French House brand so unique. Our buyers have spent years hand-picking artisan suppliers who are making high quality hand-made products to our own designs, often using techniques passed down for generations. Our buyers also regularly visit antiques markets to gather great one-off pieces for the shop.
How you decide what makes the cut? We focus on quality of materials, great craftsmanship, and simplicity. Over the years we have developed a house style, which above all shuns anything too fussy as we believe good design is generally simple and uncluttered by superfluous embellishments.
What were you doing before you did this? I have worked extensively in public relations for a variety of clients.
If you were staring again what advice would you give yourself? For a time we outsourced our order fulfillment to a specialist warehouse and call centre. This soon proved unsatisfactory as our customers did not get the personal service they were expecting and the staff had little product knowledge. Bringing it all under one roof has been the best decision as no one else can represent our brand better than our own team, and we should have done it from the beginning.
What are you most proud of? I feel proud when we receive a call or message from an impressed and happy customer. People are often pleasantly surprised when they can actually phone us and talk to a human being, so I am proud that we are able to offer such a personal service.
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? I am very fond of our new Portuguese milk soaps; they smell amazing and make your skin really soft. I also have my eyes on one of our new pastel pink merino wool blankets, and our new French Violet scented candle.
What's hot for 2013? It's always hard to guess trends, but we are observing a trend to spend money in a more considered way. This is where one quality item can make the difference. People are doing more home entertaining again and our ranges of beautiful glassware, table linen and ceramics are proving very popular at the moment.
Every Wednesday 'Indie of the week' celebrates the best independent stores around. These places sell interesting and varied collections of design-related things you don't see everywhere else. They may support young or local designers or be great at finding unique things from around the world. By thinking a little more creatively about what they stock they are fighting the bland homogenisation of so much of the high street. And since I'm down with the realities of modern life, online only stores count too, because a beautiful and easy to use website is just as delightful an encounter in cyberspace.
Do you you have a favourite store? I'd love to hear from you.