Indie of the Week #36: Nook

From left to right: Gemma, Jack and Kate of Nook

From left to right: Gemma, Jack and Kate of Nook

Nook on Stoke Newington Church Street in north London is located on what can confidently be described as a hipster indie high street. In the past few years there has been a surge in independent businesses from a "fancy butchers" to a wine merchants and fashion boutiques [the local supermarket is a Wholefoods]. All of which has been great timing for the trio behind design shop Nook - siblings Kate and Jack Simpson and his girlfriend Gemma Ridgeway. They opened in April 2012 and have found that a bit of healthy indie competition is good for business, plus it makes for a very sociable working environment.

The popularity of the area has taken them a bit by surprise as Kate and Jack grew up in nearby Highbury and as children came to the local park - fast forward a few years and Kate is now on the committee of the local business association. Despite enjoying the buzz of being in the right place at the right time, they are still up on their social media: Jack and Gemma do Instagram, Kate does Facebook and they all do Twitter, which Kate acknowledges is “massively important, but it feels a bit un-English”.

They also split their business duties and time in the shop: Kate does PR and marketing and writes the newsletters, Jack does the buying (recent finds include beautiful soaps from France, stationery from Portugal and some interesting things from Poland) he goes to shows, does the accounts and fitted out the shop, and Gemma sorts out the look of the shop, the windows and their identity. 

Who are you? Gemma Ridgway, Jack Simpson & Kate Simpson and we run Nook.

Where can we find you? 153 Stoke Newington Church Street, London N16 0UH

Describe your store in five words: Classic, Local, Friendly, Useful, Tactile.

What makes you different? We hand pick every single item we sell, even if it means working with dozens of suppliers, we won't compromise on quality or have a product in the shop that we wouldn't have in our own homes.

How you decide what makes the cut? Things have to have a purpose and be well made, whether that is a practical purpose or an aesthetic purpose, it doesn't matter, but it has to do something and do it well.

What were you doing before you did this? Gemma worked in visual merchandising and styling, Kate ran a shop and workshops, and has a background in PR, and Jack worked in retail management.

If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? Be brave! In reality we are still learning, you never stop, we are very new to this in the big scheme of things and there is so much more for us to learn and do.

What are you most proud of? Having come this far. The day we opened the shop to the public and stood behind the till was a great day - and we still carry that feeling with us. After being open a year and a half all three of us are now at Nook full time which was our aim from the beginning, so that's a great achievement for us. 

Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? Hampson Woods wooden boards were part of our in-store exhibition of Hackney designers for the London Design Festival in September and we have continued working with them since, they are made from fallen trees in the UK and are a great example of good British ethical design. 

What's hot for 2014? It’s very hard to pick one particular product, but we have seen a real movement towards products made from natural materials. So we’ll be heading back to nature for 2014.

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.