Heal's, Tottenham Court Road

Luxury home scent, designer furniture and a dreamy spiral staircase...

The thing I love most about this historic department store on Tottenham Court Road, is that Dodie Smith (who wrote 101 Dalmations and I Capture the Castle) used to work here. She wrote plays at the time under a pseudonym, the discovery of which led to the headline "Shopgirl Writes Play". The other thing I love about Heal's is that although it's just as grand as the city's other big department stores, it's slightly more laid back - less bright lights, flashy gimmicks and swarms of tourists. 

I actually used to work here many years ago when starting out as a temp. It wasn't for the store itself but for an advertising agency who rented out the building's third floor. But it was fun to walk through the store itself and get the gorgeous birdcage-style elevator up to work every morning.

Although the main focus of Heal's is on interiors and homeware, they used to have a large beauty department which sadly is no more - although they still stock plenty of gorgeous home fragrances from the likes of Neom, True Grace and Tom Dixon, as well as their own-brand range, which includes giant and normal-sized candles as well as reed scent diffusers with fragrance names such as Jasmine & Sandalwood and Earl Grey & Birch. Sadly I had a cold on my last visit, so couldn't get a proper sniff, but the names certainly sound promising - especially the former, given the aphrodisiac properties of both jasmine and sandalwood  ...

In terms of reputation, it's safe to say that Heal's is to furniture and homeware what Liberty of London is to haberdashery. A store where those in the know come to find emerging designers and underground artisans on the brink of mainstream success. (Their forthcoming Modern Craft Market which kicks off on March 17th is being run with Design Ireland and features workshops, demonstrations and talks from exhibiting Irish designers.) They don't try to be 'achingly hip' but with their history and loyal fan base among locals and tourists alike, there's no need to be. It's the unpretentious charm of this place - which has been going since the 19th Century - that makes it what it is.

And of course, no visit is complete without admiring their iconic spiral staircase (known as The Brewer Staircase, named after architect Cecil Brewer who designed it in 1916).

There's also a café upstairs which rents out desk space for business folk that are passing through town for a day or two - I can certainly think of worst places to set up an office. (Although I would struggle not to spend a fortune on designer cushions in my lunch break ...)

Heal's is based at 196 Tottenham Court Rd, London W1T 7PJ (opposite Goodge Street, other tubes nearby are Warren Street and Tottenham Court Road).

Opening hours are Monday - Saturday 10am - 7pm  (8pm on Thursdays) and Sunday 12pm - 6pm

Call 020 7636 1666 or visit www.heals.com