Homestead | icon 023 | May 2005

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photo: Paul Freeman photo: Paul Freeman

words Daniel Blewitt

The words “coffee, food, furniture, music, books, clothes, art” chalked up on a small blackboard provide the only clue to what Homestead is. There is no shop front signage, no menus, no nameplates or logos.

Opened a month ago, with no fuss or fanfare, the venture, on St John Street in London’s Clerkenwell, is a far cry from the blue-chip design showrooms the area is used to.

Homestead is an all-purpose store-cum-café where you can buy anything from second-hand furniture to cornflakes, or sit down to light Mediterranean cuisine. The free-form enterprise is an experiment in urban community space of the kind that is common in cities like Sydney but is new to London.

The space is whatever you choose to do there. You can lounge on red leather sofas browsing vintage Playboy magazines with a coffee, or you can buy art.

One wall is lined with original Warhol prints – all for sale – while a massive Blek stencil canvas fills another. The toilets are tucked into a tin shack, covered in graffiti by London artist Pure Evil.

The furniture is eclectic, ranging from Saarinen tulip chairs to a 17-seater turn-of-the-century boardroom table.

As well as clothes and music, there is a very select stock of classic British groceries on sale, including HP Sauce, Bovril and Bird’s custard – all lined up so neatly that it feels like an art installation.

On the smorgasbord of styles and goods, Homestead’s creator Peter Leonard says, “It’s a happy mixture; there’s no inherent philosophy, just a nice appreciation of nice things. What pulls them all together is that they are representative of their time.”

Leonard foresees all kinds of uses for the space, from music events to dinner parties. Some local businesses have already started holding meetings there. “We want Homestead to be an antidote to the technology people are immersed in,” says Leonard.

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