London Life Shops

for the love of stationery

December 6, 2012

You guys know how much i LOVE a good, independent shop. I’ve written before about the state of the uk high street. Some of you know of my passion for stationery, others might not be surprised.

Well, today i’m delighted to introduce you to a special shop. Why is it special? For one, it reminds me of the good old days when london was filled with quality specialist shops. Secondly, it sells the most discerning of stationery products i’ve seen in years and thirdly, i’m already in love with the shop keeper!

So let’s start at the beginning. I met  julia, a young, dynamic, french woman only last week. I say french, as both of her parents are french. Julia was born in hong kong, moved to tokyo a few years later. Then she actually spend over a year in paris, followed by london for 8 years. Off to study in montreal, back to paris and now is living back in london. Phew! Did you follow that?

Back to the story. We got talking outside on the pavement (as one does). It was dark, bitterly cold and to be honest, i don’t remember what was said. All i remember thinking was here is a feisty young woman, not afraid to speak her mind. I like that!

I was lingering because the thought of heading back home on my scooter in the freezing cold, at that very moment, seemed unfathomable. So when julia turned to go back into her shop i asked what it is she sells and whether she was new to the street. ‘I sell stationery, we opened at the end of august’ came the reply. Oh, i thought, another shop full of twee notebooks and fashionable pens! I’m just not used to quality stationery shops in the uk, but prefer to go to berlin and paris for that. Boy, was i wrong. I entered this little emporium of highly considered and specialised stationery products and was instantly smitten.

I did head back by scooter and arranged to come and interview julia this week.

Julia, briefly tell us what you did before you started your business? After my studies in japanese literature and history, I worked in commercial contemporary galleries, both in london and paris. I learned a lot about business, administration but also how important it was to present and display your products. After a while i realised that my passions lie elsewhere and that if i’m going to use the skills i’m currently using, i might as well do it for my own and in my own business!

What made you start a business in stationery? From the age of 7-14 we lived in japan. I used to cherish my letter writing sets and erasers. There is a part of me that longs to still be that little girl in japan. I somehow see stationery as a love story. All people have stationery and although we live in the digital world, it is still very much a product we can all connect with and use in one way or another on a daily basis. I also love everything for the home and could have chosen interiors products, but somehow was drawn to small items, easily transportable. Stationery products are often small objects with big stories to tell.

How did you come up with the name of your shop ‘choosing keeping’? I’ve always had a thing about valuing products and respecting how they’re made. I see them as sort of treasures. So, being a discerning shopper myself, i wanted to emphasise the idea of finding something you really love, keeping and looking after it!

I know you are particular about sourcing your products! I love history, i love researching and this is a big part of what i love about my business. Having lived in japan, it now gives me great pleasure to source interesting products that connect me to my past. People might think that a pencil is a pencil. Not so! I really like the selling part but it’s the sourcing where i get huge amounts of pleasure from. I can talk to manufacturers and suppliers, hear their stories and source responsibly. It’s something close to my heart. I like finding the ‘underdog’ suppliers, whose products are of the highest quality but maybe their marketing budgets don’t reach as far as others’. Sometimes they simply can’t supply bigger shops as they don’t have the distribution channels. I build up special relationships with these manufacturers, often family run.

How do stationery products differ from different cultures? Well, stationery from germany is super heavy, metallic, highly engineered, whereby japanese, for example, is sophisticated with some technology and a lot of artisan elements. I currently buy from japan, germany, italy and the US. I do stock some finnish crayons and pencils from india. Actually these pencils are made out of indian wood. The manufacturer produces some 5.6 million pencils a year and supplies most schools in india with them. People in the west like them because they are multi-coloured and each one is different!

Are you happy you went into bricks and mortar? Initially i was going to start my business online. Per chance i found this shop and as i would have needed storage space etc i made the decision to go the whole way. I’ve really enjoyed this process. Me and my partner kitted out the shop by ourselves, we have literally just launched online (again, not outsourced) and i’m learning everyday new skills but also, as a young entrepreneur, how resilient i really am. When i did my research, it showed that sales in stationery are up 10% every year and as long as there’ll be artists, there will be a need for pencils:) For the first time i feel professionally fulfilled and am looking forward to the ride.

I will leave you with my own little purchases made. A green kaweco fountain pen to add to my collection. A blackwing pencil, a brass pencil sharpener and mini japanese paperclips. Yay! I certainly will be a regular, but then this shop is kind of made for me!

Thank you julia for this interview and for inspiring my readers!

Any of you got a weakness for stationery? I can think of one or two:) Have a great weekend. See you monday, with another dose of vive la différence. Woohoo!

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  • Reply Gerard @WalnutGrey December 6, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    Well Tina darlin’. Wonderful to read your thoughts and words again (been a little while I know).

    I do love stationery and adore arranging it and touching it. I love “A Single Man” Tom Ford style of arranging and playing with stationery. This shop is a neat find – what we’ve all come to expect from you 🙂 It looks like a great little curiosity store, resplendent, warm and with appealing stationery pieces, little objects and things.

    Thanks xx

    • Reply tina December 10, 2012 at 12:03 am

      Well hello stranger! How are you?

      Have you settled in and got your internet sorted?

      Actually there are a lot of ‘walnutgrey’ products there you would like!
      Go and visit Columbia Road when you are next in town. We can meet there for a coffee:)) xx

  • Reply Ingrid December 6, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    Great post TIna. I too love stationery. Interesting to hear about the difference between stationery of different nationalities. And also that stationery sales are up. There’s 3 really great stationery shops in Sydney- in Mona Vale, Double Bay and Surry Hills. Actually you’ve given me an idea for Christmas shopping … x i

    • Reply tina December 10, 2012 at 12:06 am

      I’ve had a thing for stationery since childhood. I often thought that London is missing great stationery shops. Paperchase is not what I call a stationery shop!

      The shops in Sydney sound great. Europe also has fantastic stationery shops.
      So happy London is finally following suit. Yes, sales are up in that sector.

      Happy Christmas shopping. Thanks xx

  • Reply sue December 7, 2012 at 3:07 am

    fellow stationery lunatic reporting for duty! love it… my fondest memories of school are the lead up to starting the school year so i could get new pens & pencils, crisp & clean notebooks, the whole shebang! some things never change! still get a thrill from a shiny new journal! shall definitely be having a gander at this shop {how lucky you found eachother!} and this ties in nicely with a post i’m currently writing!!! 😉

    • Reply tina December 10, 2012 at 12:08 am

      fellow stationery lunatic reporting for duty! Hahahahahaha

      Oh, so good to know I wasn’t the only child waiting to get new pens, pencils and notebooks.

      I used to suffer from that syndrome of never starting a journal in case I messed it up. Thank God those days are behind me:))

      OK, looking forward to that related post !!

  • Reply sue December 7, 2012 at 3:09 am

    ohmy, i just discovered the dandelion paperweight… life will never be the same!!!

  • Reply Deepa December 7, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    Collecting stationery was a huge deal in my school when I was a kid, and all the girls would swap pieces from our collections. Still love it to this day! Notebooks and wrapping paper in particular.

    • Reply tina December 10, 2012 at 12:10 am

      Ha. I wonder what that is in all of us and whether all of us turned out to do something creative?
      Would love to know some statistics on this!!

  • Reply Nicola December 7, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    Oh Tina, I love stationery, have an amazing amount already and still happy to collect more – AND I need a new fountain pen! Would love to visit this shop and wouldn’t have known about it otherwise, so many thanks.

    I like her Christmas decorations too xx

    • Reply tina December 10, 2012 at 12:13 am

      You do???

      Fountain pens are the greatest… I collect pens, mostly pencils but also fountain pens and roller balls. I do highly recommend the Kaweco pens. They are german, inexpensive and a great all rounder.

      Thanks xx

  • Reply Sam Lennie December 7, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Great find Tina. Love a bit of stationery, don’t we all?!

    • Reply tina December 10, 2012 at 12:14 am

      Ha. It seems we all do. Thanks x

  • Reply Theresa December 7, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    Well, the secrets out that I once owned my own stationery company, so this post speaks to my heart. It’s so, so lovely, Tina! For me, a hand written note will always be special, and I hope the practice never dies. Like you, a shop that is dedicated to the love of a hand written note is my type of candy store. This post is also a great reminder to support independent business owners.

    • Reply tina December 10, 2012 at 12:16 am

      Yes I know and thought of you as I was writing the post!

      You would absolutely love this shop and share the love of all the japanese products!
      Thanks T

  • Reply parisbreakfast December 8, 2012 at 12:16 am

    I fell in love with the stationary in Japan. I couldn’t belive how whimsical it was. I still haunt Kinokunio in NY and Juncado in Paris.
    Wonderful shop here!
    merci carolg

    • Reply tina December 10, 2012 at 12:22 am

      I’m jealous you’ve been to Japan… with Bear:))

      Do you know whatever happened to Calligrane in Paris? They used to have 2 shops opposite Papier+ on Rue du Pont Louis-Philippe 75004 Paris… used to LOVE that shop.

      Juncado in Paris????? What’s that???
      Thanks Carol x

  • Reply leah of sang the bird December 9, 2012 at 6:31 am

    oh my!! this is eyecandy perfection! i love stationery, and as i child i vauled my letter writing sets amongst my most important belongings. i fear my love of stationery has rubbed off on miss s, her collection of notebooks is ever expanding!
    i love the styling and passion in this gorgeous shop, and beautifully photographed dear T xx

    • Reply tina December 10, 2012 at 12:25 am

      Ha. Another one who cherished stationery as a child!

      I LOVE that your love of stationery has rubbed off on Miss S… hmm, I wonder where I got my obsession from? It was not from my parents? Hmm, must think!!

      Thanks love. I love the shop, the chosen products and Julia for being so passionate and discerning and her buying policy! xx

  • Reply LatteLisa December 9, 2012 at 9:18 am

    thank you for sharing this wonderful shop, consider it in my London bookmarks as of now!

    • Reply tina December 10, 2012 at 12:30 am

      Hi Lisa. Pleasure.

      As I’m writing this I notice that your Giveaway finishes tomorrow (Monday 10th December).
      Woohoo. Fingers crossed. What a lovely giveaway.

      Hope you are well;)

  • Reply Catherine Bedson December 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Amazing store and such an interesting owner. I haven’t been bitten by the stationery bug yet but do love notebooks. Beautiful photos Tina & great interview. Just love the ‘how a lead pencil is made’ poster!

    • Reply tina December 10, 2012 at 12:32 am

      Catherine, really??????

      We must get you to be a stationery freak. Right, when you come to London I will personally take you stationery shopping. Deal??? I’ll get you addicted, you wait and see!!:))

      Yes, that poster is fab. It was hard to photograph and show more details but you get the gist.
      Thanks xx

      • Reply Catherine Bedson December 11, 2012 at 8:39 am

        DEAL!!! Hopefully it won’t take me to long to get there.

        • Reply tina December 11, 2012 at 12:47 pm

          I’m holding you to it!!!! x

  • Reply Chi@106 December 9, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    “Stationery products are often small objects with big stories to tell.”
    So true – now that I think about it! – and so brilliantly put. The fact that she describes it as a love story appeals to the romantic in me. 🙂

    I love stationery (as you know) but I always simply saw it as something pretty with which to write or to draw. I feel the nicer the tools, the better the work they produce.

    Great interview from a remarkable young woman with a unique point of view. I have so much respect for the fact that she chooses to support small, family-run businesses.

    P.S. Once again, I followed your link and made a couple of purchases but this time, I had breakfast first! 😀 xo

    • Reply tina December 10, 2012 at 12:33 am

      Ha. I know you love stationery… I don’t think we had time in Berlin to take you to R.S.V.P, did we?
      Another fantastic shop.

      Yes, Julia is quite remarkable and very astute for her young age:)

      Oh, Chi, now I’m curious… what did you buy?????

  • Reply Holly December 10, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Yay! A great way to start my day, with another captivating story from Tina. I’m so happy for you that you found Julia and her shop. I like the idea of stationary … but sadly, I don’t use it much and I don’t know too much about it. What I do love though are postcards … I guess that counts as a form of stationary 🙂

    • Reply tina December 10, 2012 at 10:30 am

      As the online Queen, I knew you wouldn’t have a thing for stationery. Maybe we can put this shop on our list when you visit and see whether you don’t fall in love.

      When in the neighbourhood, go to R.S.V.P in Berlin, you won’t be sorry:)

      Thanks love and Happy Monday to you girls;))

  • Reply Kate December 10, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    oooh – l’ll be working around the corner from Columbia Road in January so will pop in for a new notebook for my new job! xKx

    • Reply tina December 11, 2012 at 12:43 pm

      It’s a great area x

  • Reply Doris December 10, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    Oh Tina, another great find. I love stationary and I absolutely went crazy when I was in Japan – their stationary is just so beautiful. I’m going to Columbia Christmas Market this weekend so I’m so going to pop into this shop! Thanks Again. xD

    • Reply tina December 11, 2012 at 12:45 pm

      I bet!!! Seriously, I cannot wait:)

      Oh, enjoy and while you are there, also pop into @minimoderns pop-up shop. Great treats. Say hi to Mark and Keith from me!!
      Enjoy, you’ll have great fun x

  • Reply marga December 10, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    What a nice shop, I almost got my own shop back in October, and finally decoded against it as I was on my own and I already my brand. I think of that shop almost everyday. i will make sure to visit this one very soon, congratulation for going ahead despite the crisis and the overheads of a brick and mortar shop.

    • Reply tina December 11, 2012 at 12:47 pm

      Hello Marga. Thank you for stopping by:)

      Wow, how very close to your heart this must be….. I hope you get to visit Choosing Keeping and I hope it might change your mind!

  • Reply Joana December 11, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    Dear Tina,

    How nice was meeting you this day at this wonderful stationery shop, where I bought my father´s Christmas gift – silver Kawevo pen. I was the 5 month pregnant Portuguese “girl”, remember?

    It took a while for me to vizit your website since I haven´t yet installed internet at home. Wonderful meeting you, great positive energies you spread!

    Hope you are doing very well,


    • Reply tina December 11, 2012 at 7:24 pm

      Hey Joana, how nice to hear from you.

      Of course I remember. I actually wanted to mention you in my post but then thought it would all get too long.

      We had such fun that evening and I LOVE the pen you bought your dad. I hope he will like it. I bought the green one and write with it daily.

      Hope you are feeling well.

      I’m coming to Stoke Newington next week to get something so will pop in to see you:)

  • Reply geraldine December 11, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Hi Tina, sorry for being late – recovering from the busy week. With you, surprise is boundless ! Standing on a pavement and chatting – to discover this treasure! I love the utilitarian and organic feel of her stationery. So wonderful to hear her work ethics, sourcing responsibly and putting that ‘human’ element into her business transactions. Bravo! another great find. Perfect one to add to your future book? Hope to see you in the January meet up. x

    • Reply tina December 11, 2012 at 7:26 pm

      Busy week indeed! Hope you’ll write about the Arts Club experience;))

      You are so funny… but know you would love that shop and Julia. When next in Columbia Road, pop in and say hi. She would love that! X

  • Reply London shopping guide: Shoreditch part 2 – 30s Magazine June 15, 2013 at 12:15 am

    […] by the beautiful paper rolls. My friend Tina who introduced me to this shop wrote a splendid blog post about this shop, so I would recommend you pop over to her blog to see more beautiful photos and […]

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