London Life Events

Open House by John Lewis comes to Islington

October 21, 2013

Here in the UK we have a little high street crisis. Over 60,000 shops will be gone from the high street within five years, experts have predicted. About 300,000 people will lose their jobs as a fifth of all stores close by 2018 in “the most challenging economic climate ever”. Big name chains will pull the shutters down on over a third of the premises.

As a big supporter of the small independent shops, farmers markets and any retailer that has the ability to innovate and stay ahead of the curve you don’t usually see a high street chain on the colourliving blog. You are more likely to see posts written about selfridges (here and here) or fortnum & mason (here). The reason for this is because they give me something exciting to blog about and provide interesting imagery.

I love john lewis for its business model and ethics and its most wonderful customer service. I will always be a major supporter of this most excellent department store group. However, until now, i haven’t found a reason to write a blog post about them as there’s not been an occasion i’ve felt inspired to do so. This all changed friday late afternoon.

I had heard of the imminent opening of ‘open house by john lewis’ and upon a brief glance of the event calendar, armed with my camera, i made my way to the opening of the 4,000 sq ft pop-up in london’s islington, right in the N1 shopping centre.

Celebrating the ‘latest trends in contemporary living’ and inspired by the john lewis house product range, shoppers will have the opportunity to buy small products whilst there and browse the entire collection online via tablets provided.

I love when stores like john lewis do the unpredictable. This here is a new marketing and social media campaign targeting ‘young urbanites’. The pop-up will host a series of free events, including film screenings on tuesday nights and a street food workshop. What better place to do this then in vibrant islington i ask you, while also showcasing some new additions to the house brand including outdoor living, home office and christmas products.

On friday when i was there and every friday, the open house party will bring in the weekend with a free bar serving a different speciality each week. Thankfully they also had some non-alcoholic drinks.

My interest lay in the decor and brilliant styling of this 4,000 sq ft space. Simple yet effective, it made for a most exciting space, a great vibe and very happy people!

I loved how they attached all these colourful jasper chairs to the house logo sign.

Open House by John Lewis - Colourliving


Open House by John Lewis - Colourliving

The music was fantastic and i loved the simple and yet so effective back-drop of the dj’s space.

Open House by John Lewis - Colourliving

Open House by John Lewis - Colourliving

Love, love, love!

Open House by John Lewis - Colourliving

Great letter transfers on the outside make for inviting window displays.

Open House by John Lewis - Colourliving

What an ingenious way to display cooking utensils. Some bungees, plastic cords and cute little matchstick illustrations and voilà!

Open House by John Lewis - Colourliving

A cluster of paper lanterns. Have got to love the tina one.

Open House by John Lewis - Colourliving

Again, simple and stunning against black. Love the hand-drawn polaroid camera against the prints.

Open House by John Lewis - Colourliving

There’s also a coffee and juice bar!

Open House by John Lewis - Colourliving

Ah, always love seeing a beloved vespa used a a prop. Very effective here in this warehouse space.

Open House by John Lewis - Colourliving

A benefit of the opening day. There were around 200 keys that were handed out to each person visiting the pop-up. You then had to go and try your key in this door below here. The lucky winner who’s key opened the door won a £1000 john lewis voucher. My key didn’t fit but i hung around for quite some time to hopefully get a shot for you of the lucky recipient who was able to unlock the door. No luck! Eventually i had to leave.

Open House by John Lewis - Colourliving

My personal highlight was this sister and brother who took to the stage and gave us some wonderful breakdance moves. Surely they are the future ‘young urbanites’ and therefore john lewis has succeeded in their mission.

Open House by John Lewis - Colourliving

I urge anyone living in london to visit during the pop-up and join in the celebrations. This is john lewis at their hippest yet. I loved it all. Thank you for the inspiration.

Open House by John Lewis is open from 18th October to 10th November.  Please check opening times and events calender here.

N1 Shopping Centre
N1 0PS

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  • Reply Jacintha @ Urban Pixxels October 21, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    This is so cool! And such an unexpected initiative for a department store. The thought of all those struggling independent shops makes me really sad, but this is great. Again, reading your blog led to adding another activity to my agenda :-).

    • Reply tina October 22, 2013 at 11:34 am

      Isn’t it just?

      I’ve been sad about the UK High Street crisis for many years. When I arrived here in 1980 you had so many wonderful independent retailers and really unique boutiques. Now, there is a slight comeback but rents are so high that many retailers cannot afford to open an actual shop.

  • Reply Lorna October 21, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Thank you!!

    • Reply tina October 22, 2013 at 11:36 am

      Hi Lorna.
      Great to meet you on Friday.

      Congratulations on doing a stellar job. So want to know who had the ‘golden key’… waited and waited. Did someone win it that night?
      Good Luck for the rest of the pop-up.

      Speak soon:-)

  • Reply caroline @trend-daily October 21, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    I have to admit-JL just gets better and better in every respect. What a fantastic event-so glad you got there and shared with us Tina. Very inspiring pop up-love it. Have a great week sweetie x

    • Reply tina October 22, 2013 at 11:37 am

      I totally agree!!
      Thanks love. If you get a chance, pop in. xx

  • Reply Catherine October 22, 2013 at 3:51 am

    Wow with big name chains also under threat it looks like John Lewis is doing something very right, putting some excitement back into retail. It’s the same situation here we have a department store called David Jones that just announced their CEO has resigned after just three years as he needs a break from the challenging retail environment.

    This Pop Up is so cool, love the kids dancing and the keys given out to see who can open the door, suspenseful. There’s some switched on people at John Lewis. xx

    • Reply tina October 22, 2013 at 11:47 am

      How interesting about ‘David Jones’. I think the whole world is plagued by hard retail at the moment.

      John Lewis are very loved because they have an incredible Business Model: “The John Lewis Partnership is an employee-owned UK company which operates John Lewis department stores, Waitrose supermarkets and some other services. The company is owned by a trust on behalf of all its employees — known as Partners – who have a say in the running of the business and receive a share of annual profits, which is usually a significant addition to their salary”

      There was a brilliant 3-part documentary on them.. in 2010

      Currently there is a documentary on ‘Iceland’ a British supermarket chain operating in the United Kingdom and Ireland, selling frozen food. That’s not how to do it and I wish businesses like them wouldn’t even exist!

      The kids dancing were the bomb. Such natural movers with incredible rhythm….

  • Reply mel October 22, 2013 at 4:25 am

    Love reading about things like that. So clever of them to embrace the trend that so many of them think they’re above. Mel x

    • Reply tina October 22, 2013 at 11:48 am

      Hi Mel,

      Absolutely… it really surprised me and I love how they constantly innovate and move forward (in the right direction).
      Thanks x

  • Reply Igor October 22, 2013 at 10:09 am

    Wow, pretty cool! I wish German retailers would be more creative with their marketing but they are oh so boring.

    • Reply tina October 22, 2013 at 11:49 am

      Haha! as a German I can only but agree!

      German retailers and German advertising is amongst the most boring in the entire world… well at least in the Western World!!!
      I suppose that’s why they buy in US and UK talent…

  • Reply Will @ Bright.Bazaar October 22, 2013 at 10:31 am

    I heard about this over the weekend but I couldn’t fit in it to get over to see it, so thank you for taking these pictures as I was really intrigued to see inside. This reminds me of a similar campaign IKEA did in the Paris metro when they set up a small apartment in the middle of a station and had a couple live inside for a week. Everyone could see in and the products in action – kinda cool! Fab post, as always! x

    • Reply tina October 22, 2013 at 11:52 am

      There was a Bloggers day on Sunday with sewing cushions et cetera. I’m sure you would have loved that as you’re the king of sewing curtains:-))

      Wow, the Ikea campaign sounds well cool. Some of the Paris Metro stations are sublime.. what a brilliant idea. Will try and find some visuals..
      Thanks lovely x

  • Reply Peter Cooper October 23, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Really great blog Tina. Good to connect with another champion of retailers in the UK. Time to shop…

    • Reply tina October 23, 2013 at 5:34 pm

      Thank you Peter. Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Reply Gerard @WalnutGrey October 23, 2013 at 11:57 am

    A great marketing initiative from JL there indeed. Funny, when I lived in London (and especially when I worked in Cavendish Square) I would head to JL for the food hall & always enjoyed their kitchen & ‘cleaning’ departments. However I detested their bland home department on the 3rd floor I think it was. It helped when they started stocking some Vitra products.

    Having written my ‘tyranny of the trend’ monologue the other week & spoken about good lighting at designjunction, so much of what JL is doing above is a bit of a hyped up marketing ploy for me. I get the initiative, but it’s all about trends and cheap furniture / lighting from what I can see.

    If people treated this type of thing as a starting point on their design journey – especially younger people, in other words a way of buying into design, then great. But JL for me is as much about pushing trends as any other high street retailer. Will ‘bright bazaar’ posted a JL trends blog the other day that for me epitomised this. And it’s a shame really. But then that’s the high street chains for you. They’ll always be about trends and profit.

    Thanks for posting this Tina. Always food for thought esp. your opening paragraphs on high street retail.

    • Reply Gerard @WalnutGrey October 23, 2013 at 11:58 am

      Forgot xx 🙂

    • Reply tina October 23, 2013 at 6:01 pm

      It is actually a great marketing initiative.

      JL has excelled in leaps and bounds. I also remember the days of pure blandness.. and I also always enjoy the kitchen and cleaning department.
      What I enjoy most about JL isn’t necessarily the products (although it helps) but their flawless customer service. It’s thanks to their business model and excellent training programs that we the customers reap the benefit.

      The lighting you’re referring to is purely from the ‘House’ range which is a contemporary, urban, inexpensive range. If you went to the main lighting department you would see many design classics amongst other more economical offerings. John Lewis always tries to have something for most tastes and most purses.

      As you probably know, I’m also not a fan of trends, colours of the year et cetera. However, I’m very aware how business and especially the retail business works. You are having tantrums over the constant upgrades of Apple devices. That’s the way they make money and to be in business equals making money. Do I like it? Maybe not, but then as a consumer I have a choice and I choose to limit my upgrades and not buy into trends.

      As for John Lewis and the High Street, I have absolute respect for how they conduct their business and cannot fault them for using business tactics that are required from a certain sized business. Like with Fashion, there’s new collections and trends in Interiors and it doesn’t bother me as much as it obviously bothers you:-)

      My only requirement is that businesses don’t sell fake designs, blatantly copy designs, exploit manufacturing and production, give the customer terrible customer service or pull wool over their eyes. None of these apply to John Lewis. In fact, the’House’ range and #JLopenhouse purely try and connect with young urbanites to help them kit out their space whilst introducing them to ‘design’.(I say it loosely)

      In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have any chains or big businesses but only little artisans, selling their relatively expensive but very well designed products. Unfortunately demand and supply play a role! Anyway, I know where you’re coming from but I don’t see John Lewis in this category at all!

      Happy to have provided you with food for thought! Oh, and thanks for my xx

  • Reply Michaela October 23, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Oh I do love a good pop up. The best thing about John Lewis is def the products and the customer service. There are very few high street interiors peeps who even come close to how good they are at the moment (although I’m quite partial to the new Habitat) Well done Tina for mentioning. The high street does need a good shout out occasionally 🙂 xx

    • Reply tina October 23, 2013 at 6:02 pm

      Thanks Michaela. I wholeheartedly agree and they are going from strength to strength.
      Hope all is well with you.. xx

  • Reply Sarah @ Mocha October 24, 2013 at 10:06 am

    I think this is great. Give people a fun evening out while introducing them to a homeware range they may not have considered before. What an innovative idea!

    I also really like the way you have taken what could be a negative story (about the high street crisis)and turned it into something far more positive 🙂

    • Reply tina October 24, 2013 at 10:39 am

      Thank you Sarah. I like how interactive it is and how they’ve used a pop-up to a great effect.

      As for the High Street, it’s so encouraging to see more and more small independent shops springing up.

  • Reply Gudy Herder October 24, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Food for thought your very first lines. We have been facing this situation already here in Barcelona for the last two years and many of my beloved shops are shut down. I don’t like the fact that many spaces are taken over by bigger chains where no family business is behind but I truly hope, they will all come back one day with new surprising offers and concepts. Because genius and creativity never fail.x

    • Reply tina October 24, 2013 at 2:46 pm

      Barcelona is so great for small independent shops. I just LOVE it! Very sad to hear..

      It’s the same worldwide. It’s the big chains that can afford the astronomical rent that some greedy landlords demand. But in London, we’re are seeing more and more shops and collectives start small. That’s all that’s needed. In fact, it’s interesting how the very same is happening in magazine print. So many wonderful independent magazines are showing how print is not dead but very much alive!

      “Because genius and creativity never fail” Well said Gudy x

  • Reply Alison Sye October 25, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    John Lewis never fails to impress me.

    • Reply tina October 27, 2013 at 6:07 pm

      I totally agree.

  • Reply Debra Finn October 26, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Thanks for this Tina, we’ve been doing open house events for our artists and designers since we started 10 years ago. It’s a great way for people to connect with art and design. I applaud John Lewis for doing this and at the same time wish we had deeper pockets so that we could do more to help our young artists and designers.

    • Reply tina October 27, 2013 at 6:12 pm

      Hi Debra.

      Thanks for stopping by. I must try and come along to one of your open house events. I’m sure that whatever you’re doing is great.

  • Reply Holly November 3, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Fabulous campaign! Very inspiring indeed. Sadly, I have to agree with you and Igor … I’m a bit uninspired by marketing/advertising campaigns in Germany … well with a few exceptions probably … Volkswagen comes to mind 😉

    Do you own a Tina lamp yet??


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