If you haven’t been to Kings Cross in a while you are in for quite a surprise. Just behind King Cross train station the shopping area that runs past Google HQ on to Granary Square has a new annexe designed sympathetically by architect Thomas Heatherwick, called Coal Drops Yard. With its canal side location, its Victorian architecture and beautiful new public squares as a backdrop, this area of regeneration is outstanding for cool shops and eateries. Built originally in 1850 to handle the eight million tonnes of coal delivered to London, the surviving structures, streets and rich ironwork of the original Victorian coal drops have been developed into a vibrant new shopping and entertainment neighbourhood. The area is a hotbed of design incubation with Central Saint Martins just next door at Granary Square, and Coal Drops Yard is championing design from international guest artists and local designers and makers. The lighting installation called Space Frames, that can be seen throughout Coal Drops Yard is the work of Eindhoven-based design studio Mieke Meijer. All of this makes the area your perfect one-stop shopping destination for last minute Christmas gift purchases. That and the 60+ retail spaces!
A one-stop shopping guide to Cold Drops Yard
While not all the retail units have opened just yet (Aesop, Finisterre and Samsung for example) I’m going to share the ones that I found interesting and may even have made a purchase at already – for the purposes of research obviously (and definitely not for you, dear husband if you’re reading this!).
Making a bold entrance to Coal Drops Yard is Tom Dixon. An early adopter he moved his HQ to the area in April. Well before the official opening that happened in the last week of October. Of course, this means there is his fantastic showroom to browse and buy from, as well as the new Tom Dixon restaurant, the Coal Office. This week I ate at the Coal Office for the Amara Interior Awards Winners lunch and I’ll write a blog post soon all about it seperately. For those of us in the interiors business, the trade team of Tom Dixon is based here, as well as the Design Research Studio, the interiors branch of Tom Dixon.
As well as a Studio there is a shop that is
The French store
Swedish brand Hem, who produce affordable designer furniture
Another homewares and gift focus store that caught my attention was I You All. A nicely curated space filled with the kind of lifestyle products that you’d find in Cereal Magazine. I a fan of Japanese stationery brand Midori, which was shown alongside Scandinavian brand Hay and Normann Copenhagen.
I’m a fan of MHL. By Margaret Howell for its utilitarian feel and its inspiration taken from vintage workwear. The mainline of Margaret Howell is now beyond my wallet but it’s sportier little sister while not cheap, is a more affordable access point to the brand. I was hoping the store would also stock the homewares line which includes the collaborations with ercol and Anglepoise, not yet I was told. I’m crossing my fingers.
At the very centre of Coal Drops Yard is Heatherwick Studio’s landmark ‘kissing’ rooftops, which will be occupied by Samsung KX LDN in early 2019. But beneath the kissing roofline at ground level, Paul Smith, Cubitts, Wolf and Badger, Le Chocolat by Alain Ducasse and Tracey Neuls all create interesting shopping experiences. I was particularly taken with the fantastic display of Tracey Neuls where boots and shoes were suspended from the ceiling by ribbons in many hues of pink. And if anyone of note is reading this and has me on their Christmas list (Santa I’m talking about you!) I’d love some new glasses from Cubitts and maybe a pair of sunglasses too. If you ever need to convince someone that powder coated metal in strongly saturated pistachio is a good idea take them along to visit the Universal Works shop. You might also be tempted to shop for the men in your life/family at this Great British label – I can personally vouch for the knitwear. Also “downstairs” is Lavenham the British equestrian heritage brand with growing streetwear credentials, which has its first store at Coal Drops Yards. With a minimal plywood interior, the product practically pops off the shelves. It’s full of quilty pleasures – pop in you’ll understand what I mean.
Wolf and Badger, the independent small brand champion has recreated their online platform into a retail store that also doubles as a multifunctional space offering experiences to shoppers from workshops to a cafe. Just along the arches is East London perfumer Miller Harris, a real favourite of mine, I’m a sucker for their scented candles and room sprays. The shop is alive with their new Forage collection, you have to sniff the Lost in City perfume, displayed with brightly coloured foliage and pom-poms, which is a wonderful alternative to traditional Christmas decorating.
The independent spirit is strong at Cold Drops Yard which also includes pop-ups like Ally Capellino bags and small indy record store Honest Jon’s. The developer Argent even created a more “tucked away” space for these smaller pop-up/indy shops in the former Victorian horse-stalls.
Upstairs British concept store Outsiders Store has my husband a bit excited, the outdoor outfitter has a more contemporary escapist point of view – where probably no mountaineering actually happens. They also stock Finnish brand Karhu who produce colourful cross over sneakers with hiking-boot style laces and training shoe level comfort. Then practically next door is British sports heritage brand Fred Perry making a brutalist store design statement in this former industrial hub. The glowing backlit polo shirt fixture was a particular surprise. I was wondering if I could make something smaller and more residential in size to display glass on….. I know, I know.
It’s upstairs that another of my favourite stores is tucked away beside the COS concept store (which by the way feels more like a gallery, than the COS you are used to). Bonds is a lifestyle store, coffee shop and event space with an Earl of East London candle making space. With its tasty coffee, gorgeous homewares and gifts I was in seventh heaven when I visited recently for a workshop with Vitra and Earl of East London to make my “own” scented candle. I thoroughly enjoyed testing and mixing a range of essential oils to blend my own scent before turning it into a soy-wax candle. IF you’re interested my Hello Peagreen candle featured Rosewood, black tea and wood smoke.
It’s not all about shopping at Coal Drops Yard though, there are plenty of venues for eating and drinking too. The Soho gem Barrafina has opened a venue here, I haven’t tried it yet but I love the tapas in WC1 so I’m sure it’ll do very well indeed. Someone I know recently went to Casa Pastor and raved about the tostadas and the margaritas, which sound like a great
What I particularly like about the area is the quiet feeling of having stumbled upon a unique shopping gem. If you’re a fan of raw industrial then the feel of these former railway buildings will get your architecture juices flowing, as will the contemporary additions that Heatherwick Studio have introduced to the area. With places to sit and places to wander you could easily while away the hours here in no particular hurry.
So if you’ve still got Christmas gifts left on your list, a trip to Coal Drops Yard could be your very best plan of attack.
A New York Style High Line-style walkway over the arches is planted with grasses, wildflowers and railway sleepers and it’s a wonderful place to rest and view the canal.
All photographs by Mary Middleton for Hello Peagreen. To see