Here Are The Best Indie Shops Recommended by Sue Lee

the best indie website by sue lee

Pennychoo’s Sue Lee Shares Her Favourite Indie Finds.

Via her cool, independent Pennychoo, Sue Lee designs greetings cards and stationery inspired the past.

Sue’s greeting cards can be found in a series of high profile stores including Waterstones, Scribbler, The Royal Festival Hall, Brighton Royal Pavillion and The Geffrye Museum. You can also find the vintage-inspired collection in small independent shops and galleries across the UK and Europe.

For this week’s ‘Indie Picks’ we asked Sue to share some of her favourite indie finds, both online and in the real world. The pick is a unique selection including some fab, retro finds.

Petersham Nurseries – Richmond, Surrey.

Petersham Nurseries

Petersham Nurseries started out as a garden centre, but now also includes an award wining café, restaurant and shop and it’s my refuge from the world when it all gets a bit too bonkers. Walking there involves either a quick chug across the river (£1 on the Ham Ferry), or a good 40 minute walk up the Thames to Richmond Bridge, then a very scenic lollop through the cows on Petersham Meadows. So it gives me an excuse to get in a bit of a hike too.

If you’re picturing a garden centre with bags of compost piled hight and big metal trolleys, think again. Waking into Petersham on a baking hot day is like entering a Spanish plaza with the delicate tinkling of fountains, the heady scent of fragrant flowers in the walled garden and the dozy droning of fat bumble bees, with the occasional chink of bone china tea cups.

The shops are set in old greenhouses all beautifully filled with hand blown glasses, antique chandeliers, one-eyed old rocking horses, extravagantly wrapped French soaps, sturdy scrubbing brushes, crates full of wonky Victorian flowers pots, delicate porcelain ceramics, old rustic French chairs and tables … all underneath swags of fairy lights in winter and cool green ferns in summer. It’s like the most perfectly styled Aladdin’s cave of treasures you’ve ever seen, and I always come away feeling calm, inspired and ever so slightly enchanted.

Saffron Sacks – London.

Saffron Sacks London

This is the brand of my friend, Suzanne Hall. She hand makes the most stunning and high quality handbags. The simplicity and visual impact of the her designs leaves me a bit open mouthed: each one is unique and a little work of art. I met Suzanne through our mutual love of the 1940s and ’50s and those influences are obvious when you look at her bags. The 1940s and 50s was a time when bags became very structured and incredibly imaginative – rigid boxes might be made from Lucite (clear, coloured, glittery, carved), wood, bamboo, brightly coloured plastic-coated wire, or wicker with extravagant embroidery, and although Suzanne eschews the more garish aspects, the fabulously glamorous shapes and strong, elegant silhouettes of the era are clearly evident in her work. Each one involves several days of work, so while they’re not cheap, you know you’re getting ‘a bag for life’!

Boomerang Vintage & Retro – Hednesford, Staffordshire.


Boomerang Vintage & Retro is an actual physical and online business selling (as the name suggests) vintage and retro furniture and homewares. I choose Boomerang because a) it’s run by two lovely, enthusiastic people, Lyndsey and Steve, b) they stock (and sell) a great range of quirky, kitsch and stylish stuff from the 1940s to the 1970s with oodles of enthusiasm, and c) because they’re based in Hednesford in Staffordshire, which is just up the road from where I originally hail from!

I really like the way they’ve decorated the shop and how they style the items – they  obviously have a great eye – and I love that they work so hard at what they do and with such humour and enthusiasm. I first met Lyndsey when she was a buyer at a gallery, and she approached me about stocking my cards in the gallery shop, so obviously, she has excellent taste … ((cough)) Starting a niche business in the current climate is a brave decision – I really hope they’re getting all the success they deserve.

Miss L Fire – London and Hollywood.

Miss L Fire

Unlike a lot of people who are into the vintage scene, I’m not especially mad about clothes or shoes – at 5’9″, I don’t even try to find vintage clothes that might fit, and when I’m out, I’ll be dressed down in jeans and dancefloor-friendly Bass loafers … Saying that, I’ve chosen Miss L Fire shoes as one of my favourite indies for the simple reason that I just love what they do.

Created by Derbyshire designer Lyndsey Hand, Miss L Fires shoes have always been characterised not just by a love of the 1940s and ’50s, but by the sheer (occasionally quite bonkers) level of creativity of the designs: these are vintage-inspired shoes on mind-altering drugs… I can happily waste time just browsing through the designs, and while I don’t necessarily love all of them, I find all of them visually interesting which is a sign of great design. Lots of companies make reproduction shoes – Miss L Fire actively interprets the past to make something new and exciting, and that’s what I try to do with Pennychoo.

Old Town – Holt, Norfolk.

Pic by Scott Wishart for Old Town 1

“With regard to the design the aim is for simplicity and restraint with minimal styling, letting the construction influence the look. References are made to costume of the past but the intention is for contemporary relevance.”

There – that explains it better than I could.

Old Town make timeless clothing, furnishing fabrics and wallpapers. The whole look and feel of the brand is mildly eccentric and very British, without straying into the bumbling silliness of PG Wodehouse… I love everything about the website, from the bravely simple black and white (almost diagrammatic) illustrations of the clothes, to the item names (the Beryl jacket, the Bungalow dress, Stove Pipe trousers) and the slightly bleached out, austere style of photography. Everything about Old Town is sure-footed, authentic and practical. I for one love everything about it.

Herb Lester Associates – London.


“Most guides try to tell you everything there is to know about a city, we just tell you how to enjoy it. It is our aim to show the reader what makes a place distinctive, to shed light on obscure locations as well as revisiting well-known ones with a fresh perspective.”

Herb Lester publish maps, but not as you know them. These are beautifully illustrated, wonderfully designed, usually retro-styled objects that you simply want to own. They also do city guides –  so for London, for example, you might choose ‘ Clandestine London’, ‘Specialist Shops And Suppliers’ or ‘Writing London’. In LA, you could choose ‘The Raymond Chandler Map Of Los Angeles’ or ‘How To Find Old LA’. It’s no wonder that with their gorgeous retro illustrations, Herb Lester products appeal to discerning lovers of vintage and good design.

Dead Men’s Spex – Norfolk, England.

Dead Mens Spex

Run by another friend of mine, Darren has been running the fantastically named Dead Men’s Spex since long before the whole retro revival, buying up, cleaning and re-glazing old spectacle frames for those who like some retro furniture on their faces. While lots of companies have followed suit to cater to the growing appetite for vintage specs, Darren was one of the first and rather than just selling the frames, he’s an optician too so he provides a fantastic, comprehensive and very personal service. You can choose frames by gender, style or period, and he’s been making Mr Choo look rather stylish for several years now, and for this reason alone, he remains one of my favourite indies.

Thank you for the recommendations Sue Lee!

& don’t forget to check out Pennychoo in the Piccadilly Lane guide.

Posted by Charlotte 8:00 18/02/17

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