There are districts on the map of London whose names have become bywords for the sort of people assumed to live in them. Chelsea is hooray henries. Notting Hill is Tory modernisers. Hoxton is hipster types with silly moustaches who end every sentence with yeah? And Islington, of course, is for the bourgeois lefty, who reads the Guardian and worries about the plight of the disadvantaged, but secretly wants nothing more from life than some nice soft furnishings and an attractively retro coffee machine.
This, one assumes, is what inspired John Lewis to become the latest tenant of the N1 Centre. Its new venture, Open House, is ‘a pop up celebration of contemporary living’ – or, as such things used to be known, a shop.
Actually, that’s a little unfair. In fact it’s more like a walk-in advert for the firm’s ‘House’ range. Disappointingly, this has nothing to do with Hugh Laurie and sarcoidosis, but is instead a range of decor perfect for (okay, take a deep breath, and together we can make it to the end of this sentence) “time short but trend-focused urbanites”.
Inside, between bare concrete walls (it’s a pop up?), you’ll find displays of attractive glass wear, angle poise lamps and – more bemusingly – a life-sized bear made of AstroTurf. Open House is also running events, like cocktail-making classes, and film showings. A knitting circle was in progress on our visit. And they are, we can attest, giving out free coffee to anyone willing to listen to a brief spiel about the machine making it.
Our feelings about this are, frankly, mixed. On the one hand, anything to do with marketing is inherently horrible, and the idea of dressing up an advert as a sort of exhibition makes us feel vaguely queasy. On the other hand it has filled an empty space with something more distracting than a simple shop, and the looks on the faces of the other punters suggests it is undeniably effective.
Anyway, it’s there until 10 November If you want to take a look. And when Islington makes the next turn in its spiral into self parody – an organic polenta-making class to raise money for orphans, say – you’ll read it here first.