caravan of love. interview with emily chalmers.

caravan is full of wonder, a treasure trove of great design and smart vintage finds. take tips from the superior styling and ideas laid out before your very eyes. expect expert service with a smile + smooching from bagpuss the shop cat. best buys include the super duper and wonder colour lamps by jielde, emily’s own super stylish books, animalia much and an ever-changing array of collectables from around the globe.

 you were one of the first independent retailers in the east end offering hand-picked vintage pieces and new design when you opened caravan. how has the local design scene changed since then?
I love this area – and always have done! It is a treat to live and work in Shoreditch. The local design scene gets better and better – as the area grows more popular we have more shops – both fashion and homewares – and so there is more for every visitor to see, making a good day out and a worthwhile visit.

On the downside, rents have increased and retail premises are increasingly hard to find, but this means that those in business have to work extra hard to stay there, and to make sure they offer something special – this can only be a good thing.
 top 5 things to do/ visit in the east end?
I would head to Columbia Road early one Sunday morning, starting with a coffee in the market, and then wander amongst the blooms. Next I’d pick up a bag of fudge (for nibbling at tea time) from Suck and Chew ( and head towards Leila’s at Arnold Circus on the Boundary Estate to indulge in a breakfast of eggs and sage before making my way to check in at Caravan (of course!) ( I’d take in a few of the galleries on Redchurch Street too, and then make my way down to Brick Lane and along to Cheshire Street to see my favourite old neighbours Mar Mar, Labour and Wait, and Shelf ( Then on to Dray Walk to listen to some new tunes at Rough Trade ( and say hello to the talented gang at Junky Styling ( If I was staying out for the long haul then next stop would be an early cocktail at Lounge Bohemia on Great Eastern Street ( before a tasty Thai at Rosas on Hanbury Street ( or an organic pizza at Story Deli. Hmmmmmmmm…. can I only choose 5?!
 most of your customers may not know that you are also an interiors stylist and have had 4 books published (my favourite being flea market style! what does a typical day at work include for you?
I live very near my shop, and I love mornings, so I tend to set off quite early to get a good start at my desk. Bagpuss, the shop cat, is always happy to see me, and we have a cuddle while I plan the day. My desk is in the beautiful studio room above the shop – light and airy and very inspiring.

Sometimes I’ll pop out to the post office or to have a take-away coffee and quick walk with Lisa Whatmough and Stan (her dog) from nearby Squint ( The morning gets busier with deliveries and collections and we prepare the shop floor to open at 11am. During the day I am often at the shop, either at my desk placing orders and answering customer enquiries, on the shop floor helping our lovely visitors, or checking stock in the basement; or I’m out for meetings and shoots, depending on what projects are on – I’m currently working on another book so now there is also photography to organise and text to plan. We close the shop at 6.30pm when I grab some more ‘quiet time’ to finish things off before I head home.

can you tell me a little about your background…….study/ travel/ work adventures. how was it that you started working in interiors?
I’ve always been interested in interiors, and started off my career by re-arranging school-friends bedrooms! One of my early Saturday jobs was in a soft furnishing fabric store, which I loved. I did a few different things on the road to interior styling, including an auctioneer’s course and an art degree. It all came together in the end!
 was there anyone that encouraged/ inspired you from the beginning? whose work inspires you currently?
My days in the Homes Department at Good Housekeeping were very formative and the experience gave me a great grounding in homes and interiors writing and styling. I am inspired by many people, and since I’ve had my shop Caravan I am lucky to say I am constantly inspired by my lovely customers!
 your book flea market style sits well read and dog-eared in my bookshelves, i love its easy tips and inspiring styling – what are your favourite markets to visit globally? do you usually have a plan when visiting markets or do you just leave it up to fate?

I’m so pleased you love the book – ‘Flea market Style’ was a commission from the publishing company Ryland Peters and Small, and the best job I’ve ever been asked to do!

I’ve always enjoyed a good hunt, and flea markets provide excellent hunting ground. I tend to see what’s going on when I’m visiting a new place and if there’s a market I will head down there. I visit Paris twice a year on buying trips for the shop and make sure I get a couple of flea market visits in at the same time. I have also started going to the trade shows in New York, and I love the markets there. Berlin has been a recent venue for me, and the markets there are an institution – like they should be!
Summertime in the UK is a good time for weekend boot fairs – they often start early so I can visit and be back in time to open the shop that day. And, of course, Brick Lane is only a stone’s throw away and there’s always something worth rummaging for…..
 what are you currently collecting?
Anything and everything that catches my eye – thank goodness I have a shop to fill!

 what advice can you give to people wanting to start their own business up?
Follow your dreams – you only live the once.

 what’s your favourite colour combination?
It can differ from day-to-day – right now I’m liking sticky coral pink with soft mole brown.

 what’s important to you?


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