My favorite home goods shop in London
A conversation with the owners at Earl of East about curating a design-focused shop that's internationally recognized.
Caramel Woven Belgian Loafers — a classic
Funny story — meeting the owners
Earl of East has become one of my favorite shops in recent years (if the title didn’t give that away). And, back in May—when I was in London with my family—we popped into one of EofE’s locations in Shoreditch (on Redchurch Street).
I stepped inside, and the owner immediately recognized my son and me from Instagram (we both follow each other). I’d never met Paul in person, but it was a funny, serendipitous moment to connect with him briefly.
Paul and his partner, Niko, are the owners of Earl of East, a fantastic, independent shop I’ve fallen in love. Their space is well-curated, fresh and vibrant, and they strike a perfect balance between masculine and feminine, which is difficult to do with home goods.
I’m excited for you to meet Paul and Niko from Earl of East.
Tell us about yourselves
We are partners in everything. Having met over ten years in London, we’ve been married for four years and have been in business together for almost eight years.
We had both been in the city for a few years when we met, Niko studying his MA at Goldsmiths after relocating from Dusseldorf. I worked in advertising after moving from the North East of England after university.
Despite coming from different places, what we realised in our first couple of years together was how similar our upbringings had been. We were both from working-class families, which instilled in us the same values, and we both had very fond memories of growing up with close relationships with our grandparents.
We were both working in different parts of advertising, and whilst we enjoyed our careers, it quickly became apparent that we were looking for something more and wanted to start something of our own.
Where'd you get the inspiration for Earl of East?
We used to spend every spare moment in the city exploring independent stores, new cafés and restaurants, and visiting markets. That exploration led us to consider what we wanted to create in a retail experience, and appealing to the senses was always at the heart of that.
We felt that there was a gap in the market. We wanted to see a homeware and lifestyle brand do what was already happening in the street food scene. We could use markets as a platform to test and refine before opening something with more permanence in the form of a brick-and-mortar space.
Developing our product lines came later. Going through the experience of selling at markets, we knew we needed to create something of our own. Our inspiration comes from many places. Eight years ago, it was hard not to be inspired by platforms such as Instagram, and travel has always been a huge inspiration for us.
As for the name, that was more of an accident. Earl of East London was a nickname given to me (Paul) in my first job in the city. I was always trying to persuade my colleagues to come and hang out in Hackney, and the nickname just stuck. When we did our first market stall, we called it that because we were trading in Hackney and already had the social handles.
It's strange because, in hindsight, we probably would have thought this through a little more, and yet the name seems to have resonated with people; it stands out, perhaps because it doesn't make all that much sense.
Where to find them
Candle and spray (FYI, their signature Shinrin Yoku scent is unbelievably pleasant and worth every penny. I use the spray on linens to freshen them up)
&Klevering glassware (set of 4)
What is the spirit of your business?
Despite being marketers in our careers, we felt the best way to approach our business was from a grassroots perspective.
We didn't just want to sell products; we wanted to develop and create a brand and experience. That brand started as a market stall, and that humble beginning taught us so much about the importance of community and authenticity.
We believe that those days trading at markets across London informed our product development and our entire retail approach.
What are some brands you're proud to carry?
We have tried hard to curate what we feel are both the best brands in each category and that align with our own, so it is hard to choose just one.
Whenever we reach out to a brand that we love, and they want to work with us, there is a real sense of pride. Naturally, it's great to work with brands like Hay, Ferm, DS&Durga, and so on, but we get as much of a kick when we work with friends that we started with in the market days, like ArmaWorks.
I think you've got one of the best-curated shops in the home goods category. What's your curation and selection process like?
Thank you, that means a lot. Niko and I still do the buying and curation, potentially making it more personal.
We genuinely have to love the items to sit in our store. It's a testament to how much of a canvas for the brand our home (and office) has become.
We aim to have an underpinning content theme each year that feeds into our own brand launches or focus and provides a direction for buying and content for our platforms, look and feel, and so on. From a selection process, it is all about alignment.
Do we love the brand? Do we like what they are about? We always aim to select key pieces from a brand rather than bringing them into the catalogue. It can sometimes mean a customer cannot find that one thing, but we hope it feels like we select everything rather than just there.
So many people and brands seem to be talking about sustainability. How is sustainability woven into your business?
We produce in the best way we can. We minimise unnecessary packaging. We use the best quality and most sustainable materials available, continue improving our processes, and reduce waste and environmental harm.
For example, we work with Ecologi to help offset our carbon footprint, but we ship worldwide.
There is a lot of greenwashing out there in brand marketing. Sustainability is very important and always has been to us, but we still have some way to go. From our perspective, it has never been a label for our brand story; it's an assumed ideal we should work towards as a brand.
You get a lot of tourist foot traffic, but you have plenty of local customers too. How have you cultivated that local community over time?
Starting as a market stall, and hosting regular workshops and events, having a wholesale business that builds awareness of the brand and provides easier access to consumers far and wide, plus our curation of established big names and emerging artists and markers have all played a role. However, a big part of that balance of locals and international travels is choosing the right locations.
Both of our stores in London are in areas that are seen as destinations for tourists but that also have a strong local community. These places are not always easy to find, but I think it has become key to our retail strategy to find destinations that attract both.
What are your plans for the business as you look to the future?
This year we moved our production and HQ to a much bigger facility, we have spent the year fitting the space and levelling up to what that means for us, even in terms of the overheads it comes with. The space is getting there now and we have the capacity to produce more than ever.
We are seeing more international demand for our brand lines, and want to continue the focus on that side of the business, however as we have grown, the brand and our lifestyle stores have become very intertwined, so we would love to open an international location at some point in the future.