I saw a sign in a window recently that said SHOP SMALL. I am a vocal advocate for the premise of supporting local businesses. As a small business co-founder myself, I enjoy neighborhood shops and the industrious, creative and brave individuals who take risks and invest in sharing their personal passions. Usually, you will find the enthusiastic owner in attendance, willing to help with selections and chat about local news and future store events.

During my recent trip to London I was led to Lamb’s Conduit Street, a charming block or two of smart shops and gregarious shopkeepers. I simply swooned at the PERSEPHONE BOOKSELLERS and could barely contain my enthusiasm for the titles and reprints by women authors (see photos).

Down the street I found DARKROOM. I was attracted to their great window displays, in-store visual merchandising and their unusual choices of home goods and modern craft jewelry. The display combinations made the objects very compelling. The charming owner was delighted to chat and share her vision for the shop.

Around the corner was PENTREATH & HALL. You cannot miss the bright pink and gold sign that is reverse painted on glass. I bought some colorful wrapping paper and loved the many small, unusual gift items. It was founded in 2008 by Ben Pentreath, a London architect, and his friend, Birdie Hall. Like most other small shop owners, their philosophy is to sell ONLY things they love–in this case books, pictures, objects and furniture. When you are finished there, slip in the wonderful small antiques shop next door.

THE FRENCH HOUSE just down the road is a mix of new and vintage French items. I was particularly taken with the large chalk wall drawing on the left as you enter. Other shops include men’s shoes and clothing, and finally, the Lamb’s Pub is perfect for a short reprieve. The dark green original tiles that clad the exterior of the building caught my eye and the original interior was exactly as one would hope for an old pub. A quick pint and we were off to see more.

EGG on Kinnerton Street, housed in an old dairy, is my “must see” whenever I am in London; I go there for inspiration on color and fashion. And her neighbor, RACHEL VOSPAR, the candle maker, is another favorite.

Closer to home, I went to revisit my favorite Connecticut village of New Preston. As always, the shops were festive with creative Christmas decorations and temptations on every table and rack. I love this village and visit as often as I can to talk with the shopkeepers. David and Peter, owners of PERGOLA, create collections with natural and living themes that shift with the seasons. I am always surprised by their unusual and beautiful elements sourced from a network of local artisans as well as antiques from around the world. They are also very generous with special treats for Lulu.

I have written about PRIVET HOUSE before. Suzanne and Richard, partners in the enterprise, build curated collections for home and garden. This is the place for stylish and imaginative marathon shoppers. Robert Sallick always finds great brushes there–his last purchase is used to clean his beloved felt hat! One trip and you’ll be compelled to go back again and again.

J. SEITZ & COMPANY is the village pioneer who has been in residence for 25 years. Joanna, Bill and daughter, Amanda, hold court in a great vintage building perched over a magical waterfall. This is a go-to destination for decorators, collectors, celebrities and me when shopping for linens, pillows, casual clothing and even furniture.

At home and away, I adore these great shops–they offer relaxed and friendly environments, unique assortments and thoroughly inspirational experiences.

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