Minimalist interiors shop. Not.
When someone recommended a visit to a shop that was ‘the Liberty (as in the famous Regent’s Street store) of Wiveliscombe’, I smiled, nodded and thought ‘yeah, right…’ So I headed out there, and this is what I found…
Yep, the splendiferous Courthouse Interiors, in the small town of Wiveliscombe about nine miles northwest of Taunton, could be the London store’s country cousin. It not only has a similar interior, with a series of rooms built around a light well and with dark wood stairs and banisters, it sells a similarly eclectic (and exotic) range of goods. The outside looks a bit like Liberty, too. The Grade II listed building was built in 1891 for brewing magnate William Hancock, and over the years has been a bank, a dental surgery and a restaurant for troops stationed in the area during the Second World War. Since 2000 it’s been owned and run as Courthouse Interiors by Tia and Hoss Fatemi.
The store has a bazaar-like feel, with three floors, 12 rooms (or was it 13? I lost count), numerous corners, cubbyholes and landings filled with a constantly changing selection of exotic, contemporary and traditional furniture and furnishings, fabric, decorative objects, fashion and gifts.
Rugs are draped over banisters and embroidered fabrics hang down walls.
Huge chandeliers are suspended from the ceilings.
There’s William Morris wallpaper (natch) as you go into the cafe.You’ll find ornate furniture, gilded mirrors and decorative pieces on every surface.
Like Liberty of London, there’s an excellent fabric department, with a mini maze of rooms lined with bolts of cloth in a range of elegant, ‘country’ and more quirky designs from names like Colefax & Fowler, Jane Churchill and Design Forum. Tia’s on hand to offer advice if you need it (I would).
There’s also a gifty department with jewellery, toiletries, opulent smaller items for the home (oh how I love an ornamental pineapple), a selection of women’s clothes (more arriving from Italy shortly) and some rather nice leather bags from Florence.
Up on the first floor, there are four rooms, roughly designated as ‘kitchen’, ‘living room’, ‘bedroom’ and ‘garden’, again, filled with all sorts of interesting stuff. Here’s the ‘bedroom,’ with gorgeous sheets, throws and fab cotton robes:
It’s not all Victoriana and country house style, these were in the ‘kitchen’ room:There are five whole rooms *gulp* of handwoven Persian runners, rugs and carpets on the top floor. Hoss is from Iran and makes regular trips back to select both new and antique pieces which are on sale for almost wholesale prices (from £100 to an impressive £15,000).
You could easily come here for a half day trip: spend an hour and a half wandering around the shop, then surface for a breather and have a stroll around Wivey itself. It’s small but there’s an award-winning butcher (Thorne’s), a little deli (the Wivey Larder), the craft beer Cotleigh Brewery and the Yew Tree Antique Warehouse, as well as loads of proper walks if you’ve got the time and the footwear. Then head back to the Courthouse for lunch. The cafe is quite genteel (the sugar cubes come with tongs) and serves teas, coffees, homemade cakes, cream teas, toasted paninis, sandwiches made to order and cooked lunches (for example, spinach, butternut squash and goat’s cheese lasagne). There’s a free car park just round the corner from the shop. All in all, well worth a visit.
The Courthouse Interiors, The Square, Wiveliscombe, TA4 2JT. Tel 01984 629010.courthouseinteriors.com