There is something rather magical going on in the basement of Selfridges department store, London. Hidden amongst the bustle of shoppers and maze of retail displays is a door which, if you gain entry, leads you to quite another world.
Ring the large iron bell and you will be ushered inside, given a satisfyingly heavy old-fashioned key and urged to leave your mobile phone and all distractions of the modern age behind you.
There's almost an Alice in Wonderland feeling as you cross the threshold and find yourself suddenly so far removed from the environment you've just come from, if not physically, in all other senses.
It feels like a sacred space, other worldly, or at the very least foreign; I felt a strong Japanese flavour especially in the first part of the 'Home', where you can lay down on Boro like quilts and imagine you're in a rural Ainu village.
There's a whole series of paid workshops organised which you can book online, or you can simply visit the space and get involved with whatever is happening at that time*. When I visited I participated in spice grinding and rag rug making. Themed around a series of domestic rituals – Rest, Gather, Play and Cleanse, there are things to interact with in each of these areas.
*Note you still have to book your visit, presumably to control the number of visitors and maintain the calm and quiet atmosphere of the space.
Workshops that teach traditional skills include breadmaking, dyeing, stitching, weaving and even potato peeling! Very much in tune with the now extremely fashionable slow movement, each activity is designed to re-engage us in domestic and hand work that takes us far away from the fast pace and stress of today's digital age.
‘With Our House, we have built a home for all our customers to interact in and find themselves reconciled with a pre-digital time when home rituals and making simple things well were at the heart of life,’ says Linda Hewson, creative director at Selfridges.
The smell was truly amazing and it was so calming and meditative to do nothing but slowly grind away at these beautiful spices.
If you want to grind your own love mix here is the recipe:
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
seeds from 1-2 cardamon pods
A HOME FOR ALL with The New Craftsmen
Dates: Friday 31st March – Friday 9 June 2017