On Friday I popped into a shop I hadn’t visited before, the Soho Stationery Store. Nestled down a little alley just off Oxford Street, this independent business is an office supply and stationery business for commercial clients and individuals alike. Unusually for a commercial supplier, they have a shopfront which I’d strolled past before while it was closed, so I used half an hour before meeting friends for dinner to check it out.
A remarkable quality about Amsterdam is its glaring absence of garish brands repeating themselves every five hundred metres or so. I saw one Starbucks the whole time I was there. This is a city and country that cares deeply about design integrity. I could have spent my whole trip popping in and out of little independent stores full of high-quality, well thought-out products that say something about how they came to be.
Before I went away I faithfully gathered tips on the best bookshops and stationery shops to visit, should I get the opportunity. These are the ones that I managed to visit during my trip.
What a wonderful store. I mostly perused the magazine section of Athenaeum as I particularly love browsing magazine stores and this is one of the best I’ve been to anywhere. It’s actually a separate shop to its bookstore brother, is simple, cosy and set over a couple of levels. There is an amazing collection of magazines on every subject – the best to browse when in Amsterdam are obviously the design publications – but there are sections about music, film, travel, fashion… the list goes on.
These magazines aren’t your disposable rags but they are published and designed beautifully, meant to last and have enough to keep you going for the length of any normal book. They’re laid out over shelves from ceiling to floor, and you must navigate your way around eager stacks of magazines laid out like islands in the sea throughout the shop. Luckily Athenaeum is in a very central and accessible part of town; Het Spui near Kalverstraat has several bookstores and literary-looking cafes to keep you interested.
I could have picked up a copy of most magazines in there but I dutifully came away with my all time favourite, the Frankie magazine (you can read my review of the 2015 Frankie Diary here). I keep all of my Frankie magazines because they are so beautiful and full of stories, letters and crafty tips and tricks for me to return to in the future, should I so wish. Now I know that my March edition from 2016 came from Amsterdam.
Even if you come away empty-handed from Athenaeum, I guarantee you will enjoy your browsing experience and leave with a bit of inspiration, whether it’s wanting to look at more photographs, needing a travel book in the future, looking up a publisher or writer you’ve never heard of, wanting to read more poems… it’s a store that just got me really excited. Oh, and their website is great too.
This recurred on my searches for the best stationery shops in Amsterdam and it did not disappoint. It’s a bright, neat and subtle store on a street lined with independent retailers with huge windows to peer at all of the treasure inside.
On entering the shop you’re faced with a long central table covered with a rainbow array of short stacks of notebooks, jars of pens and erasers, paper goods and planners. The shop also uses lovely props such as an old whitewashed piano, pigeon hole unit for their cards and a chalkboard bearing the name Like Stationery.
The owner, Sanne Dirkzwager, has a large collection of magazines and paper goods proudly lining the inner depths of the shop. It’s a gorgeous store, incredibly well thought out – I noticed a little bit of colour coding on the main table! Sanne is a Dutch graphic designer who is a creative soul that you can discover more about through her website http://www.strawberryblonde.nl; Like Stationery is just one of her many beautiful projects.
I spent a long time looking at Like Stationery’s products, flicking through notebooks and testing out pens. They have a large collection of ballpoints, notably Hightide Penco, and a wide selection of cards, all of which are handmade at the store and feature a range of colourful, fun and minimalist designs. I also discovered a brand I hadn’t heard of before; Y Studio which feature simple and timeless design mostly using metals in deep blacks and brushed brass.
On looking at Like Stationery’s website post-visit, they also do a themed stationery subscription box which looks stunning. Some of the previous themes have included “connecting the dots”, “untainted” which included a range of cream and white stationery, and “shades of marble” including some gorgeous marbled and multicolour products. It looks to be a very considered and thoughtfully curated box. If I could I definitely would.
I would really recommend popping in to Like Stationery for so many reasons: the area it’s in is beautiful and you’ll have a great time exploring all the lovely shops; the paper products on offer are great and varied – you’ll find notebooks, letter-writing sets, thick and creamy wrapping paper, journals and planners; there are lots of recognisable and not-so-recognisable brands to peruse and the store itself is a delight, full of fun and personality. The products I came away with are a Ballograf Epoca Chrome ballpoint pen with archival blue ink, a flexible synthetic Milan eraser and a homemade card.
This is actually primarily a bag shop but uncovered a theme of Amsterdam shopping for me that, once I became aware of it, I suddenly noticed everywhere. It’s amazing how many shops in Amsterdam specialise in something, but also happen to have a corner dedicated to something completely different but complementary. So Property Of… specialises in bags of all sorts, but has a small but effective stationery section full of Midori goodies, polished brass writing implements and Kaweco classics, a selection of high-quality travel books, oh and it sells coffee too. It just works in Amsterdam.
This experience will have its own future dedicated post because I took the plunge and bought myself a Midori Travelers Notebook. Full sized, black leather. And the reason I just had to have it here is because the shop is equipped with its very own leather embossing machine which the kind assistant patiently showed me how to use. I came away with my very own monogrammed Travelers Notebook.
If you get a chance to pop in this is a lovely and curious shop. All of the products on offer are very high-quality, timeless and stylish. The stationery offer is small but effective; if you’re going to dedicate a little portion of your store to something different, dedicate it to products that you know work wonderfully. This seems to be the ethos amongst all of Property Of…’s added bonus products.
Another mainly non-stationery store, Koko Coffee and Design has a vintage cabinet stocked with classic stationery products including Kaweco pens and pencils, a wooden draw overflowing with washi tapes, beautiful little leather goods and marbled notebooks. I enjoyed their selection of one-sided cards and decided to pick one up; the paper is thick and textured and I love the fun pattern. I’m so into yellow at the moment. Again, the products on offer are very well thought-out and make the most of their little corner within a shop full of design beauties.
If you walk a little further into the store, offbeat tables and chairs are set up amongst the pristine and colourful racks of clothes. It’s very comfortable and relaxed.
So concludes my whirlwind trip of Amsterdam and the stationery and bookstores I encountered within it. Every impression I’ve had of the way stationery and books are considered within the shops I went into is an overwhelming feeling of respect for great design and longevity. All of the shops whether specialist or with a little outpost of stationery offer products meant to last and offer them within an environment that is design-conscious and personal. They all feel luxury without making you feel out of place. These aren’t “office supply” stores. I really enjoyed the experiences within each store and would heartily recommend them as fantastic shops in their own right but also wonderful, honest reflections of the city of Amsterdam.
(On my list I also had Misc-Store which I’ve heard great things about but sadly I didn’t get the chance to pop in here. Next time!)
Happy Sunday! It’s a rainy day in London today and I am using the opportunity to indulge in indoorsy pursuits. This includes making a beef bone broth which has been on the go for a few hours now and has a few still to go! More on that another time.
It’s about time for an update on the masses of stationery I have acquired in the last few weeks. I’ve always got my eye on little things that I would like to add to my collection or to make my life a bit easier. At the moment these are mostly writing implements, inks, woodcased pencils, washi tapes, etc. I have a little stack of notebooks waiting to be used so I’ve got a few more brands on the wishlist for the future.
I used a solitary evening after work to use some of my paper collection to make homemade envelopes. This was a surprisingly easy task. I picked up a few envelope sizes from a nearby paper shop and proceeded to pull the glued sections apart to create an envelope template. I drew around them with a 2H pencil (to leave very light lines), cut them out, glued the edges, hid them away in a heavy book for a few hours to glue solidly, and attached some old luggage labels and black card for addresses. I posted them all out to friends and family and they were hugely well received. It’s great to devote effort to something and share it with others. One of my friends is sending me a letter back, I can’t wait!
Here is part of my collection of all time favourite papers. A good friend actually gave this to me for my Secret Santa gift last year having picked a ream up from a pop-up shop in Paris called Petit Pan, and needless to say it went down a storm. The papers have a fine Japanese quality about them, both in their delicacy and design. They make beautiful envelopes. I actually hate using the paper a little bit because I can’t bear to take a pair of scissors to them. I also bought a Palomino Blackwing Pearl pencil, which is described as similar to a 4B grade pencil, some Midori Origami Memo paper (you can write a reasonable sized note and fold it into various origami shapes, I picked hexagons) and some craft-style Midori labels. The Midori Kraft envelopes were a great little find in a lucky dip bag that I ordered from The Journal Shop.
Receiving the lucky dip bag was a bit like Christmas Day!
Here’s one of the Midori Origami Memo hexagons all made up and unfolded again. They’re affably tiny when folded up. It’s a bit of fun.
This was a little haul from various sources including a Palomino Blackwing, Iconic pastel double-ended pens, Coccoina glue stick, little “Write On!” stamp, vintage “Hello My Name Is” labels, and some Louise Fili Tutti-Frutti coloured pencils. I used the Coccoina glue stick for my homemade envelopes and it is as effective as one could hope from a glue stick, with a pleasing almond-like sweet scent. The Iconic double-ended pens have been a useful addition to my every-day collection, although the fineliner end is a little incompatible with the pastel palette as they are quite difficult to see on paper. I’m loving the “Write On!” stamp inked up on my Lion stamp pad for adding to notes, my envelopes and letters. I haven’t had an opportunity to use the Tutti-Frutti pencils yet, I will report back.
A very practical addition is a Seeso Graphics vintage A5 pouch. It’s a gorgeous black pouch for your everyday items that you need to keep together in your bag. I promptly added my Moleskine notebook and writing implements of choice for the week (Iconic lime green pastel double-ended pen, Palomino Blackwing 602, a washi tape of course, my brass sharpener, Muji eraser, grey fine-point Sharpie, turquoise Faber-Castell Broadpen 1554 and Lamy Safari with Diamine Bilberry). It’s helped me feel organised and encourages me to carefully select the tools I want to carry around with me for the week rather than bringing a bit of everything. It also looks professional, which helps create a useful first impression (before I bring out a pencil with a pencil cap attached anyway!).
These are said pencil caps by Iconic. In short they are like pen lids, except for pencils. Why would one need such a thing you ask. Well, if you like to keep your pencils sharp, then the chances are you will break the tip in your pencil case, or leave marks on whatever it comes into contact with. Both problems are eradicated with these little beauties! Plus they add a bit of whimsical character to the pouch.
My other acquisitions include:
– Diamine Claret Ink 30ml bottle (currently in my Kaweco Sport)
– Rhodia dotpad, Orange, A5
– Tomboy Mono 100, H grade
– Diamine Bilberry Ink 30 ml bottle
– Monami 0.7 153 stick in blue and orange
I’ll be posting my stationery wishlist soon to share with you what I am going to be investing in in the near future. Have you used any of the above or got any tips for the wishlist?