Rye has just a few chain shops and a lot of independents. Trawling its eclectic vintage/antique shops can take a day in itself, and many places present their wares beautifully, making the shopping experience itself a joy, regardless of whether you buy.
Virtually every shop along this picturesque street leading down to the Quay sells second-hand goods; they’ve been lumped together here for reasons of space, but in reality they all have their individual charms. Some of our favourites include Halcyon Days for rustic furniture, upcycled using Annie Sloan’s fantastic chalk paints; Country Ways for all things kitchen-related, from old recipe leaflets to jelly moulds and lots of enamelware; and the multi-tenanted rummage-fest that is The Quay Antiques.
Gareth McCully and Marcus Crane’s interiors shop – and the interior design business that grew out of it – have a superbly eclectic aesthetic. Taxidermy, religious artefacts, industrial lighting and furniture, posters, signage and original artwork make up the mix in their small shop. It packs a visual punch yet it’s perfectly balanced; nothing is too polished or precious, so there’s an informality to the overall look, even though it’s dramatically presented.
If you are the kind of person to have your head turned by a window full of huge truckles of cheese, then you won’t be able to pass by this delectable deli. A great stop-off for posh picnic food, its home-cooked treats include tartlets, quiches, pork pies, salads and sandwiches, plus cheese and more cheese, lots of it local.
Getting its name from its proximity to The George (which also own this place), The Shop Next Door’s mission is to give some pointers on achieving a boutique-hotel feel in your own home. Frette bedlinen, Ren skincare, piles of cushions and even more piles of candles are just for starters. It also sells glassware, quirky jewellery and little accessories for your home (and your dog). Oh, and it smells gorgeous, too. Basically, if you pick up even one thing at The Shop Next Door, you will waft out of there a far more fabulous person.
Our favourite antique shop in Rye is slightly off the main shopping drag, so it’s worth shouting about here. Owned by Antiques Roadshow’s glass expert Andy McConnell, it sells lots of glass, as you might expect (mostly 20th century, with some excellent Scandinavian art glass and mid-century lighting) plus kitchenalia, ironmongery, textiles and more. They brilliantly tap into current interiors trends here – there was seventies-luxe gold ceramic lighting and a white peacock cane chair on one visit, very current. The icing on the cake is the reasonable prices.
Tucked inside one the High Street’s most atmospheric red-brick buildings (as the name gives away, it used to be a school, built in the 17th century) is one of the UK’s best second-hand music shops. Chock full of vinyl (20,000 individual discs), CDs and DVDs, its massive selection is divided by genre to help give you a steer in the right direction, and the staff are nice and friendly. Take a punt on one of the £1 7-inch vinyl bundles, mysteriously wrapped in brown paper, then bring your lost treasures back to Bee Cottage to play on the record player!
Occupying an enviable position at the top of Mermaid Street, and with lovely curved doors that give on to the road, this gallery has one of the most picturesque shopfronts in Rye. It sells a bit of this and a bit of that: upmarket gentlemen’s vintage clothing occupies the far end; there are a couple of racks of prints and other artworks (many depicting local scenes, or by local artists); and some sculpture and pottery. Nice for a nose around.
Rye Pottery’s charming folk-infused ceramics are having a renaissance in a world newly appreciative of the decorative arts. It is best known for its hand-painted animals and figures, full of lively detail, and its mid-century tableware, including the classic Cottage Stripe design. The fact that the pottery doesn’t sell online makes a visit to its shop-cum-studio even more of a must (head upstairs to see some of the making in action). As well as its own pieces it sells a small but well-curated selection of homewares and prints.
“We love sewing and believe in it” say Carolyn Denham and Roderick Field, the duo behind this beautifully styled haberdashery shop. Even if you’ve never sat in front of a sewing machine, this place is still inspiring, with bolts of fabric (traditional wool, tweed, linen, muslin and denim) sitting next to perfectly packaged ‘sewing notions’ such as buttons, scissors and pins. A rack of clothes shows what you can do with Merchant & Mills’ own-brand patterns; the emphasis is on strong simple shapes and ease of making.
This cheerful-looking shop on East Street originally opened as a pop-up selling Ladybird books (to coincide with a show about the famous children’s books down the road in Bexhill), but now it looks like it’s here to stay. There’s still lots of Ladybird paraphernalia as well as vintage (and vintage-inspired) items, such as Lost & Foundry’s lights made from old tins and ceramic animals; melamine plates, perfect for picnics; and some fab stationery and nostalgically packaged beauty products.