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.
Rae is basically Kinfolk magazine come to life: no shiny plastic or bright colours here, only ethical brands, muted tones, handmade objects and things that soothe the senses. Practice self care with natural beauty products from small independent brands such as Legra, snuggle up in Yonder Living slippers or adorn yourself with folk-inspired jewellery from Studio Rua. Rae has everything you need to make your dreams of a slower and more meaningful life come that little bit closer to reality – and after all that slowing down, a take-away flat white or turmeric latte from its coffee hatch will rev you up again.
Wedged down a little passageway connecting The Mint to Cinque Ports Street, this tiny lifestyle shop is (very) loosely nautically themed, from seashell-infused soaps from the Jurassic coast to gilded oyster shell candles and brightly coloured enamelware. Artisan food – including Sailors chocolate bars, made locally by Rye Chocolate – printed stationery and soft furnishings make this a good place to find that gift that you may not have come across elsewhere.
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 isn’t sold widely 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.
The name of this handsome lifestyle shop comes from its former life as a Salvation Army chapel – “soup, soap and salvation” was one of the mantras of its Victorian founder William Booth. The lack of a proper shop window to peek into means that you might pass it by thinking it sells touristy bath products, when in fact it is full of simple, rustic wares for the home, including antique Mennonite quilts, chunky glazed stoneware crockery, cushions and candles. There’s a dinky kitchenware section out the back and a vintage bookshop to browse upstairs, and it’s all very atmospheric thanks to the high-ceilinged chapel itself.
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. A sister gallery right next door is dedicated to modern and contemporary art.