Shops

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.

Puckhaber

Specialists in French decorative antiques – think elegantly aged wrought-iron garden furniture, oak refectory tables and hessian-upholstered seating – Puckhaber’s Rye outpost (it started out in London’s Fulham, where the original shop remains) has morphed into more of a lifestyle store. This means that sitting artfully alongside the antiques, there are products that complement Puckhaber’s distinctive aesthetic, including cosy wool blankets from Forestry Wool, heavenly fragrances from cult Brooklyn brand DS & Durga and nail polish from Milan’s Licia Florio.

1 High Street, Rye, TN31 7JE

www.puckhaberdecorativeantiques.com

Rae

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.

77a The Mint, Rye TN31 7EW

www.raelifestyle.com

Sailors

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.

2 Needles Passage, The Mint, Rye TN31 7EN 

www.sailorsofrye.com 

Strand antiques shops

Virtually every shop along this picturesque street leading down to the Quay sells second-hand goods (and, increasingly, faux 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; quality vintage clothes at Tallulah & Rose; and the multi-tenanted rummage-fest that is The Quay Antiques.

Ryebank Gallery

Ryebank Gallery manages to pack loads of art into an impressive little space, with something for every budget from greetings cards to prints and one-off paintings, sculpture, ceramics and mixed-media artworks. The main gallery – it was formerly a bank, as the name suggests – is an airy double-height room with changing exhibitions: its ‘Open Call’ show brings in an eclectic roster of artists including ethereal wirework sculpture by Fiona Morley. Head upstairs to the hot-pink room that showcases the gallery’s playful side with screen-prints from Hannah Carvell, wall-mounted seagull heads by Jackie Summerfield and contemporary tapestries by Hastings-based Sophie Barnard.

11a High St, Rye, TN31 7JF

www.ryebank.gallery

Rye Pottery

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.

Soap & Salvation

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.

Rye Art Gallery

There’s nearly always something inspiring on at this highly regarded gallery, which combines a permanent collection of 19th- and 20th-century art, plus contemporary selling shows. The permanent collection includes works by John Piper, Paul Nash and Edward Burra (Burra and Nash were both Rye residents), while the pieces for sale crossover many media, from prints to jewellery to sculpture. It’s the perfect place to pick up a classy, memorable souvenir.

McCully & Crane

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.

Merchant & Mills

“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.

Grammar School Records

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!