City AM

A festive trip to Harrods reveals Insta-ready windows and a new Homes section

For a special Christmas treat, when I was a child we always went to see Santa in his grotto in a department store. If Harrods is your go-to grotto (he’s been there since 1955), your children will encounter the bearded one in a Secret Forest decorated with Swarovski crystal (a girl’s second-best friend).

Visiting last Saturday, it didn’t matter that I didn’t have any little ones in tow because I wouldn’t have got in anyway. “You need to book in September,” they said on the door. You can’t just drop in on Santa these days, it’s by appointment.

Shoppers I overheard were touring the London landmarks of Harrods, Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges and Hamleys. Harrods’ famous windows are all Insta-ready with giant sculptures of wild animals, such as polar bears and penguins, and, oddly, a huge giraffe scuffing about in snow.

Harrods is undergoing the most extensive refurbishment in its history, and I’d gone to see the swish new-look Home department by Virgile + Partners on floor three. It’s the first time that homewares, kitchen and furniture have been together. For anyone who loves to luxuriate in spaces filled with high design, this is heaven, a spectacle of beautifully presented rooms.

In Fendi Casa, the soft velvets, sumptuous curves and leather upholstery were gorgeously inviting. Brands such as B&B Italia, Poltrona Frau, Dior, Hermes and Fornasetti have acres of space to breathe (Harrods takes up five acres of Knightsbridge and has its own postcode) and new lighting enhances the relaxed, elegant mood.

Rooms are divided into styles: mono glamour offering the elegantly neutral Giorgio Collection; modern classic with its art deco-inspired curves from Frato of Portugal (curves abound); classic, with the standout Aynhoe Park ostrich-feather gold floor lamps (£4,200); and contemporary (BoConcept, Porada etc). Then there’s a huge collection of enviable Linley marquetry (ideal presents for the sheikh in your life), plus luxury linens from the likes of Versace, a fabric library and home styling service.

Being Harrods (now owned by the state of Qatar), bling is also on show – a green malachite and 24ct gold lampstand handmade in Florence will set you back £40,000, and Agresti, also from Florence, makes handmade safes, for around £30,000. But if you have more jewellery than will fit in a safe, you can commission Agresti to build and install you a panic room where you can take refuge amid your booty. I’ll wager the £600,000 panic room in Harrods is a first for a London department store.

Whether you have that kind of bank balance or not, two things we can really appreciate our quality and service – and that’s Harrods. In Home, each brand has its own sales representative – charming, knowledgeable and groomed. These are people-people, who will chat agreeably, explain the finer points of their products and let you go. And if you are there with money and you need help, you are in expert hands.

All exemplified by Asim Mughal, the sales representative of Bernardaud porcelain, who spotted me admiring the Jeff Koons Balloon Swans (£12,600 each) in the porcelain and silverware department. He explained how Koons first partnered with Bernardaud in the 1990s to make his Balloon Dog with Plate editions in porcelain, and said that one that sold for $400 back then sells for £25,000 at auction today. I may never own a Koons but I can enjoy the craftsmanship and the conversation.

I didn’t leave with a Swarovski snow-globe for myself nor a Harrods hamper, but I did break the bank in Christmas World with an impulse buy – two pop-up snow-globe Christmas cards for the princely sum of £14, wrapped in a green and gold Harrods plastic bag – surely a collector’s item these days, and free.

This article first appeared on City AM, written by Laura Ivill.