When Henry Gordon Selfridge built his huge department store in the West End, shopping for Londoners would never be the same. The first to understand that shopping could be a fun, seductive and multi-sensorial experience, the U.S.-born businessman was a true pioneer. The majestic Edwardian building on Oxford perfectly reflected the personality of its founder, whose only modest aspect was his height. When television was yet to exist and cinema was in its infancy, Selfridge entertained his clients better than an expo, almost like a ballroom, with a particular eye towards women. His stores, it was often said, were the “third tourist attraction of the capital” after Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London. The attention given to the window displays, “the bargain corner” and the habit of placing perfumes and cosmetics just within the entrance are just a few of the innovations credited to him. The secret was to offer a dream to every customer and, above all, never stop. In 1938, for instance, elevators were installed on Oxford Street that, in themselves only, warranted a visit to the store - the clients could shuttle up and down to various departments in bronze and cast iron boxes designed by the famed Edgar William Brandt. Today, it is possible to admire these at the Museum of London, with decorations inspired by the signs of the Zodiac, as well as exotic Japanese-inspired Swans.
The dining halls of the V&A are over 150 years old. Designed by stars of interior design of the 1800s, it transformed the experience of visiting the museum and was well ahead of its time in respect to the rest of the world.