“I want visitors to be amazed, full of wonder, when they walk in,” says Julia Jeuvell of Choosing Keeping, her eminently elegant London emporium. It’s quite a goal for a shopkeeper whose stock in trade is stationery, but her collection of writing equipment and art supplies is more than the sum of its parts, with desk accessories elevated to objets d’art in a captivating gallery-like presentation.
Jeuvell has a keen eye for disposition: pencils (from £1.50) are displayed in patterned mochaware pots (from £65) atop an opulent burr-oak table with gilt legs, commissioned from north London craftsman Steve Harrison, while other stock, from tape dispensers to staplers, lines impressive glass cabinets. It’s unsurprising that Jeuvell worked in a contemporary art gallery prior to setting up shop in 2012 – first in east London, then, after outgrowing the original site last year, in Covent Garden, where an airy interior promotes unrushed browsing.
The front of the shop is dominated by rare and beautiful silk-screen-printed papers (from £16 per sheet) sourced in Kyoto, while marbled British papers (£20) are hung further back. The exquisite fountain pens (£145) by Japanese master Onishi Seisakusho –in Jeuvell’s words, “the last man standing in what was once a booming industry in Osaka” – are hand-turned in marbled, flecked or tortoiseshell celluloid. Less rare but equally appealing are writing instruments by German company Kaweco, ranging from a 1934-designed, heavily weighted brass AL Sport mechanical pencil (£58) to a retro‑look Student rollerball (£62) in ivory‑ and coral‑coloured acrylic. Nearby, a cabinet contains stunning Caran d’Ache sharpening machines (from £145); even the staplers are stylish, with the hand-held version (from £26.50) by 95-year-old Italian brand Zenith available in a range of colourways.
More purely aesthetic offerings include colourful hourglasses (£65) – “to focus your mind on a creative occupation for one hour” – that sit above charming St Clement desk companion ceramic birds (£45). And art supplies abound, ranging from Terrages pastels (£75 for 12) to a remarkable collection of mineral-rock pigment paints (£85) sourced from the same Kyoto shop that was frequented by David Bowie.
Jeuvell won’t divulge the names of her well-known clients from the worlds of acting, fashion, music and art, preferring to note some of the items that are stars in their own right: a range of stationery that featured in the 2014 film Paddington, for example, or the Choosing Keeping notebook used by John Paul Getty (as played by Donald Sutherland) in the US TV drama Trust. These handmade books (from £5) in a range of sizes, with plain or lined paper and accompanying leather covers (from £30), are a much-loved addition to the well-thought-out mix. “I wouldn’t say it’s curated; curation is for museums,” says Jeuvell. “Instead I like to think of Choosing Keeping as an archive.”