Design & Shopping: Kitsch - Art or artefacts perceived as being of poor quality, esp. when garish or sentimental; these enjoyed in a perverse or self-conscious way

There is a fine line, say Craig Masson and Andrew McMinn, between kitsch and tat, a line which their year-old South London shop Kitschen Sync treads carefully: "We won't have any knobs," says Andrew, resolutely, "or big willies that turn into things. That's tacky." What they do have in abundance is quirky, amusing and downright fabulous merchandise that is quickly acquiring cult status for their Clapham Common store.

The seeds of this multicoloured revolution were planted in the fertile imaginations of Craig, an art college graduate working in shop display and prop design, and Andrew, a "lingerie man" in "the world of knickers and knockers," during a trip to Amsterdam, and a visit to a "preposterous" shop which they have since persuaded to wholesale to them. Inspired, they thought up the name on the Eurostar back to London.

Securing a bank loan was initially daunting; the unenlightened advisor tried to correct the spelling of both "Kitschen" and "Sync" ("Well, I don't go up the West End," he complained), before bowing to the obvious business sense behind their almost evangelical crusade for kitsch.

The past year has been spent visiting trade fairs, sourcing suppliers and getting the feel for what sells. "The Virgin Mary (pounds 6) trickled off the shelves at first," they admit, "until we had the bright idea of filling her with bubble bath. Now there's a frenzy. The phone rings and rings." They seem a little bewildered by the extent of their success. A woman came from Sydney just to ask them to wholesale to her. They're becoming a destination shop. "People come even from Islington!" Now they are looking to open a second store and plans have been laid for creating a Kitschen Sync website. The phone rings off the hook with customers requesting mail order catalogues, as the cult of kitsch spreads like a dayglo rash across the country.

There are still a few, however, who don't get the humour which is the raison d'etre of much of the stock; they look at a pair of black rubber washing-up gloves with a lace and strawberry trim (pounds 14) and say, "but this is horrible!". "They're minimalists, I suppose," sighs Andrew. He is pondering getting in matching mules for Christmas. Others don't see the irony, but love it anyway. "They like the fibre-optic flowers (pounds 25). They buy one for each side of the bed."

There may be a lot of snobbery behind the label of "kitsch". In the Fifties, there was no knowing post-modern irony in buying a taffeta picnic umbrella (pounds 46) or the "wings of love", sold in Woolworth's; it was desirable, aspirational. When people couldn't afford to buy the curtains and the valance, says Craig, they would save up to buy the valance, or receive it as a wedding present. They would ask for a porcelain dog, too. Now that mass appeal has devalued this pop chic, our cynical, modern minds view such objects with sarcasm. They are only cool if we see the joke.

Kitschen Sync's philosophy is refreshingly uncool about the appeal of the ridiculous: "We are maximalists," they explain happily, tucking into a stick of rock (pink, naturally) from a cupboard in their office above the dayglo kettle and the heart-shaped chair (pounds 29). They don't expect customers to immerse themselves totally in neon and lace (although once they have seen the light, there is no stopping some born-again aficionados).

But, they argue, a little discriminating shopping could bring no end of aesthetic joy to the home of the average Habitat devotee, the terminally tasteful and the devoutly beige. It's like a mission. They don't have anything white.

Faced with a choice between a range of standard kitchen equipment and something that little bit quirkier, they reason, a shopper has too many chances at chickening out. At Kitschen Sync the choice between, say, green, pink and orange leaves less room for cowardice.

They do occasionally allow themselves the odd, wistful moment to ponder the fates of products gone by. Andrew says he gets funny looks from customers buying gnomes (pounds 4.50) when he says: "I do hope he's going to a good home with a nice, big garden; they like to run around at night, you know." There are some products to which Andrew and Craig have become rather attached. A beautifully restored, genuine Fifties fridge has presided over the store since it opened, and at pounds 1,500 is the most expensive item in stock. (The cheapest, and that word is used advisedly, costs about pounds 1.) Craig admits he would be sad to see it go. Andrew is struck by the beauty of the Corona tray from Mexico, "a classic piece of 50s kitsch". They have been spotted in shops in London for up to pounds 35, but at Kitschen Sync can be snapped up for a tenner because shopping's so much more exciting when you can buy lots of fabulous things instead of just one. Alessi's lovely, they say, but there's nothing fun about paying 35 quid for a garlic-crusher.

Kitschen Sync is, above all, accessible. Stock is well sourced and the prices are genuinely good. And you don't have to be cool to love it. One customer reported that he liked to turn on his pink and orange Indian chandeliers (pounds 19-pounds 45) in the hall and sit in his living-room with the lights off, watching the expressions of passers-by. You can never be lonely in puce.

Kitschen Sync can be found at 9, The Pavement, Clapham Common, London SW4. Opening hours are 10:30am- 7pm Mon-Fri, 10.30am-6pm Sat and 11am-5pm Sun. To request a catalogue or to order, call 0171-720 1609. Watch this space for news of a website

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing