EMMA OLDHAM, owner of the stylish Westbourne Grove interiors shop, Space, finds it hard to give presents to her friends. "There are lots of times when I might see something but it looks like I've just got it from my shop!" Shopping, for Oldham, tends to mutate into work, as she searches at home and abroad for unusual vases and furnishings to stock in her shop.

"I tend to enjoy shops that could be quite dull places but you can find the odd thing that maybe shouldn't be there. Visually, things are different abroad - you see so much at home that your eyes get used to. I could be in a pharmacy in America which is actually quite awful, but then there might be a notepad there and there's something quite lovely about it." One such place which has yielded treasure for Oldham is Lemon Grass Body Essentials, "just an ordinary candle and aromatherapy shop" in New York (367 West Broadway, New York, tel: 001 212 343 0900). They sell ylang ylang and nutmeg candles for around $10, which Oldham regularly gives to her friends because they have "the most beautiful smell ever".

Oldham is happy to buy Prada shoes (enquiries: 0171 235 0008) from Milan whilst on business, to feed her fetish for "long flat ones and saucy high ones". Back in London, the design expert can be found shopping in the "Spirit" department in Selfridges (Oxford Street, London W1, tel: 0171 629 1234). "I love the atmosphere - it makes you feel young - and you can literally get lost in there."

Naturally, the owner of Space is a fantastic source of expert shopping knowledge when it comes to interiors. For household paints a little more special than bog standard apple white, Oldham buys "heritage colours" from Papers and Paints (4 Park Walk, London SW10, tel: 0171 352 8626). They stock very old fashioned colours like lemons and pale greens, to match the original colours in historical buildings. They're quite expensive but good for smaller areas."

A firm believer in "letting other people do the work", Oldham buys tiny mosaic tiles by the sheet (for speedier coverage) from Edgar Udny (314 Balham High Road, London SW17, tel: 0181 767 8181). "They're brilliant for covering work surfaces in the kitchen, too." The floor in Oldham's Portobello flat was bought from salvage experts LASSCo (St Michael's Church, Mark Street, Shoreditch, London EC2, tel: 0171 739 0448), where there is a massive selection of reclaimed architectural antiques and ornaments. Smaller bits and pieces she buys from the stalls in Portobello Road Market ("I'm a bit lazy because it's local") and Brick Lane in East London, "especially the bit that's just near Cheshire Street" Otherwise, Oldham enjoys strolling around The Conran Shop (enquiries: 0171 589 7401) and Habitat (enquiries: 0645 334433), where she's just bought some "beautiful, plum, Sixties-looking" glasses.

The Peter Jones branch of John Lewis stores (Sloane Square, London SW1, tel: 0171 730 3434) is highly rated by Oldham: "They've got everything there and it's no-nonsense, they don't try to be anything they're not, and the windows are an art form in themselves." In contrast, her other favourite department store is Barneys in New York (001 212 826 8900), because of the way it's organised and the fact that she could buy Stila make-up there before it was available in England.

Oldham's "favourite ever shop" is 10 Corso Como in Milan (00 390 2654831), owned by Carla Sozzani, sister of the editor of Italian Vogue. "It's so beautiful, set in an old courtyard. It used to be Romeo Gigli's design studio. It's very eclectic - there's an area that's almost like a bedroom, with a bit of Comme des Garcons and a bit of Rodriguez, and they have their own range, too. You walk through and they've got a little homeware bit, with amazing pieces of furniture, and then there's a gallery there, too. It's quite bohemian and so stylish."