The expert's choice: Where can you buy something special for your home?

Simon Alderson, who runs one of Britain's top design boutiques, shares his trade secrets
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I started out in the furniture industry by selling vintage furniture, along with my business partner, Tony Cunningham. We started a company called 20th Century Design, but as the old century gave way to the new, so the name changed, and Twentytwentyone was born. We have two outlets now – the shop, in Islington, north London, and the showroom, down the road in Clerkenwell.

We're not in business specifically to champion up-and-coming design talent, but I like having the freedom to be able to buy one piece from a small designer, rather than having to buy multiples from bigger companies as larger stores are often obliged to do. It gives you a particular interest in finding nice pieces for your own home too.

I live in a Victorian warehouse and it's constantly evolving, as I try new things, then get rid of them if they don't work. I'm always on the lookout for new knick-knacks. Below are a few of my favourite hunting grounds.

New Forest car-boot sale

I often go to my cottage in the New Forest at weekends, and when I do, I always pay a visit to this car-boot sale. It's a treasure trove, which I was initially quite surprised by because I had assumed that these gatherings had been superseded by eBay. I've had several friendly tussles with other keen-eyed Londoners, including Tom Dixon, head of design at Habitat. In one incident, Tom and I had both seen a wonderful canoe that had been painted in the stars and stripes. I won, although I bought it a year ago and haven't put it on the water yet – but I do fully intend to. I have also bought garden tools there, and a lovely old casserole pot.

Boldre, Hampshire; Sundays (023-8081 3655)

Time Capsule

My little sister lives in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, and whenever we go to visit her, it's imperative to visit this miniature antiques emporium. The owner has an incredible eye and extensive knowledge of all manner of beautiful things, from the ancient to the modern. You can find all sorts of things, from £5 to £500. I bought a lovely cut-glass jar, in which my wife keeps her jewellery, as well as candlesticks and other knick-knacks.

139 Leigh Road, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex

Tokyu Hands

I enjoy browsing for functional, non-specific solutions for the home and office – clothes hooks, buckets, garden tools and so on. Tokyu Hands, a department store that my wife and I have visited in Japan, was a revelation. It was recommended to me by a friend and I have been there twice now. It's arranged over seven floors and has everything from stationery to bicycles as well as artwork, tools and crafts.

Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan (

General Woodwork Supplies

This a genuine, old-school, family-run establishment in Hackney – I'd much rather shop here than in one of those big, charmless DIY bunkers. I like the fact that everything has been independently selected by the owners. It's the kind of place where they know the sort of thing you are looking for, be it batons or a galvanised bin. In the same way that I like to shop at the farmer's market, I try to support independent stores like this wherever possible.

76-80 Stoke Newington High Street, London N16 (020-7254 6052)

Ella Doran Design

Ella does great things with prints, transferring the patterns on to wallpapers and blinds. She also does wonderful art books for children that are sold by Tate Modern. We have bought mousemats and mugs from here, too.

4 6 Cheshire Street, London E2 (020-7613 0782;

Labour & Wait

I come here to browse the huge range of kitchen stuff. Recently I bought a couple of doorstops that are like huge coils of rope with a looped handle – there's always something different to look at.

18 Cheshire Street, London E2 (020-7729 6253;

Family Tree

I always come here to buy greetings and birthday cards. It has a good range of things by up-and-coming designers from around the world, and is another of my favourite places to spend a happy few moments just looking at what they have got at any one time. It also stocks fashion things and accessories, as well as good gifts for children.

53 Exmouth Market, Farringdon, London EC1R (020-7278 1084;