It wasn’t that many years ago that James Street in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley was a drab industrial area inhabited by car yards, crumbling buildings and vacant stretches of land.
Today, this tree-lined inner-city street is flanked by contemporary architecture encased in vines – and well-frequented bars and eateries spill out onto the sun-soaked footpaths, providing the backdrop to what is arguably Brisbane’s hippest shopping and entertainment hub.
Stop 1: Kova Lifestyle
It may be a little hard to spot – but once you track it down towards the top of James Street, Kova Lifestyle is a hidden treasure. Owner Bianca De Luca carefully picks handmade and unique pieces for her store, and you’ll find precious items such as antique locks and stitched cotton quilts from India or delightful hand-cut greeting cards from the UK. Homegrown businesses and artisans are well represented, too, with an entire wall of the store dedicated to the beautiful ceramics of Mud Australia. While you’re there, be sure to check out the stunning jungle print wall behind the ceramics. We were also taken by their ’70s-style ‘Galaxy’ ceramic bowls.
Must-haves: ‘Cinderblock’ cushion in Chalk/Coffee; engraved copper jug.
Open: Mon-Sat, 9am-5pm; Sun, 10am-4pm.
Visit: 23 James St, (07) 3257 7055.
Stop 2: St Barts
Jasmine Smith and her business partner, Leanne Pearce, owned a successful business supplying art to high-end international hotels – but when the global financial crisis hit in 2008, things took an unfortunate turn. “We had a great team of creative people and wanted to continue working together,” says Jasmine. From this, St Barts was born. The first store opened on the Gold Coast in 2010, and James Street followed a year later. Now, both stores are flourishing thanks to Jasmine’s Caribbean-influenced sense of style and her ability to forge relationships with suppliers and craftspeople globally. Those with a yearning to live like India Hicks can book an in-house styling session.
Must-haves: Two-tone tree-root stools; mirror panels.
Open: Mon-Sat, 9am-5pm; Sun, 10.30am-4pm.
Visit: 6/31 James St, (07) 3257 7166.
Stop 3: Jocelyn’s Provisions
Earning itself a Brisbane-wide reputation, Jocelyn’s Provisions create delicious home-baked goods and outright stunning cakes. “Our regular customers have started asking us to do their wedding cakes, so that has been really lovely,” says general manager Rosie Conway. The timber shelves are heavily laden with rustic loaves and the cake counter must be one of the prettiest around. Jocelyn’s Provisions also offers an outstanding selection of savoury tarts, biscuits, jams, relishes and chocolates to take home and savour.
Must-haves: Chocolate sour cream cake; salted caramel tart; a wide assortment of cupcake-style butter cakes.
Open: Mon-Fri, 8am-5pm; Sat, 7am-4pm; Sun, 9am-3pm.
Visit: 46 James St, (07) 3852 3799.
Stop 4: French & English
In its previous incarnations, French & English’s impressive 600-square-metre showroom was an industrial-heavy car yard and a Myer warehouse. Today, the store’s European-style furniture juxtaposes brilliantly against its utilitarian backdrop. Studded velvet chairs sit on chipped concrete floors and vast chandeliers hang from exposed corrugated iron ceilings. French & English also offer a furniture hire service for open homes and photo shoots, and stock an exquisite range of Côte Noire candles and faux flowers imported directly from France.
Must-haves: Côte Noire ‘Rose Bouquet’ perfumed flowers; ‘Sussex’ tub chair; ‘Exeter’ 3-seater sofa; ‘Oxford’ round coffee table.
Open: Mon-Sat, 9am-5pm; Sun, 9.30am-4pm.
Visit: 27 Doggett St, (07) 3252 8998.
Stop 5: The Modern Furniture Store
Originally a moderately sized store on Arthur Street, The Modern Furniture Store has recently expanded into an old two-storey character building on the corner of James Street. While you’re marvelling at the well-crafted and beautiful Danish furniture, don’t forget to check out what they’ve done to the space. You’ll find wood panelled walls and ceilings, an enormous skylight and a plant nursery nestled between the two buildings. Everything is well executed – the furniture is authentic and the European homewares are from the likes of Marimekko. Lovers of mid-century design will be bowled over.
Must-haves: Wheel-thrown stoneware ceramics by Brisbane artist Anna Markey.
Open: Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5.30pm; Sat, 9am-5pm; Sun, 10am-4pm.
Visit: 69-71 James St, (07) 3254 3885.
While you’re there
If you need to put your feet up after a long day of shopping, take in an art-house film at the Palace Centro Cinemas (palacecinemas.com.au). You could also slip into Sixes And Sevens, a charmingly renovated gabled 1878 cottage, and share a restorative carafe of wine served from the barrel (sixes.com.au).
If you’re up for a – longish – stroll, follow James Street on to Lamington Street and then down to Brisbane Powerhouse, an historic arts and culture centre on the Brisbane River (brisbanepowerhouse.org). Even if you don’t book in to a show, the building itself is worth a look – and you might just catch the local circus troupe rehearsing death-defying routines from the exterior walls.
Prefer a quieter end to the day? Find some shade beneath a tree, spread out a picnic blanket and watch the water life drift by from the river banks.
Want to visit another precinct? Click here.