Manchester might be more famous for its music than its design but this northwestern English city was the place that turned silk, cotton, pottery and wool into staples for homes not just in Britain but the world over. Although the mills and factories have long been in decline, the shops are still stocked with innovative design pieces.
One such store is UrbanSuite (2 New George Street, tel: 44 161 831 9966; www.urbansuite.co.uk). As contemporary as the name suggests, this place is crammed with objects to make city living that little bit special. The glossy-blue-lacquered cabinet, designed by Enrico Franzolini (GBP1,955/HK$23,500), is unusual without being overpowering. Also worth a look is the circular glass-topped table (GBP980) by Studio Sovet. At Aura (The Precinct, Station Road, Cheadle Hulme, tel: 44 161 486 6566; www.auradesignerfurniture.co.uk) the style is more homely, with most of the furniture in Canadian yellow pine. The Aura coffee table (GBP279) is minimalist and chic while the Ardennes book-case (GBP499) is strong and solid.
Feather & Black (289 Deansgate, tel: 44 161 839 9543; www.featherandblack.com) specialises in luxury beds and the store has enough to keep any insomniac happy. Of particular note are the iron beds. The Constance bedstead (GBP639) features subtle, art-deco curves while the Tiffany bedstead (GBP530) has a geometric design.
At gallery/consultancy Den (42 Oldham Street, tel: 44 161 236 1112; www.denfurniture.co.uk) the emphasis is on the handmade and bespoke. The Bebe sofa, in vivid blue, is a rich addition to any room and the Regent lounger, in chianti red, is as regal as its name suggests. Prices on application.
The output of local talent can also be found at Manchester Craft and Design Centre (17 Oak Street, tel: 44 1 61 832 4274; www.craftanddesign.com), home to 19 studio boutiques filled with talented artists and designers. Bleuet Textiles digitally prints its fabrics, and its cushions (below), emblazoned with butterflies, Oriental scenes and tiny Japanese birds, feel as good as they look. Over at Debenhams (Market Street, tel: 8445 616 161; www.debenhams.com), the trend for nostalgic and patriotic Britain is still going strong. Pick up a Union Jack duvet cover (bottom; GBP40) or St George's Cross towel (GBP10) and inject some national pride into your living room.