Iconic is a vastly overused word these days but at last here is a shop which is more than deserving of the word. This emporium to items which have –in many cases unwittingly – formed a favourable emotional attachment in our memories and perhaps at some point been rashly dismissed as quirky kitsch. The shop is captivating, mesmerising and a reminder that although art is a serious business at its root is the pursuit of pleasure and a desire to seek out what sets us apart as individuals.

No corporate structure or Ikea blanded out grey and someone else’s idea of taste can be found on display on these premises. Instead a cacophonic clashing and blending  furious wave of colour, shapes and styles conspire to create a local, national and internationally sourced cornucopia of treasures somehow dormant in the recesses of your mind and resuscitated back into the present.

Iconic is run and owned by husband and wife team Valerie Hunter and Robert Thornton who ironically-and iconically- met after seeing each other frequently seeing each other in Jumble sale queues. Her, ever the latecomer who had spent Friday nights out partying, at the back of the queue whilst he, as the consummate professional on the hunt with a knowing eye for a clever purchase, at the front. Love blossomed when he tried to re-hydrate her- after she indulged in a particularly heavy Friday night session- with a glass of Kia-Ora and conversation led to first to romance then a sharing of interests and ambitions then ultimately the idea for the shop which encapsulated their collective pursuits and combined knowledge, his professionalism and  her natural instinct and eye.

This eye was developed even further during her twenty year tenure as senior curator at the National Galleries of Scotland. Having recently left her post at the National Galleries-due to Iconic becoming such a burgeoning business and a rejection of the values which saw those with an interest in art being devalued in favour of those who owned a nice Hugo Boss suit- Hunter now spends her time curating the vast collection of items they have collectively amassed from local and international sources whilst Thornton mans the shop and attends any auction he can in his spare time.


So what sort of items can be found in the small but vastly stocked shop? First to catch my eye were various Babycham glasses-‘I’d Lurve a Babycham’ – from different eras, a collection of various tins, a teapot come alarm clock-Time for tea !-, whisky paraphernalia, wonky mirrors, Flintstone statuettes and some outstanding and outrageous royal memorabilia including a Charles and Di commemorative pill box; one of which I am now the proud owner of.


Soon to be featured on the BBC’S Antique Road Trip –who turned up with a budget of  only £3 and still left satisfied- Iconic certainly fills a gap in a market which is overly stuffed with conformist taste and selected styles by those who believe they are ‘in the know’ but Hunter has never been one too pander to the Emperor’s new clothes attitude which prevails in the ever-growingly corporate art business. This was another reason she had to leave the stuffiness and shackles of that world behind as her outspoken-and observant- views were not always received as wisely as perhaps they should have been.

The couple both acknowledge that the lead up to Xmas is their busiest time of year and it is easy to see why. Whilst the rest of the retail trade is stuck in the mire of convention and the sale of the uninspiring, dull and mass produced, Iconic houses a collection of items to bring as much enjoyment and pleasure to the buyer as they will to the lucky recepient. It is also an excellent place to buy imaginative and fun birthday gifts or even indulging in a personal treat to yourself-we all deserve to indulge our own pleasures a little more being one of my firm beliefs- and the whole visit is definitely an experience which puts the fun back into that kind of shopping which –if my friends are to be believed- is generally lacking.


Iconic Design, 23 Grassmarket. 077452999281

Open Mon-Saturday (Closed Thursdays) 1.30pm-5.30pm 

Check out their detailed, extensive and comprehensive website by following the link below.


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