When Julian Litvinoff opened his bed and mattress showroom on Hackney Road in 1995, just a few minutes’ walk from the Empress Works development, this neighbourhood was still very much a place of industry.

“We were one of 20 woodworking establishments within five minutes’ walk,” he says. “It was a local craft industry – it was thriving.” The area’s furniture makers would display their wares on the pavements and people would come from all over London to grab a bargain.

As the years went by, the increasing availability of cheap furniture from abroad changed the area for good. When the manufacturers moved out, the artists moved in, taking advantage of cheap rents to set up studios in what was by then a pretty rundown part of town.

Julian moved the workshop side of the business out of London earlier this year but his Hackney Road showroom is still going strong.

These days he can barely keep up with how fast Bethnal Green is changing, he says. “There’s an awful lot happening. It’s very vibrant, there’s always interesting places opening up.”

Julian Litvinoff - Litvinoff & Fawcett, 281 Hackney Road

workshop wonder