What made you decide to open your first store in Chelsea?
I wasn’t intending to open a shop in London at all, but there were two reasons and one complemented the other so perfectly I felt it was fate that led me to Langton Street in 2002.
My daughter was living in the building that is now Josephine Ryan’s beautiful antique shop, and I was a country wife living in Bath at the time and visiting her in London. While waiting outside one day I noticed No. 3 had a for sale sign in the window, and the very next day a dear friend of mine telephoned to tell me about a heavenly little shop for sale, at No. 3 Langton Street. And the rest is history!
What can we expect from the new store?
Having spent the last 14 years at Langton Street, we were bursting at the seams, so when I found the two shops on Sydney Street side by side, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. So we upped sticks and moved the fashion to the smaller shop and home and fabrics to the larger shop. They are joined via a corridor and each have a personality of their own. The offering is clearer, but they still have the same homely environment with log fires, and tempting clothing, gifts, homewear and fabrics.
What items are you most excited about showcasing?
Firstly I was most excited about the winter collection hanging on our beautiful new industrial rails, but we recently completed the home furnishing shop and I’m currently in love with our fabrics, all displayed on one glorious wall.
How would you describe your quintessential customer?
Individual, interesting, brave, stylish, eclectic.
What does style mean to you?
Style to me is being happy in your skin, accepting who you are, what you look like and carrying it off with aplomb.
What is it about British eccentricity that you love?
True eccentricity is not minding what other people think and this unconventionality has to be interesting as it stands out from the crowd. I love the daring of the true eccentric; the surprise and the humour. The British do it so well.
Who embodies style for you? Who’s your British style icon?
I think Helena Bonham Carter is a pretty marvellous style icon – she always looks interesting, and you can see that she hasn’t been taken over by a stylist who moulds her into the expected celebrity way of dressing. I feel she dresses for herself and not her audience.
You’re a fan of vintage chic, where are your favourite places in west London to dig out vintage gems?
There are many – Sunbury Antiques Market, Adams Antique Fairs in Royal Horticultural Halls, the Old Cinema on Chiswick High Road, and Frock Me, a vintage clothing fair frequently held in the Town Hall on King’s Road.
What’s your favourite room in your own home and why?
In the winter my favourite room is the parlour – it has a lovely carved french pine fireplace and a muddle of red rugs on a flag stone floor. There are far too many books and tables groaning under the weight of them all. Many a happy afternoon is spent in there. In fact I am writing this in the parlour now, sat by the crackling fire, listening to Jane Austen on BBC Radio 4. In summer, I spend most of my time in our pavilion in the garden, which is furnished like a dining room with views of the surrounding hills.
If you could spend a night any room in any building in the world, where would it be and why?
I think I would choose Balmoral Castle – I imagine it to be very cosy and lived in. I’d like to be there alone (without the Royal family) so I could have a jolly poke around. I’d need a legitimate reason for being there, and for being allowed to be extremely nosey, so I’d be there doing research for a book, with no limits to my access!
Did you always want to be a homeware designer?
I think if I had given it any thought the answer would probably have been yes. However I seem to have had no control over my working life and fate led me from one thing to another. I started my working life at Vogue which flowed into freelance styling, which led to interior decoration, and eventually to Cabbages & Roses.
If you were to give one piece of advice about home style, what would it be?
Surround yourself with things you love.
What inspires you when you’re designing a fabric collection?
Usually it is inspired by the discovery of a vintage pattern or an old document. I have recently been to New York where I visited a warehouse of ’50s wallpapers – I got plenty of inspiration there.
Why is it important for you to run Cabbages and Roses sustainably?
Since writing my book Guide to Natural Housekeeping I have been concerned about the throw-away, extravagant society we live in. We are by no means a beacon of light where sustainability is concerned, but we do make an effort. Even five years ago recycling was something innovative, and now it has become the norm, so we are at least moving in the right direction. Our clothing factories and printers are no more than 11 miles from our shops and studio, and we make in small quantities so there is less chance of our clothes ending up in a landfill. Unfortunately most of our knitwear is made in China, but we balance that with having a collection of organic knitwear that’s handmade in England each season. I wrote the book six years ago and it is in its fourth or fifth re-print and translated into many foreign languages, so I hope it has made a difference in its own small way.
You’re releasing your eighth book, Living Life Beautifully, in March. What’s it about?
The book is about the spilling over of work life into home life where one inspires and feeds the other. All the people included in the book to some extent work from home or have made their home a place of inspiration reflecting what they do. My publisher asked me to do another book, my sixth for this publisher, and this was an idea that we both came up with – what is lovely is that there is a good reason to continue the series with so many creators living in beautiful homes.
You’re a designer, an author, and a shop owner. How do you fit it all in?
Needs must! I think that because my home life and work life have no apparent division, I have probably spent more hours in a day that someone who works from 9am to 5pm. My work day starts at 7am and finishes when I fall asleep – so I think that is how I fit it all in!
You’re launching your flagship store and releasing your eighth book this year, what else does 2014 have in store?
There are many exciting developments, but for the moment I can’t say! We are so happy with our new shops, the spring collection has started to arrive and our new fabrics will soon be in stock. For the moment we are basking in our achievements – until, that is, the next one!
What’s your life motto?
Never, never give up!