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sneak peek + interview: cabbages & roses

by anne

i always find it charming when homes have their own name. welcome to brook cottage, the english countryside home of christina strutt who is behind cabbages & roses. this beautiful sneak peek will literally transport you to another world. and be sure to continue after the jump because there’s a wonderful interview with christina on how to achieve this english country style in your own home and to go with your lifestyle. for more from cabbages & roses click here, and here to view full-sized images. {thanks, christina (and suzie!)!}anne

[above: A view of the house set in the rolling hills of our garden, the tent has been there for ten years as we cannot bear to be without it!  As soon as the weather warms up towards the end of April until mid September, this is where you will find the Strutt family.]

Christina strolling past the tent, the treehouse is in the background. A clematis grows up one of the tent poles.  The tent is furnished with vintage finds gathered from flea markets.

A daybed sits in the tent for afternoon naps. It’s dressed in bedding from C&R with a cushion made from hand printed antique linen.

The tent has remained in use for the past ten years and is the hub of our home during the summer months. It is a haven away from city life.   Walter Gilbert Strutt is one half of our pair of Jack Russell terriers, our new collection of fabrics has been named after him.

Pots of geraniums with a blue deckchair from C&R outside the house.

We are privileged to have a separate room for laundry which is probably the busiest room in the house, the blinds are made from plain white antique linen and the machines and shelves are hidden behind fabric from our collection.

CLICK HERE for the rest of the sneak peek + an interview after the jump!

Drawing room at my home. The coordinating fabrics of the cushions work well with the main fabric on the curtains.

This is our treehouse which was built for the children by my husband.  It has three trees growing through it and sways gently in the wind along with the trees. We use this as an occasional guest room in the summer.

Our kitchen is always center of attention and always full of activity, its proportions are generous enough to accommodate many people, but cozy enough for just two to have dinner by a roaring fire.


D*S: For those reading who aren’t familiar with Cabbages and Roses, could you tell us a little bit about your background and what inspired you to start Cabbages and Roses?

From the age of 18, I worked for British Vogue magazine, a heavenly experience and a privileged job.   I was exposed to the most beautiful and extraordinary houses in the country.   When I left Vogue to get married and live in the country I continued styling for magazines on a freelance basis.   This turned into decorating houses, which became a full time job but not what I wanted to do.   My experience as a decorator was invaluable in distinguishing the fabrics that were simply not available.    I was always on the lookout for the beautiful faded florals only found in antique shops and markets, and these really only existed in small scraps and quilts.   This was the beginning of Cabbages & Roses.  Using the scraps as the basis of our designs, we worked with our printer, Louise Hatley, to re-create the faded look.

From our first print called ‘Bees’, my partner, Brigette Buchanan (also from Vogue) and I, made cushions, dresses, skirts and throws.   This tiny homespun industry proved an immediate success both with the press and the public.

D*S: How would you describe your personal style, and does that differ from C&R’s style?

C&R is my personal style.   As a designer I find it difficult to create anything that I would not wear or use in my own home.   My mind is too muddy to know what my style is, it is constantly changing, developing and regressing.   My only tool is my instinct which is sometimes right and sometimes wrong – I expect there must be a thread running through what we create – but being so deeply involved in the running of the company and the creation and production of the stock I find it difficult to step back and determine what the actual style is… A frequent cry in the office is ‘its very cabbagey’  or ‘its not very cabbagey’ so there clearly is a style!   The press call us bucolic, eccentric, English, charming….

The criteria for designing a new collection is always the same, it must be versatile, useable, gentle, able to fit in with existing life, pleasing to the eye – this applies to both clothes and to our home furnishings.   I feel that it is the unique way that people use our products that makes them interesting.

D*S:  What are some of the biggest influences on your work at C&R? Does your location or travel play into the designs?

Each collection begins with panic.   Rather than the romantic notion that a trip to exotic locations, or glamorous parties with fascinating people influences my designs, quite the opposite is true.

Clothing collections are the hardest, but once on a roll they tend to develop a momentum and personality of their own.

I find the fabrics much easier to work on with Amy Gibbons who is in charge of home wear at Cabbages & Roses.   Our trips to antiques markets at 5am and foreign travel are our inspiration and we have a stockpile of ideas and designs, which are fed into the collections annually.

Cabbages & Roses was created in the British countryside and my home, Brook Cottage, still manages to play an integral part of the designs, the company.  Its where it was born and grew up, so will always remain at the core of what we do.

D*S: So many of our readers (and editors) love your trademark English country chic style. For those of us with less than country-chic homes to decorate, could you share tips for giving this look and feel to a home that’s modern or without great architectural details?

If a space is plain and without architectural merit, which in reality is most homes, I think that the interest can be gained from interesting or dramatic pieces of furniture, from paint effects and finally from furnishing fabrics.    For a plain modern room to become country chic, fill it with interesting vintage pieces of furniture, rugs, paintings, coordinating furnishings – red and pink tones in fabrics always warm a room.    Wallpaper in a room will detract from the clean lines.   Interlined full length curtains (drapes) are an excellent way to give a room warmth and character, they should be just longer than TO the floor – say by 1 or 2 inches so that the fabric ‘puddles’ and they look generous and grand.  They also give the impression of height.    If the windows are modern and dull, disguise by hanging voile curtains so that the windows are not visible from the inside, voile will also soften the light.

A whole wall lined in bookshelves creates an immediate sense of cozy calm, mix the books with small paintings and curios.   Really, English country chic style is rooms filled with the things you love – the connecting factor will be that you have chosen every piece and you love it all.   One tip that I have to keep reminding myself of, is to get rid of anything you don’t absolutely love – being able to dispose of is almost more important than choosing new.

D*S: Some people mistakenly associate an English country style with something older, feminine and romantic. But you do such a wonderful job of making the look work in modern homes. Do you have any interesting ideas for combining two different styles? Ie: modern and English country?

Adding country style to modern spaces can be very effective although it needs to be well considered and controlled.   There are many ways of incorporating a bit of country into a minimalist space.

Choose one thing: the curtains (drapes), the cushions or perhaps the upholstery.   Any one of these things can be treated with reckless abandon, but only one.   Drama can be incorporated into say, an empty loft apartment, by using a bold print, say Cabbages & Roses Paris Rose, in generous curtains.     Or a beautiful armchair can be upholstered in patches of floral fabrics, possibly a mix of stripes, large florals, and a smaller scale print.   If it is beautifully upholstered an armchair can become a work of art.      A wonderfully easy, cheap and interchangeable addition to a modern room is the addition of large matching cushions on the sofa.

A modern bedroom, simply painted in white, can be dramatically changed with a bold patterned throw or bed cover.    Or focus could be made on beautifully upholstering a modern headboard with a classic country fabric.    Simplicity is the key in incorporating English country into modern.

D*S: For those without much space to decorate in, do you have a favorite way to use your designs in a small scale? (i.e: pincushions, fabric envelopes, etc)

Cabbages & Roses fabric designs lend themselves well to small scale objects.   Our Hatley print, which is a widely spread out faded rose pattern, looks lovely when made into smaller scale objects as you just get hints of the pattern which reminds me of lovely old patchwork quilts, where you have to imagine where the print once was.   If you have little space to decorate in, try using fabric to cover a small table – I am beginning to love the decoration of the late 1970’s and 80’s again where round tables covered in generous cloths with fringing was de rigueur.   This is a very easy way to introduce fabric into a small space.   I often cover notebooks with fabric and if I have just a tiny fragment of vintage cloth, I will sometimes make cushions out of plain vintage linen and use the fragment as a centrepiece.    Fabric envelopes are very easy to make and are a lovely thing to have to store jewelry or to use instead of wrapping up gifts.    We have just finished a Japanese book full of hand made projects.   In Japan space is at a premium and they are very keen on making small everyday objects out of fabric.

D*S: We are big fans of your books- what inspired you decide to take the leap from fabrics and design to books? What were your goals with branching out into books?

In the very early days of Cabbages & Roses, we had existed for less than a year, and we were approached by a publisher who had seen our designs in a magazine.   A book offer was extraordinary for such a young business, so we leapt at the chance.    Never having done more than a chapter of a book before, this presented a wonderful challenge.   It also gave us the opportunity to reach out to a wider audience, especially as our first book was also published by Hurst Books in the USA.   We have now produced five books – all but one concentrating on Cabbages & Roses style.

They have been translated into several different languages and this September sees the launch of our first Japanese book!   Although doing the books has been great fun, by far the most important was ‘Cabbages & Roses Guide to Natural Housekeeping” – concentrating on how small changes to our lifestyle can have extraordinary effect on our planet.   This is a book I urge your readers to buy, borrow or steal, it is full of interesting and clever ways to change our lives for the better, whilst at the same time lessening our contribution to global warming.

I think books are incredibly useful for us to be able to show a particular vision of this versatile little brand, and we are looking forward to making many more.

D*S: Do have a favorite piece you’ve ever designed for C&R? Or a favorite room you’ve put together?

I have so many favourite pieces…and so many favorite rooms!    If I had to choose just one, it would probably be our outside tent (or my bedroom, or the drawing room or the treehouse, or our first shop in Langton Street, – or the sitting room of the flat above our first shop in Langton Street).   Because our collections are forever evolving and changing and being added to, all my rooms flow alongside the collections.   Currently the tent in the courtyard outside my house in Bath is looking divine, it is such an adaptable space and always filled with flowers, beautiful fabrics and lovely people.

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