Cabbages and Roses is adored by those who love vintage country style. Sharon Dale discovers the story behind the brand.
Living Life Beautifully is the perfect title for Christina Strutt’s autobiographical book, which is packed with pictures that show why her interiors brand is so successful.
Country dwellers and those who dream of farmhouses and cottages with roses round the door, will enjoy the “through the keyhole” tour of her beautiful rural home, near Bath, her London apartment and various picture perfect properties belonging to friends.
They all feature her favourite vintage style and the quintessentially English fabrics and accessories from her shop, Cabbages and Roses.
Christina also tells the story behind the hugely successful company, which is best known for its trademark, delicate floral prints and washed out linen fabrics.
“Cabbages and Roses has always been an expression of things I have found most enchanting throughout life. It is a manifestation of halcyon days, of summers spent picnicking in the English countryside, of rambling coastal walks and of winter nights curled up by a log fire with a pile of books and all the accoutrements of cosiness,” says Christina, a dreamer who admits she started Cabbages and Roses in 2000 without any idea of how to run a business.
It began after she left a glamorous job working for Vogue Living to settle in Somerset. She forged a partnership with her friend Brigette Buchanan and together they specialised in faded floral fabrics and sold them through a mail order business run from a kitchen table.
The name Cabbages and Roses came from Brigette’s favourite flowers and the fat cabbages Christina had grown in her vegetable garden.
“The received wisdom was that anyone embarking on any venture, or adventure in our case, should really plan years in advance.
“That outlook could not have been more divorced from our principal and more haphazard motivation, which was something that would reflect and fit in with our lives. We did not want to spend long evenings examining spreadsheets. The idea was that the business would grow with and around our families,” she says.
It did just that and Cabbages and Roses now sells everything from textiles and wallpaper to home accessories and fashion.
Best-selling fabrics include ‘Bees’, one of the first designs produced, and the gorgeous ‘Tulips and Roses’ and ‘Toile du Poulet’ .
Home accessories include carafes, candles, tartan wool throws and even 1kg bags of bicarbonate of soda for £6 each, complete with instructions on how to use as an eco-friendly cleaner. The clothing selection ranges from floral tops, and granddad shirts to quirky wool coats.
When the time was right, Christina opened a shop close to the King’s Road in London and, later, another in Sydney Street. The room sets and various tableaux, complete with roaring log fires, brought a little bit of country to the city and a new legion of fans followed. Her own flat in the capital reflects how well rustic style works in an urban environment.
The bedroom there is a replica of the one at Brook Cottage, the family home in Somerset. The look and feel of the medieval property, just outside Bath, is relaxed and comfortable, full of shabby chic furniture, vintage crockery, oil paintings and old photographs, and an Aga.
It also houses various collections, including acres of her own fabrics, jars of old buttons and traditional wooden toys bought for her children when she was trying to “banish plastic ones”.
It’s a haven away from the hustle and bustle of London life and is also home to her new studio, built above the stable.
“It’s heaven and just wonderful to have somewhere to go that marks the beginning and end to the day,” says Christina, whose business remains a “cottage industry”.