I have such a treat for you all today...an interview with Christina Strutt, of Cabbage and Roses fame! Her newest book, Living Life Beautifully, has just been released by CICO Books and I was thrilled to have the chance to ask her a few questions...
Q. Hello, Christina! I am so delighted to have this opportunity to ask you a
few questions today, as I have been an admirer of your work and pretty
floral fabrics ever since I first walked into your original Cabbages & Roses
shop many years ago!
Christina: THANK YOU!
Q. Congratulations on Living Life Beautifully! I have adored all your previous
books, but I must say that this one is especially enchanting. The book is
not only beautiful because of all the gorgeous homes you feature in it, but
also because of the people who live in them - your wonderfully talented
family and friends with whom you share your life and business.
Your design aesthetic - pretty faded vintage florals, antique furniture,
white backgrounds, and flowers (cabbages!) from the garden - seems to have
remained fundamentally unchanged over the years. As a young girl, were you always drawn to these same things?
Christina: STRANGELY, YES, THOUGH IF YOU HADN¹T ASKED THIS QUESTION IT WOULD NOT HAVE UNEARTHED ITSELF. I ACTUALLY WANTED TO BE A GARDENER IN REGENTS PARK THIS MUST HAVE BEEN FROM THE AGE OF 10 UNTIL 16. I LOVED THE IDEA OF GOING TO WORK ON A BICYCLE AND PLANTING AND WEEDING IN A BEAUTIFUL GARDEN I STILL RATHER LIKE THE IDEA SO IF ALL ELSE FAILS YOU MAY FIND ME AS CHIEF WEEDER IN REGENTS PARK! AS A GIRL I WAS GROWING UP IN THE 60¹S SO THE TASTES THEN WERE QUITE DIFFERENT BLOUSY ORANGE AND PINK FLOWERS AND MODERN FURNITURE PERHAPS MY LOVE OF THE ANTITHESIS OF THOSE THINGS COMES FROM REBELLION OF MY CHILDHOOD ALTHOUGH IT WAS A VERY HAPPY ONE!
Q. I so admire the way you have managed to successfully combine your home life, friends, and loved ones with your work. Was this ever a challenge for you? For example, was it ever difficult to combine motherhood and running a thriving business?
Christina: NO, ALL MY OTHER JOBS CONFLICTED WITH MOTHERHOOD. BEING A STYLIST MEANT BEING AWAY FROM HOME QUITE A LOT, WHICH WAS HARD WHEN THE CHILDREN WERE LITTLE. I ALWAYS WANTED CABBAGES & ROSES TO EMBRACE MOTHERHOOD AND FAMILY. I THINK IT IS TERRIBLY SAD WHEN A MOTHER HAS TO PRETEND THAT SHE DOESN¹T HAVE CHILDREN IN ORDER TO SHOW PROFESSIONALISM. I ONCE WAS DOING A STYLING JOB FOR MARKS & SPENCER AND MY NANNY COULDN¹T LOOK AFTER THE CHILDREN AT THE LAST MINUTE, SO I HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO BRING THEM WITH ME. THIS WAS ABSOLUTELY MY LAST RESORT AND TO MY EMPLOYERS, ABSOLUTELY NOT THE THING TO DO. I HOPE THAT CABBAGES & ROSES, ABOVE ALL THINGS, IS AN UNDERSTANDING COMPANY TO WORK FOR. WE ASK A LOT FROM OUR STAFF BUT WE ALSO GIVE A LOT.
Q. There is a particular design philosophy that suggests that if one just sticks with what they truly love, everything will all come together beautifully. Am I being presumptuous to suggest you might agree with this philosophy?
Christina: I FEEL I INVENTED THAT PHILOSOPHY! IT IS THE ONLY WAY I CAN EXPLAIN THE STYLE, THE EVER CHANGING STOCK ,THE QUITE ECCENTRIC CLOTHES WE MAKE AS WELL AS THE SENSIBLE ONES. WHEN ASKED HOW A COLLECTION CAME ABOUT, OR WHY WE ARE SELLING OLD WOODEN OARS IN THE SHOP, THE ONLY ANSWER I CAN COME UP WITH IS THAT I LOVE IT!
Q. In the book, you discuss how, from the very beginning, you have never followed a conventional business plan and yet you are a highly successful businesswoman. What have you learned along the way? What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs just starting their own businesses?
Christina: IF YOU, LIKE ME, HAVE THE ATTENTION SPAN OF A SMALL GOLDFISH, HAVE SOMEONE BY YOUR SIDE WHO UNDERSTANDS THE BUSINESS SIDE OF THINGS, THE MOST IMPORTANT THING OF ALL IS TO ABSOLUTELY TRUST THAT PERSON. IF YOU DON¹T HAVE THAT PERSON, THEN I AM AFRAID YOU WILL JUST HAVE TO WORK IT OUT YOURSELF OR DO A SHORT COURSE. THERE ARE THINGS THAT I KNOW NOW THAT I ABSOLUTELY DIDN¹T KNOW THEN. THINGS NEED TO BE PRESENTED SIMPLY AND IF YOU UNDERSTAND THE REASON WHY, THEN IT IS EASIER TO ADHERE TO. ONE DAY I WILL WRITE A BOOK ABOUT MY MISTAKES. THAT WILL BE A HUGE CHAPTER. THE SECOND CHAPTER, WHAT I UNDERSTAND ABOUT BUSINESS WILL BE VERY SHORT!
Q. Living Life Beautifully gives your lucky readers a look inside many stunning homes - including your country cottage outside of Bath and your London flat. Both of your gorgeous homes are filled with the most wonderful antiques and collections. Where are your favorite places to hunt and shop for vintage treasures?
Christina: CAR BOOT SALES, VINTAGE FAIRS, ANTIQUE SHOPS. ARDINGLY IS A PARTICULAR FAVOURITE!
Q. Thank you so much for sharing with us, Christina. I have a trip to London coming up and Cabbages & Roses will, as always, be one of my first stops.
Christina: WE SO LOOK FORWARD TO WELCOMING YOU TO OUR SHOPS!! AND THANK YOU! XC
Living Life Beautifully by Christina Strutt (photography by Simon Brown) is published by CICO Books and is available from rylandpeters.com.