Her style is country charm personified, but don’t expect chintz and fuss. Christina Strutt invites GABRIELLE FAGAN into her rural chic world.
After all, the hard-up mother-of -two had only a shoestring budget to transform her cottage into a cosy home, but it was the way she used delicate, faded fabrics, painstakingly collected from fairs, markets and antiques shops, which caught the eye and made her style unique.
Finally, unable to find enough fabrics to satisfy the demand to replicate the look, she resourcefully set to and designed her first fabric.
That moment marked the humble emergence of such an innovative interpretation of country style, a world away from predictable twee chintz, that 15 years on has blossomed into Cabbages & Roses – the hugely successful, quintessentially British fabric and lifestyle brand.
‘I really had no intention of starting a business all those years ago. At that time, I was just a mum looking for a way to earn some money that would fit around my family,’ says Strutt with a smile, as she takes me on a tour of her flat and shop in a charming Georgian building in London.
‘My only aim was to create something beautiful, which could move and charm with its hint of nostalgia, and would fit people’s homes and the way they wanted to live. I suppose I just wanted to sell things I loved.’
Happily, what Strutt loved; fabrics and accessories featuring washed-out florals, stripes and toiles in cool colourways, has, in turn, become adored by her legions of fans.
Cabbages & Roses’ mail order business sells worldwide, and her fabric range, including her first Bees design, recently launched in John Lewis.
‘This is a place where I can work in the week and get inspiration for new designs and new looks,’ she says, as she leads the way through a string of beautifully decorated rooms, including her studio, which feature in her latest book, Cabbages & Roses: Living Life Beautifully.
Although it’s miles away from Brook Cottage, the 15th century country home in the rolling hills of Bath, Somerset, where it all began, the interiors reveal not only her style, but are also redolent with the atmosphere of ‘country’ that seems to suit any setting.
The bias, as it’s an urban apartment, leans toward stripped back shades of grey and muted tones.
She’s kept to a tight decorating budget. ‘It’s possible to make a big difference without spending loads of money,’ Strutt says.
So a sofa and bed were bought in Ikea, bathroom fittings sourced in sales, and hard-wearing sisal flooring runs throughout.
Walls are painted in a classic Farrow & Ball shade of Cornforth White and make the perfect backdrop for her signature Cabbages & Roses floral fabrics and skilfully curated displays of memorabilia, crockery and art.
At weekends, she returns to Brook Cottage. She often sits and comes up with ideas at the kitchen table, where she hesitantly sketched out her first design all those years ago.
‘I still can hardly believe that it has all turned out the way it has,’ she says.
‘All I ever hoped to build was something around, not just an idea, but a real life.’