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A Chat With: Vanessa Arbuthnott

From the stunning Showroom in central Cirencester, Vanessa has designed and developed a sought after range of fabrics, wallpapers, rugs and homewares.


Having recently launched her 19th Fabrics Collection, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to ask Vanessa some questions.


Read on to discover decorating tips and general advice from one of the Industries most exciting names.

A bit of background before diving in, have you always enjoyed soft furnishings or when did your interest begin?


Not really, I found this very daunting but when in my early 30’s, we moved into a newly converted cow byre. I had to decorate the entire place on a very tight budget and didn’t even know what my style was.


I started by sitting down on the floor with a large pile of magazines from which I tore pages of rooms that I like the look off. This way I built up a profile of how I wanted my house to look.

It turned out I loved painted wooden floors and bleached Swedish white wooden floors (Osmo floor oil) softly coloured paint colours and pattern. I started printing my own designs to create curtains for every window inspired by the shapes wildflowers, birds and chickens.


Farrow and Ball were new in the 1990s and it was their colour palette which I based my fabric colours on at the time. It was surprising to find when I mixed their colours using pigments how much black I needed to add to every colour in order to knock it back into that very soft tone for which they are famous.


Over the years I have learnt some more sophisticated decorating tips from my very talented stylist Sally, with whom I have worked with now for over a decade. I have watched her combining my fabrics adding in natural textures of rugs and lamps and sculptures and ornaments and creating beauty.


As Scion is synonymous with Mr Fox and GP & J Baker their signature prints, how would you describe your style?


My designs are inspired by the natural world, the images being drawn from the flora and fauna of the English countryside. Inspired by wildflowers, seaside, meadows and woodland, our fabrics tell a story of a modern country lifestyle. Cow Parsley and Up The Garden Path are my best sellers…

For a client who may be struggling to pick a colour, what would be your advice?


When you’re looking closely at fabric samples you become rather over fussy about exact colour matching, whereas you can actually combine different tones and shades of colour in a room especially when often windows and chairs are across the room from each other.


You must use at least 3 colours in a room not just two, which is tempting to do at times. Look at the existing colours in rugs and any furniture and choose a colour from them, buy returnable fabric samples from us and lay them around the room to see how they feel.


With window dressings, wallpaper, rugs and upholstery to consider, if a Client came to you and had a living room to re-furbish - where would you start?


Over the years I have learnt some more sophisticated decorating tips from my very talented stylist Sally, with whom I have worked with now for over a decade. I have watched her combining my fabrics adding in natural textures of rugs and lamps and sculptures and ornaments and creating beauty.


She’s also showed me that you must use several colours in a room not just two which is tempting to do at times.

When you’re looking closely at fabric samples you become rather over fussy about exact colour matching, whereas you can actually combine different tones and shades of colour in a room especially when often windows and chairs are across the room from each other.


The addition of a patterned, textured or woven rug can make a huge difference to space... see my range of rugs woven in one of the last working mills in Wales). By throwing textured throws over the back of a sofa or chair for instance my traditional herringbone rugs with their honeycomb texture, you are adding a tactile dimension.


Interest and extra colours can be added into a room using books, lampshades, lamp bases, sculptures, paintings and of course cushions!


With regards to pattern and colour, do you prefer to mix it up, or to keep a constant flow throughout a scheme?


I love to mix up of pattern and colours, but not too many large patterns. Consider using coordination or contrasting smaller prints and stripes to match the larger print.


Having just released your Botanical Collection how was the experience of developing and marketing a new collection through a Pandemic?


My timing was very lucky indeed, by chance I printed my new collection during the first two weeks of March and since then have given it a soft launch, putting the new fabrics into my web site. I held a one day social distancing photo shoot rather than the usual week so I had a few photos to launch it with, I used these photos in social media and newsletters. ..hoping to have normal photo shoot in a location in September…

With all the experience you now have from growing a small business into a respectable brand, what advice would you give your younger self?


Mm… well it’s hard to say…good publicity early on helps so splash put on some good professional photography of your products early on and work at getting them to the magazines, newspapers and digital publications.


Did you ever plan for the business to grow and develop the way it has?


No certainly didn’t think it would grow as it has…it has been a very exciting journey!


Being well-established in the Cotswolds, where do you go to relax?


At the moment…not much further than my garden, where I have pond with my favourite Indian Runner ducks. I love to walk in the country side around me here.


And finally, what's next for Vanessa Arbuthnott?


Since Covid, I am trying out new ways of reaching my customers: so customers now book Facetime appointments with us.


This is a free service, new since lockdown and is amazingly helpful... This way they can show us so much more, walk them around the room in question, take in the adjoining rooms, the style of furniture, colours of flooring and rugs and other fabrics that need to be coordinated with.


This can all be done from the safety of your own house and could be anywhere in the world! This week I 'travelled' to the Shetland Isles, Kent, Cornwall and Pembrokeshire all in a morning!


Click here to go straight through to the Vanessa Arbuthnott website


 

07557 902675

Tom's Yard, The Park, Wormelow, Herefordshire, HR2 8EQ

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