This year, designer Rachel Ashwell celebrates 25 years of the Shabby Chic brand, and takes ‘rustic’ interiors to a new level with the launch of her latest book
What is the new book, ‘Couture Prairie and Flea Market Treasures’ about?
‘Couture Prairie and Flea Market Treasures’ is my journey in words and pictures of how I came about and created what has been my dream of owning and running a ‘Little House On The Prairie’ inspired B&B.
Why do you think Shabby Chic is still so popular today?
I have never been one to follow trends and I always aim to remain integral to my vision, and what I respond to and love is what I endeavour to create. Perhaps this is something that also resonates with my clients. Today shabby chic, in my mind, is about a lifestyle choice, surrounding oneself with considered but above all comfortable elements not only for the home but for one’s self. My watchwords of creating with beauty, comfort and function in mind is easily attainable on any budget.
Is there a difference between the styles here in London compared to the US?
The US, especially Los Angeles, is perhaps a little more partial to the glitz and drama of my aesthetic, San Francisco is the bohemian baby sister, whilst New York definitely oozes cool from their Soho location. London has savvy clients who add pieces from our collection in a myriad of settings, be within sleek, bold, monochromatic mews developments or swanky townhouses to charming seaside villas and country cottages. I am inspired that our aesthetic is spreading its wings.
What are your favourite pieces from the collection at present?
Right now am truly taken with our gorgeous new bedding from my Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture™ Spring 2014 Collection. Fresh florals and exquisite embroidered pieces in our sought after cotton poplins you just want to spend long spring weekends in .
What are you looking for when you handpick a vintage item?
In furniture I look for my signature patina of pale and chippy timeworn pieces, hand painted china and vintage fabrics are favourites. I can spend hours looking for French lace and linens and the perfect faded floral. I also collect religious icons and always keep my eyes peeled for faded Madonnas.
What are your flea market treasures?
So many to mention but lately I picked up the sweetest pale pink and grey Madonna whilst in London. She has a sister I coveted as well, possibly still available from our Notting Hill store.
What are you working on at the moment?
This year I celebrate 25 years of Shabby Chic and I am working on my memoirs of all that these last 25 years have brought me. This will be my 9th book due to be published next year.
How ‘hands on’ do you remain with the business?
I am always available and involved in most aspects of the business. But I am so grateful to my wonderful ‘village’ of associates who are consistent in their excellence for promoting my aesthetic worldwide.
What do you do when you’re struggling for inspiration for new designs?
My scrapbooks and pin boards becomes a trusted source for times when I need some focus. I am constantly gathering ideas, some which live between the pages for an eternity before they spark a new design idea. I am greatly inspired by movies and television as well as poetry and music. Downton Abbey has me hooked with its decadent sets and costumes, so perfect in the attention to detail. I also recently watched American Hustle and Saving Mr Banks, so different in style and sentiment but both offering food for thought.
What do you love about the Notting Hill area?
Notting Hill has been the perfect home for our little store. The area is eclectic in spirit which is always a source of inspiration. Wondering the market early on a Saturday is a must of mine, finishing off at my favourite coffee house before popping into catch up with what’s happening in store.
How is the business doing since the 2009 crash and where do you hope to take it next?
It’s no secret that times continue to be tough, but we are fortunate that we have such great support and clients that make us proud to continue creating and developing items they want to invest in. Expansion is on the horizon but with a more measured and strategic action plan built around our priority of continuing to offer the highest quality in home furnishings.
202 Kensington Park Road W11 1NR