Warbeck and Cox are a small company creating beautifully drawn, original designs. I asked Caroline Cox, who founded the company three years ago, to share her story and to give us a taste of her home.
The company was created when she saw a gap in the market for stylish, fun and eco conscious products for the home and gift markets, but where did she begin?
‘I trained as a textile designer at University of Leeds where I specialised as a weaver but fabrics have been a part of me from a very early age. Even as a little girl I was always making necklaces with my Granny’s button collection or hopelessly trying to knit scarves as soon as I was capable of holding the needles’!
After uni Caroline worked for a big fabric house in London, ‘I knew the Chelsea Harbour Design Centre inside out… and pretty much which fabrics came from which brand!’ She feels that those experiences with both trade and retail customers taught her alot – ‘creating colour schemes, mixing prints with weaves as well as different textures was such fun. I learned to be brave and go with my gut instincts!’
Following on from there, Caroline then went on to work for a national newspaper organising all their homes and lifestyle sections. ‘wow that was fun’ she says, ‘I really enjoyed it, despite the far from glamorous side of lugging sofas up flights of stairs for photo shoots I had a lot of practice at styling interiors and pouring the market and lots and lots of magazines finding out which company did what and understanding the various trends’. But tiring of city living she was becoming desperate to return to her country roots, which is exactly what she did, quitting her job, renting out her flat and setting up in a disused hayloft. ‘My goodness, it was stuffed full of junk – 20 years of farm yard junk – none of which sadly was much good for anyone (broken lamb feeding bottles, corrugated tin sheets and plastic water pipes) so we gutted it and created a space from which I could work.’
What resulted was a colourful range of textiles and other home accessories with her distinctive hand drawn images of beetle, grasshoppers, old fashioned irons and pepper mills. ‘I love bringing very normal items to life with a bit of a contemporary twist’ she says. ‘Beetles in the kitchen may not be some people’s idea of comforting addition to a kitchen, but they have proved I think because they are just so unusual. I could never have predicted either that bugs were going to be such a hit in the interiors market when I was sketching the pinned bugs at the Tring Zooilogical Museum 6 years ago !
Conscious of her environment and understanding just how polluting and damaging the textile industry can be she felt that there must be a way of sourcing more ethical products which is why special attention is made to find fabrics that are either organic or made in the UK. All wood products have the FSC stamp, her lavender is organic (mostly grown by her mother believe it or not) and anything not made by her own fair hands is made by local businesses. Everything is made in England.
‘I met Ruth of Quincy Lampshades through twitter interestingly and we just seemed to click. When she asked to have a go at making a shade with some of our cloth I jumped at her offer and I am just so thrilled with the end results! They’re such a conversation starter and never fail to get lots of compliments – What little boy wouldn’t love one of them as his bed side lamp?’
Caroline’s home is, as I think you’d expect definitely quirky – it’s full of fabulous trinkets – all collected from various holidays, junk shops (her favourite places in all the world), auctions and fairs. ‘I am a true believer of that famous William Morris saying – Have nothing in your home that you do not believe to be useful or beautiful and everything here has a story to tell.” In her kitchen an island is made from an old church pew and instead of units and cupboards, she has a large glass fronted dresser.
(The tea towel features Caroline’s fun new games kit design – she tells me she had thoughts of the Olympics already in mind and (perhaps a rather wishful!) idea of getting sports mad Dad’s and sons to help with the drying up! If you have anyone to target Click here!)
On the mantle piece there’s a porcelain radish (bought in a funny little shop in Paris) and a vase in the shape of a garlic bulb (a present from a trip to China), a Red Indian Feather Headdress perched on a lampshade (fancy dress party) and in the corner of the room a 1960’s chrome lamp and an old fashioned rocking horse (dad’s garage)! ‘I like mixing old with new, she tells me ‘and I really like each and every item in my home. If I like it, I like it and will try and buy it (bank balance dependant obviously) and if I’m just a teeny tiny bit unsure i won’t… Now all I have to do is work on the colour scheme which I inherited from my boyfriend’s bachelor days – I’m not digging our ‘aubergine’ bedroom!’
Caroline finds time to draw, design, make, organise the press, accounts, website and get to the post office everyday but she tells me that she has some very helpful people about (namely her mother) who she can call when things are getting a bit out of control… ‘I do need some help’– she says ‘desperately, but again, it’s finding the time to find them’!!…
If you would like to find out more about Warbeck and Cox and her beautiful products you can contact Caroline via her website www.warbeckandcox.co.uk
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(NB The picture of Caroline outside her home was taken for her article in Image magazine
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