In the heart of London, designer Violet Dent weaves a tapestry of nostalgia and modernity within the walls of her charming flat. Blending faded English florals with whimsical pink stripes, Violet's home is an embodiment of her unapologetic love for the eclectic. For her, a house is never truly finished; instead, it is a canvas in constant evolution. "Layering and layering is what makes decorating so exciting. It's a constant work in progress," she muses.
Creativity courses through Violet's veins, a legacy inherited from a family deeply rooted in design. Her mother, Brigette Buchanan, co-founded the renowned fashion and textiles company, Cabbages & Roses, alongside the late Christina Strutt. Meanwhile, her brother, Angus Buchanan, and his wife, Charlotte, helm the cutting-edge interior design company, Buchanan Studio. Lucinda Chambers, former fashion director of Vogue and Violet's godmother, adds a touch of high fashion to the family tree, having founded both the fashion brand Colville and the chic shopping platform Collagerie.
Violet's journey into the world of design unfolded organically. Her formative years were spent working alongside her mother and Christina at the iconic Cabbages & Roses shop in Chelsea. Starting as a shop girl at the age of 18, she discovered her passion for arranging and rearranging, swiftly becoming the maestro of visual merchandising. "I love arranging stuff and moving things around, so I would merchandise the shop, and Christina always liked the way I did it," she fondly recalls.
Despite lacking formal design training, Violet's talent blossomed under Christina's mentorship. As the company expanded, so did Violet's role—from shop girl to assistant designer and eventually head of design. A decade of creative collaboration followed until the company's headquarters shifted to Somerset. Choosing to spread her wings, Violet embarked on a journey as a freelance creative consultant.
Her ties with Cabbages & Roses persisted, especially in collaboration with Christina on fabric collections. Tragically, just before Christina's passing from cancer in November of the previous year, Violet found herself entrusted with a poignant request. Alongside Christina's daughter Kate, who now owns Cabbages & Roses, Violet was asked to step into the role of creative director. Without hesitation, she embraced the responsibility, continuing the legacy of a brand that had become not just a professional endeavor but a deeply cherished part of her life.
In the face of adversity, designer Violet Dent reflects on a poignant chapter in her creative journey, one defined by resilience and the enduring spirit of her mentor, Christina. Recounting the moment of Christina's diagnosis, Violet shares, "When Christina was diagnosed, she was amazing. We were working on the summer 2023 collection, and she said: ‘We’ve got to be quick. I’ve got all these things I need to do.’" The winter collection that followed marked a poignant milestone—it was the first Violet designed without Christina physically present. Yet, the essence of her mentor lingered in the room as Violet selected fabrics. "She was in the room when I was choosing the fabrics, so it’s still got her in it – it will always have her in it."
Violet attributes the widespread acclaim of their brand, spanning the UK and America, to its gentle, alluring aesthetic. She cherishes its familial roots and the nostalgic aura it exudes. "I love that it’s family-owned, and I love how nostalgic it feels," she expresses. The brand's vast archive of timeless patterns plays a pivotal role in its enduring charm. "It’s really English, but it can go in any house. It’s a look that never gets old because it’s cosy. You can have all the cool modern stuff, but in the end, people are always going to be drawn to a room that looks cosy."
Violet's own residence stands testament to this timeless English charm. With a penchant for exploring flea markets and antique shops, her home is adorned with curated treasures. Vintage baskets and trays, holding an array of items from fabric samples to children’s toys, create a lived-in atmosphere. The walls adorned with pictures and, notably, Cabbages & Roses fabrics, echo the brand's aesthetic. Violet's affection for a particular fabric, a three-inch stripe on white linen, is evident: "It’s my favourite fabric of all time; I love it. It’s just the best stripe. As it ages and fades, it just gets better. I wash the cushion covers all the time, and they’re nicer with every wash."
The evolution of Violet's London flat mirrors her creative journey. Seven years ago, the space underwent a transformative update, reflective of her and her husband's vision. What was once a canvas of white minimalism now boasts character after thoughtful renovations. The journey continued with the birth of their daughter Dolly, prompting additional changes, including the conversion of the loft into a second bedroom and bathroom. Violet reminisces about the initial simplicity of the flat: "At first, I just painted everything white; we were on such a shoestring that we did the bare minimum." Over time, color found its way into the space, like the yellow striped Farrow & Ball wallpaper in Dolly’s room, weaving a narrative of growth, adaptation, and the enduring beauty of a lived-in home.
In the intricate dance of home decor, not every step follows the choreography perfectly, as designer Violet Dent candidly reveals. "I painted the hallway green, but then I hated it; it felt so dark. At first, I thought, ‘What have I done?’ It was so much paint. Then I realized I just had to bite the bullet and have it redone in a pale plaster pink, which is much better." Such moments of trial and transformation are woven into the fabric of creative living.
While Violet's London flat may not boast vast dimensions, she has orchestrated a symphony of design within its confines, leaving no nook untouched. Her strategy for decorating in compact spaces is grounded in simplicity: "It may not be the biggest space, but Violet has maximized every inch of it and left no part of it undecorated: her tip when decorating a small space is to stick mainly to one colour (here, pink)." The choice of a singular tone imparts a sense of neutrality and tranquility, a revelation that size need not compromise style.
Yet, the restraint of a cohesive color palette does not stifle Violet's creativity; rather, it serves as a canvas for her love of collecting, arranging, and perpetually rearranging. "It’s changed so many times; it’s constantly changing," she affirms. The ebb and flow of creativity within the space echo the fluidity of her thoughts. "I work from home, so if I need to clear my head, I just end up rearranging things. I think it’s nice to keep adding. It will never be ‘done.’"
In the confined quarters of her flat, Violet adheres to a principle of grouping similar colors, primarily pink, yellow, and rattan. The result is an organized coexistence of her cherished possessions. "Because I love to collect things and I have a small space, everything’s crammed together, and it all looks a bit calmer and less overwhelming when you keep to the same color base."
Her sage advice extends beyond color, delving into the realm of pattern mixing. Violet advocates for the harmonious marriage of florals and stripes, a philosophy imparted by her mentor, Christina. "Christina always said if you have a floral, you must also have a stripe. It cuts through the prettiness." For those hesitant to fully embrace florals, she suggests subtle accents—a cushion, a quilt folded over a sofa arm, or even a tea towel. The key, she emphasizes, lies in a genuine affection for the items within one's home, allowing them to naturally coalesce.
As the conversation pivots to the intricacies of color, Violet underscores the importance of mimicking nature's palette. "The quality of colors is so important – I think they should mirror what you get in nature. An unnatural color is just never going to look nice." In this artistic discourse, she invites a celebration of the subdued, the faded, and the washed out, highlighting their seamless compatibility—a gentle reminder that beauty often lies in the subtle dance of tones and textures.
In the art of crafting a home within limited confines, designer Violet Dent offers invaluable insights, challenging the conventional fear of sizable furniture in small spaces. "If you have a small space, don’t be scared of having big pieces of furniture," she advises. Her sitting room, a testament to this philosophy, began with a bold choice—a generously proportioned, luxuriously comfortable sofa. According to Violet, the larger the furniture in a confined space, the more expansive the room appears. "In a small room, the bigger the furniture in it, the bigger the room feels. I like to cram a room full of furniture – it will always feel bigger when it has lots of things in it than when it’s empty."
Her approach to decorating extends beyond traditional norms. Unconstrained by rigid measurements, Violet weaves a tapestry of personal treasures, framing seemingly random yet beautiful fragments—a snippet from a book, a postcard, or a swatch of fabric. The allure of these keepsakes finds a place on her walls, defying the need for precision. "I never use a measuring tape; it’s so much easier by eye. Just hold up the picture, find the string, and bang in the nail."
Embracing a sense of whimsy and casual elegance, Violet shares her affinity for hanging plates as an artful element of decor. Whether employing old-fashioned invisible plate hangers for a seamless look or opting for the more relaxed vibe of wire plate hangers in the kitchen, her approach to adornment is both practical and aesthetically charming.
Yet, amidst the pursuit of a harmonious living space, Violet acknowledges the inevitability of mistakes. The infamous green hallway serves as a poignant reminder that missteps are part of the creative journey. "Remember that everyone makes mistakes – painting the hallway green was one of mine. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to live with it; just let it go and move on." For Violet, the essence of her flat lies in its perpetual state of evolution—a canvas that is never truly complete, a testament to the joy found in the ongoing process of transformation. "I’ve realized the flat is never going to be finished, and that’s the fun of it; it’s a work in progress."
In the dynamic tapestry of Violet Dent's design philosophy, the conclusion emerges as a celebration of creativity, adaptability, and the joy of an ever-evolving living space. From the bold choice of sizable furniture challenging spatial constraints to the artful arrangement of personal treasures on walls, Violet encourages a fearless embrace of one's unique aesthetic journey.
Her refusal to be bound by rigid measurements and meticulous planning opens the door to spontaneity, allowing the home to become a living canvas, adorned with the charm of whimsically framed mementos and carefully hung plates. Mistakes, exemplified by the green hallway misstep, are acknowledged not as setbacks but as integral components of the creative process.
The essence of Violet's home lies not in perfection but in the perpetual state of progress—a testament to the ongoing narrative of self-expression. The flat, a vibrant work in progress, reflects the liberating truth that a home need not be a finished product but an ever-unfolding story. In embracing this philosophy, Violet invites us to find joy in the journey, appreciating the beauty of evolution and the freedom to let go, move on, and continue the delightful exploration of creating a space uniquely our own.