When Nicky Mudie launched her business four years ago, it brought together her experience of fashion (making her own range of customised clothes) and interior design. Ostensibly, Violet & George is a soft-furnishings store, but for anyone with a true love of textiles, it is more like lingerie for furniture. From the moment you enter this charming west London boutique, you are drawn into a world of sensuous fabrics.
Mudie describes herself as an “interior tailor”. And while she and her team offer decoration expertise – predominantly curtain-making and upholstery – she has become best known for her cushions and lighting. She launches two collections a year, translating fashion trends into her designs: “A Ralph Lauren ruffled shirt inspired the decoration of one shade, while another design was prompted by the pleated cuffs of a dress by Chanel.”
Lampshades are particularly inventive – romantic and glamorous combinations of tactile fabrics and lavishly ornate trimmings. The latter often come from Mudie’s own treasure trove of Victorian lace, Irish crochet, jet beading and more, built up over years of rummaging at auctions and flea markets. Her highly unusual selection of lamp bases are sourced in the same way. “It’s the fun side of being a hoarder,” she says.
For this is the joy of Violet & George: it is as far removed from the design world’s clean, modern aesthetic as it is possible to be. And while the off-the-shelf ranges are hugely popular, Mudie also offers a fully bespoke service. Make an appointment and you can rifle through her personal cornucopia of trimmings to complete your lamp or cushion. But be warned: some clients are so overwhelmed by the beauties, Mudie has to step in to gently guide them, before they become tired and fractious like overexcited children.
What drives her forward is knowing that she is supporting Britain’s artisan skills – pleaters, makers of passementerie and lampshades – that could so easily be lost. “A lot of these arts are declining as manufacturing moves overseas and a generation of craftspeople retires,” she says. “I am keen to keep that work here – and to keep it alive.” She also champions emerging textile designers so that her customers benefit from little-known ranges and don’t see their curtains replicated in the homes of their friends.
Prices for cushions range from £90 to £170; fabric lampshades from about £110; and occasional chairs for as little as £200. Her customer-base includes both professional interior designers and private clients, many of whom gravitate towards her unapologetically feminine creations as a way of softening the harsh lines of architect-designed spaces.
“This is a very tactile and creative place, where customers can genuinely interact with soft furnishings,” she explains. “We are trying to return to an era where people can properly enjoy the experience of furnishing their homes.”