From textile buyer at The Conran Shop to colour forecaster and author, design guru Louise Chidgey has led a life devoted to colour. Now the owner of Dorset’s most colourful lifestyle store, Brassica Mercantile, she shares her journey through colour – and reveals why a pop of neon orange never fails to lift her mood.
How did you come to open Brassica Mercantile?
All my career has been geared up to working for myself. Starting out as a buyer for the Conran Shop, which was my benchmark, paved the way for many exciting opportunities. After many years in retail, I moved to trend forecasting, taking on a creative consultancy role which allowed me to really think about product and its lifespan. It included a lot of travel and presentations in far-flung corners of the world which in turn gave me an insight into merchandising and the retail environment. Although Brassica Mercantile is a small store in the quiet Dorset town of Beaminster, the product comes from all over the globe.
What inspired the name Brassica?
The full name of our business is Brassica Restaurant & Mercantile, which incorporates the two strands of the company. The restaurant came first and we put a competition out with all our friends with a prize of two Eurostar tickets to Paris for the best idea for a name – however they were all so silly we ended up choosing Brassica ourselves as we were looking into produce grown locally to Beaminster. The mercantile part, which is a term for one who is engaged in trade and commerce, was added on to differentiate from the restaurant.
How important is colour to you?
Colour is hugely important, it defines everything! I spent many years colour forecasting at WGSN.com and Stylus.com, analysing colour palettes for the seasons ahead. It’s very interesting how colours can go in and out of fashion and how different they are from country to country.
Colour makes me extremely happy. Now that I live in the depths of Dorset, I get to see the changing colours of the seasons so much more than when I lived in London. Saying that, England is quite grey and a colourful house is respite from this. My personal colour palettes are muted, definitely not primary colours – always a bit left of centre, but saying that a hint of neon orange always lifts my mood!
Hygge seems to be a big part of your brand. Can you tell us why…
Environment and aesthetics play a huge part in my daily life – architecture, interiors, fashion, art all make my heart sing and this in turn has a positive influence on my wellbeing and health. Emotional design is perhaps a good word for it. Hygge creates an environment which is also emotional – and that to me is very important, particularly when creating and designing the restaurant. I wanted our customers to feel immediately welcome and comfortable and perhaps even a little cosseted.
You’re the co-author of the book Paint & Paper: A Masterclass in Colour & Light. Tell us more!
David Oliver, the founder of the Paint & Paper Library, approached me many years ago. He wanted to write a book on colour but with a young family and running his own business he didn’t have the time! He laid out the structure of the book and sourced all the images and then I did the research and the copy. It was a long winter of coming home from my day job at WGSN to complete the 45,000 words!
How does your love of colour manifest itself in your own home?
Home is full of colour and pattern – everything from hand-dyed washed linen to Moroccan Azilal rugs. At the moment we still rent out our house in London and rent in Dorset so to personalise our home has been mainly through paint colour and possessions. I used to work in India a lot when I was the textile buyer at The Conran Shop, so although it was 20 years ago, I still have many of the samples from back then. I also love going to Marrakech and have a penchant for rugs!
Has colour made its way into your wardrobe?
I can’t get enough navy blue. I always pair it with pattern (I love patterned blouses and socks). Maybe a touch of neon orange too.
Have you ever had your colours analysed?
Yes, when I was 18 as I was temping at a colour analysis company in London. I think at 18 I wasn’t that interested. I only wish I could find out my palette now!
And finally, do you have a favourite colour?
I have a palette which doesn’t seem to be changing at the moment: dark bluey/grey, dirty rose pink and mustard yellow.