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it's Virginia from Roddy&Ginger

Monday, 9 March 2009 by Irene Hoofs


Welcome to the fantastic home of Virginia Johnson and her family ... a home in which I would be very happy to live myself, perhaps I can ask Virginia if she could come to our place to help me with some interior decoration, although with her living in the UK and me in KL this won'd be very easy, but her images give me some terrific inspiration. Virginia is the founder and creator of the beautiful roddy&ginger label, which I have mentioned a couple of times on Bloesem and B:Kids before because I love what she makes ... enjoy this Tour!Stairskitchen_chalboard
{Chalkboard wall and stairs}
1. ) What kind of house do you live in and with? Is this the entrance to your house? I love the chalkboard wall, especially when it has a nice drawing like yours.
I live in a ‘60s town house on one of the highest points of Southeast London, with my husband Robert and our big kids -17 year old twins Charlie and Lucy. We bought this house 5 years ago when no one was really interested in ‘modern’ properties. There has always been a tradition of period houses being more desirable in this area. Things are changing now as people realise that these houses make great family homes. The house  was pretty shabby when we moved in. Our first task was to take out the partition walls on the ground floor to create one big space for cooking and eating. This is one end of the kitchen area with the stairs leading up to the first floor living room, we painted the wall black to disguise an ugly door and use it for messages, lists, new ideas and drawings. It’s very useful and cheap and people always comment on it.
{Couch in living room and art on wall}
2.) What do people often notice the first time they enter your home? What has been your approach in designing your home?

The first thing people notice is the light and the views– we live in a very leafy part of London and we look over woodland, then right across London, its stunning! With its large windows at the back, the whole house is designed to make the most of the setting.  We don’t need curtains as we are not overlooked, so at night we can see the lights of London. We have kept it simple and white to increase the feeling of space and used solid oak floor boards throughout because…. well, they were cheap! we got a job lot, enough to do the whole house.
{ balcony and livingroom}
3.) By looking at the picture it seems your livingroom is not on ground level, but I believe you do have a garden … what made you decide to create the livingroom on a higher level? So much snow is not very common, must have felt very special?

Our house is arranged on 5 floors, so everything is stacked on top of each other. The living room is above the kitchen and opens out onto a balcony with more amazing views! Our garden is tiny but and we also have an allotment that we can walk to through the woods, more often than not we take the car which is not very eco! This picture was taken in February when London had the heaviest snow for 18 years. There was no school and no transport so everyone forgot the gloomy news for the day and went sledging!

{fireplace, chair and pillows in couch}
4.) How would you describe your style and why you are attracted to this style? Can you mention some places where you love to shop for your home? Do you create many things yourself for your home, like re-upholstering, pillows, artwork?

I love designs that I grew up with in the 60s and 70s, I wish my mum had kept those original Heals Lucienne Day curtains! I already had masses of stuff before we moved here, so it fitted right in. I don’t like to stick to one style, I like to mix it up. I like to recycle, and search out unusual pieces, just about everything you see came from charity shops and fleamarkets. Apart from the sofas, my husband chose the sofas and they are not my favourite thing! Cushions I make myself from vintage fabric and silk scarves, which also make wonderful artworks.Studio-table
{studio, screenprint table}
5.) Speaking of creating…can you tell us a bit more about when and why you started the beautiful Roddy&Ginger label? Do you work from home? Where did you get your inspiration from for your new collection?
The idea for roddy&ginger started a couple of years ago – a very good friend of mine has a little boy who was just learning to talk, he couldn’t pronounce our names so we became roddy and ginger! I made him a t-shirt with the two little owls design and everyone said I should sell them. It wasn’t until last year that I had time to really start anything and I took the plunge and started an online shop in December. I work from home, we are lucky enough to have a large basement room that I use as my studio. My inspiration comes from my hoard of ceramics, books and vintage textiles collected over the years.
6.) Do you sew everything yourself or do you have somebody to help you. What it your background in education … have you followed any courser which you can highly recommend?

I studied graphic design at art college and have been freelance since my kids were one year old. It was either graphics or textiles at the time and graphics won! I have had a great career in the business, but I have always kept up my interest in textiles and screen printing so when we moved here I was able to create my studio. I took some textile printing courses at the London Print Workshop nearby in Brixton, and I use their brilliant facilities for making my screens and baking the end result. Some of the products I sew myself, but some are made here in the UK and hand printed by me in my studio.
{couch in studio with pillows}
7.) Roddy&Ginger already has an incredible collection .. but what are your plans for the future, expanding, other items etc.? What do you really like about your work and what would you rather skip?
I am in danger of having too many ideas so I am trying to edit my collection! I would like to introduce maybe a couple of new themes a year. I am working on  some new designs based on a tiny village in northern Spain, where we have a family home, not sure how its going to turn out yet but its something close to my heart!  Also on my list for Spring is to start a blog and develop the wholesale side of things both here in the UK and overseas.
{Kitchen from upstairs with saarinen table}
8.) I love all your furniture and you have done such a great job in combining your pieces and accessories? What mistake do you think people often make when decorating their home?
Thank-you! Its something I love doing.  Searching out forgotten and battered pieces and bringing them back to life. The table was an ebay bargain, made in the ‘60s by Arkana – so, a much cheaper version of the Saarinen table! Looking at these images I realise that I have an obsession with chairs – I didn’t know I had so many.  And nothing matches! I think having everything matching can be a  mistake, where’s the fun in six chairs that all look the same!
{kitchen view from table side}
9.) Does your family like to spend time around the dining table? Is having dinner together for you an important part of the day? What do you hope your kids learn about creating a home?
We always eat our evening meal together, and always Sunday lunch. So, yes it is important. I hope they’ve learnt to cook for themselves and to enjoy good food. Both the kids have developed an interest in design – Lucy is studying textiles at school and Charlie product design, not really surprising as we are both designers! I also hope they have learnt that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to create a home that’s creative and fun.
{kitchen shelves with ceramics}
10.) And YES I’m jealous of your great collection ceramics … are you still collecting, where do you find your pieces, is there a particular designer or brand you really love?   

I can’t stop myself from picking up pieces from charity shops, boot fairs and markets. I love Scandinavian and British glass and ceramics, studio pottery, teak bowls (anything teak!), stainless steel, enamel ware, Ercol furniture, anything with a retro pattern, vintage textiles, birds, childrens books, wooden horses, silk scarves, bumpy white vases, I could go on….
{Bird corner}
11.) Can you tell us a bit more about this corner in your home and the artwork? And what's the best decorating advice you ever got from anybody else?
More finds from the charity shops, the birds just formed themselves into a collection on the house-shaped shelf unit and I found a stack of flower paintings that someone had discarded. I once read that you should buy what you love and not worry what other people think, great advice, and you can always take it back to the charity shop if it really is a mistake!

{your bedroom}
12.) I love the simple and quietness of your bedroom .. is this done on purpose? What kind of book do you like to bring to bed?
What you can’t see from this picture is the best feature of our bedroom – the view (I have attached a jpg ) Our bedroom is on the 5th floor and it is very tranquil, we really feel as if we are amongst the treetops. We often watch as noisy flocks of the green parrots that have colonised parts of South London fly past our window, a very weird experience!  The rest of the room is simple and white with masses of hidden storage to keep it uncluttered. I couldn’t resist some vintage scarf cushions though. Beside the bed is one of my many notebooks, if I don’t write ideas down immediately I forget them.
{daughter’s bedroom}
13.) What ambiance did she wanted to create? What does she think of your work? Why all the mirrors?
Lucy has got the collecting bug from me. She loves all things vintage, including clothes and pretty pieces of china – she asked for the dressing table as a  Christmas present  when she was ten years old and the mirrors are all flea market finds. We often go hunting around the charity shops together and she can spot a bargain as well as I can.
{son’s bedroom}
14.) I’m only showing a little bit of your son’s bedroom, what are his hobbies, interests and how does this reflect in his room?

Charlie is quite a laid back character, and his hobby at the moment is sleeping.
I’m told that’s what teenage boys do! When he’s awake and when the sun shines he’s into kite-surfing which he does with his dad – it takes a lot of determination here in chilly England but is a much more enjoyable experience in Spain.Virginia_inspiration

{vintage books}
15.) WOW … I’m drooling over your vintage book collection … what is it that you too like so much about these books and do you use them as inspiration for your own designs? … finally what is the best advice you can give to anybody who would like to start a beautiful label like roddy&ginger?
I have been collecting these books for years, some of them I remember as a young child, I was brought up with Petunia and the Happy Lion. I love the design and the typography, and the simple bold colour illustrations that have such an affinity with screen printing techniques. I read them to my kids when they were little and Lucy still fondly remembers the distinctive smell of vintage books!

I started roddy&ginger knowing very little about running a business, and I am still learning – so my advice is be prepared to learn a lot in a very short time. Start small and don’t expect too much in the first few months – then every sale is a bonus. Stick to some sort of plan and don’t get sidetracked, easier said than done! 


..roddy&ginger products..

..roddy&ginger online shop..

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