Chrissie Rucker: colour and the White Company

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She built a retail empire on neutral tones – but Chrissie Rucker still uses colour in her own home. Here she reveals where to shop if you want to splash out

Chrissie Rucker set up The White Company in 1994 as a 12-page mail-order brochure. She now has 450,000 customers a year, produces eight brochures and has opened 28 shops. In addition to running the business, Rucker has four children with her husband Nick Wheeler (who runs Charles Tyrwhitt Shirts), and the couple have just moved to a house near Oxford, which they are renovating.

Everyone thinks I have a house that is white from top to bottom, but that's not true. There are soft greys and neutrals, and some punches of colour. Yes, a lot of my home is white but you can wipe down cupboards and floors, you don't have to wash white bed linen any more often than other colours, and you can put throws over the sofa.

Garish colours just aren't me. It makes me feel manic. Home for me is about somewhere I can switch off, relax in comfort and snuggle into a sofa when I am tired. It's about escaping from the hectic pace outside.

Interior design is not something I grew up with. My childhood was about horses; my mother always kept the stables spotless and wasn't really interested in the house. But when I met Nick, I discovered that his stepmother had a beautiful home and I wanted to know how she did it.

When I first started out, I didn't have a clue what I was doing. Things were in the wrong proportion and it all looked slightly out of kilter, but the advantage of having a designer is that you get a much better end result.

Ann Boyd Design

Ann is the designer who's currently helping me do our new house. She is really brilliant at getting the proportions right. She has taught me to use a floor plan and to draw on the furniture, and then you can see how much space there is around it, which makes all the difference. Getting the proportions right in a room is a great art and I just don't have time to do that.

The other reason I like her so much is that she helps me to be braver with colour. Having said that, I don't like too many bright colours as I strongly believe that a home should be restful and tranquil and for me that means soft, neutral shades. My children will probably paint their houses lime green when they grow up and I won't be able to visit!

Studio 8, Fairbank Studios, London SW10 (020-7351 4098)

Albion Bath Company

Our new house is old so that you can't go filling it with things that are too modern. This company has a great selection of baths, and I have bought of couple of their Copo baths for the bathrooms, which are quite small. These are in a traditional style but made new, so they fit in perfectly with the look of the house. The bathrooms and bedrooms are always my favourite rooms in a home. Most of our towels, bedlinen and scented candles do tend to come from The White Company. We try to source the best, so we would have it at home as well.

New Quay, Colchester, Essex (01206 794 462; )

Josephine Ryan

Josephine Ryan has beautiful chandeliers and sources antiques from France. She has lovely old cupboards, desks and mirrors, too. And I bought a rather sweet cupboard from her for my son's room. She has lots of other lovely things, such as candlesticks and unusual lampstands.

Abbeville Road, London SW4 ( ; 020-8675 3900)

Myriad Antiques

Great bedside tables, pretty bedroom chairs and button-back linen sofas. This is my favourite place, and I pop in regularly just to see what they have. I have got to know the owner quite well – I really trust their taste, and when you are doing up a house under pressure it's all about finding people you can trust.

Portland Road, London W11 (020-7229 1709)

Crucial Trading

I love the look of seagrass carpet, but sometimes it can feel hard and knobbly. When we bought this house in September, it already had some seagrass, which was a very natural colour and soft. I like it so much that I'm even putting it in the bedroom. Crucial Trading has a beautiful sisal called oriental topaz, which is softer than a lot of the others. It's easy to keep clean and this is the best one I've found to date.

01562 743 747;

Steamer Trading

We live near Thame and I love the local cookshop there – Steamer Trading. It has great kitchen accessories. When I have time, I love to entertain, but I have to admit it's often cobbled together, so I try to concentrate on the presentation. I love using big bowls, which always look lovely with the food in them. I also use big plates for the same reason, and might serve something comforting like shepherd's pie.

High Street, Thame, Oxfordshire (01844 217 389; )

Chloe Alberry Antiques

I come here for mirrors. They stock a mix of old and new and will do made-to-measure for an awkward space. But she also stocks so many other lovely things such as door handles, cabinet fittings and hooks.

Portobello Road, London W11 (020-7727 0707; )

Richard Taylor Lighting

Lighting is so important and can be hard to get right. I have had help to create the right atmosphere of cosiness. We have used tiny spots on the ceiling mixed with uplighters for something softer. I also love chandeliers.

Studio 7, Burnaby Street, London SW10 (020-7351 2567;

How to make a house a home: Chrissie’s top tips

There are four key ways to bring a room to life. It's all about creating the right atmosphere and you don't have to spend a fortune. My suggestions:

Scent it

Use flowers and candles as often as you can. I always have fresh flowers in the house.

Warm it

Of course you want to keep it warm with central heating, and a fire if you have one, but there are other ways to warm up the feel of a room. Try dotting tea lights about or using really dramatic candles. Lighting plays an important role in this area; have different lighting for day and night to change the atmosphere and make it feel cosier.

Soften it

This is about introducing lots of different textures into a room. Have cushions in different materials and cashmere throws on sofas. This makes the room feel more curvy and welcoming – particularly on a cold winter's evening.

Seasonalise it

This is easy and needn't cost much. Change cushions and rugs depending on the season. If you have a neutral background – as I do – add accessories in deep berry and chocolate in winter, then change to paler ones in spring.

Interview by Kate Watson-Smyth. 'How To Make a House a Home', Craft Publishing, is available from The White Company (£10)

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