showcasing the best of the south west

The Colour-Splashed World of Corita Rose

Pictured above: textiles designer Caroline Ritchie

Walking into the Corita Rose studio in Shaftesbury is like a massive assault on the senses- heartstopping colour  everywhere against a background of starkest white. Colours you would never think to put together yet are so totally right - plum splashed with lime and brown and turquoise, delicious, addictive combinations on every turn.

When designer Caroline Ritchie was studying for her textiles degree at Bath University the vogue was for pale neutrals and her tutors kept urging her to 'tone it down' but she couldn't; the colour just kept on coming. 'Colour is huge for me,' she says with understatement. Nowadays colour is back in and her designs have won her legions of fans and a place on the chic interiors circuit, featuring in press including Vogue, Living etc, Style and Stella magazine. I've heard she is currently styling a well known rock star's house from head to foot. She's far too discreet to tell me who it is, of course, but says the house is medieval and can take plenty of high impact Corita Rose. Caroline began by creating fabric for pieces of antique furniture for family and friends interweaving their story into each design, which also featured her love of folk tales and heraldry along with her Mexican colour sense. "I included references to what I loved about that person, it might be a novel they had read, hidden somewhere in the design." The upholstered pieces were an instant hit, spawning many requests for copies and so Corita Rose was born. She called it Corita after Sister Mary Corita, the legendary 50s artist nun known for her highly coloured serigraphs and a provocative slogan 'Mother Mary is the Juiciest Tomato' which almost saw her ex-communicated. Rose is Caroline's middle name and together the two names reflected the Latin American feel of her business. The popularity of her upholstered antique armchairs and sofas prompted Caroline to design a furniture range in conjunction with a local framemaker and upholsterer. There are velvet drapes which are the coolest and most beautiful curtains I've ever seen - great bold splashes of colour with slogans which read Fortune Favours the Brave when pulled together or my favourite, Joy Ruled the Day, Love the Night. These are not furnishings for the faint-hearted.   Corita Rose sells wallpaper, gorgeous deep pink armoured knights, lime-green gypsy swirls, an acid-tinged swarm of bees. Osborne & Little this isn't. Many of her clients have begun inheriting English country houses and want to replace the traditional chintz with some Corita Rose chutzpah. There are some seriously high end pieces such as the beautiful Amor sofa £6000 but Corita Rose also sells room-transforming cushions £90 a pop. Recently Caroline has added inexpensive make up bags, cards, bunting and men's ties to her range. She says: "We are a cottage industry and I wanted to sell at a level where we are still part of the local community." In her studio you'll find a wonderful leather boxer dressed in intensely bright clothes, an heirloom of her husband Josh's who runs the business side of Corita Rose and a relic from the Festival of Britain. The boxer was beginning to fall apart so Caroline designed an outfit for him tatooed with the words "Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee." When we meet she is working on beautiful velvet banners for one family, interweaving lurchers, bees and playing cards into the design to reflect their personal passions. And it is this ability to invent and constantly reinvent, to make bespoke, highly personal pieces which always tell a story, which best reflects the inherent success of Corita Rose.  One thing is for sure, you won't find anything else like it.

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