A few of my favourite things

As a child, Brigette Buchanan dreamed of growing up surrounded by cottage comforts. Now she’s turned her home into a business. Katie Law visits
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The minute Brigette Buchanan laid eyes on the outside of the grey-stone Victorian shooting lodge in the middle of ultra-fashionable Cotswold country, she told her husband Robin they were buying it.

“That was back in 1988. We hadn’t even been inside but it was dirt cheap because it wasn’t one of those honeyed-stone dream houses and, apart from a few Edwardian additions, it hadn’t been touched, so the windows, fireplaces and floors were all intact.”

The couple decided to leave the structure of the house and plough their considerable creative energies into decorating their home.

Their style was so distinctive that, encouraged by family and friends, they set up a business using this style as the basis for making their furniture, fashion and fabrics in the same mould. They called the business Odd.

‘I grew up in New Zealand with a certain image of a dream childhood and I suppose I’ve tried to create it for my own children’

The look is a mix of washed-out jewel colours - predominantly pinks, greens and neutrals, vintage floral wallpaper and curtains, floppy velvet cushions, striped rugs and an amazing collection of childhood memorabilia, from early Enid Blyton and Rupert annuals to decorated dolly pegs and vintage Start Rite shoes.

Even though two of their three children, Angus and Violet, have grown up and left home, and the youngest, Maudie, is 15, these nostalgic displays remain an essential part of the Odd aesthetic.

Brigette puts this down, in part, to her own upbringing. “My mother sent me to live with my grandparents in New Zealand when I was a child, so I grew up with a certain image of a dream childhood I never had and I suppose I’ve tried to create it for my own children,” she says.

Robin and Brigette Buchanan
Robin and Brigette have started their own company, Odd, based on their quirky personal style
Dressed in vintage floral skirt, tights and woolly socks, faded green sweater and layers of scarves, Brigette looks the perfect part.

Almost every wall in the house is covered, either with photographs of blond, tousle-haired children playing on sandy Cornish beaches, or with daubed flower paintings done by the children when they were younger that have been framed by Robin using scraps of old wood.

“Our friends are always asking him to make them frames but they’re so easy, anyone could do it,” says Brigette with amusement.

Robin, who was previously managing director of the tiles and homeware company Fired Earth, also designed the kitchen, the bookshelves in the drawing room and the long decorative skylight that runs the length of the first-floor landing, even though he has had no formal training.

He says he has always loved making things, including boats, and just learned on the job. According to Brigette, “he has a great eye for scale and design and is really a frustrated architect”.

In the pink

Brigette herself went to art college, worked at both Vogue and Laura Ashley and then co-founded Cabbages & Roses, the company that specialises in nostalgic faded florals, now part-owned by Jigsaw.

She says she has always been passionate about colour, so that when she painted the kitchen in three tones of tasteful grey paint from The Paint Library, she was unable to resist splashing accents of pink - saccharine pink - on the undersides of shelves and on the wall beneath the window, half hidden by a window seat and huge velvet cushions.

She covered the cushions and chairs in different velvets from old curtains she picked up in flea markets and junk shops. “It’s my favourite fabric because, after you machine-wash it, it takes on a lovely chalky quality,” she says.

Brigette Buchanan's Cotswold country home
Chocolate labrador Mole reclines by the trademark, Thirties-inspired Old Rocker by Odd
The next door room, still known as the nursery, is dominated by a huge, bright-pink Habitat sofa and a large weathered-oak coffee table, again one of Robin’s designs, while upstairs, most of the bedrooms have floaty, feminine displays of vintage dresses and are covered, wall to ceiling, with floral wallpapers.

Brigette painted a thin layer of white emulsion over the rose wallpaper in the main bedroom because she found the colours too strident, so now it looks perfectly muted, as if it has been there for ever.

The vintage curtains she chose were not wide enough, so she just added plain-white interlined curtains from John Lewis and Moroccan sequinned blankets, recent purchases, to hang on the walls. “It’s important to mix it all up and not get too bogged down in one style,” she says.

Elsewhere are displays of shells and beach pebbles collected by the Buchanans on summer holidays in Cornwall, while the stairs are carpeted in the Buchanan tartan, which Brigette would love to change but after 20 years it still shows no signs of wear.

In the main drawing room sits one of their best-selling Odd’s Old Rockers, a British-made upholstered swinging garden sofa - complete with fringed awning, sides and cushions, which was inspired by a Thirties original that belonged to Brigette’s great aunt Trix.

Brigette Buchanan's Cotswold Country home
The stairs are carpeted in bright Buchanan tartan
Brigette says: “So many of our friends who saw it had incredible flashbacks to their own childhoods. There was always a swinging garden sofa in it somewhere, which is what persuaded us to reproduce and sell them in the first place.”

She and Robin now take each rocker they sell, in a purple and white VW camper van called Noddy, to customers and help them to assemble, dress and place it in the garden. She says cheerfully: “It’s all part of the service.”

How to get the look

Fabrics, cushions and Old Rockers: from Odd, 01993 830674; www.oddlimited.com.
Paints: from David Oliver Ltd/Paint and Paper Library,
5 Elystan Street, SW3; 020 7823 7755; www.paintlibrary.co.uk.
Faded textiles and quilts: Susannah, 25 Broad Street, Bath; 01225 445069.
Painted furniture, vintage lampshades and accessories: Fade Interiors, 17 Oxford Street, Woodstock; 01993 811655.
Tartan carpets: Johnsons of Elgin; 01343 554099.

Pictures by Grant Smith

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