All things white and beautiful

In an impressive act of defiance, The White Company is waving the recession away and opening its biggest store to date. Katie Law meets the homemaker who found the secret for success
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Chrissie Rucker, the queen of all things white and beautiful, has given a bullish snub to the recession and just opened a huge White Company lifestyle flagship store bang opposite Peter Jones.

It is her biggest premises to date, occupying 7,000sq ft in what used to be The General Trading Company.

'Years ago anything white was either cheap stuff from China or very, very expensive'

"This is my dream come true," says the stunning 41-year-old mother-of-four, who, together with her entrepreneur husband, Nick Wheeler (owner of mailorder shirt company Charles Tyrwhitt), is at No 596 on this year's Sunday Times Rich List, with an estimated worth of £65 million.

She may appear to have it all but her feet are firmly planted on the ground and she is well aware - with her husband's early boom-and-bust business career as a reminder - that success can go as easily as it can come.

Chrissie Rucker
Chrissie Rucker, creator of The White Company, has always had a love of white. Her mantra is keep quality up and prices down
And with her children (Tom, 13, Ella, 12, India, 10, and Bea, six) as her priority, she organises her life around her family. "Home making is what I do best," she says. And her considerable flair for rolling out the concept to the rest of us - in universally appealing white - has made her a fortune.

"I don't know where my love of white came from. I grew up in Kent in a home with brown sofas and muddy wellies. When I moved to London and got a job [Rucker was a fashion journalist at Harpers & Queen], I went out and bought a white sofa and painted the walls white. My mother thought I was bonkers. Buying all white things in those days was difficult. It was either cheap stuff from China or very expensive."

In 1993, Rucker met Nick at a party. He was already running Charles Tyrwhitt, and Rucker's passion for white had given her the germ of an idea. With Wheeler's encouragement it became The White Company.

Wheeler invested £5,000 for a 25 per cent stake in the company. On what she thought was a special holiday he failed to propose marriage and she, furious, gave him his money back and demanded her shares in return. When they married she gave him one per cent of the business as a wedding present.

Rucker, in spite of the recession, had her best year in 2009 and today her empire spans 38 stores, with nine more in the pipeline and an online business. "I'll stop at 60 stores," she says.

After a brief and unsuccessful brush with colour, white rules. Even the store walls (and her home) are painted with Farrow & Ball's All White. Her mantra for success is "keep quality up and prices down".

Room set at new store
Room sets at the new flagship showroom are styled the way Rucker likes to live and entertain
Bed linen remains at the heart of the business and still accounts for the highest sales - along with the £18 winter scented candle and bath fragrances.

She says: "Three years ago we launched clothes that you wear at home: wraps and dresses in neutral shades of white and greys, a perfect match for chunky cable-knit cushions and blankets."

Her room sets are styled the way she likes to entertain, with appropriate lighting and furniture. And although it's white it's practical and washable. There is new white bed linen piped with black and a black-packaged range of fragrances.

The Little White Company - the baby and childrenswear range - was launched after Rucker had her first child. "My children give me ideas," she says. "I totally listen to them and joke about the Estée Lauder dream of keeping it in the family. "Who knows if they'll want to be a part of this or not but I love it, and I have no plans to sell."

The White Company, 4 Symons Street, SW3 (

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