WHEN Vic Brotherson was growing up in Cumbria, she always knew she wanted to work with flowers, but it took several years for her dreams to flourish.
These days she is one of the most sought-after florists in the UK, a status further enhanced last year when she was responsible for the flowers at the wedding of Kate Moss and Jamie Hince.
Other celebrity fans include Sophie Dahl and Nigella Lawson, but, despite such a starry following, Vic is grounded and down to earth, and doing Kate Moss’s wedding, she says, was hugely stressful.
“We had to close the shop for two days and everyone who works with me came along. It was wonderful and a great honour, but the attention since has been rather overwhelming,” she says.
Having studied Fine Art at Oxford, Vic then moved to London where she worked with florist Nikki Tibbles, of Wild at Heart. She spent 15 years working with Nikki, gaining experience of every aspect of the floristry business.
Eight years ago, when she and art director husband Simon and their 14-year-old daughter Betsy Scarlet moved to a new area of London near Queen’s Park, she had the idea of starting up her own shop.
“I used to walk past the shop space every day on my way to work, and one day I just enquired about a lease. It was on a really busy road and it was a very small shop, so I thought I may be able to afford it,” Vic explains. In March 2006, she took over the lease and now the shop is one of the most popular in the area.
It took a while to choose a name, but since her daughter is called Betsy Scarlet and a best friend, Lily Violet, she combined them and Scarlet & Violet was born.
Vic is passionate about flowers and they are everywhere in her home – huge bunches lie across the kitchen worktops, and they spill out of vases and bowls in every room. She has a good tip for keeping cut flowers and says, “If you buy fresh conditioned flowers, usually you can’t go wrong using sterilisation tablets in the water or a drop of bleach. Re-cutting the flowers and changing the water also helps.”
It is clear Vic and Simon have spent some considerable time and effort updating their home. The first thing they did when they moved in was knock the two small rooms on the ground floor together to make one large living room. Now they have three bedrooms, with two of them on the second floor. The family lived in the one upstairs room throughout the renovations.
Floorboards are painted with mahogany by Farrow & Ball throughout. The company’s Pavilion Gray features again in the master bedroom, while Betsy’s room has blackboard paint to allow her to write all over the walls.
In the sitting room on the ground floor sits one of Vic’s favourite pieces, an old statue of a horse that she found at an antique market at Kempton Park. The sofa is another favourite piece, which she bought around 15 years ago from Sofa Workshop and recently had recovered in a printed flower fabric she came across in Liberty. The rug is from Donna Wilson while the two green chairs are from local shop, Niche.
In the bathroom a modern rolltop bath from Bathstore takes up most of the room, while a large green vase, given to her by a customer, sits underneath the sink.
Vic’s flair for floristry was further recognised when she was asked to produce a book. Vic worked on everything from writing, styling and creating images and it is a beautiful compendium of flowers that says much about Vic’s style as a florist and as an artist.
“I had wanted to be an artist, but I don’t think I was quite confident enough,” she says.
It seems her flowers are works of art in themselves. k
Vintage Flowers: Choosing, Arranging, Displaying, by Vic Brotherson, Kyle Books, £25; Scarlet & Violet, 76 Chamberlayne Road, London, NW10 3JJ (020 8969 9446, www.scarletandviolet.com)