Helen Gilbert is the brains behind luxury velvet cushion company Luxe 39. Here, she tells The Colour File about what colour means to her…
Can you describe your first colour memory and how it made you feel?
My first colour memory is my childhood love of pink and purple. When I used to write my list for Santa it was always totally predictable: A pink or purple toothbrush; A pink or purple hat; A pink or purple scarf etc. etc.
Do you have a favourite colour and why and has this changed over the years?
After leaving behind my pink and purple obsession my favourite colour is now green although I also love blue. I love all shades of both green and blue and Iike them together despite that awful rhyme of ‘blue and green should never be seen’. I don’t hold with rules like that at all.
What colourful object or objects that you possess are you favourites and why?
I bought a set of 3 porcelain sardines in Lisbon a couple of years ago which are always to be found swimming up the wall of my kitchen. One of them is a bright yellow colour which frequently catches my eye and I love them for their intrinsic beauty and also because they remind me of the brilliant city break spent with my family.
If you could own anything colourful in the world that you don’t already possess, what would it be and why?
I’m currently lusting over a pair of PJs which are red with bright pink stars and I’m very much hoping to find them under the tree this Xmas! Not only do they look super comfy but I love a colour clash and red and pink is one of my favourites.
What is your favourite colourful work of art?
I love the artwork of Kristjana Williams which, as well as being colourful, is incredibly intricate and beautiful. We have a few of her prints in the house but would love an original piece of her work with the delicate elements of collage. I also love Paul Catherall’s colourful screen prints of iconic London buildings. We have a gorgeous print of his over the dining table which my youngest son was talking about on Sunday when we sat around the table together.
Do you have a colour you could happily do without and why is this?
I’m not a fan of ultraviolet purple. When pantone made this their colour of the year a couple of years ago I toyed with adding it as a colour option to my cushion range. The company I source my British cotton velvet from don’t have this shade of purple as an option which was a bit of a relief as I don’t think I would have enjoyed sewing with it.
How does colour make you feel and have you ever had a strong reaction to a colour?
I find colour uplifting and although I don’t tend to dress in many bright colours I love the use of colour in my home. Since starting my velvet cushion company I have MANY colourful cushions in the house which I can experiment with. One colour I can’t do without is yellow and I love it in north facing rooms to add colour and vibrancy, especially in the winter months. The yellow cushions I have in my north facing sitting room genuinely make me feel happy in the morning when I first come downstairs (and that’s even before my first cup of coffee!).
How was your colourful business born?
Following a visit to a hotel, I was inspired to make emerald green velvet cushions for my bedroom because I couldn’t find truly luxurious velvet cushions in the sizes, shapes and colours I wanted. I found that the market was awash with velvet cushions claiming to be ‘luxury’ but quite clearly weren’t. I dug out my sewing machine and made what I wanted for myself instead. Before I knew it, friends were asking me to make cushions for them, too – and this was the final push I needed to leave the world of City recruitment and set up my own business. I now have a job that better fits around my family, making cushions from our HQ at number 39.
How did colour become involved in your life and in what way does it permeate your life, now? Does a day ever go by that doesn’t involve colour in some way?
I’ve always used colour in my home but it has really become central to my life since setting up Luxe 39. My cushion business is all about introducing colour into homes and encouraging people to fill their homes with the colours they love and which make them happy. Because we have the option of double colour ‘Cocktail’ cushions on our website (as well as single colour ‘Gemstone’ cushions) I love to see which colour combinations people opt for and really love it if someone comes to me with a special request to mix together two colours for the first time (like you did recently when you asked me to make you a cushion in Duck Egg and Blush, with stunning results).
What colours do your cushions come in and are you planning to add any more?
We currently have 12 house velvet colours and 64 colourway options online, although any two colours can be mixed together so the total options are more extensive than that. We’re adding two additional colours in early 2020 which are Ruby Red and Rich Purple (a deep aubergine shade).
Do you have any colour stories or anecdotes?
My eldest son absolutely loved the colour pink as a small boy. It used to really annoy him when girls came over for lunch or tea and invariably chose HIS pink ikea cup and plate. He used to ask me to text their Mummy to tell them to bring their own pink plate and cup because these were his favourites. He loved it when I bought him a pink shirt to wear and just had an intrinsic love of the colour. It was only towards the end of his time at nursery that someone obviously told him that pink was a ‘girls colour’ and he immediately turned against it and chose blue. It still makes me sad that societal norms about colour and gender were imposed on him in this way.
Are there any colours you strongly associate with anyone in your life?
I got married in a fuschia pink silk dress and lime green satin shoes and I still absolutely love the combination of pink and green. My mum made my wedding dress for me and did a really stunning job (including sewing me into it on the morning of my wedding) and so I will always associate that colour of silk with her.
Do you have any colour ‘secrets’, maybe something nobody knows about you in relation to colour?…
I occasionally suffer from migraines and struggle with red light. I hate driving straight after a migraine as the red of break lights can make me feel quite sick.
Where’s the most colourful place you’ve ever been and how did it make you feel?
My brother in law got married in India and the memories of that wedding are very colourful and vibrant. We used the opportunity to buy some beautiful silks which my Mum made into gorgeous curtains which we have throughout the house. For me, shopping for silk in India was a total kid in a sweet shop experience.
If you could give people advice about colour, what would it be?
I like to advise people to fill their homes with the colours they love. Don’t be swayed by fashions as they will change. There’s a quote which states ‘be faithful to your own tastes, because nothing you really like is every out of style’. That is how I encourage people to choose their cushions. The velvet we use lasts for years and if you’ve chosen colours based on your love of them then fashion is irrelevant. I also suggest decorating your home and buying cushions in colours you love but can’t wear. I think there are colour rules for clothing as some colours drain all the life from my face such as yellow or blush pink. It’s no coincidence that at all times I have these two colours sitting together on the sofa in my living room and I absolutely love them.
If you had a colour named in your honour, what colour would it be & why?
When I was a teenager I briefly wore a lipstick called ‘Red Ken’. I haven’t worn red lipstick for years but my best friend from school still calls me Helen Red Ken from time to time.
- Luxe 39 cushions are made from 100% cotton pile velvet manufactured by the last remaining velvet weaving mill in England, the cushion pads are sourced from a manufacturer in England and the packaging is eco-friendly, too.
- Take a look at the Luxe 39 velvet cushion range and get 15% OFF until 31st December ’19 with code COLOURFILE15