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Dragons of Walton Street

 

Dragons of Walton Street is an iconic British brand famous for creating the most magical nurseries and childrens bedrooms imaginable. Story telling is central to their designs and I was beyond thrilled when Creative Director, Lucinda Croft (pictured above) approached me to work on a collaboration. 

My exclusive wallpaper design for Dragons launched at Decorex earlier this week, where I managed to grab five minutes with Lucinda to learn more about her family run business.


 

I would love for my followers to understand the history of Dragons and how it became the iconic British childrens décor brand, could you tell us about how it all began?

It began when my mother used to sit around the table surrounded by entrepreneurs: my grandfather, father and uncle.  She found their talk of business very exciting and wanted to do something herself. In 1979 she persuaded my dad to open a shop in Uckfield that sold antiques and although successful, she had her sights set on London.  One day we all cycled to Walton Street, where outside a dilapidated shop, she announced that this was the street, and this was the shop.  I remember thinking she was making a terrible mistake!  However, her mind was made up and this was where Dragons would be launched.

Dragons was originally an antique shop selling the odd children’s piece.  Despite it being considered highly unusual to spend money on children back then, the children’s items soon became the most popular. In fact, the rush seated chairs are still one of our most popular items today!  And so, she listened to what her customers wanted: a table to go with the chairs, a chest of drawers, a cot. Dragons soon became all about children.

 

 

This is how we’ve grown ever since, we listen to our customers who are all incredibly sophisticated and who have travelled the world seeing the best and most beautiful things. We are cognisant to what they want, what they like.

As a mummy to four children, she actively restrained from growing the brand too fast.  Which is why, when approached to take over the entire nursery department at Harrods, she declined.  She didn’t want to grow too quickly, and she didn’t want either the service or products to be diluted.  She was a very wise and formidable woman who wasn’t afraid to say no.

When I took over 12 years ago there was a very strong base with an incredible team of developed artists from which to grow.  I wanted to expand the business globally and it’s been an incredibly exciting journey.  It’s fascinating working with other cultures and learning how to do business in places such as Russia, Abu Dhabi and Doha.  I’m so proud that Dragons was one of the very first independent brands in Russia!  How we do business has evolved from when my mum was around, in fact email was only just introduced as she was finishing her time with Dragons.  As a retailer we needed more than just a great shop, we needed an ecommerce site, social media, blogs.  There’s been much to learn and master, and we are still evolving today.

 

Your mother was responsible for some incredible projects for children around the world, just as you are todaywhat did she create for your childhood bedroom?

Even before Dragons, mummy was very ambitious for us to have things that were personal.  I was incredibly lucky and had the most beautiful four poster bed with my point shoes hanging around the posts (I was at ballet school).  My little brother loved cricket so had a painted cricket scoreboard on his bedroom wall with Rain Stopped Play” above and cricket book ends made especially for him.  My little sister was mad about animals, so mummy had animals painted on the beams in her room, so it was as if they were sitting by her bed and watching over her. 

She was so creative, with a knack for colour and lots of incredible ideas which she would get friends who were artists to paint for her. 

 

Which themes and designs have you used for your own childrens nurseries?

My children have been my hidden gems for Dragons.  As they’ve grown so has Dragons.  I’ve tracked their individual passions as they have developed, harnessing them and incorporating them into their rooms.

Initially my son had Barbara’s Bunnies with the most incredible mural which I never had the presence of mind to get photographed (this was before digital photography).  When he moved to his toddler bed we had Laura’s Bears; a vintage teddy in an aeroplane.  When he was a little older we used Trompe L’oeil (an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create an optical illusion) to paint his chest of drawers.  The front was painted to look like a polaroid picture with a signature white border and within the photo my son is standing on a boat that he loved to drive.  On the top of the chest of drawers some of his most treasured items were painted on as if left on there, including his favourite plectrum.  We used the same technique for his wardrobe so that it looked as if his guitar was leaning up against the doors.

 

My daughter also had Barbara’s Bunnies on her cot but my favourite piece for her was the incredibly beautiful Flower Fairies four poster bed that we created with full curtains.  She had so many fun sleepovers with her girlfriends in that space.

 

And now, my daughter who loves animals has a desk that my mum gave to me when I was younger that has been repainted with our dogs on as if they are talking to each other. Whereas for my son who is now 19 and who loves nothing more than hanging out with his friends and playing his guitar, we have created this enormous bed with an upholstered head board that has an L shape around each side with lots of different cushions.  His room is also filled with some lovely vintage items such as a lamp made out of a boat propeller.

Just as we learn from our clients, our children have also been crucial in the evolution of Dragons. When I was first interested in dolls houses I took my daughter to see one I particularly liked and she said, “but mummy this doesn’t have a chimney or a dog, how can this be a house?”  Now all of our dolls houses have chimneys and dogs.

 

At what age do the little ones tend to get involved in the design for their nurseries/bedrooms?

It depends on the mummy, but probably when they move to their toddler beds as by this stage they usually have an interest.  We encourage our clients to use little accents from that phase as children move on quickly, for example if they are into superheroes then using Trompe L’eoil to create a cape hanging from their bedroom wall.  Or perhaps a couple of lines from their favourite story hand painted onto the back of the door.  Something little that can be painted over easily.

The bed is such an important item of furniture.  We create environments where children can sleep, rest and play and where mummy and daddy can escape and not be looking around thinking about jobs that need to be done.  We believe in creating children’s rooms that are a sacred space away from the rest of the world.  The whole essence of Dragons is wanting children to have imaginative play because if you can get hold of their imagination now, you are on to such a good thing.

 

Do your customers still favour traditional themes?

In terms of colours yes, pale pink for girls and blue for boys.  Beatrix Potter is still very popular in nurseries, it’s timeless.  For girls, our blossom is very popular as it transitions with children as they grow.  For boys, our soldier design continues to be a favourite as well as our Vintage Transport design.  The Monaco Grand Prix is an artwork we’ve developed most recently that is loved by young enthusiasts of stylish, vintage cars.

 

 

What is the most wildly extravagant project you have worked on?

We completed a wonderful project for a client in Abu Dhabi who wanted themed rooms for all of her children.  We had a safari jeep bed with headlights in one room (with Juliet Travers Waterhole wallpaper as the backdrop!).  For the little girl we created a bed that looked like a little cottage and for another of her boys’we created a stunning car bed which came from my love of the silver car in James Bond, the one at the end of the film.  It’s a vintage Aston Martin and our client chose to have it made in a matt charcoal grey – it was very cool.

 

Im beyond thrilled to have been asked to design for Dragons.  What is it about our brands that made you think we would work well together?

Beside thinking you are such a brilliant artist and it actually being quite difficult to find an artist who can paint really beautiful flowers, it was because there is something highly emotive and very magical about your work.  People come into Dragons and tell me about a chair or a picture from their childhood –it stays with them, and that’s where we join and why we link so well.

I knew, from the very first moment we met, that you were the right person for us.  And despite you saying to me “I don’t know if I can actually do this”and chucking out your first sketches (one of which I now have framed in the Walton Street shop!) I knew it was the right decision. And you nailed it.


 

 

Thank you! And where do you visualise my design being used?  Just nurseries or have you other rooms in mind given Dragons designs for the entire house, not just the nursery?

I imagine the blossom tree being used in hallways, going up the stairs, in spare rooms…I imagine someone placing a chair by the tree and sitting under it and reading.  The falling petals are so lovely I think some clients will just want these.  And I just know that someone will ask for hand painted animals at the bottom of the tree for a nursery.  I’m really excited to see where your design is used and how it evolves.

 

 

 

FAST FIVE

 

Favourite childrens book from when you were little?

Enid Blyton…The Famous Five

Favourite childrens book you read to your children?

Juice The Pig. Hysterical book about this pig that loves hats and collects hats.  Amazing illustration with 40 different hats.

Favourite Dragons design ?

So tricky…but, Barbara’s Bunnies. Barbara started painting her bunnies in 1981 and in 2015 I asked for the bunnies to be put into designer clothes to make Designer Bunnies. We created a Designer Bunny for Harrods with designer sunglasses and smart shoes.

Most obscure location youve worked in?

It was for a photoshoot for our carriage bed.  We created a woodland with a princess…it was magical. 

 

The most memorable reaction from a client youve had?

Once a project is finished, the Dragon team do the full installation and we do everything from putting the linen on the beds to hoovering up after a picture has been hung, you just put your child to bed.  The unveil is such a special moment and I’ve had tears (lots of tears) and clients throw their arms around me they are so moved.  It’s particularly special if they’re just about to have their first baby and you make their dream nursery come true.

 

 

My new Blossom wallpaper is now LIVE online so please click here for more information, samples, images and videos.

 

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