Thank you Alice B-B and Country & Town House Magazine for the lovely write up in this month's issue!
Willow Crossley dreams of owning a florist’s shop, but for now the author and interior decorator has her hands full, says Alice B-B.
With two children and another on the way, a house in the Cotswolds and her second bookInspire: The Art of Living with Nature published last spring, it would appear that at the age of 31, ethereal beauty Willow Crossley has fulfilled her dreams. But it seems that the minute Willow’s dreams become a reality, a new idea pops up. It’s what keeps the creativity in motion. And the latest dream is… but first, let’s rewind.
Growing up in Wales with her Vogue writer, author, painter and all-round creative mother Kate Corbett-Winder, Willow longed for London. ‘I wanted to feel the pavement beneath my feet,’ she explains. So, aged 18, she moved to The Smoke and began a three-year degree in fashion journalism at The London College of Fashion. Just a year into the course, lightning struck when she met her future husband: Charlie Crossley, model and manager of Fulham Road’s famous The Goat in Boots pub and subsequently owner and manager of the Hollywood Arms pub in Chelsea. ‘A couple of years into our relationship, Charlie sold the pub and moved to South of France,’ says Willow. ‘His father has a vineyard outside Cogolin and Charlie’s always dreamed of opening a beach restaurant in St Tropez.’ So Willow went too.
‘I dropped everthing,’ says Crossley. ‘My internship in the beauty department at Tatler magazine had ended so I upped sticks and followed him.’ While Charlie was tending the vineyards and making wine, Willow began to occupy herself by trawling local flea-markets and vintage fairs, making baskets with vintage pompoms and selling them to the beach shops, while also having endless friends to stay. Willow began blogging about her experiences. And that’s when the writer’s lottery-win happened. ‘An agent saw my blog, got in touch and told me that she thought it could make a book.’
Just a year later, Willow’s first book The Art of Handmade Living was published. And the publishers immediately signed her up for a second book. But, like a ripe brie, the French fantasy had begun to go off. ‘By then, Charlie and I were married and had our first child Wolf,’ says Willow. ‘I was just 25, with a tiny baby and no friends or family out there… I really began to struggle.’ This coincided with Charlie’s beach-restaurant reverie turning to dust, when he realised that beachfront property is tied up by old mafia-style St Tropez families. He was going to need a cool £20m to get his idea off the ground.
So the young family packed up their knapsacks and headed back to Blighty. ‘It was heaven coming back to London and to our house in Chelsea,’ says Willow, ‘but Charlie was climbing the walls – we’d gone from huge fields and mountains in France to a little house in London.’ So with a second baby on the way, they had the ‘shall we move to the country?’ chat. ‘We went out for dinner and made the decision to stay in London for another year,’ laughs Willow. ‘That night Charlie came up to bed with his laptop and said, “Look at this house!”’
The very next morning, they got on the train to Woodstock and it was love at first sight. Two weeks later their offer on the Cotswold cottage had been accepted. Willow worked her magic on the tired interior, bringing the outside in with jungly Sanderson wallpaper and hand-painted florals in the bathroom. Much of the house has been used as the backdrop for the alluringly creative photography in her latest book Inspire. It’s a charming, encouraging, enticing book about using flowers, beachcombed bounty and foraged finds for decorating the home and lifting the spirits. ‘Literally nothing makes me happier than flowers,’ says Willow. ‘If ever I’m feeling a bit shit, I’ll go for a walk with my secateurs, pick things and arrange them when I get home. Immediately I feel better.’
Which leads on to the next dream… ‘I’d love to have a florist’s shop, with a gallery, coffee shop, and sell some homewares and clothes… like Petersham Nurseries. And Charlie would run the restaurant.’ But having had a spate of crafting at summer festivals, including floral headpiece workshops at Wilderness and tribal pebble painting at Port Eliot, wedding floristry jobs, anInspire residency at Anthropologie and interiors ‘dressing’ work, her green-hands are pretty full. Oh, and add to that a third book and third baby in the pipeline – she has plenty to be getting on with. But in Willow’s world there’s always room for one more dream.
Inspire by Willow Crossley, published by Cico Books (£16.99) with photos © Emma Mitchell