You probably already know Rachel Castle’s sellout pokadot pillow cases, velvet round cushions and colourful artwork. If you’ve seen the saying Put The Love In The Coconut around the place, you’ve seen her happy creations for her label CASTLE.
I’m delighted to finally interview Rachel for Interiors Addict but it’s taken a while because her life, by her own admission, is a little hectic, like most creatives I’d say. Also, her work is so popular that she can’t make enough of it (“I get really cranky customers writing ‘BUT EVERYTHING’S SOLDDDD,’ which is great, but I often feel so bad I’m not making things quick enough!”).
Whether she’s inspired or frustrated though, there’s never a day when Rachel doesn’t want to just make things. “Inspiration is a funny old thing. It comes in the night time when it’s a complete shag to get out of bed and write it down, why is that?! I think the thing for me is to keep it real, to say what I want to say rather than what I think others might like/not like me to say. Having said that I keep the language well and truly nice, unlike in real life!”
While her work is always vibrant and colourful, that isn’t a conscious decision. “I just know when something looks right to me. With inspiration I think there is an equal part frustration. I am just as frustrated as I am inspired at times, which I think keeps me busy and making things constantly. Sometimes it works, others it doesn’t. That’s just life and I think being aware of this keeps me moving.” Fashion also influences Rachel hugely and she turns to fashion magazines when her brain “feels dull”.
This wonderful creative job hasn’t always been how she’s paid the bills. In year 12, her careers teacher told her to study PR, which she did, at Melbourne’s RMIT. “What was he thinking? It so doesn’t suit me!” She started work at Country Road and then moved to London to work in the marketing department at the legendary Conran Shop in the 90s. “With a couple of friends we started a branding agency which was bought by St Luke’s in the late 90s and I came back to Australia with a husband and two children in 2001. Then, and only then, could I start making all the things I had been dreaming about for years. It is amazing to finally be creatively free.”
Of course her own federation home in the suburbs of Sydney (see it here on The Design Files) is full of colour and stuff too. “It is a very quiet little place where the children ride their bikes and play on the knoll at the end of our street. Our house is a peculiar (inherited) shade of hearing aid beige, which is possibly my least favorite color. Open the front door however and you are literally assaulted with colour and texture and fuss and bits and bobs (junk, as my husband calls it) and I just can’t help it but there are paintings and prints and bowls and plants and books and lamps and pots and crockery and so on everywhere.
“I like to have lots to look at. I can’t see the point of putting things in the cupboard, but having said that completely love people who can and do. Whenever my friend comes to shoot anything in the house she spends half an hour putting all the junk on the floor so she can’t see it before she starts.”
Would you believe it, there are also a lot of cushions there. “You seriously can NEVER have enough,” she says. “They don’t all have to be out at the one time, but like a good wardrobe, need to be accessible and ready to rock and roll at all times.”
Most of Rachel’s designs become cult products (pom pom cushions covers, fluro random spot pillowcases and Put The Love in the Coconut beachtowels — a collaboration with Gorman — to name but a few). “The beauty of homewares versus fashion is that I can keep a product online for as long as I like, and drop a product at any point if it’s not working because we don’t really work seasonally. With a small online business I can afford to just keep reinventing the best sellers because they never really go out of fashion.
“White bedding is white bedding and it will never date. Pillowcases are such low cost items that every year you can simply update your look with a few new ones. I also resist the temptation to overprint everything. It would be great to print our duvet covers but I actually can’t think of anything I would prefer to a plain white, so I stick to the pillowcases and the little pops of colour in the cushions.”
That said, her advice to anyone on using colour in their home is to just go nuts! “Life is way too short to overthink it. I buy what I love and consequently love what I’ve bought. Yes, we make mistakes along the way, but your eye, your very own style, is completely unique to you. What you like won’t be what everyone else likes, so go with what you are instinctively drawn to.
“I always have white walls because I have a lot of artwork, but equally love painted walls in other homes. I think you have your own ‘internal’ color palette, so stick to what feels right for you. I remember when I first put the bedlinen range online and an aquaintance said ‘do you think people will like that yellow?’ and I really couldn’t say yes or no, I really didn’t know. I liked it though and that’s all that mattered.”
CASTLE products fly out the door at Sydney stores like Koskela and Mark Tuckey (his wife, stylist and designer Louella, is a good friend). “I love Koskela’s commitment to Australian design, it’s what we need here being so far away from the rest of the world. Since the beginning of CASTLE they have always been incredibly supportive and loving and encouraging. I love Louella Tuckey because she is one of the nicest people in the world and she has an incredible eye for all things gorgeous for the home.” On the subject of people who inspire her, she has high praise for stylist Megan Morton and her classes at The School. “Megan is bringing home style and craft and theory to the masses. Everyone should go to one of her classes, she is hilarious, you will cry laughing, she is super funny and smart.”
Like all small businesses, however creative, there’s always the necessary boring stuff. “Administration. Oh my God, there is so much of it. Ordering stationery, packing boxes, going to the post office, paying the bills, cleaning up the paint, sweeping all the felt off the floor, fixing the printer, doing my GST, whinging to Emma about having to change the wrapping paper roll, and the list continues.
“Like anything, you don’t get the good without the bad, so in short, I make stuff and then I clean up afterwards.”
Photography by Chris Warnes, Jason Busch and Maya Vidulich