Founder of creative print brand, Wonder and Rah, mum of two Natalie Cardew is expert in designing vibrant, stimulating environments for kids. Having recently moved from London to the Dorset coast, Cardew invites us to explore her new home – which provides endless inspiration for children’s interiors.Shop Wonder and Rah
How did Wonder and Rah come to fruition?I left my job in merchandising for a footwear brand when I had my first child - and was pregnant with my second. The long hours were a struggle with my new family and I wanted some time out to have my daughter and enjoy the baby/toddler phase. It was during this time at home with the kids I was able to focus on getting back to my passion for art and design. I love interiors and was decorating my own children's nurseries when I spotted a gap in the market for cool kids’ art. There were a lot of nursery prints around but nothing that suited my taste in interiors and the rest of my home. I've always loved the idea of creating prints that inspire kids and adults alike.
What’s the story behind the name?My husband tries to claim the credit for the name! We were chatting about possible business names and at the time my children were three and one-and-a-half - full of wonder about the world and obsessed with any animals that go ‘rah’.Shop Wonder and Rah
Can you tell us about your creative background?I've always been passionate about art and design, from print and pattern to interiors. I chose to study illustration at university which I loved. After that, I decided a career in fashion would blend my love of creativity and retail but the constraints of working for a big business were always frustrating. I always knew I would end up working more creatively again and wanted to get back to my illustration roots. That said, I never thought I would be my own boss – it’s been wonderful and challenging in equal measures and the ideal way to work around the kids.
"I keep a list of notes and mockups in my phone that I constantly update for new designs. Usually, when I should be falling asleep, I get the urge to write them all down!"
Where do you draw inspiration for your designs?Everywhere. I always feel hugely inspired when I'm travelling, being out of the studio is so important to keep things fresh. My children are always a huge source of inspiration as they continually evolve and grow. Instagram is great for observing trends and connecting to a huge community of other creatives.
Can you tell us about your creative process?I keep a list of notes and mockups in my phone that I constantly update for new designs. Usually, when I should be falling asleep, I get the urge to write them all down! Virtually all of my work starts out as an original painting, either ink, watercolour or acrylic. I then scan and manipulate it on screen. It’s the way I've always worked and I think you can tell everything originates by hand in my style. I don't tend to work to rigid timeframes for launching new work, it’s a benefit of the field I'm in that I can progress with an idea and have it live a week later. I love that about owning my own business and producing my own prints.Shop Wonder and Rah
How do you spark the imagination of your own children?A stimulating home environment is so important for sparking my own children's imagination - inspiring art, beautiful story books, fun and decorative pieces everywhere create talking points and ideas for play. We try to travel as much as we can with them too, it’s fun to take them out of their routine and show them new experiences.
Where are you based?We recently made the move from London to the Dorset coast and are looking forward to many long summers on the beach. I do miss having so many amazing cultural attractions on our doorstep but I love the slower pace of life by the sea and it’s given me so much more space for the business.
How did you go about decorating your children’s rooms?They are always the first rooms I decorate - kids’ interiors are an obsession of mine. Knowing how often I like to switch things up I went for a neutral base, Farrow and Ball's Cornforth White in Robyn's room and a half wall of Light Blue in Leo's. This allowed me to add a plethora of interest in pattern and colour through accessories.
I always start with the key pieces of furniture, I'm not into matchy matchy, preferring an eclectic look but they need to stand the test of time and allow for the vibrant textiles and prints I layer on. Scandinavian and mid-century design lends itself really well to this. Then my favourite part - adding beautiful prints and textiles.
What do you consider to be most important when designing a child’s room? Alongside furniture that will allow the room to change and evolve with the child, I think storage is key. You want everything to be easily accessible for play but also easy to tidy up (and possibly hide!). The current trend for wicker baskets, canvas sacks, suitcases and stacking trays offer loads of great options - a huge time saver and space saver in smaller rooms.Shop Wonder and Rah