As discussed in a previous blog, an English country house interior can be recreated today with all the benefits of the modern age, but without the fear of looking too chintzy or too….Miss Marple.
When it comes to country homes, it is the furniture, soft furnishings, accessories, souvenirs and general stuff of life that make the scheme. These items can look beautiful in their own right, but for an authentic feel, they also need to tell a story.
This is where English eccentricity, bless it, excels. Natural hoarders and culture vultures, often people who live in country homes, or who want to create that look, are likely to have amassed, bought or inherited an array of items.
These can include larger pieces, such as furniture and artwork, to medium-sized accessories along the lines of lamps, rugs and vases to much smaller items. It’s an eclectic mix, but one that can work, even in a more contemporary setting, it’s all about careful selection and treating quality items with care and respect.
Well-loved furniture or family heirlooms can be used to anchor a scheme and create focal points of interest, particularly if they are antique. The only difference here is that these pieces need to be included sparingly – avoiding the clutter and chaos of yesteryear is integral to maintaining freshness to the look.
Artwork, whether it’s impressive oil paintings of sweeping landscapes or portraits, or simply pretty and romantic watercolours, can all have their place providing they’re dealt with properly. The key here is to curate, arrange and hang them carefully, giving the images space to breathe. The aim is to allow the eye to drift from one picture to another, naturally, so the viewer can appreciate the artistry or sentiment calmly.
Faded black and white or sepia photographs are also a favourite in country homes. In classic, solid silver frames (preferably on a grand piano) they evoke a sense of nostalgia and romance, especially if they are family portraits rather than holiday snaps of locations.
Instead of being stuffed into a random unit, leather-bound books gracing the shelves of bespoke shelving can make an eye-catching focal point, evoking the feel of an old and much treasured library. The proviso here though, is that the books should actually reveal something of the personality of the property owner, and aren’t there purely for show.
For smaller items, display is the answer. Cupboards and armoires with glass fronts are the perfect home for groups or collections. Meanwhile a stack of vintage trunks are a great way to continue the rural theme, adding interest as well as provide valuable storage space.
Fabric can be selected from a wide variety of styles – linen for a traditional feel, cotton for a natural look and silk to add a touch of opulence and prevent a scheme for becoming too rustic.
In terms of motifs, a few designs of woodland creatures such as deer and hares can create an elegant addition, while antlers or stag heads will provide a more traditional and male slant to a scheme.
There is a lot that can be done to create a country feel in a property, but a top interior designer should be able to introduce the theme with a light touch. Adding more contemporary patterns for example will keep a foot in the land of today, while maintaining that all important cosy, inviting atmosphere to which many of us yearn to retreat, even if it’s for just a weekend.
As the writer Dodie Smith once asked, “What is it about the English countryside — why is the beauty so much more than visual? Why does it touch one so?”