What Defines English Country House Style?
A traditional country home is both elegant and effortless whilst being steeped in culture and history. Remember that the oldest and most established homes have evolved over generations. It is these stately homes that provide some wonderful pieces of inspiration.
In England, littered with quintessential English country villages like Moreton-in-Marsh and Castle Combe, the Cotswolds breathe country house interiors. Frampton Court balances grand panelling and portraiture with books and crockery to provide a modern and comfortable country house environment.
Elsewhere in the UK, the principles remain very similar with natural woods and stones mixing with deep and plush textiles. Don’t assume that Scottish country house style is all about tartan and tweed, though. We see many historical religious references in these properties through portraits and silverware. Great Irish houses see a more pared down style, with attention to space and authentic furniture subtly incorporating the Celtic knot. While in Wales, architectural evolution is reflected in interiors with layers of patterns all co-existing in harmony.
So what is inherently English about the aesthetic that we see in English country house interiors? It is perhaps the focus on collections. This is evident in so many different elements of authentic country homes. From books to ornaments, crockery to flowers and even artwork and lighting, there is a sense of collection. This extends further than just family history and is a sign of that very English eccentricity that is underlying every country home.
The Fundamentals of English Country House Interiors
What makes these interior design principles reflect the atmosphere of an English country house, then? Collected elements give a sense of texture that is vital in creating historical depth to a room. As we see in this article from Architectural Digest, these country house design features are common through stately homes and manor homes alike.
A mix of both materials and periods creates a sense of legacy for furniture. An Art-deco armchair will sit comfortably alongside a Regency dresser. Not everything has to be mismatched, though. Dining chairs, for example, would tend to be acquired as a set, but would not need to match a farmhouse table.
As a key social room for soirées of the past, the drawing room would be very much on display to visitors. Comfort is king, so it is here that we would find abundant soft furnishings and warmth through lighting and a fireplace. This translates into zoned seating for smaller cottage layouts, where we still find cosy nooks with all the feel of a drawing room of old.
Whether it is a dedicated room or an imposing bookcase within a living room, drawing room or study, a collection of books is both an aesthetic draw and a way to retain warmth in a room. There is a delicate balance of the uniform and shambolic on these bookcases. Patches of colour matched spines and a mix of horizontal and vertical positioning keep bookcases feeling organic.
You will often find an orangery or conservatory as part of a grand English country home. This is all part of maintaining that link with nature that is central to country living. A mix of cut-glass vases and larger patterned pots creates a range of textures and levels. Flowers adorn hallways and dining areas, while trailing and floor potted plants bring the outside in to receptions and the kitchen.
Practical country living involves mud. So a boot room has become synonymous
with English country house design. This space keeps the dirt out of the rest of the house and allows a home’s occupants to enjoy the great outdoors freely! Just because it is a practical room doesn’t mean aesthetics are out of the window, though. Natural stone floors and plentiful hooks and cubby holes are signature features.
Bringing Country House Style Home
We don’t all have 600 years to collect interior features for our homes. So we want to explore the elements we can apply to achieve an English country house style.
Muted heritage tones are often a feature of a country home’s aesthetic. That’s not to say, that bold colours don’t have their place. Far from it. Eye-catching combinations of striking greens and vibrant pinks can create the atmosphere of the countryside even if you are in Kensington! A pop of colour from velvet curtains or plush upholstery provides a contrast that modernises a country look and adds to the sense of legacy.
Keep it natural when it comes to materials. Even if you don’t have exposed beams, you can still feature natural wood with a farmhouse table or even a naturally cut butcher’s block. Flagstone floors are stunning, but on the smaller scale, natural stone coasters are an organic touch.
This can feel extremely daunting, as there is a fine line between mismatched and chaotic furniture. The key is to maintain subtle links through the room, whether this is through upholstery or shape. Curved silhouettes can be mirrored through a round side table and soft armchairs, or angular lines between sideboard corners and a checked throw.
Country house style is the antidote to minimalism. So we want to be able to see things! Glass or mesh fronted cabinets are ideal for displaying crockery or silverware collections, especially if you don’t have room for a dresser. Pile books on coffee tables and gather plants on windowsills and sideboards. In the kitchen, hang utensils and layer trays. Use your wall space; family photographs have as much power as grand masters to create a country home if they are in the right frames.
If there is one key principle to English country house style, it is to create a sense of legacy. This means an environment that has been built up over time, with thought and history. Whether through art and furniture or wallpaper and soft furnishings, your home would reflect your stories, history, and experiences. These are tied very much into our core design principles at Ana Engelhorn design.