The quintessential English Country style home is far from perfect; it doesn’t shy away from a little wear and tear. Ros Byam Shaw investigates what really goes into the subtle yet distinctive “quintessential English look” in her book, Perfect English.
Whereas many current design trends push an overpolished homogeny that Shaw considers “bland,” the English homes she showcases are “more a form of self-expression than a means to impress.” Through persistence and a bit of creativity, anyone can create the perfect English country style at home.
HISTORY OF ENGLISH COUNTRY STYLE
Much of the romantic charm of an English home comes from its unadulterated antiquity. In the homes that Shaw showcases—some of which date back hundreds of years—“the layering of time is apparent and enjoyed.” Instead of totally refurbishing original pieces,
preserve their worn edges as evidence of a home well loved.
The essence of English country style is an avoidance of pomposity, finding ways to decorate that are beautiful as well as practical.
If you have original old stone or wood floors, do your best to keep them as intact as possible. No such luck? Decorate your floor with textured stone flags or reclaimed wood boards to replicate the look.
MIX AND MATCH
A little mismatched contrast can add to the charm of a room, demonstrating a “mild eccentricity,” which turns the average room into one “perfectly suited to the tastes, habits and quirks of their inhabitants.” Floral patterns work particularly well with “checks, stripes and sprigs,” she says, but remember to balance patterned pieces with solid textiles, such as “flowery cushions on a plain sofa or sprigged curtains against painted walls.” Embroidered bedspreads, wall hangings or rugs bring “an exotic dash of color and pattern” to complement painted walls, Shaw says. Placed next to vintage pieces, small “flashes of modernity” in the form of artwork or small furniture can also enliven a space.
Instead of totally refurbishing original pieces, preserve their worn edges as evidence of a home well loved.
Most importantly, don’t get so caught up in decorating your home that you forget to live in it. For Emily Todhunter, designer and homeowner, essentials of an English country house include “comfy beds and pillows and enormous baths.” Leave plenty of room for sofas and a fireplace as well. “Nothing is more welcoming or cheering than a blazing log fire,” Shaw writes. If you don’t have original fireplaces to open up, you can install new ones instead.
The essence of English country style is an avoidance of pomposity, finding ways to decorate that are beautiful but also practical. A perfect English country home radiates both romantic nostalgia and quiet comforts. “Like so many aspects of interior decoration, getting it just right is often a question of trial and error,” Shaw explains. So don’t worry if it takes you a while to find that perfect balance.
Want more simply beautiful ideas? Check out this post on Designing With Purpose.