Story by Dakota Murphey
Photography by Various
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If you want to capture the spirit of the British Isles in your home, Guest writer Dakota Murphey runs through all you need to know
In modern times, retaining the charm and character of the English country home requires an expert eye. There needs to be a balance between period authenticity and the practical needs of the modern home. Here are 6 classically British things that define the English country home and should at all costs be preserved if the English country house is to survive the onslaught of modernity.
1. The traditional country kitchen
Country kitchens are the heart of the classically English country home. But in recent times, their design, use and position in the home has changed to account for the fact that many homes no longer have a full house of staff behind them. The English country kitchen used to be tucked away at the back of the house, with a scullery, pantry and kitchen area. Scullery maids, cooks, butlers and servants worked from specially designed zones.
Nowadays, most country homes don’t have a team of servants, and many home owners want a kitchen positioned in the heart of their home. As a result, kitchens are having to be redesigned in former living spaces to bring the country home up to date. This requires the hand of an expert kitchen designer who has a deep understanding of English country houses. Artichoke Ltd are a great example of specialist country house kitchen designer who understand how to delicately balance modern design requests with the traditional architecture of the home.
2. The country kitchen garden
For many the dream garden is one of manicured lawns, over-flowing flower beds, smartly trimmed topiary, and kitchen gardens full of produce. These are the English gardens of sprawling country estates. The closest one should come to contemporary with an English country garden is in the uniformity of planting topiary and hedges.
3. The drawing room
Established in English homes in the 17th century, drawing rooms were spaces dedicated to the entertainment of guests. The name is derived from the 16th century term withdrawing room, or withdrawing chamber. A withdrawing room served as a place the owner of the house, his wife, or a distinguished guest could withdraw to for more privacy.
The drawing room is distinct and separate from the living room. Homeowners don’t generally spend their time in the drawing room, it’s more a space to seat guests prior to dinner. The drawing room is being preserved in the English country home, and still serves as a more formal space to entertain guests, leaving the living room of the home as a private and relaxing family rest room.
4. Imposing portraits and antiques
Nothing says country house like large imposing oil paintings. Perfectly hung in decorative frames, antique and vintage artworks look best in a frame from the time period they were painted. Antiques in the form of lamps, rugs and furniture give country house living spaces a depth of feeling, and that is the essence of the traditional English country home.
Cleverly done, there’s a place for modern home furnishings and accessories, but to nail the look you most definitely have to have an eye. If you want to revamp your country home, but want to retain some period charm, it may be a good idea to seek advice from an interior designer.
5. Floral décor and soft furnishings
We’re not suggesting a refined English country house should have every wall adorned with trailing blooms. But, for the sake of tradition and that quintessentially country house look, there has to be at least some floral décor or soft furnishings.
Chintz is making a comeback and it doesn’t look better anywhere else than in the grand country home. Elegant, floral drapes are a welcome reprieve for austere and stuffy rooms, as are British chintz-covered sofas. English country house style isn’t over serious and that’s a blessing. There’s a warmth and a tolerance behind the décor of an English country home, and while a dash of modernity is perfectly acceptable, the straight-edged perfectionism of contemporary living doesn’t have a place in the classic English Country house.
6. Wall panelling
Dark austere wall panelling may have had its day. This is one area of the country house that lends to a modern update. Softening wall panelling with muted, soft paint colours gives the country home a distinctly brighter and updated feel. It’s definitely a modern touch the country house can weather without losing its charm.
First published date: 15 January 2018