If only one word were allowed to describe English Country decor, it would be a toss-up between “cozy” and “haphazard.” Those two conditions aptly describe the charm of this decorating style that has become a home decorating standard to convey a calm atmosphere that welcomes guests.
English Country decor is known for its mixture of furniture and accessories from various style periods, giving the impression of a family house that has been passed down through generations. In design, English Country owes more to the humble homes of farmers and craftsmen than to the landed gentry up at the big houses. Ironically it was the gentry who popularized the English Country style, not for themselves, but for Americans, whose smaller scale houses benefited from the design.
Certain elements are classic to English Country decor: fabrics of chintz and floral designs; paintings or prints of domestic animals, especially dogs; nature-toned colors, especially greens, blues and tans in pastel shades; and unfinished wooden flooring accented by Oriental or Aubusson area rugs. The complex patterns and natural colors of Oriental and Aubusson area rugs are particularly complementary to the mix of elements in English Country decor.
English Country decor also features a rustic build to the furnishings. Although accented by Victorian or Queen Anne pieces – such as a writing table and chair – the emphasis in this style is country comfort. For instance, both open cabinetry and freestanding cabinets can be found in the style. Antique furniture is highlighted by voluminous window treatments featuring lace inner curtains that allow plenty of light to filter into the room. These lace panels are then topped with wildly floral valances and tieback drapes. Florals are essential, especially upholstery, slipcovers, linens and drapery with ornate patterns often featuring enormous cabbage roses.
If the home’s architecture permits, cozy little nooks for reading or needlecrafts are popular in this style. Remember, the emphasis is on a vision of middle-class English comfort and homemaking.
English Country decor also stresses the joys of collecting, one of the frequent hobbies of the English middle-class. China collectibles, especially blue-and-white dishes, figurines of dogs and other animals and vases all are featuring prominently. Sometimes these are displayed in the open, while others are protected in glass-walled china cabinets.
Anything that sparkles in the midst of this profusion of florals also gets the nod. Homey metals, such as a silver tea service or brass candlesticks, are a popular touch, as are gleaming silver frames for family photos, especially if they’re in black and white or sepia tone. Lead crystal, particularly Waterford crystal from Ireland, also is highly prized for this decor.
In keeping with the theme of comfort, a home in English Country style requires plenty of toss pillows. These can be covered in velvet or tapestry, florals or other embellishments, but the colors should be muted nature tones.
Unlike the uncluttered lines of Contemporary style, walls in English Country aren’t bare. They’re the background for a plethora of pictures, especially hunting scenes of horses and hounds displayed in ornate gilt frames. At the same time, clocks are either porcelain or good wood-encased timepieces. In a front entryway, place a hat tree with a lower frame for umbrellas and walking sticks. Add a vintage hat, and it will seem as though the local grand dame has just stopped in for tea.
While English Country decor can seem to be haphazard, there is still a harmony to the design. In particular make sure that the colors of walls, furniture, area rugs and accents coordinate well. The goal is to create rooms that bring nature inside while providing creature comforts.