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Create English Country House Style in Your Home -Part I

Part I of a 2 part series

A new season of Mad Men has recently started, but many TV viewers have not left Edwardian England and Downton Abbey behind.

Lady Fiona Carnarvon, the “real” owner of Downton Abbey (known as Highclere Castle in real life), has been widely quoted for saying that the show has renewed interest in stately English homes and greatly increased Highclere’s visitors.

But it is more than just visiting someone else’s pile.

Transfixed by the many layered, opulent and gracious interiors seen on Downton Abbey, people want their home to be their own personal castle.

First popularized in the 1940s by John Fowler and his partners in the UK decorating firm Colfax & Fowler, Sibyl Colfax and Nancy Lancaster, the grand English Country House Style is back in vogue.

Here’s how you can achieve the English Country House Style in your own home by incorporating five main elements:

1. Your furniture should be a mix of styles and periods to give the impression that your home evolved over time. The look should have an understated elegance with tasteful touches like plants and flowers.

How to accomplish that?  Go for case pieces with a rich wood patina.

This chest from Hooker Furniture is a perfect example.  Its gorgeous finish, and special veneered top give it the look of a treasured antique.

In addition, include items with a worldly flair by adding objects with an Asian, French or Italian influence.  An occasional painted piece is fine. Mix in upholstered pieces with wood ones.

Hooker Furniture’s Primrose Hill collection, inspired by turn of the last century England, was designed to make this mix easy.

Check out this next image featuring pieces from the collection. Combining upholstered wing chairs with the lattice dining chairs and rectangular dining table in the warm Villa Brown finish speaks to a “landed gentry-like” comfort.

Even, the styling of the photo is inspirational with its French style chandelier and large floral bouquets.

2. When it comes to upholstery, think plush. You want to sink down in comfort.  Upholstery should have classic lines.  Good fabric choices would include leathers, velvets and floral chintz.  Layers of pattern and texture are important.

For example, love the look of Downton Abbey’s lush library?

Start with Hooker Furniture’s Bradington-Young red leather sofa to make it your own.

Add in chairs from the upholstery pieces in the Primrose Hill collection and you are well on your way.

Stay tuned for Part II later this week, when we will talk about three more ideas for creating the English Country House style.

{ 7 comments… add one }

  • TheDecorGirl April 10, 2012, 7:01 pm

    Nice post Lynne! Aahhh, love the English. Where can I get me one of those castles with hundreds of rooms, authentic high ceilings and exquisite craftsmanship? The wonderful thing about traditional elements is they often work in any interior.


  • AtTuned To Style April 10, 2012, 7:45 pm

    Nicely done Lynn!

  • The Buzz Blog April 10, 2012, 8:29 pm

    Great post, Lynn,a nd yes, even with Mad Men on the air, we’re still hooked on English manors! Sadly, my farmhouse ceilings are a bit lacking in height for such grand pieces.

  • Marilyn Russell April 10, 2012, 8:30 pm

    Hey Lynn, great post. This reminds of the time I studied history of Interior design in London two years ago. The details, the precision of their work was nothing but stellar. Many of those interiors look amazing today.

  • pretty pink tulips April 10, 2012, 9:51 pm

    Love your suggestions on how I can bring a little bit of the “Downtown Abbey” feel to my home. I have an antique chest like the one you show above and it is one of my favorite pieces!!


  • pigtown*design April 10, 2012, 11:21 pm

    I just spent some time in England and Wales, including at the 12th century castle where i used to work. I also had cocktails at the Member’s Bar at the House of Lords in London. It’s everything you described – layered with years of furniture, lots of squishy comfortable chairs and just the feeling of deep history.

  • Gail April 11, 2012, 2:19 am

    So English is your passion! Interestingly enough your comments apply to just about any well done room, traditional or contemporary!
    Great post!

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