Classic interior design styles and how to light them – 2. English Country House

Image: Carlos Garcia


The English country house interior design style is all about comfort, charm and abundance.

Continuing our series on the great interior decor trends and how you can use them for inspiration in your own home (with a special emphasis on lighting), English country house is a style we just never seem to fall out of love with...

See also: Classic interior design styles and how to light them – 1. Mid-Century Modern You don’t have to live in an elegant Georgian rectory or an imposing Victorian villa to appreciate the charm and familiarity of English country house style. Any number of glossy magazines are dedicated to the subject, full of features on mouth-wateringly gorgeous homes. The National Trust keeps our country house style appetites whetted: Waddesdon Manor (Buckinghamshire) Attingham Park (Shropshire) and Belton House (Lincolnshire) are at the grand end of the trust’s 500 heritage sites. English Heritage too - gaze at the amazing interiors of Osborne House for example. There’s no doubt that, of all interior design styles, English country house is the most quintessentially British. So it comes as something of a surprise that it took a 20th century American to make us realise that, when it came to decorating and furnishing houses, we had something rather special here in England. When Nancy Lancaster bought the British interior design firm, Colefax and Fowler, in the 1940s, she championed traditional English style but added a touch of American luxury - for comfort as much as anything else. As a testament to the enduring appeal of English country house style, Colefax and Fowler’s services are as much in demand as ever.

Osborne House - © English Heritage

As with all schools of design, English country house style, is not for everyone. If you are happier in a city apartment or an Art Deco semi than in a country cottage, cannot abide clutter, love minimalism and invisible storage, and are wedded to the belief that less is most decidedly more – and more than enough – it won’t be for you. But if you have a penchant for older properties, comfort, warmth, deep sofas, the swish of a heavy curtain, antiques, eclectic finds, artefacts with a history, oriental rugs and kilims, swags and tassels, sumptuous fabrics such as velvet and silk, and paintings and prints galore, English country house style will feel like coming home, in every possible sense.

Image: Jessica Buckley

The great thing about English country house style is that you can build up gradually and move things around, just as owners of the grandest country houses did and continue to do. It’s a sort of layered approach to interior design and allows your home to evolve with you. And it’s an evolving style too; designers such as Ben Pentreath are adept at adding fresh, modern features, fabrics and finishes to traditional interiors. English country house is also a big influence on some of Pooky’s favourite contemporary designers, like Jessica Buckley, Lucy Barlow and Carlos Garcia. It’s an ideal style if you are just starting out because you can add pieces over time, as and when you can afford them, and personalise your décor to your heart’s content. Meanwhile, you’ll enjoy many happy hours at local auction houses or antique markets and shops or poring over online auction sites in search of a bargain.


English Country House style – 12 essential elements

Most of us won’t be in the fortunate position of actually inheriting an English country house, complete with contents, so we’ve put together this guide to key pieces and how to pull the look together: 1) Patina – the rich glow of antique beeswax-polished dark wood furniture …opt for tables, consoles and chests of drawers in mahogany, walnut, cherry, rosewood. 2) A reading chair – because no English country house is complete without groaning bookshelves, and artfully scattered piles of books too. 3) A capacious sofa (two if you have the space), with upholstery that invites you to sit back and stretch out. Striped or checked fabric for a contemporary touch and don’t forget a few top quality woollen throws. Add an upholstered ottoman – for magazines and (some of) those piles of books. 4) Wooden flooring - with plenty of rugs or kilims, the older the better, and flagstones or black and white tiles on the kitchen floor and in hallways. 5) Side tables set with softly glowing table lamps, topped with pleated or gathered shades. 6) Family photographs in old silver frames. 7) An open fire, with antique fireback and fire irons, and don’t forget the log baskets. 8) Soft colours - duck egg blue, aqua, watery green, lavender, corn yellow. 9) Flagstones or black and white tiles on the kitchen floor. 10) Personal items with a history – small family heirlooms or quirky artefacts brought back from your travels. 11) A deep bath, in a bathroom designed for warmth and relaxation - a comfortable chair, thick, white towels, and your favourite bath oils. 12) Seasonal flowers – preferably from your own garden or a local flower farm, and there’s always room for a touch of flower-sprigged chintz. In spring, bulbs in old blue and white or chinoiserie containers. There’s nothing more welcoming behind a front door than the sight and scent of clusters of narcissi.

Image: Westenholz Antiques and Interior Decoration


English Country House optional extras

If you really want to go the whole hog, then strictly speaking no country house kitchen is really complete without an Aga, preferably vintage in the original cream finish. Country means nature, so some tastefully mounted antlers will complete the look in a sitting room or study. Dogs preferably two or more (and living, not mounted). Labradors and retrievers of all sorts, spaniels, Jack Russell and Border terriers are all acceptable. And, as bracing walks – with all those muddy dogs - are synonymous with English country houses, you’ll probably be grateful for a boot room too.

Image: Carlos Garcia


Bathed in a soft glow – tips for English Country House style lighting

The archetypal English country house is full of light, flooding in through large sash windows during the day, and with carefully chosen lighting, including candles, from dusk. But you won’t find any harsh lighting – table lamps abound, floor lamps in reading nooks, wall lamps in bedrooms, pendant lights in hallways, kitchens and dining areas, and picture lights to show off framed prints and paintings to best effect. Here are some of Pooky’s favourite English country house lighting styles and combinations: First impressions…lighten up your hallway with a Rita chandelier, or perhaps our classic Stella pendant light in clear glass. For your side tables: something traditional like our Admiral lamp in antique brass, paired with a gathered lampshade in flame linen. For your walls: Our Empire lampshade in crimson chevrons, teamed here with a rose wall light fitting in antiqued brass. To add a pool of light and spot of colour to a corner: our Moonshine floor lamp in natural whitewash, topped with a drum lampshade in emerald dupion silk. And finally, your favourite painting may not be a contender for Fake or Fortune but you can still bring out its best features with our Turner picture light in antique brass.

Browse Pooky's traditional table lamps here, and our full range of beautiful, affordable designer lighting here.