English country style emphasizes coziness and a relationship with nature. Elements are drawn from English country homes that often feature steep thatched roofs, manicured grounds, and effusive gardens.
The decor can be casual or formal, and the focus is on function rather than flair. Furniture is traditionally-styled and the rooms are full of color. Whether the home is a small cottage or sprawling estate, English country decorating exudes warmth, comfort, and a love for family.
Traditional Furniture Styles
Furniture styles are traditional, such as Queen Anne or Victorian. Sofas and chairs tend to be deep-seated and upholstered with patterned fabrics. Display racks, built-in bookshelves, and china cabinets throughout the home show off treasured items and family heirlooms such as straw baskets and tea sets. This style emphasizes the functionality of furniture and pieces tend to be well-worn yet sturdy. Second-hand furniture can be painted and then sanded lightly to give it a distressed look.
The predominant furniture material is wood. The wood can be light, dark-colored, or even painted, stenciled, and distressed. Tables, dressers, and bookshelves are typically made of oak, mahogany, or pine. Furniture accents, such as the handles on drawers, are to be made of brass.
Throw pillows or upholstered pads soften the look and feel of wooden chairs and window seats. Fabrics are plentiful and mixed, from upholstered sofas to table skirts. Ruffled pillows and lace window treatments soften rooms throughout the home. Chintz, floral patterns, and damasks are common choices, and all can be placed together in the same room.
Color abounds in English country decorating. Hues are pulled from nature, such as the pinks and yellows from roses in an English garden or the greens from the rolling hills of the countryside. The colors can be vibrant or muted and the style features plenty of patterns, especially floral. The color palette usually features three or four colors and should make the room appear cozy, inviting, and lived-in. Although English country kitchens frequently feature white cabinets, color is usually added to the countertops and accessories.
Patterned wallpaper is also popular and area rugs usually feature patterns as well. English country style can be busy, but should not be overwhelming. Large prints will be paired with smaller prints, such as gingham, with similar color palettes. Slipcovers for sofas and chairs are an easy way to bring English country style patterns and color into the room without buying new furniture—slipcovers can be custom-made, but big-box retail stores sell slipcovers to fit standard loveseats, sofas, and chairs.
English country decorating features plenty of accessories and period details, such as beamed ceilings, wainscoting, and wood floors. Lamps, candles, and traditional chandeliers are used rather than recessed lighting. Most homes have a fireplace and a large family portrait is commonly hung over the mantle or prominently displayed on a wall. Old family snapshots can also be enlarged and framed. Keep in mind that some stores offer restoration for faded or wrinkled photographs. Accessories emphasize family ties, such as photographs, handmade throws, and pillows.
Vases filled with fresh flowers from the garden or baskets of dried flowers are scattered throughout the home. Flower arrangements, as well as other accessories, are kept simple. Flea markets and garage sales are excellent places to search for English country accessories. Keep an eye out for lace or floral-patterned curtains and simple items that reflect the comforts of home, such as a hat rack or pine chest. English country style should not look planned or designed, but rather the result of generations living in a home.