I love escaping to the country. When we saw our Grade-II listed Georgian house in Aldeburgh, we knew instantly that we wanted to buy it. In summer, sitting in the walled garden is blissful. In winter, we walk past the Aga and head straight to the cosy snug to feel cocooned in comfort.
I think the best country homes feel loved, neither too
formal nor too scruffy. They should fit well in their location, reflecting if
they’re by the sea, in a forest, or in rolling hills. Whether it’s your
second-home, main residence, a holiday home that you rent out, a country estate, or even
your country house cosy and comfortable as well as stylish and
appealing is what to aim for.
So how do you make the interior designing of a country home work? Here are my tips:
Think about useful spaces
Country homes are often bases for outdoor fun – muddy walks, boogie-boarding adventures, countryside picnics. This means kit: wellies, surf stuff, walking boots, beach bits, waterproof jackets, bikes and sometimes pets. These all need somewhere to live and somewhere to dry. When designing a country house of any sort, I’d factor in at least one spacious area – porch, hall, drying room, utility room, outdoor storage shed or garage – somewhere to easily hang everything so that it doesn’t clutter up the house. Hooks are imperative, lots of hooks. There are so many stylish hooks and pegs now, you can make them a design feature. A bench to sit on to pull wellies on and off is useful. And think about somewhere for a soggy dog to shake off and have a cosy bed in your country hideaway.
When I stay in a country home, I want to be in a social environment. A comfortable lounge and a large kitchen or dining room where everyone can gather are important. In our Aldeburgh house, we have a lovely long wooden dining table. I have various eclectic finds, such as the coloured siphon bottles, pictured, in the room, and retro leather and chrome dining chairs. I love a cosy country feel, but I also want chic city style thrown in, too.
We have an Aga, which is very country-feel. In other houses, the cosy focus might be a log-burner or open fire. I’d advise anyone interior designing a country home to acquire one of the elegant log burners available now. Sometimes fireside country weekends are even better than outdoorsy summer ones.
Comforting bedrooms and luxury bathrooms
Bedrooms are important in a country home. Don’t think ‘second home, second best’. Buy the best-quality beds and mattresses you can. Guests will love you for it, and you’ll appreciate the house even more. In my Aldeburgh bedrooms, the beds, linens and cushions are quite traditional, and touches such as antique wardrobes and bespoke lamps give the bedrooms character.
For me, one pleasure of a country house for weekends and holidays is long luxury baths. I opted for a roll top Victorian bath in a well-lit bathroom with lots of natural light, and oak flooring that’s warm underfoot.
Art, style and personality
All homes are a reflection of the owner’s
personality to some extent. Getting the advice of an interior designer doesn’t mean
handing over all creativity to them – I help you identify what you like:
colour, style, furnishings, and the way you live; then I source and design accordingly.
I’m disappointed if I rent a country holiday home
or stay in a country
house hotel and the interior design is boring or feels corporate. Yes, fabrics
need to be washable, and priceless breakable antiques may not have a place, but
I want a sense of style. Our country home is full of art that I love. I also have a mix of
antique clocks, and bits and pieces that are special to me. I want the place to
feel interesting, not just a bare shell.
Even if you’re renting out your country home, invest in style. Elegant furniture finds, art and lamps, make all the difference. Investing also means you can charge more. Don’t skimp on the interior design features of a country home that give it personality.
Your country house should exude the feel-good factor
and offer comfort. The furnishings shouldn’t feel too set, or be arranged too
symmetrically. This designed informality allows more absorption of people and
their belongings without looking messy.
People want to feel relaxed in a country home. Some can feel too formal, and although beautiful, aren’t relaxing enough to unwind in. Consider where you’d like to sink down and read a good book – the lighting must work there, too. I relish a collection of coffee-table books to flick through, too.
Garden and views
For any countryside home, bring the outside in, in
terms of coordination. Timber often works well, and natural colours that reflect
the colours outside, whether that’s seaside blues or countryside tones. Floors that
are flush between the house and patio are ideal so that there’s a seamless
divide in summer, when you’ll want to be outdoors. A good-quality outside table
and chairs is essential. And think of children who may use the house. A
dedicated kids’ space such as a games’ room or pool room will make everyone’s
life easier – don’t forget board games, and install football goals or a treehouse
or even a swimming pool to lure them into the fresh air.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have beautiful views from your country property. These can be maximised using clever lighting, appropriate curtains or blinds, arrangement of furniture and sometimes outdoor landscaping.