One of the most frequent comments that people make upon entering English Traditions is “I just love it in here. I want my house to look like your store.” The unique blending of English and French Country Style, our beautiful antiques, reproductions, art, accessories, and upholstered furniture combined with the exquisite taste and New England roots of our owners, creates a warm, traditional, rich feel to English Traditions that brings many of our longtime customers to return again and again. But what are the elements of English and French country style that, combined, have come to exemplify English Traditions’ signature style?
English Country Style
English Country style has a number of distinct characteristics. English Country decorating colors are natural and subtle: dark wood, gray, or beige stone, warm ivory walls, perhaps a dark red or green accent wall and nature-toned colors, especially greens, blues and tan. Sofa arms are generally low and rounded – i.e. a traditional “English Arm.” Often furniture is skirted or has a carved wooden leg. Fabrics of chintz and floral designs are common.
Collectibles are displayed in abundance and pleasantly cluttered. Traditional English collectibles include old blue china, lead crystal, silver, brass candlesticks and an abundance of framed pictures. Family crests are often on display, as are old and collected books and bookends, as well as vintage trophy cups. Old books fill the shelves and are displayed throughout the rooms as artwork. Plenty of throw-pillows, often needlepoint give a comfy and welcoming feel to the rooms.
One of the most important elements in authentic English style is that pieces should look as though they’ve been collected for generations, not bought off a showroom floor. Wood furniture is often pine or oak and has a rich patina. Painted furniture, such as buffets, show their age by being genuinely distressed. There is often a mix of furniture styles and periods, with nothing looking “too precious.” Use of oil paintings of different sizes, styles & subjects, especially hunting scenes, dogs, nature and ancestors (or other people’s ancestors!) in ornate gilt frames are prevalent throughout .
Lamps are key, rather than relying on overhead lighting, with wall sconces or perhaps a rustic iron chandelier creating intimate pools of light and making hand rubbed wood carvings gleam. Wood flooring is covered with antique faded rugs add color and pattern, especially Oriental and Aubusson. Fresh or dried flowers and bowls of fruit are welcome additions. Grandfather clocks as well as wooden wall or mantle clocks are common. A hat tree in the entryway with a lower frame for umbrellas and walking sticks makes a functional and welcoming atmosphere. Rooms exude a cozy, calm, welcoming atmosphere with fire roaring in the hearth and a place to put your feet up and relax. Rooms bring nature inside while providing creature comforts.
French Country Style
A French country home is rustic, old-world, and welcoming. It has a warm and casual feel. The generous use of antiques, of various provenances, styles and finishes is essential. Warm, neutral colors are traditional as well as the use of earth tones of brighter colors—such as a golden yellow instead of a bright one. Bright black and dull grays punctuate the bright colors and define accessory pieces. Rusted metal furniture, lighting fixtures, and furniture give warm color and wonderful lines.
Natural materials are found in a French country home: rough stained or plaster walls, hefty beamed ceilings and walls, chair seats of woven rush, delicate carved wood details. Often, a large stone fireplace with a heavy beam at the top to serve as a mantle. Rustic flooring, such as stone, clay, brick or wood—especially pine and oak, evoke an old world feel.
Hand painted furniture is common, as well as furniture of oak or pine wood. Furniture can be rustic or more refined, and a mix of both adds to the authenticity of the style. Iron, metal, and leather make nice accents to tables and chairs. Armoires are common to store pots and pans, clothing, linens or tableware. French-country style features antique or reproduction rustic furniture with curved panels, hand-carved decorations and raw wood. Bookshelves are laden with beautiful old books, photos and collectibles (and maybe even a small piece of artwork or two).
Printed fabrics, especially colorful Provencal fabrics with common motifs such as roosters, olives, sunflowers, grapes, lavender, and beetles are quite prevalent- on tables, on top of chest of drawers, on chairs, or as drapes. Checks, strips, plaids can be used in combination with more elaborately printed textiles such as toile. These printed fabrics are often used as accessories on more neutral-toned natural seating. A key to the French country look is the use of contrasting texture and color. Lush window treatments are often used in French country homes: roman shades, lush solid color drapes (in silks, velvets, linens) that extend to the floor, fringes and tassles. The feeling exoked is luxurious yet casual.
As for accessories, the use of flowers—fresh, artificial, or both, is very important. Flowers may be displayed in vases, baskets, old copper pots, pitchers or other containers. Baskets (woven or wire), colorful ceramics, carved wood pieces and Chinoiserie pottery are also frequently used in French country style. Oil paintings are everywhere– on walls, shelves, mantles, and even leaned against furniture on the floor. Collections of framed botanical prints (often faded with age) are very prevalent, as well as wooden, painted, or gilded mirrors in each room. Dishes and platters are often grouped and displayed as art. Use of stone/iron/concrete urns can be used both inside and outside the home. Lots of beautiful throw pillows give rooms a comfortable and welcoming feel. Pillows need not match.
English Traditions Style:
English Traditions features a blending of both English and French country style, combined with a New England sensibility and practicality to create a look of unique timeless living. We offer in-store and in-home design services to help our clients achieve the perfect look for their homes, and create their own “signature style.”
Thanks for Home Style Online Magazine for some of the great ideas in this blog.
Additional information about English Country Décor:
Book: English Country House Interiors by Jeremy Musson
For more French Country decorating tips, go to:
Charles Faudree’s French Country Signature by M. J. Van Deventer