An English country-style home is designed for life in the English countryside — full of polo matches and punting, fox and hound hunts, and afternoon tea. Thanks to the country's infamously chilly and wet climate, much of English country decor is predicated on creating an environment of warmth and coziness. Of course there's always room for British regalia, but the overall atmosphere of English country-style strives for comfort. Here, we've put together a list of 11 essential ingredients for decorating a warm and charming English country abode.
Although it started with the Dutch, it was English country-style that turned wainscoting into such a popular paneling practice. The original purpose of this wall treatment was to provide protection from cold, damp walls in the days before insulation. So it's not a surprise that wainscoting became a prominent feature in English country homes given the rainy climate. Experimentation with the design may have changed wainscoting over the years, but English country-style prefers to keep things traditional. And when it comes to wood finishes, it's first-class all the way, featuring rich veneers in walnut, cherry, and oak.
2. White Kitchen Cabinets
A white cupboard with open shelving is traditional for an English country kitchen, often accompanied by a set of matching cabinets. The open shelving section of the cupboard commonly holds the dishes for tea service, since they're usually used multiple times throughout the day. Today, however, they're good for all types of storage, and you can experiment with your favorite hues without sacrificing on English country-style; just remember that lighter shades reflect the most light. For a characteristically English country look, put a set of vintage blue willow dishes on display.
3. Window Coverings
It wouldn't be inaccurate to describe some English country-style window treatments as 'frilly.' In addition to lace, you tend to see a lot of floral patterns and ruffles. Apart from its decorative value, drapery allows you the ability to control how much natural light you want to come through, which is a precious commodity in the English countryside. Lighter weight window coverings, such as lace, commonly appear in the windows of 'public' rooms, like kitchens, sitting rooms, and sometimes bathrooms. On the other hand, you typically see heavier weight drapery panels in the bedroom.
4. Dogs and Horses
Because we are talking about the English countryside, after all, a decorative canine or equestrian accent is a must. Whether personal or purely for show, there are actually a lot of different ways we can work our four-legged friends into our home decor. In the absence of a real-life furry friend, try an antique painting, vintage statuette, or an animal-print textile.
5. Central Fireplace
What's cozier than a fireplace? Always centrally located, the fireplace is the main gathering spot in an English country home. It provides a toasty, relaxing place for the family to come together to enjoy some quality bonding time. Try working a stone feature like a mantel, hearth, or surround into your fireplace design for an authentically English look. And for the coup de gras, layer the floor with a few tartan fireplace rugs.
6. Abundant Gardens
The garden is arguably the most beloved feature of an English country home. If there's one good thing that comes from England's rainy climate, it's the botanical reward of a vibrant and lush garden. No matter the size, create a landscape design that includes a variety of flowers and grass. Strive for a balance between wild and neat (the English way), and remember to consider height, sun, season, and your native climate when planning your garden design. Pro tip: If you're looking to win English country bonus points, make your own topiary arrangement.
7. Patterned Textiles
Whether you prefer tartan or plaid, floral or chintz, you can't have English country-style without patterned textiles. Nearly every featured fabric has some kind of a print — flowers, basic geometric designs (like stripes and checks), and chintz are among English country favorites. Typically, chintz fabrics depict an animal or floral motif. Resist the urge to match patterns for continuity, and mix them instead. It may seem bold, but as long as you pick a cohesive color scheme, a pattern mashup won't overwhelm the rest of your decor.
8. Windsor Chairs
Up your English country-style street cred with a set (or mix) of Windsor chairs. The classic wood frame design works well with almost any style of decor. Dress your Windsor chair with cushions, pillows, and throws for a little added flair. Geometric prints lend themselves to a more formal look, while floral prints lean toward a rustic cottage vibe. You can even change the color or finish of your Windsor chairs as a fun DIY project.
Wallpaper: Because not every wall in the house can be adorned with wainscoting. This vertical decorative accent presents us with yet another opportunity to display the various patterns of which English country-style is so very fond. While frequently used in bathrooms and bedrooms, you can use wallpaper in common areas as well. Just be sure to accurately measure the size of the room, taking into account the pattern repeat, before you place your order, to ensure the correct quantity.
10. Antique Portraits
You've probably noticed that the English are quite proud of their heritage. Family heirlooms and portraits of ancestors proudly fill the walls of country homes, so gather up an assortment of frames and install your own gallery wall of familial and cultural ancestry. You can also throw in a few vintage Union Jacks, portraits of Royal Navy ships, and famous scenes from British history for good historical measure.
11. Queen Anne and Victorian Style Furnishings
Why not celebrate the most prosperous period in British history in the form of a decorative tribute? Queen Anne and Victorian style furniture with plushly, overstuffed cushions are a common characteristic in English country-style homes. So grab a nice cup of tea and sink into a world of velvety comfort with a cozy upholstered sofa or chaise.