The dream of living in the countryside, whether in a little thatched cottage or a rambling pile deep in the Scottish Highlands, is often cited as a peculiarly British fantasy. For Brits, I believe it connotes escape, freedom from the urban toil, clean air and a life lived with authenticity. Sadly it’s likely to stay a dream for the majority of us, but we can still flee the metropolis vicariously through the pages of magazines and indeed add the essence of what we believe to be ‘Country’ style to our town-centre homes to give us a good sense of a life lived elsewhere.
If we surround ourselves with nature and objects that have been hand-crafted, and combine it within an envelope of corresponding decor, a real sense of another world can develop. It is possible to create a sense of the rural in the midst of the city. But how do you steer clear of pastiche? What works, and what doesn’t? What key pieces could be added to lend that requisite rustic feel, but still retain an overall sense of the ELLE Decoration ethos of modernity and contemporary comfort. Herewith my quick guide…
1 Keep window treatments simple, or leave them completely clear. Obviously if you live overlooking fields then neighbours catching you in your PJs is not really a problem. In rather denser packed communities it might be. But natural light is the thing: the must have for healthy homes. Being intimately aware of the passing of the seasons rather than shrouding yourself from them enables connection to the world at large. My solution? Explore the possiblity of using translucent screening films on lower panes, or install blinds made with a thin gauzy material that provide privacy but still let light through. Never ever contemplate net curtains! They are an aberration. IMHO. Just saying.
2 Country style doesn’t have to mean rustic. In the Italian villa shown below, concrete floors and grey plaster walls strike a completely contemporary note. But surrounding the table with a mis-matched array of mix of seats, stools and an upholstered bench replete with cushions lends this space a wonderful sense of informality. The built-in storage nooks also keep everything very Zen and seamless. Great to do if you’re ever lucky enough to be re-building walls or starting from scratch.
3 A big wooden dining table. This is kind of a must in my book. As a fulcrum around which your home can revolve, the bigger you can accommodate, the better, but it’s the tactility of it being crafted in wood that will make it become akin to a family friend. Something that will weather beautifully and can be used without fear of “ruining it”. Here it works perfectly as a counterpoint to the sleek surroundings (note no skirting boards even though this is a 15th Century farmhouse!). It’s all about balance.
3 Every home needs a touch of the hand-made. And I personally love woven baskets for that. Just gorgeous for their deliberate imperfections and tactility. I use a wicker basket at home for all my recycling, one for paper and one for glass (I just pop a paper carrier inside each for ease of disposal) and then there’s a few more for all my son’s Lego! They can make storage into something beautiful, or as below, if you have the room, can be displayed simply for their intrinsic beauty.
Basket love: ZaraHome has large range of affordable, and wonderful baskets. ZaraHome
4 I also think vintage, and African, stools are wonderful in any home, but particularly as a contrast to slick sofas.
4 It’s all about loose draping, big throws, a bit of sheepskin and tons of cushions. The point is the creation of an atmosphere that feels relaxed and where comfort is clearly the priority. It doesn’t have to mean messy though, see below. Contain the colours, keep the quality, mix the materials and get ready to lounge, Country-style.
5 Finally, add some character. Many homes go wrong in their pursuit of interiors perfection by keeping everything, well, all a little bit too perfect. I think a love of countryside homes stems also from their intrinsic acceptance of patina, or to put it another way, that feeling of them being a teeny bit knocked about. This is what makes us comfortable. Alongside sofas you feel you can really sink into, rather than perch on, it’s about surrounding yourself with things that are designed to be used, and enjoyed, not just looked at.
For a further selection of beautiful Country-style buys, including throws and cushions, see Best Buys: Essential Country kit
But for the ELLE Decoration Top 50 essential, timeless and useful buys, plus more homes absolutely bursting with character and inspiration (and the full tour of those featured in this post), see inside ELLE Decoration Country Volume 10
Text by Michelle Ogundehin, Editor in Chief ELLE Decoration
See also michelleogundehin.com