How to Decorate and Furnish a Home in the English Country Style

A country cottage in rural England conjures images of thatched roofs, stone fences, rambling roses, neat herb gardens, and soft, washed-out colors.

There are some clever ways you can give your home or apartment the feel of the English countryside without breaking your budget.
English Country Colors and Atmosphere

In English Country decor, the colors are taken directly from nature, and are seldom bright or loud. After all, English cottages might be several generations old, and continued use has caused colors to fade gently over the years. There might be a fireplace in every room or only in the "main rooms", and furniture is comfortable, eclectic, and mismatched.

Anywhere you could "whitewash" a fence, an old garden bench or an interior wall, for example, isn't a bright white but more of a thinned white which allows the surface beneath to show through. Autumnal colors of greens, cream, and golden yellow are one color path to follow, while a bedroom might be pretty in soft pinks, light green, and pale yellows accented with white.

Soft lighting is important – table lamps, floor lamps, and candlelight is preferable rather than overhead lighting or recessed lights. Light a fire in the fireplace, if you have one, and add fresh wildflowers in a crockery pitcher.

English Country Furniture and Accessories

The main living spaces will be cozy, with scattered area rugs and dark woods. Family heirlooms (or reproductions) add an antique feeling: old silver or pewter, mismatched picture frames and mirrors, a footstool with a needlepoint cover, old brass fireplace tools.
Look for old framed photos of school teams, graduating classes, vintage postcards or posters, which are reminiscent of the early part of the 20th century. Make or purchase slipcovers using soft floral prints of the "cabbage rose" or chintz variety, and add pillows with soft fringe, buttons, or braiding trim.

Bookcases should be plain, filled with not only hardcover books (look in used bookstores for classic titles with gently worn bindings), but also mementos of your travels or collections of shells, teacups, or smaller framed artwork.

Don't worry if your furniture doesn't match – you can give various pieces a distressed paint finish or leave them as is, with perhaps a table skirt covering the most modern odd pieces. These are nice places to use your vintage linens and doilies, if you have them. 

Barbara Nicholson Bell
May 27, 2004 

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