The British countryside is dotted with spectacular mansions with interiors most of us only see on the pages of magazines or have been recreated in a Bridgerton-esque Netflix series. However, it’s hard to deny the beauty of a mansion, and the appeal of its rich history reflected in stunning architecture and atmospheric interior design.
The central principles of mansion interiors are immediately recognizable: the high ceilings and double-height windows, a mix of inherited furniture, oversized portraits hung in every room, a profusion of color, and seemingly intentional mismatch of patterns. It is playful and traditional at the same time.
With a few well-placed antiques, lots of colorful prints, and some clever DIY tricks to mimic historical architecture, a stately home look can be achieved on a smaller, more personal scale. Read on to get inspired…
1. Display real paintings
Search the English countryside and you probably won’t find a single manor house that isn’t filled with great portraits of previous homeowners and family members, or beautiful landscapes depicting the nearby area.
Camilla Clarke, Creative Director at Albion Nord, says: “Art gives character and personality to a space, which materials and colors in a space cannot always fully achieve. A space without art is an unfinished space. Remember, art does. It doesn’t always have to be hung in the center of the wall, it can rest on tables or be layered alongside sculptures or on top of bookshelves and carpentry.
“We love using tapestries in hallways as they add richness and warmth to a room that may not have a lot of furniture. They are also available in giant landscape formats, making them ideal for long hallways or entryways.”
2. Go classic with furniture
Traditional furniture with intricate details of turned wood and sumptuous upholstery is a recognized decorative trope in English mansions. Furniture is meant to be passed down from generation to generation, found at local antique markets or taken on glamorous trips abroad – it’s a style that happily accepts a bit of wear and tear.
If you don’t have any inherited treasures, it’s easy to recreate the look with a few carefully chosen pieces – pay particular attention to silhouettes, which should be solid and chunky, but with curved legs or arms, and upholstery that could be worn leather, one crisp linen or something densely patterned.
3. Use color to simulate historic architecture
There are several tricks to recreating the grandiose architecture of English mansions when your own home is a little lacking in trim. Some sophisticated wallpapers – like the Cole & Son Grand Masters collection of historic royal palaces – can recreate the look of classic arches or wood paneling.
Or for a DIY version with a bit of humor, we love the casual, hand-painted paneling and curvy olive-green door frame, both created with Annie Sloan paint.
4. Choose the highest quality flooring you can
There’s a bit of leeway when it comes to typical mansion floors — ranging from sturdy flagstones to original hardwood floors (with patterned rugs) and rich rugs. However, all options are of the highest quality – after all, a stately home should last for centuries.
We lean more towards comfort underfoot – because while we want to recreate the look of a stately home, we don’t necessarily want to mimic its notorious drafts. Save flagstone floors or similar tiles for the kitchen and utility room, and add a touch of luxury to your living room and bedroom with a deep-pile rug.
5. Introduce pattern
A certain level of informality in mansions means colors and prints are mixed with devotion – and so bold stripes, delicate florals and rainbow ikats sit happily side by side. This is probably the happiest side of stately homes, which can otherwise get a little drowned out in dark wood and overdone decorative detail.
It’s certainly the funnest aspect of this design scheme, as you have free reign to throw together anything you truly love, whether it’s a shell print cashmere throw or a Jemima Duck lampshade…
6. Mix in antiques
Last but not least, a few antiques are a must – and according to design experts, antiques are a big trend for 2022.
“In AW21 and beyond we will see a resurgence of more decorative 17th-century styles with thoughtful details like hand-twisted bobbins or twisted barley legs,” says Camilla. “We’ve seen spool furniture gaining popularity in antique markets and at auctions, and this is reflected in the recent collections from a number of contemporary homewares companies, including those from Alfred Newell, Soane and Soho Home.”
And it’s not just antique furniture that will come in handy in recreating the personality of an English mansion. Interior designer Andrew Martin says: “Vintage and collectible accessories will also add enduring quirks, bringing a real sense of depth, personality and soul to a space that might otherwise be on-trend but lifeless.”
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