UK Style: 5 Particularly British Design Lessons I’ve Learned
I’ve been living in London for nearly a decade now, having moved here from Canada as a bright-eyed university graduate, in search of tea and adventure. Through my friendships and work as an interior designer (not to mention my work for Apartment Therapy— I love a good House Tour snoop), I’ve been lucky enough to have been invited into countless English homes over the years, from Cornwall to Yorkshire and nearly every county in between.
While every one is different, and I do hate to generalize, there are a few broad-reaching themes that I’ve come to see as particularly British. Check out 5 things I’ve learnt about home design in Old Blighty.
1. Comfort is king.
This might not seem all that Brit-specific (living rooms in the rest of the world are hardly standing room only), but there’s something about the way that comfort is valued over here that you can see in the average home. Many living rooms feature two small sofas instead of one larger one, so as to more easily create conversation areas and cozy corners for everybody. Upholstered window seats, sofas in kitchens (yes), and draught-stopping measures (as in the curtain in the top image) are also common. Abigail Ahern‘s lush and texture-filled living room perfectly encapsulates this vibe.
2. Formality is overrated.
Forget what you’ve seen on Downton Abbey, most British houses tend to be more relaxed than many of their American neighbours. Perhaps this is because they’re also often smaller: the idea of a formal room that doesn’t get a lot of use is somewhat alien over here. Instead of carefully-chosen schemes and matching sets, the Brits embrace quirkiness: a slightly off-center pendant light, a collection of mismatched chairs, super-modern mixed with something from the junk shop up the road. Gigi‘s cozy kitchen/diner is just the type of place I mean.
3. Old is relative, so don’t be too precious.
Let’s get real: we have a lot of Victorian property here (not to mention Georgian, Edwardian, and so on). The period features that might be revered across the pond are a dime-a-dozen here, so people don’t always feel tethered by traditionalism. This isn’t to say that we don’t appreciate the history around us, rather that we like to find ways to make its aesthetic work with ours. I love the way Jane Bonsor painted her Notting Hill kitchen’s original wooden shutters with a fun silver chevron pattern: because why not?
4. Brits love a bit of color.
Call it a panacea for all those grey days, but the British love to embrace bold color in their homes. Whether it’s one intense wall or a bright rug, it’s definitely not all neutrals around here. And rather than the blues and greens I see my friends back home gravitate towards, here I notice a lot of warm shades, like orange, yellow and pink. Sarah‘s bold orange kitchen is an excellent example.
5. All of the storage (furniture).
Must be that small spaces thing again, but Brits are good at eking out storage space. Because big pantries and closets aren’t exactly common in our older homes, furniture with added storage is necessary. I see a lot of storage ottomans and chests doubling as coffee tables, open shelving in kitchens, and slim cabinets and bookshelves hanging out in hallways. The vintage cubbies plus coatrack in Rachel & Marc‘s house is a perfect example.
Re-edited from a post originally published 2.19.15-NT