Coun­try calm with city cool

A touch of com­fort­ing ru­ral style need not mean frumpy in­te­ri­ors. Paula Robin­son shows how

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Interiors -

In bleak times we all crave com­fort – es­pe­cially in our homes. While stark, min­i­mal­ist in­te­ri­ors may have been fash­ion­able when things were boom­ing, they of­fer pre­cious lit­tle cheer as a re­treat from the world at the mo­ment. One way to soften the in­te­rior of your home is to take in­spi­ra­tion from “coun­try style”, in­flu­enced by the re­laxed ru­ral homes of France, Italy and Amer­ica as well as Bri­tain. The style as­sumes many guises but, at its core, it is about a slow­er­paced life­style; prac­ti­cal, comfortable el­e­ments; and the cel­e­bra­tion of na­ture. Adapt­ing th­ese at­tributes to ur­ban dwelling re­quires a twist if the re­sults are not to look in­con­gru­ous. Clever blend­ing is the key to cre­at­ing a new look that will bring the com­forts of coun­try to your home, without los­ing any of the style of city liv­ing.

COLOUR AND TEX­TURE

Muted colours and nat­u­ral tex­tures are two sig­na­ture el­e­ments of coun­try style, and can soften a room. Deep rusts work beau­ti­fully with slate, stone and light woods; soft greeny-blues con­trast per­fectly with creams and parch­ment; earthy yel­low (ochre) and warm or­ange are rem­i­nis­cent of Tus­can colours and work won­der­fully with wood; grey-blue takes on a life of its own, par­tic­u­larly when con­trasted to stark white. Typ­i­cal coun­try tex­tures in­clude linen, heavy cot­ton and wool – soft to the touch, but hard-wear­ing.

SMALL TOUCHES

One of the eas­i­est ways to add coun­try colours and tex­tures is with scat­ter cush­ions and fabrics. Nina Camp­bell’s “Prom­e­nade” is a toile (avail­able in a va­ri­ety of colour­ways) with a twist: it de­picts a For­ties Bri­tish park scene in­stead of the clas­sic 18th cen­tury themes. Have some big cush­ions made up to throw on an aus­tere leather couch and draw a smile or two. The fam­ily-run Welsh firm Elan­bach has at­trac­tive coun­try fabrics that are pleas­ing to be­hold, but don’t lack style. It of­fers a made-tomea­sure cur­tain and blind ser­vice, and be­spoke print­ing if you have a par­tic­u­lar de­sign in mind. To tone down the flo­rals, team Nina Camp­bell or Elan­bach fabrics with striped cush­ions or fabrics from Ian Mankin. “Tick­ing Union” in Petrol, and “Em­pire” in sage strike a good, mas­cu­line con­trast. Have some loose cov­ers made up for a stiff sofa, or use a drape of dou­ble-sided fab­ric as a throw.

AVOID­ING AN OVERLY FEM­I­NINE LOOK

Typ­i­cal English and French coun­try styles tend to have an overly fem­i­nine feel, but there are ways to achieve a more re­laxed, ru­ral look. Old farm im­ple­ments are a good com­pro­mise and look stun­ning when put to new uses: large old grain sieves make great wall lights; wine strain­ers turn into un­usual light fit­tings; a few trac­tor seats mounted on a wall can dou­ble as un­usual art. The rus­tic ap­peal of th­ese el­e­ments blends beau­ti­fully into a con­tem­po­rary home, soft­en­ing without looking in­con­gru­ous.

LIGHTING

Leave over­head and halo­gen lights off, and use ta­ble lamps in­stead. They cre­ate soft pools of re­lax­ing mood light – es­pe­cially if you choose darker lamp­shades for win­ter (change them for cream or white cot­ton lamp­shades in sum­mer). Parch­ment lamp­shades give a warm glow, but try to avoid shaped silk lamp­shades. They usu­ally feel stiff and for­mal – and they are more ex­pen­sive than cot­ton or card. Jim Lawrence (www.jim-lawrence.co. uk; 01473 828176) stocks a range of styles in­clud­ing mock suede can­dle shades. This is worth adding in, as the light through suede will be very mel­low. Of course, you can’t beat the charm of can­dle­light in the evenings: church can­dles are has­sle-free and last much longer than pil­lar can­dles or vo­tives.

Hint of fire: a clay chime­nea

ADD A FIRE

Th­ese days, you don’t need a chim­ney, a flue or even a gas sup­ply to en­joy the re­lax­ing ef­fects of a fire. Gel flame fires give off no smoke, smells or tox­ins and come in many dif­fer­ent styles and sizes. For real char­ac­ter, add a gel flame fire to a clay chime­nea – those won­der­ful bul­bous, free­stand­ing chim­neys that orig­i­nated in Mex­ico.

AC­CES­SORIES

Cot­tage in­dus­try crafts add the per­fect fin­ish­ing touch to coun­try-style in­te­ri­ors. For a list of lo­cal craft fairs, which are al­ways worth a look, in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber, visit www. bit.ly/craft­fairs. I was en­chanted by the cre­ativ­ity of one Cor­nish artist, Poppy Tr­ef­fry (www.pop­pytr­e­f­fry.co.uk), who de­signs and makes items in­clud­ing cof­fee cosies for small and large cafetieres, tea cosies that are any­thing but frumpy, cards and pic­tures. All have a unique coun­try style.

BOOKS FOR IN­SPI­RA­TION

I rec­om­mend En­rica Sta­bile’s Comfortable Coun­try (Ry­land Peters & Small, £12.99). It is full of ideas that won’t in­volve re­work­ing the en­tire look of your home. En­rica favours French and Ital­ian coun­try styles which have a re­laxed el­e­gance that adapts eas­ily to ur­ban and con­tem­po­rary set­tings. An­other use­ful book is Ka­trin Cargill’s Easy Coun­try (Ry­land Peters & Small, £8.99) which is di­vided into in­flu­en­tial coun­try styles (in­clud­ing Swedish and early Amer­i­can), in­di­vid­ual colours, fur­nish­ings and rooms.

No fuss: A nat­u­ral look need not be clut­tered. Left: Elan­bach’s Voltaire col­lec­tion is off­set by cush­ions

Pat­tern with at­ti­tude: Prom­e­nade linen fab­ric by Nina Camp­bell (above) and from the Pardalote col­lec­tion by Welsh fam­ily firm Elan­bach (be­low)

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