Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Style Guide: English Country House

An 1810 Connecticut Federal gets a sympathetic update with furniture adapted from the great country homes of Great Britain.

There's an art to updating an old house. You want to establish a fresh look, yet nothing should look too new.

That was the challenge in this 1810 house in southwestern Connecticut. "Now that my children are growing up, I wanted a redo," says the owner, "but as a working parent, I knew it would take me forever to refurnish the house piece by piece."

With furniture from the Royal Country Retreats Collection from Drexel Heritage, the house got the update it needed with a style that looks as if it has evolved over time. The collection adapts pieces from the grand country homes of England, where furnishings and collectibles were accumulated and then handed down lovingly from one generation to the next. This New England home now resonates with heirlooms old and new in a setting that is opulent yet inviting, comfortable, and relaxed.

As you explore each of the rooms, you will begin to appreciate the appeal of the English Country House style -- a perfect choice for this New England home, the perfect choice for today's lifestyle.

Living Room, Another View

The unusual blend of pattern and texture continues to be revealed in this view of the living room. The sofa, with its exposed legs and nail head trim detailing, is handsomely tailored in a combination of brown leather and tweed fabric. The galleried cocktail table in the foreground is adapted from an English Regency tray-on-stand commonly used for afternoon tea.

On the windowsill above, rosemary topiaries flank a silver punch bowl the owners received as a gift for their twentieth anniversary. Framed engravings are mounted on the glazed parchment-colored walls. The original plank flooring is complemented by the colorful pattern of the Chinese needlepoint rug.

Chest Detail

Charming nooks and crannies lend character throughout the house. This recess was the perfect place to tuck an unusual multi-drawer chest with carved detailing, decorative drawer pulls, and checkerboard sides.

A generous dish of potpourri, which rests atop a boxed antique chess set, perfumes the air with its delicate scent of rose blossoms. The heraldic table lamp provides its own unique accent, with a graphic plaid shade complementing the checkered paint finish of the chest. Resting on the narrow shelf above: a pair of Staffordshire lions.

Dining Room

A dining room with paneled walls was added to the house during the 1930's. Today Provincial-style reading chairs, upholstered in leather with tweed fabric backs, surround the dining table and provide a beautiful complement to the richly colored floral wool carpet. Additional arm chairs in tweed are positioned near the far windows.

The Georgian-style sideboard at right provides convenient storage for linens and accessories. Above it hangs a John Mecray print of the racing yacht Atlantic. The unusual ceiling-high topiaries, partially visible at left, flank the room's fieldstone fireplace.

Dining Room Detail

The oak-topped sideboard shown in this view of the dining room is actually a modern reproduction of a rustic Irish dresser. The Chippendale brass hardware and worn, distressed finish give it the look of an aged original. On top, a pair of rosemary topiaries in hand-painted tole cachepots frame an original oil painting.

While the rest of the house combines opulence with a relaxed, casual comfort, the dining room maintains a total sense of elegance. The table is set with antique linen napkins used as placemats, the owner's candlestick collection, and Chinese export plates that have been in the family for years.


A fantasy of floral bouquets abounds in the bedroom, with chintz fabric lining the walls, draping the windows, and slipcovering the various upholstered pieces throughout. The room features an eclectic mix of furniture styles, with a Georgian chest on chest, carved French side chair, Queen Anne side table, and English-style brass bed.

On the bed an array of antique quilts, shams, and pillows create a look of total comfort. The dark colorings of the aubusson-patterned needlepoint rug help anchor the room while adding to the richness of the interior.

Bedroom Detail

On cool nights the fireplace at the foot of the bed draws the owner to its warmth; on warmer evenings a pretty painted fire screen takes the place of glowing logs. The scallop-top lamp table, based on a Scottish design, provides a resting spot for a teacup, various family photos, and a candlestick lamp with butterfly lampshade.

A companion floral -- a near-match to the chintz-covered walls -- is shown on the chair upholstery and ottoman slipcover. For added color, a solid yellow fabric was used to upholster the exterior of the chair.

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