English Country Style Defined

Get inspired by rustic English country design.

By Lisa Frederick

Call it the Downton Abbey effect. Although English country style never truly falls out of fashion, the hit TV series has propelled it into the spotlight. Inspired by the storied air of rural English manors and cottages, this gracefully layered look blends the rustic warmth of country living with the sophistication of life's finer pleasures. It's cozy, cheery, and ever so slightly quirky.

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Open Traditional Living & Family Room
Barbara Eberlein

The Basics

Although English country decor can tend toward either dressy or casual, it's always comfortable and relaxed. Surfaces, furnishings, and accents feel familiar and lived-in. An English country home fits in neatly with its natural surroundings; there's nothing hard-edged, avant-garde, or jarring about it.

These designer rooms display English country decor:

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Wing Chair

• Feminine fabrics. Hands down, chintz is the signature fabric of English country style, and it's splashed liberally throughout the house. Although some rooms wear a variety of chintzes, others repeat the same pattern in draperies, bed linens, canopies, upholstery, pillows, and more. Floral prints in cotton or linen, toile, and damask also feel on point. Don't be shy about using them—there's nothing restrained about this style, so bring on the ruffles, skirts, box pleats, and other details.

• Deep woods. English country furnishings that aren't upholstered usually feature rich, traditional woods such as mahogany and walnut. Don't be afraid to mix various wood species in a single room; the look should appear as if pieces have been amassed from generation to generation.

• Copious collections. If you're a minimalist, pick another style. English country aficionados embrace the warmth of accent pieces—masses of china, walls filled with art, jam-packed bookshelves. Layer in plenty of traditional lighting fixtures such as table and floor lamps, sconces, and chandeliers, and don't forget a pottery vase or a pitcher brimming with fresh flowers.

Welbeck Afternoon Tea Set
Royal Winton

• Warm, natural colors. English country colors look as though they've been plucked straight from mannerly cottage gardens and dense woodlands. Buttery yellows and faded golds, dusty pinks and sage greens, lilacs and Wedgwood blues all suit the style perfectly, as do richer hues such as cocoa, plum, and indigo. Cut the palette with a dose of white and cream to keep it from feeling too heavy.

• Canine and equestrian motifs. What's more quintessentially British than the image of a hunt on horseback, with hounds trotting along? Equestrian artwork and accents, plus pieces that bear the likenesses of dogs (Staffordshire anyone?), help to cultivate a refined yet bucolic atmosphere.

If you like English country style, you may also like French country and traditional style. Click to explore!

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