10 ways to create a sense of faded grandeur

We explain how to recreate this romantic look in your home

The Empress Console on Frame is an elegant addition to any bathroom, £2,100, Catchpole & Rye.
1

Hand-painted wallpaper

Hand-painted chinoiserie wallpaper by de Gournay
Rose Antiqued hand-painted Badminton chinoiserie on tarnished silver-gilded paper, from £848 per panel, de Gournay.

Little says stately opulence like a hand-painted wallpaper. De Gournay’s newly launched Rose Antiqued finish, offered on all its metallic grounds, is the very essence of faded grandeur, inspired by the unexpectedly beautiful tarnish that a client’s panels acquired when she stored them in a humid attic. If your budget doesn’t stretch to hand-painted panels, look for wallpapers featuring historic patterns such as toile, chinoiserie and floral designs in soft and weathered shades – Cole & Son and Brunschwig & Fils both have a good selection. 

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2

Add architectural details

Jitney No.293 paint from Farrow & Ball
Soft earth tones offer a warmer alternative to shades that mimic setting plaster. This sitting room is painted in Jitney from Farrow & Ball, £46.50 per 2.5l.

Original architectural details, such as elaborate cornices, not only signal the age and style of a property but also add character and a sense of timeless elegance. If these details have been removed from your home, or were never there, classical-style decorative and ornamental panel mouldings are widely available and easy to install. Paint the moulding the same colour as the walls, as here, or pick it out in a contrasting colour.  

3

Layer textiles

Sheila Wallace's home by Jan Baldwin
Weathered yet glamorous, this bedroom has all the elements of faded grandeur, from the elaborate gilt and glass chandelier to the various complementary floral textiles.

Antique textiles, softened and faded with use, are not only beautiful and practical, but they lend a sense of history to any room in which they are used. A half-tester or a wall-mounted canopy are both excellent ways to use antique curtains or embroidered panels. Hand-quilted throws, such as the one in this bedroom, are highly sought-after, and available through specialist textile dealers. 

4

 Frescoed murals

Tuberose wallpaper, £195 per roll, Designers Guild.
Foscari Fresco Scene 1 Tuberose wallpaper, £195 per roll, Designers Guild.

If you want a mural similar to the one in Francesca Orsi’s kitchen, but you’re unable to paint directly onto your walls, a large-scale mural-style wallpaper could be an excellent alternative. Companies such as Surface View and Murals Wallpaper have excellent selections of classic images, many from historic collections. But if the look you’re after is a little more Italian palazzo, then this large-scale wallpaper from Designers Guild could be the answer. Inspired by the frescoed walls of Venetian palaces, the panels feature a beautiful repeat pattern of crumbling plaster and flaking paint. 

5

Perfect parquet

Versailles panel floor, from £234, The New & Reclaimed Flooring Company.
Versailles panel floor, from £234, The New & Reclaimed Flooring Company.

Evocative of ballrooms and grand reception rooms in stately homes, a reclaimed parquet floor, complete with its original patina, will give your home instant history. Parquet can also be used to create herringbone and chevron designs, as well as panels.

6

Dressed to impress

Annie Sloan - Colour Recipes for Painted Furniture and More, CICO Books, photography by Christopher Drake
Château Grey Chalk Paint, £19.95 per litre, Annie Sloan.

A large, open-shelved dresser, filled with antique and vintage china, will undoubtedly exude a country house charm, whatever the size of your kitchen. Paint the wood, as here, in a muted shade of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, to create a gently distressed look.

7

On the tiles

Chequers Court tiles, £6.36 each, Fired Earth.
Chequers Court tiles, £6.36 each, Fired Earth.

Reclaimed flagstones, marble slabs or encaustic tiles – a stone or tiled hallway is a must if you want to conjure the essence of faded stately style. If in doubt, go for a classic chequerboard pattern. These Chequers Court tiles from Fired Earth are named after the PM’s historic country retreat.  

8

Tread softly

Quirky Skinny Black runner, £110 per linear m, Alternative Flooring.
Quirky Skinny Black runner, £110 per linear m, Alternative Flooring.

When it comes to carpeting the hallway and stairs, take your cue from classic country houses and stately homes and install a runner, rather than wall-to-wall carpet. Leaving skirting and risers weathered and worn will provide an interesting visual contrast to a pristine runner. Choose a striking design, such as this zebra pattern, to inject a touch of exoticism.

9

French fancy

A delicate gilt chair is a perfect partner to this charming French armoire.
A delicate gilt chair is a perfect partner to this charming French armoire.

Built-in furniture can feel too modern for this look. So, if you have space in your bedroom, opt for freestanding wardrobes and chests of drawers. Elegant, slightly worn Victorian and Edwardian examples, often with original mirror glass, can be picked up at auction. If your style is more romantic, invest in a French armoire from a specialist dealer.

10

Wonder wall

The Empress Console on Frame is an elegant addition to any bathroom, £2,100, Catchpole & Rye.
The Empress Console on Frame is an elegant addition to any bathroom, £2,100, Catchpole & Rye.

Exposed plaster that still bears the imprint of past wallpapers and splashes of old paint can be unexpectedly beautiful. When redecorating, if you discover the plaster isn’t blown or crumbling, let the natural wear and tear take centre stage and leave your freshly exposed walls as they are. A coat of watered-down PVA glue will seal areas around sinks and basins, but it will leave a slight sheen. The time-worn wall in this bathroom is the perfect foil to the elegant heritage-style washbasin and the antique chandelier. The sombre mirror frame gives the look a masculine edge, while the quirky soap holder is a witty finishing touch.


How to style this look at home

Interiors stylist Sally Denning shares her tips

Start with the bare bones – floors should be distressed and worn, whether they are wooden boards or terracotta tiles. It’s about weathered materials that look like they have a story to tell. I’d take up the carpets and cover wooden boards with rugs.

For walls, worn plaster is very popular at the moment. There are lots of lovely eco-friendly colour washes for use over lime plaster, so walls will have the appearance of having faded over time – Bauwerk Colour, Earthborn and Edward Bulmer are all good brands to explore. Wood panelling can be added very easily, whether in the form of tongue and groove from your local DIY store or proper panelling from The English Panelling Company, whose designs range from Jacobean to Edwardian.

For furniture, think key vintage or antique pieces – add a dresser, a chandelier or an elegant sofa, and you are halfway there. 

Don’t be tempted to overfill the space. A mirror is useful as a focal point. And look for things in charity shops, as well as antiques shops – items that can be stripped back and upcycled. 

When it comes to textiles, heavy vintage linen is a good starting point. Pick up inexpensive pieces in vintage shops. Beyond France and Parna are reliable sources. It’s all about the layers, but it shouldn’t look too matchy – mix toile with faded florals, for example. 


3 antiques to complete the look

Worn leather, speckled glass and faded textiles are the touchstones for creating elegant, imperfect style

French 19th-century Louis Philippe gilt mirror
French 19th-century Louis Philippe gilt mirror

Tarnished gilt and foxed glass are musts in a mirror. French 19th-century Louis Philippe gilt mirror, £995, Agapanthus Interiors.

Azerbaijan rug
Azerbaijan rug

The jewel-rich colours and intricate designs of an antique rug add luxury to any room. Azerbaijan rug (c1920), £1,200, Rugs of London. 

French Louis XV-style ormolu sconces
French Louis XV-style ormolu sconces
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For a small-scale shot of glamour, invest in a pair of ornate sconces. French Louis XV-style ormolu sconces (c1880), £650, Ebury Trading.