Timeless style in 7 steps

Creating feel-good interiors is the essence of classic decorating schemes. We ask the experts to distil the key elements of this style…

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CLASSIC KITCHEN

Kitchen from The English collection at Martin Moore with main furniture painted in ‘Stone II’ and the island in ‘Stone III’ from Paint & Paper Library. Worktops are in Caesarstone ‘Ginger’ and Compac ‘Botticino’. Martin Moore kitchens start from £35,000
Kitchen from The English collection at Martin Moore with main furniture painted in ‘Stone II’ and the island in ‘Stone III’ from Paint & Paper Library. Worktops are in Caesarstone ‘Ginger’ and Compac ‘Botticino’. Martin Moore kitchens start from £35,000

A classic kitchen combines the traditional style of an imagined past with 21st-century efficiency. The ideal focal point for such a room is a range cooker and siting it within an existing chimney breast with a mantelshelf above will create a welcoming, centred ambience. Mixing fitted cabinets with furniture that is – or appears to be – freestanding, such as a dresser or larder, gives the impression that the room has evolved over the years and adds to the sense of timelessness. If you choose painted cabinets, opt for colours that are associated with nature. These muted tones are easy to live with and complement natural stone floors and worktops, and any antique wood furniture you might add to give the room individuality and character.

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A TRADITIONAL PALETTE

‘Brick’ emulsion, £45 per 2.5l, Edward Bulmer Natural Paint
‘Brick’ emulsion, £45 per 2.5l, Edward Bulmer Natural Paint

Enduring style brings to mind pale, receding tones that provide a calm background for the furniture and fabrics which are, one might think, the main event in a room. It’s true that one is unlikely to tire of subtle shades, but deeper, bolder colours can have lasting value too. ‘The classic English style takes huge inspiration from France,’ says paint and colour expert Annie Sloan. ‘But I think the English version perhaps uses a little more colour, adding tones of pale duck egg and blues to creams and soft pale ochres.’ As well as these mid tones, Annie’s own collection of paints includes dramatic hues such as ‘Amsterdam Green’ and ‘Aubusson Blue’, which allow the brighter tones of furnishings and objects to sing.

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A COSY BED

‘Camelia’ double divan with buttoned, winged headboard upholstered in Linwood ‘Oatmeal’ luxury linen, £1,185, Button & Sprung
‘Camelia’ double divan with buttoned, winged headboard upholstered in Linwood ‘Oatmeal’ luxury linen, £1,185, Button & Sprung

The desire for a good night’s sleep never changes but styles of bed do. ‘I love a four-poster,’ says interior designer Jane Churchill, ‘but only if the room’s size allows for it. For beds in general, the bigger the better!’ Reproductions of traditional designs will give a room timeless style but an antique is always an attractive option. ‘Antique beds often come in non-standard sizes,’ says Darren Marcangelo, co-founder of Herdysleep, ‘but we are able to custom-make a pocket-sprung mattress with the wool from a full fleece to fit.’

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PERFECT SYMMETRY

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‘Eva’ sofa, from £2,150; ‘Amelia’ chair in ‘Archie Night Sky’ (left), £630; ‘Amelia’ chair in ‘Emma Dove’, £750; ‘Arthur’ stool in foreground, from £405; ‘Louis’ stool, from £245, all Neptune

Rooms that feel calm and comfortable invariably contain some element of symmetry. A chimney breast with alcoves on either side, or a pair of matching windows invites the balanced arrangement of furniture and objects. Where there are no architectural features to offer direction, a significant piece such as a sideboard or sofa, a patterned rug or even a contrasting coffee table or footstool will provide focus. Taken to its extreme, symmetry can produce a forced, stagey look, so the addition of one or two non-matching pieces of similar visual weight will give a less regimented, more natural air. In the sitting room (left), a pair of armchairs covered in different fabrics inject life and individuality into a formally arranged scheme.

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PEERLESS PATTERN

Archive designs with proven longevity have an authentically timeless look. ‘Borough High St’ wallpaper in ‘Stamp’, £86 per roll, London Wallpaper IV collection, Little Greene
Archive designs with proven longevity have an authentically timeless look. ‘Borough High St’ wallpaper in ‘Stamp’, £86 per roll, London Wallpaper IV collection, Little Greene

Fabrics and wallpapers are intrinsic to traditional decorating and whatever your perception of the style, there is a pattern to bring it to life. If you have a romantic vision of classic style that’s replete with blowsy flowers and foliage, there are countless designs for walls and soft furnishings. Trailing patterns have a light and delicate feel, while Victorian-inspired designs featuring full-blown roses or summer bouquets have a bright and busy charm. For those who gravitate to more structured looks, stripes, lattice patterns and geometrics convey classic style in a more restrained way. Exotic designs have transplanted easily from their Eastern origins to take root in classic Western homes and paisley fabrics, ikat weaves and Indian block prints, in their original colours or re-imagined in subtler tones, have become a familiar part of the interior landscape.

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A COMFORTABLE SEAT

‘Austin’ large sofa in ‘Glen Coe’ fabric, £2,259; ‘Wexham’ footstool in ‘Parquet’ fabric, £519, both Multiyork
‘Austin’ large sofa in ‘Glen Coe’ fabric, £2,259; ‘Wexham’ footstool in ‘Parquet’ fabric, £519, both Multiyork

Traditional upholstery owes much to history with styles like the wing chair, the Chesterfield and the low-armed Howard sofa influencing furniture design over centuries. Although they have adapted to meet modern standards of comfort, the essential form of these iconic pieces has remained unchanged. There are fashions in classic styles and in response perhaps to smaller spaces or a taste for minimalism, upholstery shapes with a slender silhouette and exposed legs are currently in vogue. Fabrics have a radical effect on appearance and the images here show how a woollen plaid, crushed velvet or plain linen affect the character of the piece and, by extension, the whole room.

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A ROLL-TOP BATH

‘Bateau’ cast-iron bath, from £4,920; antique cabinet basin, £2,719, The Water Monopoly
‘Bateau’ cast-iron bath, from £4,920; antique cabinet basin, £2,719, The Water Monopoly

The nurturing effect of a roll-top tub can’t be overestimated. It is an essential element for those who like to soak away the stresses of the day in a warm bath and produces a characterful centrepiece for a classic bathroom. Antique baths are now harder to find but reproductions, in cast-iron or ceramic, or in practical, lighter-weight acrylic, abound. Choose between single or double-ended styles, supported on feet or a plinth, with a white, painted or metallic exterior. In a large bathroom, a bath placed in the middle of the room has a luxurious look, while in smaller spaces it can be positioned against a wall where the plumbing is easier to hide.

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This feature first appeared in the November 2017 issue of Homes & Antiques.