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I read an article recently in the July issue of Homes & Gardens about the definition of British Style. Nina Campbell summed it up beautifully: 'British style is about longevity and it is about comfort. It is rather like a good-looking English gentleman wearing a suit – the suit is probably old yet it looks immaculate; it doesn’t scream at you and person wearing it is comfortable wearing it. In the same way, a well designed room should not shout at you when you enter – it is about creating a place for conversation and relaxation.'
And of course it is about incorporating all of the different strands of our heritage.
To me, British style has nothing to do with current trends and fashion. It is about layering. A few antiques inherited from Auntie Doris, a beautiful rug bought on a whim whilst on holiday, the wardrobes that you saved for as a newly wed, family photographs, Christmas presents from friends and a few well-considered newer items that have recently caught your eye.
It’s about respecting the history of a house and allowing it to gently guide the decorating decisions but never slavishly reproducing a museum set. It’s about incorporating what you already own years down the line because wastefulness is not British, but adapting it with a coat of paint or a new fabric. It’s about building a home with memories and never being too precious. Homes are for family and for living in, and no one creates a comfortable home quite like the British.
For this reason there will always be a demand for products that use historical reference in the design. A damask wallpaper, for instance, will never go out of style and fits in with traditional, classic and contemporary homes. In the same way, a classic, well-upholstered sofa will look at home in any setting, will grow lovelier with age and will last for years.
Of course there is always room for new furniture and new designs. The growing trend to ‘buy to last’ is one that fits in perfectly with our thrifty values. Traditional crafts are being revived and a well-designed piece will always find a place in a home with British Style.
Carole King is an Interior Designer and Associate Member of the BIID. She is the author of Dear Designer’s Blog where she documents all of her latest design infatuations and finds. She is also the co-founder and joint Editor in Chief of Heart Home magazine, a quarterly digital publication which celebrates all that is good about interior design and champions up-and-coming designers.