Over the past few months we have been mulling over exactly what makes us tick. Part of our soul searching has included our approach to contemporary countryside style. Many of our clients come to us because they have heard of our fresh take on elegant country living. We may be based in the Cotswolds but the service we offer is London-class.
We believe that good design can truly transform lives. To us, a successful project is all about making your home work for your lifestyle and this is especially true when it comes to transforming heritage properties like manor houses into modern family homes. We find that people want the charm that comes with living in the country but they also want their home to be practical and to work for their needs. Sims Hilditch has done a lot of work in this area and I thought I'd share five key lessons about designing a contemporary countryside home.
Think about the hierarchy of the rooms
Old houses have beautiful character but very often the layout is not suited to modern living. We start every project by looking at interior architecture and ensuring that the flow from room to room makes sense. For many of our clients, a good kitchen and entertaining space is a must and this sometimes requires rejigging rooms or getting planning permission to knock through walls to make the most of the available space. The results are always worth it though!
Let there be light
Many of the heritage properties we work on come to us in a state of gloom because of dark furniture, heavy curtains and dark colour schemes. A simple way to transform a property from its manorial past is to go lighter. Sometimes this may mean making architectural changes, such as adding skylights, but most often simply using lighter materials can breathe new life into a countryside home. Which leads to me to my next point...
Choose materials wisely
Furnishings need to have a little give to withstand the constant flow of the elements into the home. Natural materials like wood and stone age beautifully, adding immense charm to a property over time. I love using natural oak furniture, or where practicality is a concern, hand painting wood furniture for a longer lasting and easily updatable finish. When it comes to fabrics, I tend to favour linens and wools that are robust yet refined. If young children are part of the picture, I'll consider using patterns like contemporary checks to help disguise sticky finger marks.
Plan to have a boot room
Countryside living inevitably means mud. We always try to plan for an area where muddy boots and shoes can be kept - whether this be a room all of its own or part of an entrance hall. Fitted joinery offers great space saving and many options to combine seating and storage. It also looks great - especially when accessorised with wicker baskets, wall lights and cushions.
Mix antiques with contemporary pieces
Antiques lend immense gravitas to a property but too much dark wood can be oppressive. To combat this, I often combine antique pieces with contemporary furnishings. This not only softens the look but adds layers of interest through contrast and texture.
If you are seeking inspiration for your countryside home, have a look at our Oxford Manor House project for more ideas.