Here are the people you can trust to deliver the modern English country look.
In the past, Britain’s colonial and trading past instilled in designers the unique capacity to embrace external influences and make them their own. That spirit is alive and well today, but the style is in a constant state of evolution and remains tantalisingly hard to define.
For some, like Ben Pentreath, it’s about layers, encompassing ‘a melange of accumulated generations of furniture and clutter, such as a 1930s bathroom with no shower, poor heating, primitive wiring and some of the most beautiful furniture you have ever seen’.
For others, it’s a more disciplined combination of faded chintzes and prized antiques. There is now also a growing band of designers whose interpretations mix contemporary touches in the form of blocks of colour, modern furniture, striking paintings and highly decorative lighting—all of which are held together under the wide umbrella of the modern English country look.
Formerly a director of the Islamic Art department at Sotheby’s, he’s lived in London for more than 40 years and works mainly in Britain, Europe and the Middle East.
They say: ‘His unique aesthetic blends a wide spectrum of luxurious materials and a deep art historical knowledge with timeless restraint’
We say: ‘A designer who’s not afraid of using pattern and fabric with grand effect’
020 7384 0121; alidad.com
A London and Dorset-based polymath (interior design is one arm of his busy architectural-design practice), who’s known for creating rooms that are timeless, but not locked into any historical period.
They say: ‘We draw inspiration in equal measure from the great English practitioners of the 1960s and 1970s and from historical interiors of every period, but all infused with a fresh, modern sensibility’
We say: ‘A master at re-creating the many layers of the country-house look updated with flashes of colour’
020 7430 2424; www.benpentreath.com
A designer who trained as an architect and works in a modern idiom, using antiques and artefacts from a range of cultures and periods.
They say: ‘Living contentedly is, to a great extent, feeling comfortable in one’s own surroundings. Facilitating this is our principal objective’
We say: ‘A serious designer with a pared-back style and overtly artistic eye’
020 7498 2717; chesterjones.com
Based in Chelsea and the Cotswolds, Colin worked at Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler before setting up on his own in 1989. He’s responsible for the exquisite revival of the interiors at Ballyfin.
He says: ‘I want my clients to be totally happy, but excited, too’
We say: ‘The ultimate in the English country-house style’
020 7351 5501; firstname.lastname@example.org
Douglas Mackie Design
The architect is renowned for his integration of serious art collections with beautifully conceived backgrounds.
They say: ‘My philosophy is to create a perfect balance between furniture, art and sculpture’
We say: ‘A sophisticated decorator who uses modern British art and contemporary furniture with striking effects’
020 7487 3295; www.douglasmackie.com
A specialist in the reorganisation and redecoration of historic buildings and houses, Edward has worked on a wide range of historic houses, including Althorp and Goodwood. He’s also a paint specialist, with his own range.
They say: ‘Almost always, these houses are used to display collections of art and I approach this as half-curator and half-designer. If the result isn’t convenient or comfortable, it has failed’
We say: ‘A undisputed specialist for Grade I-listed interiors’
01544 388 535; www.edwardbulmerpaint.co.uk
A Wiltshire-based designer who champions a contemporary country look that sits happily in everything from manor houses and cottages to apartments and town houses.
They say: ‘We believe true luxury is about quality of life, embracing the beauty of everyday living to create a look that is truly inspiring’
We say: ‘Emma creates elegant and cheerful rooms that are firmly rooted in modern country living’
01249 783 087; www.simshilditch.com
The London-based, full-service team, which includes architects and draughtsmen, was responsible for the restoration of Garsington Manor as well as London town houses.
They say: ‘His natural flair, combined with his classical background, guides the design process of projects towards their appropriate and suitable decoration with unmistakable originality’
We say: ‘Not locked into one particular look —refreshingly unpredictable’
020 7349 0728; www.guygoodfellow.com
Having studied at the Inchbald School of Design, Lady Henrietta set up Woodstock Designs in 1981. It specialises in the renovation and restoration of Classical and listed buildings.
They say: ‘We incorporate current trends and technology while respecting historic character and architecture’
We say: ‘For classic country-house decorating, look no further’
www.spencerchurchilldesigns.com; 01993 811 887
Henriette von Stockhausen
Having co-founded VSP Interiors with Jane Petti in 2000, Dorset-based Henriette has built up a reputation for skilfully blending colour with beautiful antiques that is inspired by her European childhood.
They say: ‘With a spell in stage and theatre design, Henriette brings a sense of drama to any space’
We say: ‘A perfect choice for young families moving into a big country home’
07787 574 192; www.vspinteriors.com
Strong form and colour are a big player in his designs, which often incorporate different styles and periods.
They say: ‘Hugh’s flexible approach and wide-ranging expertise make for a working relationship that’s second to none’
We say: ‘Predominantly London-focused with a heavy bent towards a clean mid-20th- century look’
020 7584 7185; hughleslie.com
Jane Churchill Interiors
Decorating is in her blood—her great-aunt was Nancy Lancaster—and she’s become a household name since starting out in 1975. She’s renowned for her traditional sense of style and embodiment of all things quintessentially English.
They say: ‘Jane combines classic and contemporary elements so that each project is unique and personal to the client’
We say: ‘Transcends fashion to create good-looking country style with modern detailing’
www.janechurchillinteriors.co.uk; 020 7730 8564
Janine Stone & Co
London and Cheshire based multidisciplinary practice with architectural, interior-design, building and project-management teams in one seamless unit to offer the ultimate concept-to-completion design service for private residential projects. These often involve bespoke furniture commissions, art curation and unique design solutions for 21st-century living.
They say: ‘We understand the demands of working with discerning private clients and their need for a special level of professionalism, initiative and discretion’
We say: ‘Creative, classically inspired design team with a long list of international clients’
020 7627 5300; www.janinestone.com
One of the most established figures in British interior design, known for lavishly combining traditional and contemporary elements
They say: ‘Joanna brings to each project her care and attention to detail, creating a timeless style and producing a result that is both practical and visually exciting’
We say: ‘An engaging personality and long- standing member of the Pimlico Road design set’
020 7730 5064; www.joannawood.com
A Birmingham-based team that produces top-end contemporary classic designs for town and country houses.
They say: ‘He creates interior spaces that evoke clean simplicity with a comfortable balance of proportion and scale’
We say: ‘Consider for something dramatic and unusual, such as a statement pool house or a subterranean spa’
020 7252 2392; www.johnevansdesign.com
Designer to the rich and very rich, the former Morgan Stanley employee began her decorating career in Singapore, where she designed four homes.
They say: ‘We understand the ultimate balance between luxury and intelligent design’
We say: ‘From Chelsea town houses to converted barns in the Cotswolds, her designs are elegantly executed’
020 7584 3223; www.katharinepooley.com
Known for its ‘modern deco’ approach to interior design, Graham Green and Michael Keech work on a variety of projects, including the interiors for a 45,000sq ft neo-Classical house in Yorkshire.
They say: ‘The desire for longevity ensures that we rise above the prevalence of short- term “fashion statements”’
We say: ‘Experts in restrained colour palettes and luxury finishes’
020 7351 5701; www.keechgreen.com
A designer blessed with an exceptional eye for colour and pattern as well as an ability to track down unusual and eclectic pieces.
They say: ‘Lucy has the innate perception, empathy and understanding to help create a style that fits a client’s personality’
We say: ‘Married to architect John Comparelli, with whom she often collaborates, creating a rare and winning double act’
07957 693 246; www.lucyelworthy.co.uk
This Winchester-based antiques restorer and dealer turned decorator and furniture designer has a classically refined yet informal style.
They say: ‘His extensive experience has developed an inherent sensitivity towards the materials and Classical architectural elements that are condensed in the decorative arts’
We say: ‘He an aesthetic that’s rooted in the classic English tradition with a magpie’s eye for beautiful pieces’
01962 791124; www.maxrollitt.com
A Chelsea-based design duo formed by former Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler decorator Sarah Morris and antique dealer James McWhirter. They work across country houses, London town houses and holiday homes overseas.
They say: ‘Our interiors combine comfort, charm and personality with equal attention paid to architecture and works of art’
We say: ‘Not governed by fashion trends, they produce attractive, pretty rooms in the classic country-house form’
020 7349 2575; www.mcwhirtermorris.com
Mlinaric, Henry and Zervudachi
David Mlinaric established his firm in 1964 and worked on many important London and country houses, many in association with the National Trust. Now a consultant, his team is based in two offices in Belgravia and Paris.
They say: ‘Particular emphasis is placed on a sympathetic use of colour, an electric aesthetic that often includes both antiques and modern furniture and, most importantly, comfort for the client’
We say: ‘Understated and elegant designers used to decorating houses all over the world’
020 7730 9072; mhzlondon.com
The grande dame of interior designers, who’s known for her wit and sense of style, as well as her extensive range of fabrics and wallpapers. One of her first commissions when she started out was to decorate Annabel’s nightclub.
They say: ‘Her designs appeal to both young and old and sit well in both contemporary and traditional interiors’
We say: ‘Confident use of colour and pattern, all underpinned with comfort’
020 7225 1011; ninacampbellinteriors.com
Paolo Moschino for Nicholas Haslam
Contemporary designers who favour glossy surfaces, good art and lavish materials with a clientele based across the world’s most influential cities.
They say: ‘Although initially grounded in the principles of English design, the arrival of Paolo Moschino and Philip Vergeylen brought a Continental flair to the company’
We say: ‘A sophisticated and expensive look that translates just as well in a London penthouse as it does in an old rectory’
020 7730 8623; www.nicholashaslam.com
South African by birth, Penny isn’t bound by English tradition and her trademark eclectic look layers old and new, resulting in an unceremonious and welcoming finish.
They say: ‘I use a mix of antique and modern furniture to create an interesting atmosphere while focusing on comfort’
We say: ‘Imaginatively incorporates existing possessions into new schemes and has her own range of fabrics’
01547 560 460; www.pennymorrison.com
Piers von Westenholz
A former Olympic skier who enjoys a reputation as one of Britain’s more respected antique dealers, he’s worked with many decorating luminaries, including David Mlinaric and Robert Kime, and specialises in sourcing antiques for large country houses.
They say: ‘Simplicity and comfort are my watchwords’
We say: ‘The perfect choice for anyone who respects books and antiques’
01279 842 545; www.westenholz.co.uk
With a fleet of clients in the Cotswolds—including owners of cottages, barn conversions and Grade II-listed manor houses—Oxfordshire-based Pippa has built up a reputation for her cool-headed, functional yet eclectic designs.
They say: ‘With a real emphasis on precision and creative detail, the multidisciplinary team creates beautiful and inspiring contemporary homes that people love to live in’
We say: ‘Perfect for anyone looking for a clean and contemporary country-house look’
01865 595 470; www.pippapatondesign.co.uk
With backgrounds in the decorative arts, Robert and Josyane Young are known for their ability to juxtapose traditional and contemporary materials and accents.
They say: ‘A completed project ideally displays a sensitivity for existing architecture, an understanding of space, a confident touch with colour and texture, a certain individual originality and honours the client’s brief’
We say: ‘One of a reliable band of dealer-decorators who source beautiful antiques and know how to use them’
020 7228 7847; www.robertyoungantiques.com
The journalist turned interior designer has a large, London-based studio working on residential and commercial properties where she introduces her signature look of English with a hint of eccentricity mixed in.
They say: ‘A home is made up of layers that you’ve accumulated at different stages and have meaning’
We say: ‘Adept at mixing old and new with relaxed and unpretentious results’
020 3735 7280; http://ritakonig.com
A man with unimpeachable taste, who brings antique dealing, textile collecting and an abiding passion for putting rooms together with great effect. He has worked on both Highgrove and Clarence House. (He is, incidentally, no relation to our very own Interiors Editor, Giles Kime.)
They say: ‘His interiors appear to have evolved over time, combining a relaxed mood with antiques, vintage textiles and quirky pieces’
We say: ‘For a beautiful and layered country- house look, you can’t go wrong’
020 7831 6066; www.robertkime.com
Once a name known only to those with their ear to the decorating ground, she now has the soubriquet of being ‘the Beckhams’ interior designer’—we think that shows they’ve got good taste.
They say: ‘Interiors matter: they change the things we do and the way we do them. That’s why Rose works as hard as she does to design harmonious interiors that are at once reassuring and uplifting’
We say: ‘Pared-back elegance is her leitmotiv. No room is ever over-furnished’
020 7730 7050; roseuniacke.com
Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler
Founded in the 1930s, this is one of the most long-established interior decorating firms in Britain with a worldwide reputation. Work spans notable country houses, city apartments, ranches and tropical beach houses. The business has moved to new premises on Pimlico Road.
They say: ‘The eight designers have more than 150 years of collective experience between them and are as used to creating 21st-century interiors as they are to working on important historic buildings’
We say: ‘Classically stylish with a unique heritage’
020 7493 2231; www.sibylcolefax.com
The designer has been closely involved with Soho House (and, more recently, the members’ room at Queen’s Club). Susie is known to eschew whatever is considered fashionable and, instead, bring rooms to life through mixing unexpected elements.
They say: ‘Every space should invite and inspire, each detail be carefully considered’
We say: ‘A great option for a new generation of country house owners’
020 7835 5525; susieatkinson.com
Headed by Philippa Thorp, this large, Belgravia-based practice is known for its transatlantic style, which translates cleanly from Long Island to London via light-filled country houses.
They say: ‘Our interior design brings texture, colour and form together to create intimate living environments that reflect your personal style and character’
We say: ‘Super-stylish decorator to the jet-set’
020 7235 7808; www.thorp.co.uk
London design duo (with a large, extended team of young designers) who divide their time between the city and their country houses. Projects encompass country houses, town houses, yachts and hotels.
They say: ‘A happy job is a good job’
We say: ‘Very hands-on focus which delivers a wide variety of interpretations of the on-trend, modern, country-house look’
020 7349 9999; todhunterearle.com
Having trained under Mary Fox Linton, Veere was a director at Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler before launching on his own. He has an impressive portfolio of projects to his name on both sides of the Atlantic.
They say: ‘He’s a master at marrying the humble with the grand and clean modernity with classicism’
We say: ‘Supremely elegant and pared-back style—suits the anti-floral brigade perfectly’
020 7351 7170; www.veeregrenney.com