Of all the decorating trends that have been in vogue over the last 50 years – be it Scandi, Minimalism or Industrial – none has been as powerful or as enduring as that of the English Country House.
More from the Country Life Top 100:
- Best architects in Britain
- Best country house specialists in Britain
- Best garden designers in Britain
Named after the childhood home in south-west France of founder Patrick Williams, who earned his pocket money — and understanding of traditional buildings — by applying lime render to his parents’ 18th-century farmhouse, this company embodies Mr Williams’s passion for restoration and sensitivity to fine craftsmanship.
These qualities are something Mr Williams shares with his wife, Neri, with whom he runs the studio and the couple’s inspiring furniture shop in Bath. Many of the wares are the result of collaborations with local artisans, creating individual pieces with distinctive charm. Specialising in period buildings and restorations, in both residential and commercial sectors, the studio, founded in 2009, has a reputation for its responsiveness to each property’s history, evident in its projects, which currently include a canal house in Amsterdam, dating back to 1616.
Recommended videos for you
Mr Williams’s maxim is ‘the building is the client and should dictate what is done to it’. Shunning today’s throwaway culture, the interiors have a time-honoured and gracious appeal, celebrating the old, yet sympathetically introducing the comfort of the new.
Designer and antique dealer Birdie Fortescue has a natural ability to combine old and new, creating elegant interiors that balance gentle hues with her flair for sourcing unusual antiques and contemporary art. Her Norfolk shop holds a treasure trove of globally inspired block-printed fabrics, furniture, cushions and lamps, alongside antique finds.
01328 851651; www.birdiefortescue.co.uk
Colin Orchard & Company
Since training under Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler’s grande dame Imogen Taylor, Colin Orchard has developed an outstanding reputation for combining traditional country-house style with a restrained sense of grandeur. His current projects include large private residences in Oxfordshire, New York and Palm Beach, US.
020–7351 5501; firstname.lastname@example.org
As an interior designer, architectural historian and advocate of natural paints — with his own eco-friendly range — Edward Bulmer describes his approach as one that ‘embodies enquiry, practicality, scholarship, aesthetics, sustainability and some fun’. No wonder he is in demand for major projects, which include private members’ club White’s in London, the Jacobean Dorfold Hall in Cheshire and Georgian Newport House in Herefordshire.
01544 388535; www.edwardbulmerinteriordesign.co.uk
After training as an architect, Guy Goodfellow cut his teeth at Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler before setting up his own practice. Recent projects include Garsington Manor, Buckinghamshire, and, in London, Merchant Taylors’ Hall, a house in Belgrave Square and another in Jeddah. His shop in Chelsea, SW10, offers in-house-designed weaves, prints and wallpapers, based on historic textiles reinterpreted in imaginative colours.
020–7349 0728; www.guygoodfellow.com
A true family business, this interior-design and build practice was founded in 2011 by husband-and-wife team Nick and Pamela Cox, their son, Tom, and daughter, Kate. They offer a range of complementary skills; Nick has extensive experience in upholstery, flooring and commercial projects, Pamela in antiques and interior design, Tom has an eye for construction, architecture and colour and Kate a curiosity for new designers and fresh brands.
The team head a studio, named after the Old English word for homestead, which undertakes all aspects of design, such as new-build construction, consulting on exterior and interior architecture, spatial planning, landscaping, joinery and interior decoration. They can deliver a full turnkey solution or help with simpler room refreshes.
The practice has a reputation for distinctive interiors with a relaxed feel, combining the elegant and eccentric with an imaginative use of colour and antiques, and is equally at home blending tradition and modernity in a new-build country house as it is in converting a former net loft in Cornwall into a quirky two-bedroom home. In 2020, it launched homeware store Studio HÁM, an interiors emporium-cum-design studio in the Hambleden valley, Oxfordshire. Expect a mix of antique and custom-made furniture, as well as decorative pieces, art and homeware.
01491 579371; www.haminteriors.com
An international lecturer and the author of 11 books, Lady Henrietta specialises in grand English country-house style and runs her interior-design company Woodstock Designs near her ancestral home at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. International projects include commissions in Virginia and Georgia, US.
01993 811887; www.spencerchurchilldesigns.com
Turning her expert eye from townhouses in Chelsea to hotel rooms and treehouses at Wildhive Callow Hall in the Peak District, Isabella Worsley takes them all in her stride. After a degree in architectural history at the University of Edinburgh, she cut her design teeth at Guy Goodfellow, then began working closely with Firmdale Hotels creative director Kit Kemp on award-winning interiors in London and New York. The experience, she says, has given her the courage and confidence to create distinctively original spaces that celebrate joyous colour and pattern.
The niece of Country Life’s late Architectural Editor Giles Worsley, she set up her own studio in 2018, focusing on residential and boutique-hotel projects. Interiors have a classic sensibility, attuned to English country-house style, combined with a contemporary edge of character and charm. Current projects include the conversion of a longhouse in the Brecon Beacons, the restoration of a traditional farmhouse on the Côte d’Azur, a beach house in Wittering, West Sussex, and a Georgian home in Buckinghamshire.
020–8075 5232; www.isabellaworsley.com
Janine Stone & Co
Over the past 35 years, this company has built up a reputation for luxurious interiors with a classic, contemporary feel. It has an unusually wide-ranging service, covering both renovations and complete new-build projects, using its in-house architectural, construction and interior-design services to deliver an immaculately polished result.
020–7349 8888; www.janinestone.com
John Evans Interior Architecture + Design
A highly creative practice that specialises in adding a luxurious, contemporary touch to country homes from its Birmingham offices, this firm has 40 years of experience, manifested in John Evans’s quietly confident style. A recent commission includes a large new-build property with basement swimming pool and ancillary rooms, plus gymnasium, games room, bar and cinema.
0121–233 9041; www.johnevansdesign.com
The interior-design studio is run by Graham Green and Michael Keech, who moved their architectural-interiors company, Keech Green, to Linley a few years ago. Their focus on luxury British design ranges from ‘modern-deco’ — evident in the refurbishment of suites at Claridge’s, W1 — to traditional country-house style, including two newly finished, epic-scale projects in Yorkshire and Hampshire.
020–8068 4206; www.davidlinley.com
Approaching her projects with a polished and contemporary take on classic design, with every modern comfort considered, has earned Louise Jones her stripes. The designer and her team’s current projects include a mansion in the Hamptons, US, and a large villa in central Asia. Closer to home, she has been working on a 16th-century farmhouse in Surrey and the conversion of two London townhouses in Knightsbridge into a single family home. Her work at the Ardfin on the island of Jura was featured in Country Life (August 24 and 31, 2022).
020–7351 6858; www.louisejonesinteriors.com
Bringing a light decorative touch to country houses, Lucy Elworthy combines her experience as a former decoration editor of House & Garden with an imaginative eye for colour and texture. Recent projects include the decoration of a contemporary timber and glass pool house, a Grade II*-listed medieval manor house and a new kitchen, utility and bathroom for a 15th-century chantry, as well as the home of Country Life’s Editor-in-Chief Mark Hedges and his wife, Rachel.
07957 693246; www.lucyelworthy.co.uk
Max Rollitt is an interior designer, furniture maker and antiques dealer whose sought-after style is developed from an impressive knowledge of historical architecture and design, combined with comfort and a light touch of humour. His projects — largely based in the UK and on the east coast of the US — are furnished with a distinctive combination of antique originals and bespoke designs.
01962 791124; www.maxrollitt.com
Nicola Harding & Co
After studying garden design and working for the renowned landscape designer Arne Maynard, Nicola Harding set up her own studio in 2008, gradually embracing commercial and residential interiors in addition to gardens. Now, she combines a sensitivity to the link between indoor and outdoor spaces with a playful blend of old and new, carefully chosen antiques and a joyful use of colour to add personality to all kinds of projects, including country houses, historic buildings, hotels and private members’ clubs, including the exuberant Beaverbrook Town House in Chelsea, London SW1.
020–8743 6690; nicolaharding.com
The veteran designer’s most recent project in the US is now the subject of a new book, A House in Maine, written by Country Life’s Interiors Editor Giles Kime, published in March 2023 by Rizzoli. This year will also see the opening of a new flagship store on London’s Pimlico Road.
020–7225 1011; shop.ninacampbell.com
With the highly experienced Guy Oliver at its helm, this Mayfair-based boutique studio specialises in elegantly luxurious interiors that celebrate the beauty of bespoke craftsmanship. Oliver Laws continues to work with the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, through the creation of a new Afghan suite for London’s Connaught Hotel. Other projects nearing completion include a London townhouse, a 1939 motor yacht, and ongoing renovations at The Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, Ireland.
020–7437 8487; www.oliverlaws.com
There are only a handful of interior designers expert at classic English decorating with a contemporary edge and Olivia Outred is fast earning her rightful place among them. Known for injecting colour, art and the unexpected into traditional interiors, her work is imaginative, fresh and far from stuffy. After graduating with a degree in interior and spatial design from Chelsea College of Arts, Ms Outred joined Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler, where she worked as assistant to Philip Hooper. Going on to run the interior-design arm of the widely admired Lulu Lytle’s Soane Britain, she set up her own east London-based practice in 2014.
Strong on creating comfortable and inviting homes in London and, increasingly, in the country, Ms Outred has a versatile approach evident in her recent projects. They include a villa in Primrose Hill, a Georgian townhouse in Mayfair, a farmhouse in the Cotswolds and a row of charming Victorian terraced cottages in east London.
020–03393 5919; www.oliviaoutred.com
This designer has an innate ability to create beautiful, harmonious and sophisticated spaces, around the world. Her most recent projects have been a large house in Barbados, a country house in Northumberland and a country cottage in Wales.
020–7384 2975; www.pennymorrison.com
This long-esteemed Cotswold-based practice specialises in the renovation and interior design of listed and historic homes, wherever possible exposing and enhancing the historic fabric. Current projects include the renovation and interior design for a 16,000sq ft Grade II-listed country house, which includes a substantial extension and detached leisure complex. Pippa Paton is the author of two books, Twenty First Century Cotswolds, Volumes I and II.
01865 595470; www.pippapatondesign.co.uk
Rita Konig has earned many plaudits for work that is distinctly her own, creating relaxing and joyously comfortable interiors for transatlantic clients in residential and commercial settings, including the chic Hotel 850 SVB in West Hollywood, California, US. Her popular online interior-design course is available from Create Academy (www.createacademy.com).
020–3735 7280; www.ritakonig.com
Founded by the late Robert Kime, the legendary antiques dealer and interior decorator, whose clients included the then Prince of Wales, the practice creates traditional — but not stuffy — interiors, full of judiciously chosen antiques and colourful textiles. Its shop is one of the jewels of the Pimlico Road, with antiques and its own collection of fabrics, wallpaper, lamps and furniture.
020–7831 6066; www.robertkime.com
A fresh take on classic interiors ensures this studio, founded by Rosanna Bossom in 2014, is in demand. Known for her work alongside couture designer Rifat Ozbek on the design of private members’ club 5 Hertford Street, in Mayfair, W1, recent projects include London and country houses and a glorious folly in Worcestershire designed by Quinlan Terry Architects (Country Life,
July 15, 2021).
The studio is currently working on a listed house in Regent’s Park and other projects in London, the Cotswolds and New York. The studio offers a capsule collection of made-to-order furniture and pretty accessories, too, from cushions to lampshades.
020–3488 9744; www.rosannabossom.co.uk
Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler
This country’s longest-established interior-decorating firm, founded in the 1930s, has always been known for quintessentially English style. Today, its seven principal decorators and an architectural interior designer undertake a diverse range of projects worldwide, from traditional to cutting edge, from the recent renovation of bedrooms at Belvoir Castle to a collaboration with a hotel in Palm Beach, US. Last year, managing directors Emma Burns and Philip Hooper designed a room for the inaugural Wow!House at Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour.
020–7493 2231; www.colefax.com
This has been a busy year for Sims Hilditch, with a number of major new projects finished, from historic houses to an apartment at Chelsea Barracks in London, as well as exciting collaborations. Last autumn saw the publication of Emma Sims-Hilditch’s first book, The Evolution of Home (Rizzoli), which explored the way that the practice has reinvented the country home with a mixture of classic good looks and contemporary luxury.
01249 783087; www.simshilditch.com
Specialising in private houses and boutique hotels, Susie Atkinson creates contemporary interiors that radiate a sense of personal character and understated luxury. The designer also has collections of distinctive table lamps, fabric, furniture and accessories.
020–7384 0700; www.susieatkinson.com
Smart, classic style is the forte of this well-established firm, which is headed by its founder Philippa Thorp. Geared towards an international clientele, the firm offers full architecture, interior-design, art-curation and landscaping services.
020–7235 7808; www.thorp.co.uk
Todhunter Earle Interiors
Expert at balancing the demands of contemporary living with the challenges presented by historic houses, Emily Todhunter and Kate Earle are highly regarded for their ever-fresh approach and imaginative designs. Their recently completed projects include a 12-bedroom house in Berkshire, as well as a large country house in Suffolk, a shooting lodge in Scotland and two London houses.
020–7349 9999; www.todhunterearle.com
Bunny Turner and Emma Pocock lead an interior-design studio, founded in 2007, that is admired for its outstanding creativity and confident use of colour and pattern. With offices in London and Geneva, Switzerland, projects include elegant — yet relaxed — family homes in the capital, throughout the UK, Europe and Hong Kong, as well as chalets across the Alps. The firm’s collaborations include the Turner Pocock x Lorfords Contemporary collection of upholstered chairs and sofas, the Bobbin Collection of furniture for Chelsea Textiles and a new collection with Julian Chichester for this spring.
The founders recently launched the charity TP Caring Spaces (tpcaringspaces.co.uk), which creates relaxation areas for patients, key workers and the displaced, in order ‘to find the gaps, and use our skills and network to fill charitable spaces with great design’.
020–3463 2390; www.turnerpocock.co.uk
Veere Grenney Associates
A master of beauty and harmony, Veere Grenney creates interiors with a discreetly luxurious look. His designs are rooted in the classical tradition, given life by the combination of contemporary, historic and sometimes charmingly modest. His fabric and wallpaper collection is admired for its elegant pattern and subtle colour palette. Mr Grenney’s country home was featured in Country Life last year (October 12).
020–7351 7170; www.veeregrenney.com
Known for designing large country properties — from a Georgian manor in Oxfordshire to an Arts-and-Crafts house in Yorkshire — Dorset-based Henriette von Stockhausen has a classic, colourfully eclectic style that successfully combines antiques and fine art with a sense of comfort and personality. Current projects include listed manors in Dorset, a Jacobean house in Cheshire and a house in the south of France.
01305 265892; www.vspinteriors.com
Whether you're embarking on a new-build or painstakingly restoring a listed building, here are the craftsmen with excellent foundations.
Country Life has once again delved into its to update the list of the finest architects in Britain — an
A beautiful country house is as much about its surroundings as its bricks and mortar, something that the best garden