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 builders and craftspeople in Britain
- Best garden designers in Britain
When choosing a designer, create a shortlist and have initial meetings. ‘When a project takes two or three years, the chemistry has to be right,’ says Henriette von Stockhausen of VSP Interiors. If they are engaged early in the planning process, an experienced interior designer can help to improve the flow of the layout, introduce inspiring ideas and contribute to a successful outcome.
There’s no industry standard for charging: fees vary from a percentage cost of supplying goods and furnishings; a fixed sum for the project; a fee for the design work, plus a handling charge for purchasing; an hourly rate; or a combination of the above.
‘It’s important to have good communication between designer and client from the start. A clear brief should be agreed up front and then a detailed proposal with costs should follow, so that all parties are clear on how and when the project will be achieved and what it will cost,’ advises Gilly Craft, the president of the British Institute of Interior Design (www.biid.org.uk).
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 block-printed fabrics, cushions and lamps, alongside antique finds.
01328 851651; www.birdiefortescue.co.uk
Colin Orchard & Company
Since training under Colefax and 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 a large private residence in New York, which is being totally rebuilt.
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 currently include Arundel Castle, Glynde Place and Goodwood in East and West Sussex.
01544 388535; www.edwardbulmerinteriordesign.co.uk
Guy Goodfellow cut his teeth at Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler, before setting up his own successful interior and architectural design company, specialising in traditional, elegant country-house style. His shop in Chelsea offers in-house-designed weaves, prints and wallpapers, based on historic textiles reinterpreted in imaginative colours.
020–7349 0728; www.guygoodfellow.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, close to her ancestral home at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. At present, she is working on projects that include a villa on the coast of Croatia and the renovation of several Georgian properties in the UK.
01993 811887; www.spencerchurchilldesigns.com
Jane Churchill Interiors
A well-known name since setting up her company in 1975, Jane Churchill is admired for her deep understanding of the classic decorating tradition and her spirited approach to personal and quintessentially English style. She is also the founder of Jane Churchill Fabrics, now owned by the Colefax Group. Current projects include a townhouse in Eaton Square, SW1, and a family home in Norway.
020–7730 8564; www.janechurchillinteriors.co.uk
Janine Stone & Co
Over the past 20 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
Joanna Wood’s designs are smart and luxurious, with an emphasis on comfort and colour. Recent projects include the US Ambassador’s London residence, Winfield House, W1; a cottage in the Cotswolds; and a house in Florida, US. Other enterprises include her eponymous home accessories shop in Belgravia, SW1, Lawson Wood bespoke upholstery, Phillips & Wood lighting and Lewis & Wood fabrics and wallpapers.
020–7730 0693; www.joannawood.com
John Evans Interior Architecture + Design
A creative practice that specialises in adding a luxurious, contemporary touch to country homes from Birmingham and London offices. John Evans has nearly 40 years’ experience, manifested in his quietly confident style.
0121–233 9041; www.johnevansdesign.com
John Tanner Interiors
Travels across Russia, Mongolia and China on the Trans-Siberian Railway as a 20-year-old professional skateboarder awakened John Tanner’s passion for antique textiles and ceramics. Just over a decade on, he is fast developing a reputation as a young decorator who breathes new life into unloved country houses and estate buildings, unlocking the potential of sometimes challenging spaces. He specialises in sourcing antiques and combining them with textiles from his extensive personal collection.
Inspired by English and Irish country houses that have evolved over many generations, he is known for developing a similar sense of comfort, elegance and distilled magic for his clients, evident in his work at country estates, including The Old Laundry at Heydon Hall, a gardener’s bothy at Gunton Park and the East Wing at Wolterton Hall, all in Norfolk. Current projects include an 18th-century house in Provence, France, and an ancient cottage in Northumberland.
The interior-design studio is run by Graham Green and Michael Keech, who sold their architectural-interiors company, Keech Green, to Linley a few years ago. Their focus on ‘modern-deco’ and luxury British design is evident in recent projects, which include the refurbishment of suites at Claridge’s, W1.
020–7730 7300; www.davidlinley.com
A polished approach to classic interior design with every modern comfort has earned Louise Jones her stripes. Projects include individually designed guest suites at a luxury hotel on the island of Jura, a 17th-century house in Oxfordshire and a family home in Georgia, US.
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. She is a dab hand at creating welcoming interiors with a sense of character.
07957 693246; www.lucyelworthy.co.uk
Max Rollitt wears three hats — he is an interior designer, an antiques dealer and a furniture maker, who likes to incorporate a sensitivity towards materials and Classical design into what he calls a ‘refined yet informal style of decoration’. Current work includes a large house in Boston, US, a Hampshire vicarage and a London townhouse with an interior in the manner of Sir John Soane.
01962 791124; www.maxrollitt.com
Vanessa Macdonald continues to work in the spirit of the late, legendary interior designer Melissa Wyndham, with whom she collaborated. Expect sophisticated and elegant classic style with a modern twist, evident in country and city interiors.
020–7352 2874; www.melissawyndham.com
Doyenne of interior design Nina Campbell has an international reputation for classic English decoration, which she has skilfully evolved over the years to a more pared-back style — a journey that can be enjoyed in Nina Campbell Interior Decoration by Country Life’s Giles Kime. She has two London shops and is constantly developing collections of fabric, wallpaper and furniture.
020–7225 1011; www.ninacampbellinteriors.com
Guy Oliver is the owner and principal designer of this influential Mayfair-based practice, with projects that include the State Rooms at 10, Downing Street and the restor-ation and refurbishment of The Connaught, as well as continuing work at Claridge’s.
As an officer cadet in the Royal Navy, Mr Oliver found himself drawn to interior design, something that encouraged him to pursue a very different career. After Edinburgh University, he worked with Sylvia Lawson Johnston, then joined Colefax and Fowler as a trainee director, before combining forces with David Laws as co-director of his firm in 1995 and assuming sole ownership in 2002.
Today, he heads a boutique studio, specialising in elegantly luxurious interiors that celebrate the beauty of bespoke craftsmanship. They currently include private country houses, aircraft, the restoration of a 1939 130ft yacht, The Shelbourne hotel in Dublin and consultation on the redesign of Thomas Goode & Co, London W1.
020–7437 8487; www.oliverlaws.com
Known for injecting colour and character to any interior, Penny Morrison specialises in inviting and comfortable English style. She is busy on projects in the UK and Caribbean, continues to develop her gloriously patterned fabric and wallpaper collection and offers a selection of lamps and accessories, available online and from her Chelsea shop.
020–7384 2975; www.pennymorrison.com
Strong on using texture and subtle hues to create contemporary comfort in the country, Pippa Paton is known for her work on barn conversions and traditional stone buildings in the Cotswolds, which she has transformed into homes well suited to 21st-century living. Her new book, Twenty First Century Cotswolds, was published late last year.
01865 595470; www.pippapatondesign.co.uk
Rita Konig has earned many plaudits for work that is distinctly her own, creating relaxed and joyously comfortable interiors for transatlantic clients in residential and commercial settings. She offers an online interior-design course and a small selection of joyful home accessories from her online store.
020–3735 7280; www.ritakonig.com
Distinguished antiques dealer and interior decorator Robert Kime, whose clients include The Prince of Wales, creates traditional — but not stuffy — interiors, full of judiciously chosen antiques and colourful textiles.
His Pimlico shop is a paradise of discovery, with antiques and his own collection of fabrics, wallpaper, lamps and furniture.
020–7831 6066; www.robertkime.com
Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler
This long-established interior-decorating firm, founded in the 1930s, has always been known for quintessentially English style. Today, its eight principal designers undertake a diverse range of projects worldwide, from traditional to cutting edge, from the refurbishment of a classic motor yacht and a Modernist ski lodge in Whistler, Canada, to an estate in Oxfordshire, a museum building in the Netherlands and the Chelsea Arts Club, London SW6.
020–7493 2231; www.sibylcolefax.com
Pitch perfect at calm, classic-contemporary English country style, Emma Sims-Hilditch specialises in creating quietly elegant and comfortable designs, never forgetting the practicalities required to make an inviting, family-focused home. Current projects include a 15th-century house on a country estate and a beach house in Jersey.
01249 783087; www.simshilditch.com
Susie Atkinson Design
Specialising in private houses and boutique hotels, Susie Atkinson creates contemporary interiors that radiate a sense of personal character and understated luxury. Her recent projects include a 1930s motor yacht, a lateral apartment in Soho, and the five-star Lime Wood hotel in the New Forest, Hampshire.
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. They work with some of Britain’s leading architects on country houses, as well as properties in London and New York.
020–7349 9999; www.todhunterearle.com
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.
020–7351 7170; www.veeregrenney.com
Known for designing large country properties — from a large family house to a historic castle in the Scottish Highlands — 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.
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