The Key Elements to Creating a Traditional English Living Room

Traditional English Living Room

Think of a Traditional English living room and there are certain features that come instantly to mind: a comfortable, overstuffed sofa, a frayed antique rug, a decorative, welcoming fireplace. The buzzwords for anyone looking to recreate the look are “warm” and “cozy”, with the idea being to create a comfortable, inviting living space that stands in complete contrast to the bleak, miserable rain lashing against the window. If you want to create your own little English haven, there’re a few key elements to bear in mind.

Think Wood

You don’t want your living space to be a replica of a library, but if you want to get the traditional English look, you’re going to need some bookcases. Big ones. And obviously, plenty of books to fill them with (leather-bound varieties might be the order of the day if you’re aiming for the full-on Pride and Prejudice look but stick to the normal variety if you want to keep things “real”). As Lera Blog notes, depending on the size of your living space, 2 to 3 floor-to-ceiling bookcases in a dark, polished wood like oak or walnut will create a great, authentic aesthetic (and a practical storage space to boot). When it comes to the rest of the furniture, keep things wooden – if you’ve got anything plastic hanging around, find somewhere secret to hide it. Whether it’s distressed or polished, oak or mahogany, painted or natural, wood will give a true sense of England. Display racks, antique side tables, and carved dressers make great furnishings and provide the ideal showcase for displaying all your priceless family heirlooms (even if they do come courtesy of Pottery Barn). The only deviation from the all-wood look should be on the handles of your dressers and cabinets- for an authentic touch of class, try to keep these to brass, if you can.

Go Bold with Florals

You don’t have to go all out on prints, but a few floral patterns scattered here and there will add some much-needed coziness. How much you add will be down to your own personal preference and tolerance to chintz: if it’s on the low side, stick to a few floral cushions or a throw in a washed-out, faded design. If you’re a fan of full-blown flower-power, go all out with some colorfully patterned curtains, or indulge your passion with an upholstered armchair or sofa (or even both) covered in a vibrant floral slipcover. Feel free to mix and match your patterns and materials- in fact, do as The English Home advises and try to avoid an overly uniform or “matchy-matchy” feel by getting creative with your fabrics: try mixing damask throws with floral sofa covers, delicate lace curtains with antique ruffled cushions.

It’s All in the (Period) Detail

“Old” is very much the new “new”- at least when it comes to the English living room. Period details (such as beams, stripped wooden floors, or wainscoting) abound, as do traditional lighting options (think candles, table lamps and chandeliers over modern receded lights, and whatever you do, don’t even think about installing a dimmer switch). A family portrait or antique oil painting hung over a decorative fireplace adds a touch of tradition, as do clutches of family photographs sat on the mantle.

Keep It Colorful

The English living room is no place for a neutral color palette. Pinks, yellows, and greens are just as welcome in the homes of the English as they are in their gardens, adding a cozy, inviting appeal to any space. Keep things as vibrant or as muted as you like, or feel free to flit between the two.

Get Papering

White, painted walls might lend a feeling of space to a room, but for a true touch of English style, you’ll need to grab a roll of wallpaper and get plastering. And we aren’t taking a quiet wallpaper in a bland shade of magnolia- for an authentic touch, it should be loud, bold and have plenty to say for itself. Geometric patterns are a great option, as are dark floral wallpapers (if you haven’t already maxed out your chintz allowance on the soft furnishings, that is).

Big and Bold Sofas

The sofa should be the centerpiece of your English living room- to make it a true focal point, aim for something big, colorful, and deep-seated (avoid anything hard, minimalist, and unyielding. The idea is that this is a sofa you sink into, rather than simply sit on). Keep the fabric sufficiently big, bold, and cheerful to compete with the rest of your interior.

Keeping it in the Family

Tradition and a sense of ageless appeal is paramount to getting the right look: as well as decorating your space with antique pieces (whether these are rugs, ornaments, or furniture), add a few pictures of your family over the generations (so much the better if these are black and white or in sepia tones). If your old pictures are too wrinkled to be framed, take advantage of a professional restoration service. A few knitted throws or crocheted cushion covers that look like they were handmade with love by granny won’t go amiss either.

The Finishing Touches

The key to really getting that traditional English style is down to the little touches and decorations that will help turn your house into a home. A few vases of fresh flowers (favor garden or wildflowers over tropical bouquets) will give the desired ambiance. Dried bunches of lavender also work a treat (and smell delicious, too). When it comes to the rest of your decorations, plunder your local flea market for accessories – don’t underestimate the difference a simple hat rack can make (bowler hat perched on top purely optional). If you have a dresser or display rack, look for pieces of china to display on them (porcelain teapots, bone china teacups scattered with a delicate floral design, and display plates patterned in a striking design are all good options). Don’t worry if any of the items are chipped or have cracks- ideally, they should look like they’ve passed through several generations of hands, rather than been unpacked fresh from the box that morning.


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