The Characteristics That Define Traditional English Design

English Interior Design

Choosing the interior design style of your home is a matter of personal preference. Some of the factors that may influence your decision include the age and style of the property, your personal tastes, and your lifestyle. People look at many sources for inspiration, including different periods and locations from across the world. One interior design style that is influenced by both period and location is the traditional English interior design style. If this is a style that appeals to you, the following is an overview of the different characteristics that define this style, along with some tips for creating the look in the different rooms in your home.

What is Traditional English Interior Design?

According to Small Design Ideas, the traditional English style is inspired by English country homes from two or three centuries ago. However, the modern version of this look allows for tweaks that are suited to modern living. This is not a look for people who prefer a minimalist and sophisticated style, as it is based on a ‘more is more’ ethos. However, just because it is not minimalist, this does not mean that the style is not elegant as it is based on the refined style choices of the aristocracy. A traditional English interior has the ageless charm of classics with elements of comfort.

The Characteristics of Traditional English Interior Design

If you want to recreate the traditional English design style in your home, then it is important to understand the main characteristics that define this look. The following is a look at some of the main characteristics that define the traditional English interior design style.

  • ColorsHouse and Garden say that neutral colors are a good basis for adding other layers of color. There is a wide range of colors that you can use with this style, from pastel pinks and yellows to rich reds, deep greens or bold purples. One type of colors you should avoid is bright and vivid colors.
  • Patterns – Patterns are widely used on wallpaper, cushions, and other soft furnishings. Typical examples of patterns that fit with a traditional English style are botanical patterns and geometric shapes. If you choose patterned wallpaper, this is often added to just the lower section of the wall below the dado rail or on just one feature wall, such as a chimney breast.
  • Materials – Wood is one of the predominant materials used in the traditional English style. It is used for furniture, wall trimmings, and other adornments.
  • Windows and doors – Large, double windows with wooden frames and wooden doors are typical of traditional English houses.
  • Architectural features – Some of the architectural features you may see as part of the traditional English style are fireplaces, chimney breasts, cornicing, wooden carvings, pillars, beams, dado rails, and picture rails.
  • Fireplaces – Fireplaces can add both comfort and grandeur to a room. An open log fire is warming, while an intricately patterned surround will add an interesting focal point to the room. The grandeur element is added through the addition of a large stone or marble hearth and a wooden frame with a shelf.
  • Floors – The type of floors you will find in a traditional English house can vary depending on the room. Hallways are often tiled in intricate mosaic designs. The kitchen often features stone flagged floors, while parquet flooring is a common feature of living and dining rooms. In rooms such as the living room and the dining room, there is often a rug with an intricate pattern. In later traditional English country homes, patterned carpets were often laid in living spaces and bedrooms.
  • Furniture – Wood is the primary material that is used for furniture, and most pieces of furniture are large in comparison to modern furniture styles. Dark woods are often used for furniture such as desks, bureaus, chests, and drawers. Textiles are also used for some pieces of furniture, such as sofas. However, these often still have a wooden frame and feet. Dining chairs often have fabric-covered seats.
  • Textiles – Textiles also play a role in the traditional English style. Cushions and throws are added for comfort and detail, and these often feature patterns. Another way in which textiles are used is for curtains. These are often oversized with the fabric falling to the floor. Tiebacks with tassels are traditionally used, but a modern option is to have wall-fitted hooks.

Accessorizing Traditional English Interior Design

While some interior design styles use hardly any accessories as they are about minimalism and clean lines, that is not the case with traditional English style. In this style, accessories play an important role in the overall look, and some of these are highlighted by Architectural Digest (

  • Ceramics – Painted pottery and ceramics featuring scenes are a popular accessory for this style. Adding plates to the picture rail and vases on the fireplace or nests of tables adds detail to the room. Another style of vases that are often used in this style are ones made from colored glass designs.
  • Artwork -18th-century artwork is ideal for adorning the walls of a traditional English home. Of course, investing in such pieces is expensive. Replicas of this style or prints of the originals will work just as well. Choose either wooden or gold-effect frames to present the pieces of art.
  • Mirrors – Wooden-framed mirrors or mirrors with an ornate gilt surround work well with this style. Mirrors are also fantastic for adding a focal point to a room or for creating a sense of space and light.
  • Plants – Botanicals are an important part of traditional English design, and the use of potted plants adds a natural element to this theme. You can add potted plants to any room in your home.
  •  Books- Reading is a popular pastime in England, both now and in the past. This is reflected in the traditional English interior design style. Books are used as part of the interior design. One way of doing this is by adding leather-backed books with a pair of bookends on a shelf as a decorative feature. However, having shelves of books covering an entire wall is a common feature in traditional English homes.

Traditional English Interior Design by Room

The way in which you implement traditional English style in your home may vary from one room to the next. You may choose to apply the style to your entire property, or you may use it only in select rooms. Here is an overview of how to apply the traditional English interior design style to each of the rooms in your home.

  • Living areasThe living room of a house is where the combination of grandeur and comfort is most obvious. Each of the pieces of furniture is a statement piece that is intended to attract attention. Large and made from wood, the furniture looks regal. On the other hand, a traditional English style living room will also look warm, comfortable, and inviting. This is achieved through the uses of warmer colors, soft furnishings, and accessories.
  • KitchenVogue says that there are several ways that you can interpret the traditional English style in your kitchen. This magazine notes that the kitchen cabinets are usually painted in matte finish paints in natural tones. The walls are painted in a lighter shade of the same color, to keep things looking simple. Other features of the room could include an AGA or a range cooker and a deep porcelain sink. It is important that the kitchen is a practical and functional space.
  • Dining roomIn this room, grandeur can take over from comfort. Bold colors, such as deep reds and rich greens, are often used to create a formal look. The polished wooden table is the centerpiece of the room. High-backed dining chairs look great and create a dramatic effect. Accessorize the room with mirrors, artwork, long curtains, and glass vases.
  • Bedrooms – While some of the comfort element is lost in the dining room, it is back to prominence in the bedroom. When designing a bedroom in the traditional English style, you should focus on creating a comfortable and relaxing space. You can achieve this regardless of whether you use bold colors or neutrals in this room. Use soft furnishings to add depth, texture, and warmth to the room. If you also want to add some of the grandeur that is evident in other rooms designed in this style, then opt for a four-poster bed with drapes.
  • Hallway – The floor is often one of the most notable features of a traditional English hallway. They are made either of parquet flooring or tiles in mosaic patterns. Decoramic describes the use of tiled flooring in traditional English homes as adding grandeur to the room. Symmetry and geometry are evident in the designs, and you should also reflect this in your choice of furniture for the room. The staircase is another prominent feature, and these are often in polished wood with curved or ornate banisters and spindles. Add an occasional table with a vase or potted plant if you have room to do so in your garden.
  • Bathroom – To make a statement in the bathroom that is fitting for the style, choose a traditional-style, freestanding bath with clawed feet. A tiled floor is appropriate for this style, and it is also a practical option. Tiles will also feature on the walls. While most people will choose just one color, there is the option to add feature tiles or two have a dark-colored tile on the bottom half of the bathroom and a white tile on the upper half of the bathroom.

Extending the Traditional English Design to Your Garden

People who truly love the traditional English style may wish to extend this style to the exterior of their property. Country Living says that you should aim to achieve a dense and rich garden that is full of color and character. Aside from the color of the flowers, you also need to choose flowers with a wonderful aroma. Roses bushes and lavender are good options. Traditional English gardens would also often feature a small herb garden. Not only do these add a fantastic aroma to your garden, but they also have a practical purpose. This is because herbs were widely used in England for both culinary and medicinal purposes.

Ornamental features are another characteristic of traditional English gardens. These are often made from stone. Gargoyles, animal characters, birdbaths, and sundials are just some examples of ornamental features you may find in traditional English gardens. A further feature that is typical to this style is a pond with lily pads, If you only have a small garden or courtyard, you can still achieve this look. Use aromatic potted plants and some ornamental features to recreate a smaller version of this style. Climbing plants will also work well as they take up very little floor space and will add interest to the exterior of your home.

Traditional English Interior Design – The Final Verdict

The traditional English interior design style is one that originates from the style ideas of those living in England in the periods around the 17th and 18th centuries. The style combines both comforts with grandeur to reflect the lifestyles of those living in country homes at that time. It is possible to interpret this style in a number of ways to achieve the look that best suits your home, your personality, and your lifestyle. Wood, color, and soft furnishings are all important to this style, as is the use of accessories in every room. You can apply the traditional English interior design style throughout your entire home, or just to individual rooms that you think will suit this style the best. It is even possible to extend this style into your garden.

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