18 May 2010

The distinctive styles: English Antique Furniture

Late 18th Cent English George III Eight Legged Sofa in Silk

There’s a timeless quality about the English country house that emanates from the style and appearance of its furniture, mirrors and paintings.

Irish, Scottish and Welsh interiors have their own distinctive characteristics as well, and English country house owners often borrow from them, and from some French influences, to achieve an unsurpassed look. This harmonious combination can only be achieved by the careful selection of pieces with strong inherent qualities which express the outstanding nature of English antique furnishings.

Is there something special about the English country house style?

So what is so special about the English style? And which pieces most typify the country house and its close relative, the English townhouse?

First, the outstanding cabinetmaking and exceptional materials. Second, great patina on old woods and the colour of painted pieces. Third, wonderful proportions, especially in classically influenced furniture. And lastly, the apparently effortless combination of pieces from different eras, in particular the 18th and 19th centuries alongside the stylish 1920s and 30s.

Achieving the ‘country house look’

  1. In choosing the key pieces to achieve this highly desirable look, start by remembering that a large English upholstered sofa or two lends that relaxed feel that is so typical of the English house, and the ideal choice is often a classic chesterfield. beautifully piped and buttoned. This 19th century chesterfield is a great example of the look.
  2. The sought after Howard style armchairs with their deep comfortable seats and clubby looks introduce that other important element of the English traditional look – the 1920s and 30s feel of fashionable living.
  3. Old estate furniture, originally used for estate management, filing and storage, has now moved centre stage, and looks fabulous in living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms. You can find exceptional quality examples of this style of furniture juts have a look at this estate cupboard. Would work well anywhere!
  4. There is the quintessential country house piece, that looks equally at home in town. It’s the simple painted cupboard and when you find a wonderfully proportioned, clean lined with classical architecture references, it has an aura that manages to be both relaxed and imposing at the same time.
  5. Books are central to the English look and a stylish bookcase is always a good investment. This fine quality 19th century (around 1840) bookcase in pine should give you a good idea of what you could do.
  6. Good mirrors are crucial to achieving the English mood, especially in a townhouse. They don’t need to be over restored or have a new plate, they just require good proportions and the charm that comes from gentle maturing. This rectangular mirror demonstrates how attractive an aged mirror can look. It will catch and reflect the light without being ostentatious.
  7. And finally, paintings. They provide a key opportunity to bring character and individuality to a home because of their personal nature and the way they demonstrate your individual taste. Forget some of the established English artists and look at the exciting unknown painters who produced exceptional work, particularly in the 1930s, 40s ans 50s. Our original portrait of a young woman by Harry Young, signed and dated 1932, is finely executed (ref.4485).

And don’t forget that the inclusion of continental European or Scandinavian pieces in an English style room is a well-established tradition and can certainly add to the overall feel.

Visit Brownrigg to see our collection in person