Although Samuel Johnson reputedly once said, “Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford”, I have always thought precisely the opposite. It is surely when you wish to maintain a sense of appreciation for the speed and opportunity of urban living that the desire to balance it with time elsewhere arises. When one is continually mired in the centre of the action, it’s easy to become disaffected, stressed and resentful of its pace. Whereas from afar, you can fondly muse on all of the good things about living in the heart of any throbbing metropolis.
The countryside connotes calm, fresh air, good living and relaxation. There you imagine you will be restored to your best self, engaging in hearty hikes and even heartier pub lunches. Your face will bloom with the ruddy glow of someone that actually gets outdoors, oxygen will blow freely through your gills and you will feel fitter by association and more alive by default. And therefore more able to cope with the city, wherein most of us continue to work.
Sadly, a second home in the country, or even a complete escape is but a romantic fantasy for most of us, an aspiration for when we win the lottery or the prize of retirement. But help is now at hand, for here at ELLE Decoration we have put together a glorious volume of some of the world’s most beautiful, by our impeccable standards, countryside homes, ELLE Decoration Country, to help you live the dream in print, and begin to believe that one day you too will decamp from the dust and enrich your life by being surrounded by greener, more pleasant land. In the meantime, here is your quick crib sheet on how to bring a little of the look into any urban space.
1. The right colours
For the perfect country colour palette, the landscape itself is your best teacher. Stick to the shades you see around you and you can’t really go far wrong. After all, the reason bright hues look so good in the Mediterranean is because the daylight is different – sharper, higher and more intense – hence too a different kind of architecture. In Northern climes, where homes of a more cosy aesthetic tend to find themselves, colours need to be toned down with grey in varying degree. Think muted, calm, taupes to every permutation of green. Natural.
This is an absolute rule: you cannot have a home in the country and not have it revel in texture. The idea is to maximise your heightened senses with surfaces to thrill your fingertips and toes at every turn. Wood, whether used for furniture, floors or trims is your new best friend; the shade and provenance may vary, but it must be solid. Tiles too, and stone may be used with abandon. Think elemental materials – limestone, marble, slate and wood.
3. A hearth
In many modern homes the television has become the hearth, by which I mean a symbol for the heart of your home, the thing around which the family gathers (if they gather at all). In the country this will not do. Here the ideal is a classic range cooker, literally pumping out heat and food in a pivotal position in the kitchen. Add in the largest possible table and you have achieved domestic heaven. Alternatively, open fireplaces create a literal hearth, for there is absolutely nothing quite as relaxing as being able to relax before the warmth and crackle of burning logs. The ideal abode of course houses all three: a range cooker, large kitchen table and fireplaces.
4. Wet dogs and dry cats
Pets are proven to be good for you, and besides, dogs in particular are the perfect excuse to get outside and explore. They also teach us a lot about priorities, keeping things in perspective and living well. In short, to have somewhere warm to sleep, the ability to poo and the opportunity to eat and run free is pretty basic blueprint for happiness.
Country means old-fashioned quilts, eiderdowns, blankets, fur and throws galore. Think layers on beds, linen cupboards and sofas strewn with cashmere and cushions. This is where you sink back into seats, cuddle up in corners and cosy down. No prim perching allowed.
6. Faded florals
While architectural planting might work in the city, in the country the looser the better. Think of a classic English country garden, all rambling roses, ivy and apple blossom. Think pretty. Think flowers. And bring the effect indoors with printed blooms on drapes, cushions and upholstery.