Whether it’s distressed timbers in modern silhouettes, woven wicker baskets to accent a contemporary sofa, timeless neutral hues or linens decorated with updated traditional patterns, quintessential country interiors work beautifully in contemporary settings. The look draws on the best elements of country interior design and offsets them against a modern backdrop.
And the style is used by some of the finest interior designers in the industry, punctuating portfolios with its warm, welcoming and wonderfully timeless aesthetic. Louise Bradley, for example—the grand doyenne of modern country interiors—has built a career and reputation on the modern country look. (She may even be credited for its creation.)
Bradley’s projects are entirely dateless, with older projects feeling as put-together as her most recent; they celebrate all of the beauty of traditional country interiors with none of the stuffiness; and they never fail to feel effortlessly sophisticated. Her recent project, the interiors for the historical Magna Carta Park development, provides a perfect case study for the provincial-meets-refined elegance style.
Image Credit: Louise Bradley
Of the commission, the designer explains, "The inspiration behind the design of the showhome is Magna Carta Park’s exceptional rural setting—the grounds of the private estate have a number of protected, ancient trees such as oak, yew, beech, willow and scots pine, so that was a natural starting point for the tones and textures of the interiors. My intention was to ensure that residents felt like the British woodland was part of their everyday life, both inside their home and when enjoying the extensive grounds.” That it does.
Nature is, of course, the ultimate inspiration for many interior design styles and design choices, but none quite like that of the country ilk. Its connection to nature runs deep. Woods are celebrated, not just as a trusted structural material, but because of their inherent beauty; art depicts flora and fauna and designers literally bring nature in with foraged branches, petrified wood and collected pebbles. The whole vibe is one of serenity influenced by the most glorious teacher—Mother Nature.
Another designer with a flair for creating contemporary country interiors is American interior designer Michael Aiduss whose private Essex Fells, New Jersey project displays all of the classic design choices of modern country interiors. “The building is a classic New England style house, built in the 1930s by architect James Timpson,” explains Aiduss of the project’s warm grey kitchen. In addition to using materials to achieve a modern country look, Michael reveals: “I was mindful of using reclaimed materials to channel the thought process of Timpson while integrating the new renovations in a seamless way.”
Image Credit: Michael Aiduss
For the kitchen, the interior designer taps into a modern country aesthetic by using reclaimed timber that has been finished with milk paint. (“A very painstaking process,” says Michael, “but worth it in the end.”) Clean grey limestone flooring, handmade wall tiles and shiplap boards, which are fastened with steel square-cut nails then brushed with a high-gloss lacquered paint, elevate the contemporary country vibe.
“In essence ‘natural surfaces’ are the underlying answer when creating an atmospheric modern country environment,” Michael advises. “The key to making it successful is in making sure the architectural design and decoration looks and feels strong. Whether modern or traditional, I always tell my clients that I want the finished result to be believable.”
"In essence ‘natural surfaces’ are the underlying answer when creating an atmospheric modern country environment. — Michael Aiduss"
Whilst the team at Helen Green Design are experts at tailoring luxe contemporary environments, they’ve also got the relaxed modern country look down to a tee, understanding just the kind of design elements that a 21st-century country-style property needs.
With a focus on light wood furniture pieces—including an antique-finish chest of drawers and French style fauteuils—fresh hues and natural touches, this living space from a country house in Hampshire is a beautiful demonstration of modern country elegance.
“For a country home to feel liveable, it is important that the interior is timeless,” explains Sheena Notley-Griffiths, Head of Studio at Helen Green. “Our design balances both luxury and contemporary functionality to a perfect degree.” Just take a look at the juxtaposition of exquisite upholstery and comfortable silhouettes on the furniture designs in this living room for an example.
Referencing rural surroundings is another effective way to create a modern country feel. (Take inspiration from the bloom-filled vases, floral canvas and woodland-inspired candle holders in this space.) A stately chandelier and mirror combined with traditional window panes and patterned curtains are used as ways to give rise to a manor-like aesthetic.
When it comes to the approach for this project, and all of the country projects Helen Green Design puts its hand to for that matter, Sheena explains that the studio aims to create “light and fresh interiors which have an elegant yet cosy feel all year round.”
“A neutral base with a hint of a pale colour will add contrast while patterned and textured wallpapers will add interest and depth. For us, it’s all about the layering of textures and materials,” says Sheena.
This rustic kitchen is from the same project and continues the use of light-hued woodwork, from the floors to the cabinetry, table and chairs. Patterns make another appearance in the form of a striped blind as do arrangements of green foliage. Rustic touches are delivered via an array of vintage milk casks above the AGA oven and an aged metal ceiling light.
What does Sheena name as the fail-safe design elements for creating contemporary country homes? “A combination of distressed timbers, granite work tops and light-painted finishes paired with leather and patterned linens” are the studio’s firm favourites. “Finally, we often use ceramics and pottery to accessorise country interiors as they complement the light-painted finishes and distressed timbers used throughout our projects.”
However one chooses to curate a modern country interior, a few things are probable: in modern country you find a style that will never lose its lustre (or should that be “slightly-distressed patina”?), will always feel welcoming and just might make you want to escape to simpler times.