In a world where doing something different and staying one step ahead is the objective of many, the potential of traditional aesthetics are sometimes forgotten. Classic country interiors work beautifully in contemporary settings and are used by some of the finest interior designers to create modern country interiors. Timeless with a contemporary twist, this look draws on the best elements of country interior design – think distressed timbers, light hues, patterned linens – and offsets them against a modern backdrop.
Spotlighting the projects of two interior design firms that have mastered this look – Michael Aiduss and Helen Green Design – we explore what it takes to achieve the perfect modern country interior space.
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. The results provide a lustrous finish.” 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.
Aside from grey limestone, Michael lists honed Carrara marble, raw plaster walls and natural waxed finishes on timber treated with lime as his go-to materials for a modern country look. “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, ” advises Michael. “Whether modern or traditional, I always tell my clients that I want the finished result to be believable.”
“Timelessness is a relevant factor when selecting colours,” says Michael. “I love making people guess when things were created. Timelessness is an effect that allows a project to give back to the client. They don’t get tired of the space in two years.”
Timeless colour combinations are synonymous with contemporary country spaces
“When sourcing cabinetry, we always employ the use of craftspeople who can hand-make cabinets. There are all sorts of individuals at varying levels who can do the work depending on the intricacy of the design and, in the end, it allows each project to be bespoke. I love hardware and try to use high-quality or handmade pieces whenever possible. People always notice great hardware.”
I love hardware and try to use high-quality or handmade pieces whenever possible. People always notice great hardware.
Whilst the team at Helen Green Design are experts at tailoring luxe contemporary environments, they have 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 – take inspiration from the bloom-filled vases, floral canvas and woodland-inspired candle holders in this space – is another effective way to create a modern country feel. 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.
“Furniture should always be scaled correctly and each piece should have its place in a room,” says Sheena. “Mostly all of our furniture is bespoke and made in the UK to a classic contemporary aesthetic. 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.”