I’ve always been a sucker for English period films like Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice.” What’s not to love? Strong-willed, independent Elizabeth Bennet (I like to think that’s me) falls for the mysterious Mr. Darcy (played by dashingly handsome Colin Firth) and their romance unfolds in the gorgeous countryside of 19th century England. Doesn’t get much better than that until you take your eyes off Mr. Darcy (I know, hard to do!) long enough to…notice the homes in which this courtship is taking place.
These state country houses (like Lyme Park estate shown above) date back hundreds of years and are large enough to require staff to keep them up to snuff for the well-heeled gentry who call them home.
Impressive as their exteriors are, it’s the inside of these places that make my heart go pitter patter. I’m drawn to the effortless mix of formal and casual, new with old; and how muddy wellies strewn by the door even look perfectly at home. No matter where you look, there’s a sense of history derived by the furnishings, many passed from generation-to-generation.
If you’ve always loved this look but not what it takes to duplicate it (years of antiquing, lots of moo-lah), take heart. Heirloom looks are back in the style spotlight with a bounty of new furnishings that make aging gracefully easier than ever for homes of any size and budget.
Here are four ways to get the look without ever traipsing through an antique shop or putting a double mortgage on the house!
1–Cartography. The “Of All Nations” map looks as if Columbus carried it under his arm on the way to the New World (only it’s handsomely instead of rolled up in a worn seafaring tube) and will give a mantel instant provenance.
2–Burnished Finishes. The “Ramsey” votive holder centerpiece looks like a pricey antique that could have graced the table of the Tudors and can hold anything from flowers and candles to fresh fruit.
3–Curio Keepers. An updated take on classic French cloches, the “Homespun Bell Jar with Stand “transforms anything in it (whether fresh lemons or small decorative objets) into a tabletop focal point which is why 18th century Victorians loved creating such mini displays under glass.
4–Bits & Bobs. With its delicately formed petals, the porcelain “Rose Blossom” takes its cue from highly collectible English Coalport bone china decorative pieces that date back to the late 1700s. This is the kind of accessory that looks fabulous as a stand-alone in a curio cabinet or beneath a bell jar or clustered together as a collection on a table.