Inspiration of the Week: a masterclass in the manorial manner in Essex
We pay a visit to a pretty village near Colchester, where a handsome house for sale offers class and comfort in equal measure
Whoever said that one tired of London was tired of life had clearly never been to Great Horkesely. For this charming village in Essex is the very picture of rural bliss. It’s near Colchester, the capital of Roman Britain, and isn’t far from the wondrous winding walks found in the Dedham Vale. (And, if ancient ruins and Constable countryside aren’t enough to distract, you can still be at Liverpool Street station in 50 minutes.) The beautiful settlement is also home to this glorious hall house on Tog Lane. Built in the 16th century, remodelled in the Georgian and Victorian eras and currently for sale, it offers the last word in pastoral comfort.
Our views on the merit of country-house style will come as no surprise to Almanac readers. It’s smart yet unshowy, offers glamour without glitz and welcomes muddy boots as warmly as Manolo Blahniks. But how does one achieve such a laidback look? We turn to this home’s handsome rooms for a lesson.
First up: colour and, more specifically, cream. Ivory tones are a staple, especially when it comes to designing the ultimate country kitchen. Whether it’s the same shade as the pale splash on your strawberries (note the cabinets here), or something richer, as in the Essex home’s dining area, a dollop of cream never goes amiss. (In fact, that’s our motto in life too…). Elsewhere, however, expression is encouraged. Older houses, with their forceful personalities, can handle the pizzazz of more highly pigmented paints: just look at the celestial blue bathroom here, which reminds us of stylish salons of periods past.
Pattern, preferably with just a hint of the old-school, works perfectly in homes of a certain age. At this house on Tog Lane, heavy curtains – lavishly long and generously tasselled and trimmed – lend a sumptuous air to even the smaller rooms. We’re particularly swooning over those on the stairwell’s window, and the chintz pair hanging beside the green rolltop tub, whose faded glory looks almost purposeful.
Finally, we come to furniture and fittings. A jumble of antiques and newer bits brings texture, character and provenance. We love the older pieces for their sense of permanence, looking as though they’ve been there forever, from the sitting room’s Knole sofa to the dark oak dining table. Meanwhile, carefully chosen contemporary pieces – spot the squishy leather armchairs, splashy modern paintings and sleek mid-century pendants across the downstairs rooms – save schemes from fustiness. And the best thing about antiques? They needn’t cost the earth – just head to your local flea to pick up preloved pieces for a song (it’s more sustainable too).
After this 101 on rural refurb, the only thing you’ll be missing is the house itself. Though something tells us that there’s something you could do about that…
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