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A Room of One's Own: Mary Graham's nostalgic country house bedroom

The thwarted hunt for a scrap of discontinued blue linen inspired the design for this whimsical bedroom in rural Yorkshire where one half of the interior design studio, Salvensen Graham, finds restful repose. Fresh, floral fabrics (and some stripes for good measure), precious family mementoes and an eye-catching collection of curios conjure the inimitable spirit of an English country interior

Busola Evans
Carole Poirot
A Room of One's Own: Mary Graham's nostalgic country house bedroom

The restful bedroom of interior designer Mary Graham – full of inviting, muted tones and bucolic charm – is so perfectly executed that it comes as a surprise to learn it was never intended to look that way.

As one half of Salvesen Graham, renowned for its modern approach to English country interiors, Mary always uses fabric as the starting point of every decorating scheme. So, when she and her young family relocated from London to their Yorkshire farmhouse in 2019, Mary set her eyes – and heart – on designing the bedroom around a pretty blue linen: Lincoln by Colefax and Fowler.

“I had this scrap of fabric pinned up for years, but it was discontinued,” she says. “I kept getting moments where I thought I’d found some, but I never did. I held out for a long time and then it became evident that I wasn’t going to find it. It was hard to give that up but I had to completely clear the decks and start afresh.”

Today, there are clearly no regrets. A medley of prints and fabrics mixed with vintage furniture give the layered and comfortable look that has become Salvesen Graham’s signature.

After previously renting in London, Graham was determined to create a space that was not just a true reflection of her decor style, but also a repository for family mementos and a place that evokes feelings of nostalgia. “When I step over the threshold into this room, I genuinely feel quieter, calmer and more peaceful. I do think a lot of that is down to decorating,” she says. Here, Mary explains how she finally created her idyllic bedroom …

Mary Graham: “Our house is in the middle of nowhere, on land owned by my parents-in-law who live half a mile away. It had been rented out so was just a blank box. We put another window in and made it dual aspect, so that the bedroom has light coming in at different times of the day and we can enjoy the view of the surrounding fields. We did a bit of reconfiguring so included a jib door into the bathroom. The fireplace was there, but boarded up, so I spruced that up and added pretty Delft tiles.

“I had already painted the room String by Farrow & Ball in preparation for the Colefax fabric so I looked for fabrics that went with the paint colour, which is completely the opposite way to how we normally work. Paint is usually the last element of the jigsaw puzzle. But it gave me some parameters to work within, which personally I quite like. Endless choice can be quite overwhelming.

“The curtains are made from a lovely chintz, Bowness by Jean Monro. I really wanted it to feel English, old-fashioned and nostalgic. The fabrics on the bed, the bed curtains and the eiderdown are Floral Sprig by Salvesen Graham. The bed treatment was inspired by a project we did a few years ago where we created a four-poster bed in a voile. It was so pretty and had an ethereal feeling I knew I wanted. I think those fabrics add freshness.

“To knock it all off a bit and give my poor husband a break from florals, I used some Olive Sacking by Guy Goodfellow on an antique chair but upholstered it in a more contemporary way, running the pattern both horizontally and vertically.

“During lockdown I spent a lot of time on auction sites and antique websites. I developed an obsession with fireguard fans, which are over the fireplace. I love the idea that, instead of a piece of art, you can hang a collection of something on the wall that is aesthetically attractive. The bedside plates are eBay buys.

“The portraits are of my two kids and a picture of my husband’s grandfather hangs on the jib door. Above the bed is a family picture that I’ve borrowed from my mother-in-law. I love having a picture hanging over fabric like that. I like everything to have a meaning so on top of the mantelpiece are two cups my husband brought back from a trip to Holland and two little vases my old boss’s mother gave me when I got married. I have lots of bits and bobs on my dressing table; sentimental things like unframed old photos – there’s a picture of my wedding and one of my husband as a baby – and lots of antique glass jars.

“Our wardrobe has our Sprig voile fabric gathered in the panels with a brass chicken wire over the front. In a bedroom, the chances are you’ve just got curtains and a bed and no other opportunity for fabric. So we will always try, if appropriate, to do fabric panels in joinery. It is great for acoustics and making a space feel cosier.

“The bedside lamps are by Max Rollitt and add a solid touch to what would otherwise be quite a flouncy room. The mahogany bedsides are quite simple, which I like when it comes to antique furniture. I love a traditional headboard with a ruched edge. It’s old-fashioned, but a lot of what I wanted from this house was that feeling of nostalgia and memories of places that were comfortable and happy.”

Further Reading

Salvesen Graham

Salvesen Graham on Instagram

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