English Country House Style

By Martin Wood


It was Nancy Lancaster who brought to fruition that style of decoration now universally known as the ‘English Country House Style’, or the ‘English Style’. A subtle amalgam that has at it’s heart ‘a cool and eclectic view’ of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the English Country House Style seeks to produce a representation of a past that is in essence an illusion. The secret of Nancy’s success in creating this quintessentially English look lay in an assured sense of scale, boldness, a sharp wit, and an instinctive understanding of how to make a house mellow, elegant and unpretentious. She carried these same qualities into the garden, where she worked in a formal yet romantic neo-Georgian style which remains a strong spirit in garden design.

In this book Martin Wood explores Nancy’s contribution to the arts of interior decoration and garden design by carefully analysing her own houses and gardens – large and small – and her work for Colefax & Fowler, the decorating business she bought from Sibyl Colefax in 1944. He also chronicles her remarkable life: her three very different marriages; her dynamic design partnership with John Fowler; her interactions with friends and guests including her aunt Nancy Astor, Duff and Lady Diana Cooper, the Duchess of Devonshire (then Deborah Mitford), David Nivan, Anthony Eden and – in the darkest days of the Second World War – Winston Churchill.


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