Visiting National Trust houses is one of my favourite things to do. In part, that’s because I’m keen on learning more about history, and a National Trust membership offers a really great opportunity to do that. But also, I like National Trust houses because I think they’re a fun little window into interior design trends of years gone by…
For instance, the duck-egg blue and gold in a Georgian manor house, the deep, sumptuous red of a castle’s drawing room, and the purple curtains drawn across a four poster bed are as fascinating to me as the people who lived in them. What was it about those colours that upper-classes so loved? Why do we associate deep, ruby reds and rich, opulent purples with royalty? And why on earth were the beds so small!?!
These are all questions I’ve found answers to in books like Lucy Worsley’s ‘If Walls Could Talk’ (well worth ordering if you’re into stuff like this too!).
But, curiosity and questions aside, another reason I love National Trust houses are because I think they offer a bit of interior design inspiration too.
Granted, National Trust houses – exactly as they are – aren’t places I’d want to live in. They’re too grand, too cavernous, and too ‘in keeping’ with history. But, I do think we can take bits and pieces by way of inspiration, incorporating features into our modern homes and giving subtle little nods to our heritage. Here are handful of things you’ll find in a National Trust house that you could incorporate into your home’s interior design, if that’s your style!
I know these aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but they’re certainly mine! I love painted portraits – particularly oil paintings. I photograph them everywhere I go, and despite not knowing who those people actually were, I’d be happy enough to hang them on my wall! I wonder about the personalities behind the portraits, as well as the life of the painter himself, as for some reason I’m really drawn to this kind of artwork.
The more ‘haunted’ the subjects look, the better. I’m trying to find places to buy this kind of art, as well as some gorgeous frames to mount them in – if you know of anywhere I can buy either of these things, please tell me!
If there’s one thing that National Trust properties do well, it’s statement lighting. Of course, when a room is this big, it really does warrant dangling a ginormous chandelier over the dining table, doesn’t it?
But, I’ve read on Abigail Ahern’s blog that even small rooms should feature big light installations. Doing so kind of tricks the eye into thinking the room is bigger (or failing that, more interesting!) than it would appear with a light scaled-down to size. I’m not sure chandeliers are my kind of thing (and I’m not suggesting for a moment that you do it on the kind of scale you can see above!), but my mum did once hang one in her downstairs toilet (for a joke) that ended up working so well it was left up there for years!
Depending on the period of the property you own, architecture probably isn’t something you can do a great deal about. That’s why I’m so drawn to Georgian, Edwardian and Victorian properties: whether they’re large, airy places with perfect symmetry, or tiny two-up-two-downs with galley kitchens and chimney breasts in bedrooms, I get this strange sense of satisfaction from the fact that the rooms aren’t predictable.
Don’t get me wrong, mid-century architecture is interesting in many ways, but the architectural features of National Trust houses are things I’d look for in my own home – just on a smaller (and much cheaper!) scale.
I’ve been figuring out my interior design style recently, and I’ve found that I’m drawn to traditional, classic pieces of furniture. Winged armchairs, dark wood and Persian rugs all get my seal of approval, so for all that I love to look at mid century furniture, I want to live among things that look a bit older than that. (That said, I do love this art deco inspired armchair above!) Perhaps my taste will change over time, but classic pieces have my heart right now!
Finally, almost every National Trust house I’ve visited has boasted a roaring open fire in at least one of the rooms. I like the fact that fireplaces are the focal point for the room, so I’d set to work arranging chairs and sofas around my fireplace if my home had one. Of course, this means giving a bit of careful thought to where the TV goes and how we incorporate it into our interior design, but I think it’s well worth the effort.
Have you ever visited a National Trust house? Is it the kind of place you could find inspiration for your home? And if not, what is your inspiration? Where do you look?