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True Brit : Interiors: The design and furnishings of an English home are eclectic and comfortable, with period furniture and a liberal use of chintz.

October 13, 1990|JANET KINOSIAN | Janet Kinosian is a regular contributor to Home Design

Attention Anglophiles: British interior design--that look of chintz, country colors and carefully crafted clutter--has arrived in Orange County.

You can see it now at "the British Showhouse," one of the model homes at the Monaco development in Laguna Niguel that was decorated to commemorate the countywide Festival of Britain running through Oct. 28.

The house's interior is brimming with chintz, period furniture, Austrian festoons, damask swags and tails and antique 18th-Century pillows. It showcases the furnishings available from Laura Ashley in South Coast Plaza, Elija Slocum Fine Cabinetry in Laguna Niguel and other local suppliers.

Dana Eggarts of Creative Design Consultants in Costa Mesa says she drew upon her recent experiences in England to design the model's interior. "The British people are sometimes seem as formal, rigid and distant, but in reality, they are just the opposite--very warm," she says. "And their homes reflect that feeling.

"I wanted to convey that warmth through the use of rich woods, printed fabrics and furniture upholstered in warm textures. Authentic British draperies were used that are more ornate and heavier than the drapes we usually use."

So what is the British interior look? It's eclectic and comfortable, and quite different from French Country, which is much more taut and linear. Walls are beamed, paneled or hung with tapestries. Wallpapers might be striped--either in dark or light colors--or painted a warm terra-cotta, apricot, yellow or rose.

In a typical English home, the mood is set in the hall, which is treated more like a room than an area to walk through. There might be an Oriental rug or two, a sideboard, a grandfather clock, a gilded mirror, a plaster bust used as a hat stand, a side table and chair, or a bench and some idiosyncratic possessions.

Next to the staircase might be an old carved chest or massive table with bowls, potpourri or great jugs of leaves or flowers.

The English living or sitting room is stuffed with couches, armchairs, ottomans and footstools wrapped in chintz, damask and broadcloth. The ceilings might be molded and the walls paneled. There likely will be a fireplace and gilded mirror or two. The density of art, plants, pottery and whimsical touches serves to humanize a rather grand and formal room.

The comfortable English bedroom has a coming-apart-at-the-seams elegance. It's a room full of memorabilia, what Christian Dior labeled a "nanny" room. It's a room that has "happened" rather than one that has been formally decorated.

The furniture might include a white-painted brass bed or hand-carved wood four-poster bed, a round table with a light cloth flung over it, and a desk or bedside tables piled with books and bottles of Malvern water. The beds might be laden with eiderdowns, duvets, lace coverlets, patchwork quilts and layers of pillows in crisp, white lace, or matching prints, florals and stripes. Bed ruffles and a matching fabric headboard complete the look.

The wallpapers are usually florals, prints and stripes, with coordinating boarders. The windows could be covered with long glazed chintz curtains and blinds, festoon blinds, simple short cotton curtains, or for a delicate look, curtains made from voile, lace and muslin.

English nurseries are firmly entrenched in Victorian- or Edwardian-styles. Typical are an old rocking chair, white-painted iron crib, battered cots and base or skirting boards, bright-colored walls and wallpapers. There might be a battered chesterfield with some of the stuffing oozing out, a rocking horse and a basketful of toys.

British bathrooms receive a special touch. There might be a wide ledge around the bath to hold toiletries and pretty glass China. Bath and basin sides might be paneled in mahogany, painted, papered or tiled. Walls can be wallpapered with boarders, painted or stenciled. Windows might be curtained with chintz, cotton, voile festoons, or shaded with Roman or roller blinds, or both. There might be plants, pretty tiles and a colorful carpet. A free-standing, claw-foot tub finishes off the room.

The English study or library is darker and more masculine than the rest of the house. It draws on the opulent style characteristic of Edwardian country houses. There might be stripped and dark-stained wood floors, polished or painted paneling, Oriental rugs, dark oak bookcases, a mahogany or old walnut desk and stuffed leather chair. Draperies might be made with damasks, silks and brocades.

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