For a fuss-free and timelessly good-looking style, choose plain and simple chic
We all want our homes to be comfortable, practical and good-looking. Just as important as gorgeous colours and appealing accessories are necessities such as easy-to-clean surfaces, effective lighting and durable kitchenware. Which is where simple style – a combination of form and function that is completely unpretentious and always hard working – excels. It takes classic designs that have stood the test of time and combines them with the best of modern furnishings, using tactile materials and pale, neutral colours to achieve a look that is calm and quiet, comfortable and honest, and hugely pleasing to live with.
Walls and floors are the starting point. Quick and inexpensive to achieve are walls in plain paint shades. Neutrals are fundamental, with a palette of soft whites ranging from chalk, ivory and bone through to deeper taupes and greys, with stronger accents providing contrast: sage green, midnight blue or earthy brown, for example. More finished surfaces, as appropriate to the room, could include grasscloth wallpaper, bevel-edge tiles or timber panelling. As for floors, the key is to combine the practicality of sturdy materials such as traditional stone flags, brick pavers or wooden floorboards with the softness of plain or minimally patterned carpets or conveniently placed, understated rugs.
Furniture should be pared down in style, chosen for its strength, durability and comfort first and foremost, and always clean-lined as opposed to over-decorative. Windsor or ladder-back chairs, wooden stools, blanket boxes and traditional dressers are all just right for the simple interior, especially when made from natural wood or painted in a muted shade. Mixing eras works perfectly, too, provided pieces are chosen for their inherent good design and plain style, transcending all fads and fashions.
Rather than elaborate window treatments of any type, this style has a less-is-more feel, and where windows can be left bare, then why not? Panelled wooden shutters look elegant and discreet, while Roman blinds and gathered curtains are preferable to anything elaborate. Other soft furnishings might include the plainest of loose covers for chairs and sofas (avoid frilled valances or other flourishes) and cushions with no-nonsense fastenings and the most basic of trims. Linen, cotton and wool are ideal fabrics for this style: unassuming, natural fibres that have been the backbone of classical decorating for centuries. Look for plain colours and stripes, adding a range of textures for interest. In addition to the soft drape of textiles, introduce a range of natural materials, such as woven willow, sisal, slate or timber, to provide an interesting atmosphere even in an apparently minimal room.
To ensure a calm and airy feel overall, good storage is vital. Ancillary areas such as utility rooms, laundry rooms, boot rooms and dressing rooms are a great asset, but where space is more limited then well-designed cupboards, shelves and other storage areas are incredibly helpful in terms of clearing away the clutter and confusion of everyday life and making simple rooms feel more spacious and liveable. In kitchens, a free-standing storage piece such as a dresser, plate rack or butcher’s block breaks up the uniformity of fitted cupboards and creates a more timeless appearance.
Finally, when it comes to lighting, inset spotlights throw light where needed without drawing the eye, while classic fittings, such as glass pendants, Anglepoise table lamps or slender wall lights with ceramic shades can be added where necessary. As for finishing touches, beware an abundance of accessories (always opt for quality over quantity), and choose essential items such as wooden peg hooks, hand-made soap, thick woollen throws and blankets, blue and white crockery, rustic bread boards and pillar candles, plus loose arrangements of gorgeous cottage-garden flowers.
Key ingredients of simple style
– Consider wooden panelling, tongue-and-groove boarding, textured wallpaper and classic tiles as options for your walls.
– Opt for classic floorboards, stone or slate flags, brick pavers or terracotta tiles for the floor, combined with plain carpets and/or subtle rugs.
– Combine soft white shades with a few deeper colours.
– Choose natural materials such as wood, slate, wicker, wool and cotton.
– Ensure rooms are clear of clutter by making the most of storage space.
– Remember that good design applies across all eras, so combining old and new will work if furnishings are chosen carefully for both form and function.
– Avoid bold patterns in favour of plains and stripes.
– Fit wooden shutters, Roman blinds or softly gathered curtains at the windows, or leave them bare if you dare.
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