country style

 

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Country Style

Published by Pavilion

 

Country Style is a deliciously chunky little paperback (little in the sense of small and fat rather than large and floppy) bursting with interest and inspiration. It contains all four titles in The Library of Interior Detail which were originally published separately in hardback. They were:

Cottage    English Country Interiors

Maison     French Country Interiors

Casa        Southern Spanish Interiors

Villa          Italian country interiors

 

The point of these little books was to look close-up at the details of colour, pattern, finish and furnishing which make each of these styles so distinctive and desirable. They were really lovely little books and the pictures were specially taken for them by the photographer John Miller. The first of the four was Cottage. He came to stay with me in Yorkshire where I lived then and we visited a couple of lovely old houses inhabited by friends of mine. Over the course of two days we set up a series of beautiful shots which showed him what I wanted in the way of illustrations – and John pointed out details that I had missed through over-familiarity with the locations. It was a very fruitful working relationship. John went on the take the pictures in France, Italy and Spain. The fact that they were all taken by one photographer gives Country Style a visual smoothness and unity. John captured beautifully the colours and textures of country homes (and the different quality of daylight) in all these countries – you can almost reach out and touch the surfaces.

Each of the four titles looks at the following elements of a home’s decoration (though not necessarily organised exactly like this):

§         Floors

§         Stairs

§         Ceilings

§         Windows and window furniture

§         Doors and door furniture

§         Living spaces

§         Kitchens and bathrooms

§         Bedrooms

§         Pattern and colour

§         Paint

§         Fireplaces

 

 

This is the very first page of the book proper. I’ve spent ages looking through Country Style trying to choose a spread that represents what the book is about. There are so many ravishing images that I don’t know where to begin, so I’ve begun at the beginning. Italy is a country I love – I even speak a few words of the language – and though I have travelled through France and Spain I would have, if pressed, to name Italy as my favourite.

The honest simplicity of the terracotta pot and wooden implements in this picture appeal to the soul as well as to the eye. We in the hectic West all yearn for simpler lives. Though they look rough-and-ready, at least one of the implements in the pot is refined in form and function. The flat spoon with prongs pointing out of it is a tool, now familiar far beyond its country of origin, designed for separating strands of pasta while they cook in the pot, and serving them easily when cooked. Tools like this, even the wooden salad servers and bowl for salad that we take for granted today, were unheard of and unseen in Britain at least until the designer and design guru Terence Conran introduced them into the high street and ordinary homes in the 1960s and ‘70s, largely through his shop Habitat. He is a great and famous lover of France and all things French. I like to think he would feel at home with Maison, the section of Country Style that looks at details to be found even today in rural French homes.