Strolling through lavender fields in the South of France or snuggling up next to a fireplace on a chilly evening by the British coast may feel like a distant dream right now. But you don’t need to catch a flight to get a taste of the European countryside life. A floral-print pillow, antique chair, and the right scented candle can transform your space into the dreamiest cottage across the pond.
“British decor is a little more casual than French style, but really the two probably have more similarities than differences,” says Pierre Frey, and he should know—the designer along with Soho Home hope to bring both countries’ influences and charm into homes around the globe with their new collaboration. Frey’s weekend getaway in Normandy, which is also the backdrop for the collection’s imagery, is a perfect blend of the two. With his insightful tips, you too can channel this layered mix at home.
Look to the Past
“English decor has a wit to it,” says Frey. Contrary to the French, Brits don’t take furnishing too seriously, embracing risk and imperfection. They have a knack for bringing together cozy elements: thatched roofing, oversize fireplaces with log baskets, pretty prints, stone floors, wing chairs, and large wood farmhouse tables.
One thing the two nations have in common is a rich architectural history dating back to Louis XVI and Queen Victoria. “These well-designed houses with strong architecture only get better with each new generation that lives in them,” adds Frey. “Mine is 170 years old and that feels recent.” This look to the past is something that Soho Home translated into their collection. “We worked with Pierre’s team to select fabrics from his archives,” says Siobhan Farley, the brand’s design director. “The fabrics we chose together were originally created in 1928.”
Never Stick to One Period
Frey’s getaway in Normandy is filled with a quirky combo of his grandmother’s antiques, his own fabrics, and vintage finds that his wife dug up at the nearby flea market. “It makes us feel like we have lived here for 20 years, but it’s only been three,” he says. “The style is effortless because we just bring in new pieces that we like, without feeling as if we need to be strict about keeping to a certain period or style.”
It’s something that Farley admired about Frey’s work even before the collaboration came to life. “I love his use of vintage French pieces, re-created to have a more modern feel,” she says. “The combo of old and new using bold prints and chunky fabrics is really fun.”
Similarly, when designing houses around the world, the Soho Home team carries the British aesthetic with them (“We have core pieces that are timeless and classic, like Chesterfield sofas, traditional armchairs, hand-carved mahogany beds, and cut-crystal glassware,” says Farley), but local art, fabrics, and smaller fixtures always get their moment, too.
Use Color to Blend Different Influences
“I think the key is choosing a palette that can work in most spaces,” says Farley. Frey starts with one color or pattern and builds from there. “When playing with patterns, the more you mix, the more it works,” he says. “In the beginning it might not feel that way, but keep adding more layers.”
Understand What Comfort Means to You
To some, a comfortable room may involve an extra-fluffy bed and a sprawling sectional, but to Europeans, it often begins with a medley of items: feather cushions, deep sofas, and soft pile rugs. “Anything that makes you want to curl up and relax, or makes you feel at home even if you’re not,” says Farley.
For Frey it’s about a general welcoming vibe, one that’s definitely present in his Normandy home thanks to velvet, warm colors, antiques, and furniture with patina. “It makes me feel fulfilled,” he says. “My friends tell me that they can see how happy I am when I’m here.”
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