Capturing the essence of 'An English Room'

Artists, actors and aristocrats tell Philippa Stockley about their favourite rooms, each one capturing the essence of the English home, be it castle or cottage
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An English Room by Derry Moore is published by Prestel at £29.99

What is the essence of an English room? In our hearts we all hold an idea of it. Portrait photographer Derry Moore, who has 37 works in the National Portrait Gallery, has set out to capture it in his fascinating new book, An English Room, a series of pictures of 33 aristocrats, actors, writers and artists, each in a room of their choice, with their own accompanying description of its qualities. Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch, for example, reveals the book-lined room where he studies scripts.

The rooms range from the unspeakably grand in a laid-back way that only the English do properly to genuinely, artistically quirky interiors that anyone with a passion for colour and design could try to emulate. While many of these rooms are beyond recreation, by capturing an element of them you can add a certain type of charm to your own home that will be forever England.



Gilbert and George
© All pictures by Derry Moore

Gibert and George
Artists Gilbert and George are shown in a quiet and rather plainly panelled room in one of their 18th-century houses in Spitalfields, east London. The room is painted a soft, hand-mixed green, with sparse Victorian furniture and a modern Afghan rug that they chose because they like its colours.

Get the look: Farrow & Ball does wonderful greens though they will not have the depth of a hand-mixed lead paint. Try Saxon Green, Breakfast Room Green or Chappell Green. For good Victorian furniture, visit antiques dealers and auction houses such as Criterion, which has weekly sales. Try Liberty for an Afghan carpet.







Rooms that capture the essence of an English home

The Duke of Beaufort
The most splendid house of all, the Duke of Beaufort's Badminton, designed by William Kent who also designed Houghton Hall in Norfolk, is the type of home most of us can only dream about. The Duke first saw the house at the end of the Second World War. Queen Mary had just vacated it, and it was, said the Duke, "rather cold and grim".

Get the look: create fragments of this style, including carved reliefs in wood or even plaster, or marble floors with cross-set squares carreaux d'octagones by visiting reclamation yards and auction houses. Try Drummonds Architectural Antiques in Chelsea, or Lassco, which has all manner of architectural wonders and oddities. Look too at Feau & Cie in Paris which offers fabulous carved wood, or "boiserie", at ducal prices.







Jasper Conran

Jasper Conran
Designer Jasper Conran bought New Wardour Castle in Dorset a few years ago. Having begun life in 1770 it was more recently a girls' boarding school. The walls, Conran said, were "a somewhat grubby white", and he repainted them a "definite white", keeping decorative elements to a dramatic minimum, including this fantastic Roman urn on a plinth, above.

Get the look: Marston and Langinger does a narrow range of good, flat-white paints. Farrow & Ball does a bigger one. Look at both.

For statuary this massive, let antiques dealers know what you are looking for, as they have their noses to the ground. Also try companies such as Leominster Reclamation, which currently has a pair of 6½ft urns on plinths for £5,400.





Rooms that capture the essence of an English home

Carole Bamford
The creator of sustainable farming empire Daylesford Organic, Carole Bamford converted an 18th-century tithe barn, above, on her Gloucestershire estate to be her haven and office.

Despite its apparent harmonious simplicity, all is done with great care using a neutral, natural palette. From bespoke willow banisters to hand-made rush matting and Lucie Rie collectable pottery, Lady Bamford OBE, wife of JCB chairman Sir Anthony Bamford, has created a deceptively simple look.

Get the look: from Daylesford Organic get an oak chopping board, £75, and a set of nice plain glasses for £45. For hand-made rush matting go to Rush Matters in Colesden, Bedfordshire, who will also fit.





Rooms that capture the essence of an English home

Gavin Stamp
Architectural historian Gavin Stamp chose the amazingly refurbished Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras railway station, a perfect example of Victorian Gothic Revival by architect Sir George Gilbert Scott. The vast building was restored by the Manhattan Loft Corporation. The stunning Axminster stair carpet was re-woven to the original design by British carpet maker Brintons.

Get the look: for wall coverings like this, the best thing to do is to paint your walls red try Incarnadine by Farrow & Ball (as before) and make a stencil of a fleur de lys to paint in gold paint at regular intervals.

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Rooms that capture the essence of an English home

Cressida Bell
Textiles and interiors designer Cressida Bell, granddaughter of painter Vanessa Bell (sister of Virginia Woolf ), has created a lovely kitchen using colours she is passionate about with pretty but useful ceramics and enamelware collected on her travels. The look is "Grand Bazaar Istanbul" using royal blue, turquoise, coral and cream. Bell has also amassed some wonderful Forties gilded Bavarian porcelain.

Get the look: John Lewis sells Le Creuset's cast-iron oval casseroles from £100-£155; Garden Trading has retro metal breadbins similar to Bell's for £28, and you will find enamel colanders from time to time in supermarket own-brand ranges, so keep a lookout.





Rooms that capture the essence of an English home

Adam Nicolson and Sara Raven
Writer Adam Nicolson and his wife, the garden and food writer Sarah Raven, are pictured in a bedroom at Sissinghurst in Kent, an Elizabethan house largely destroyed in the 18th century.

Adam's grandmother, writer Vita Sackville-West, created one of the 20th century's most influential gardens there after buying the house in the Thirties, and stripped back this room's walls to its Elizabethan bricks. The room is furnished with old English oak furniture and tapestries.

Get the look: for this effortless style trawl antiques dealers and auction houses. Important house sales sometimes come up at auctioneers such as Christie's and Bonhams. Beedham Antiques in Berkshire specialises in 15th-17th century oak furniture. It is also worth stalking ebay.

An English Room by Derry Moore is published by Prestel at £29.99

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