Trends might come and go, but that rustic, English country house look is always in style. As interior design goes, this look really is in a class of its own: it’s both grand and elegant, yet also cozy and inviting, with an off-hand, effortless charm that make it feel truly timeless.
And, while this décor might be synonymous with the palatial country estates of aristocratic Brits, you don’t need to be a lord of the manor — or even based in England — to be get this look in your own living room. In fact, with a few carefully chosen design accents and pieces of furniture, you can recreate that British look in your own home, even if you live in a typical American suburban home or a small city apartment.
Here, we’ve shared a few rustic living room ideas to help you design a stunning space with an authentically rustic English feel, wherever you're located. Just read on to learn our top tips for designing a rustic living room.
The quintessentially English country house look we know and love today is all thanks to one Nancy Lancaster, an interior designer, socialite, and ‘tastemaker’ who revolutionized the way that British homes were decorated back in in the 1940s and 50s.
Although Lancaster would become famous for creating a style that was popular in England, she was actually an American by birth. The heiress to a Virginia cotton fortune, Lancaster went on to become the owner of British interiors and textile design company Colefax and Fowler, and under her direction the brand would go on to redefine English style. Hailed by her contemporaries as ‘the most tasteful person in the world’, Lancaster created what we now know as the classic English country house look.
While the Victorian look that came before it was very ordered and stuffy, the country house style that Lancaster pioneered was airy, relaxed, and allowed for a more eclectic and mismatched look. Her aim was to combine comfort with elegance, making rooms feel like ‘lived in’ family homes, rather than chilly museum exhibitions. She created interiors for British wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the Rothschild family, and many of the rooms she decorated still survive today — a testament to the timelessness of this look.
Lancaster had a number of ‘rules’ for design, as well a few key looks that she would always incorporate into her interiors. We’ve included a few of these in our ideas below, so you can get that authentically English rustic charm in your living room.
While there’s no magic formula that will create the perfect rustic living space, there are a number of key pieces and accents that are nearly always present in a country-inspired home. Here, we’ve shared eight classic country living room ideas that you can use to create the ideal place to relax.
Remember to mix and match, and to try to achieve a sense of balance. While the rustic country house style often works quite well with an artfully disheveled air, you don’t want it to look completely chaotic, so stick to using just a few of these rustic living room ideas and don’t go OTT.
Natural materials are a key element in any country-style space, particularly hardwoods. Of course, we can’t all be lucky enough to have original beams or wood panels in our homes, but you can add some rustic charm with real wood furniture. Dark hardwoods such as oak, walnut, mahogany and cherry are all common choices in English country homes. Distressed woods can have an especially rustic look, particularly whitewashed pieces.
If you’re lucky enough to have original floorboards, don’t cover them up with wall-to-wall carpeting, as these can be a lovely feature in a country style living room. Just be sure to add a large rug to bring warmth and unify your furniture — afghan rugs in rich red toned patterns are a popular choice for a rustic home.
You can make almost any paint color work in a rustic living room, provided it complements the rest of your décor and the feel you want the room to have. Richer, warmer colors, like burgundy or burnt orange, will give your living area a cozy look, while cool green shades can impart a regal feel — sage green has become very popular in recent years. Lighter, airy shades can also work well, particularly if you’d like to make your space to look a bit larger: think off-whites and creams, as these have a more welcoming feel than pure whites.
Don’t be afraid to go for something a little more vibrant, though. You could even take inspiration from one of Nancy Lancaster’s most famous living spaces: the yellow drawing room at Avery Row in Mayfair, London. Painted in a bright buttery yellow, this room proves that bold paint colors can work in a classic country house setting.
Few items of furniture are as quintessentially English as the Chesterfield sofa. With its instantly recognizable tufted buttons, rolled armrests, and low back, this design classic is the ideal centerpiece for your country living room. It’s origins go all the way back to the 1700s, and since then it’s become a classic fixture in English homes — you can learn more about the history of the renowned couch in our guide to the history of the Chesterfield sofa.
Lancaster preferred to have a few different styles of seating in a country living room, as she felt that this was more inviting. It also providing a range of different seating styles to suit everyone. So, pair your sofa with a wing back armchair in a contrasting fabric or leather for an authentically mismatched, welcoming rustic feel.
One thing which an English look living room should always have is a sense of history. You want your space to look as though every item has been collected over a number of years, so add a selection of different antique objects, paintings, and ornaments. Vases, ornate lamps, old portraits, and porcelain figurines are all staple features in a classic rustic living room.
Don’t be afraid to go for something a little eccentric, either. One of Lancaster’s rules was that you should always try to put something ‘ugly’ in your rustic living room to highlight the beauty of the other pieces around it and to stop the whole thing from being too curated and formal. Old vintage pieces, like typewriters, telephones, and wire baskets, are ideal for this: you could even try using an old leather trunk in place of coffee table.
Lots of natural leather and animal hides will give your home that authentic rustic hunting lodge feel. Leather is a staple fabric in English country houses, particularly when used as a sofa or armchair covering. It also ages beautifully, developing a soft sheen and vintage patina over the years, which can really give your rustic living room furniture that ‘lived in’ quality that Lancaster was so keen on.
Natural hair-on hide rugs always add a rustic sense of character to your space, and they prevent your living room from looking too twee or chintzy. Try placing them over a sisal carpet, as this is a very common look in real English country houses. You can also hang them on a wall or drape the over the back of sofa as a decorative throw.
If you’re lucky enough to have natural stonework or brick in your space, be sure to show it off! Exposed brickwork around chimneys will instantly add that country cottage feel, while stone flags, fireplaces, and mantlepieces are all typical features in an English manor house. Don’t be afraid of a little soot blackening your brickwork or chimney pieces, either — it all adds to that lived in feel. It just goes to show that your house is a home, not a showroom, which is a key concept with this look.
This last idea was one of Lancaster’s key rules for decorating a rustic living room. The fire adds warmth and coziness, and the photographs add personality and help to make the space feel like a family home, rather than a museum or showroom.
Flowers bring an element of femininity, which is important for this look, particularly if you have a lot of bare stone or brick on show. Remember, these days you can buy artificial flowers which look indistinguishable from the real thing, but which are much less work!
Quintessentially English, inviting, and charming, the rustic look is perfect for a space like the living room where you want to kick back and relax. And, as this look is timelessly stylish, it won’t date and will continue to look wonderful for years to come. Use the rustic living room ideas we’ve shared here to create your perfect space, and don’t forget to check out our style advice hub to find loads more tips and inspiration!
At Timeless Chesterfields, we’ve been creating Chesterfields in the classic English style for over 40 years. If you’re looking for the ideal furniture to complete your new living room, browse our collection of Chesterfield sofas today. All of our sofas are made to order, so if you have something special in mind, our team will be able to work with you to bring it to life.