Hang out the bunting! Nothing beats the retro style reinvigorated by Cath Kidston and championed by Kirstie Allsopp when it comes to making a home that’s cheerful, feminine, a little bit folksy and distinctly British. If more is most definitely more when it comes to dressing up your rooms, roses are emphatically not just for round the door, and you’re far keener on the mixing than the matching, check out the best ways to create the look.
Pattern is the number one ingredient of this pretty style. Think roses and other florals with a distinctly English garden angle – tropical blooms are for another home – and keep them small to medium-scale to keep things sweet, rather than statement. This style loves looking back, too, particularly to the 1950s, so go back in time for your prints: spots, stripes and gingham are candidates for the mix, as is patchwork.
Like a little animal magic in your room schemes? Fauna in the form of bird, owl, or squirrel motifs will combine happily with other designs.
There’s plenty more pattern to choose from, too. Folk motifs are equally at home in these schemes and just as easily combined within an interior. You can even give your rooms a knowing twist by going for contemporary printed designs showing vintage china or floral arrangements.
Don’t hold back when it comes to combining patterns to get the look. This is a style that needs busy-ness, so a toe in the water really won’t cut it. If you’re nervous about putting patterns together, take heart. Both the similar scale of the designs and the colour palette you’re using will ensure the effect’s a winner. For 1950s-style nostalgia, favour pastel shades including blue, pink and green, or opt for a good selection of the richer tones typical of folk-style motifs if you prefer this bohemian twist.
Above: Hemingway for Graham & Brown wallapers
For walls, consider both a painted or a wallpapered finish. You could paint walls in ice-cream shades – yellow looks great to create a sunny eat-in kitchen, for example – or try a feminine retro 50s wallpaper for a bedroom or living room. Consider painted furniture as well: dining chairs in a mixture of shades, as well as cupboards and chests of drawers in pastels look cute.
Above: A pared back version of the look, as seen in Selina Lake's beautiful book, Pretty Pastel Style
To ensure your interiors stay sugary sweet rather than veer towards cloying, it’s a good idea to add plenty of white to your room schemes as well. This might be for the walls or the floor, but used on pieces such as dining tables, beds and cabinet designs, it can also freshen the look. Make sure the furniture has a retro vibe, too: simple trestle tables, bench seating and wooden chairs for dining; Chesterfield or other classic sofa shapes and wing armchairs for the living room; and wood framed or iron beds. Where you don’t opt for painted finishes, wood furniture should be in the tones of pine, oak or stained a little darker, but avoid heavy finishes and think rustic rather than exotic timbers.
Above: the kitchen of Kirsten Harris, of childrenswear brand Bob & Blossom. See the rest of the tour here
You can go to town when it comes to accessorising these room schemes. For the kitchen, show off tableware in pastel shades or pretty prints on open shelving or a dresser, pick sugar and salt shakers with diner chic, dress tables with patterned cotton or oilcloth and go for designs with 50s-style advertising motifs; for living spaces, pile up the cushions, choose curtains and blinds to dress windows, opt for table lamps with patterned shades and finish off the floor with patterned rugs; in the bedroom, layer up the floral, stripe and gingham linens and throws and swap plain wooden drawer and door knobs for decorative designs.
Above: a patchwork chair designed by Kelly Swallow
Image: Plantation Rugs
Image: Merry-go-round Handmade
Don’t neglect the garden either: channel the skills of super stylist (and mix ’n’ match queen) Selina Lake, who we wrote about here, and take the look outdoors in summer with bunting and strings of lanterns for village fete-style get-togethers.
Now you just need the homemade lemonade, cupcakes, and a pinny for a full-on retro-fest.
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Sarah Warwick, Guest Editor
View all posts by Sarah Warwick, Guest Editor