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Transform Your London Pad Into A Country Retreat With These Design Tips
© Sims Hilditch
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Transform Your London Pad Into A Country Retreat With These Design Tips

Picture of Charlotte Luxford
Home & Design Editor
Updated: 19 March 2018
Londoners are increasingly escaping the city in favour of the idyllic country break, seeking out the likes of the trendy Soho Farmhouse for a city-meets-country vibe. But what if you could create that look at home? Cotswold-based interior designer Emma Sims-Hilditch reveals the secret to transforming your London flat into your own mini country retreat and where you can find key buys to get the look.

Make your space work harder

The biggest difference between city and country living is the amount of space available. We need to carefully consider the purpose of each room and how they flow into each other. Space is often at a premium in the city, so rooms must be multifunctional. Life can be more hectic, so we focus on creating an oasis of calm and making sure there is enough practical storage.

The colour scheme can also make a big difference to the sense of spaciousness and atmosphere of a room. If you’re looking for neutral and more muted shades that have that country feel, I adore the earthy shade called ‘Peat’, by Neptune. Neptune paint colours are wonderfully versatile, complementary to one another and hard wearing.

Sims Hilditch Regent's Park Townhouse (4)
Space is maximised with an open-plan layout | © Sims Hilditch

Go against the grain

In the city the tendency is to plump for materials such as glass and metal, which feels sleek. There is nothing wrong with these materials but if overused they can make a space feel cold and glitzy. Don’t be afraid to use rustic materials instead that may be associated with a country look, such as salvaged timber floorboards and hand-blocked botanical wallpaper. We love playing with pattern and texture regardless of location. In our own design studio, we have used a contemporary kitchen to great effect. The simplicity of the cabinetry allows the architecture of the barn to stand out and juxtapose beautifully.

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A neutral colour palette ties the different materials together to create a cohesive scheme | © Sims Hilditch

Choose statement pieces

As a design practice we have a strong sense of our design identity, but we translate this appropriately depending on whether we are designing for the city or the country. The key difference is that a country home has those strong pieces of furniture that are more defining of a country property. For the city we pair it back but there is also the opportunity to be a little more contemporary. For example, a modern patterned rug on the floor suits a city home but would look out of place in a timeless country cottage.

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Framed vintage-style maps draws the eye in this apartment | © Sims Hilditch

Mix old and new

If you’re keen to add some country character to your London pad, Sunbury Antiques is one of my favourite markets to attend, more commonly referred to as simply ‘Kempton’ due to its location at Kempton Park Racecourse. It has been in operation since 1979 and has more than 700 stalls. It’s an impressive market where you can try your hand at haggling and have a bit of a rummage for statement pieces, from French farmhouse furniture to agricultural salvage.

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This converted farmhouse project blends country style with contemporary details | © Sims Hilditch

Embrace the seasons…

Natural materials have an innate sense of quality and a richness that add layers of texture and character to a room. Soft furnishings such as cushions and throws are also interchangeable depending on the season so can be a cost-effective way to dramatically change a scheme. We adore the colourful collections from Fermoie and all the fabrics are designed in-house and printed in England. The showroom, located on the Pimlico Road (a top design hotspot), is a must visit for inspiration – check out the brand’s printed linens for a contemporary country feel. So Cosy also offers affordable, quality pure wool and cashmere throws for a touch of that luxurious comfort you’d find in a country retreat.

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A blend of textured and patterned textiles make for a cosy bedroom | © Sims Hilditch

… and nature

Another instant way to introduce that country feel into your home is with freshly picked flowers, so head to the Old Flower Market in Camden. It’s wholesale prices for dreamy, premium florals, but if you want a real bargain, you’ll need to wake up early as the market opens at dawn. If you’ve got space, such as a balcony or courtyard garden, Garden Trading is our go-to for accessories. A few planters filled with bright and bold blooms such as Cosmos, Geraniums or Delphiniums will give you that cottage garden vibe.

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Pretty floral prints and the addition of flowers create a fresh country look | © Sims Hilditch

Let there be light

Creating areas of light and shade is one of the most important principles in our designs. We try where possible to maximise natural lighting however, appreciate that sometimes, this can be limited in city homes. Layered lighting such as floor and table lamps paired with wall and ceiling lights can create drama and atmosphere.

We recently discovered Pooky – a lovely independent company who specialise in beautiful decorative lighting and are based at Chelsea Wharf, just a stone’s throw from the Design Centre at Chelsea Harbour, which is the go-to destination for design and decoration inspiration.

Sims Hilditch Regent's Park Townhouse (1)
A mixture of small sconces fitted to the bookcase and a floor-standing light provide multi-layered lighting | © Sims Hilditch

To see more of Sims Hilditch’s work, visit the website here.

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Interior designer Emma Sims-Hilditch | © Sims Hilditch

For more interiors inspiration, check out these five key looks for spring/summer 2018.