Nancy Lancaster is the legend that embodies the British Country House design. In the early decades of the XX century she was the most sought-after designer for the restyling of country manors. To that she added the revolution of garden designs with a triumph of colours and scents. Here’s the lady changed British design forever.
Nancy Lancaster was a sharp and stylish woman, always fuelled by memories of the country houses among the plantations of Virginia where she grew up. Those very houses were for her true filters for her ideas.
Her refined and romantic style became popular thanks to Colefax & Fowler, a company of decorations created in partnership with John Fowler. Fowler himself had a great aesthetic sense, with a particular sensitivity for colours and for the historicity of the environments.
Lancaster and Fowler mixed the influences dictated by binding to Europe and to the fine arts. Traces can be found in the classical architectural details and baroque elements from France and Italy. In addition, the stairs take a priority position, the rooms must have their own personality, coming alive with a good choice of color and lights, and there’s often a narration made of fireplaces, candles and flowers, many flowers.
Fundamental are the choice of fabrics and the correct position of the furniture. The latter often came from different historical periods, but the pieces had a sense of continuity, taking an authentic story inside the house. The result was pleasant and without excesses, as country life should be.
From this works, useful rules can be extrapolated for those who want to reinvent their home starting from its past, which must not disappear, but rather be told with appropriate decorations.
Nancy Lancaster took charge of many buildings, sometimes purchased for herself, sometimes for sale, but all restored and renovated according to her extremely personal taste. Every house she touched had to be not only perfect inside, but also the garden had to be memorable. Wild roses, irises, peonies, orchards and woods: each garden had to become a triumph of colours and scents.
Nancy loved Golden Showers Roses, and she made them one of her signs of recognition. Her gardens were an integral part of the house, they were its continuation. Green was never enough, and she was always reviving new and old plants.
Several times her villas and gardens were the subjects of famous photographers and hosted many prominent figures of her era. One above all: Winston Churchill.
In 1922 Nancy bought her grandfather’s estate in Virginia, where she experimented with radical changes. The colonial house of 1830 was equipped with 4 bedrooms on each floor and a large central living room. Nancy expanded the living room in the vertical direction, then inserted a skylight to illuminate the stairs and added symmetry details and proportion to get a neo-classical vibe. The grandfather’s furnishings were preserved and integrated with tapestries, fabrics and antiques. All without abandoning the flavours of a family home.
This manor seems to represent the British version of the Mirador, with its Palladian style architecture. The diagram of the interior was more complex to adjust, and in this case Nancy got helped by lights tricks. Aesthetically, the protagonists remain fabrics like leather and silk, chic details like the Japanese wallpaper and delicate colours such as pink in the dining room, green and grey.
The eighteenth-century mansion in the Oxfordshire was the former house of the Dillon viscounts. In Nancy’s time, it was covered with wild roses to raise an elegant and lively tone.
The living room is renown for its grandeur, while the Velvet Room and the white living room showcase paintings of historical ancestors.
Winston Churchill himself used this stately home set in the countryside as a refuge during the war.