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Inside Carlos Garcia’s charming 17th-century English country house

Interior designer Carlos Garcia welcomes us into his 17th-century English country house in Norfolk for our latest episode of Design Notes. Carlos begins by talking about his fondness for country house decoration: “ English country house decoration has always been something that has attracted me, even when I was living in Spain. When I came to this country, I started visiting National Trust properties and other private houses… And that ignited my love for this type of decoration”. After talking us through his interior design inspiration, Carlos takes us through the rooms of his house, each decorated with objects full of meaning and memory. An expert on layering fabrics, Carlos explains the warm, colourful schemes he has created in his drawing room and bedroom, while also considering the importance of proportion in the ‘cottage rooms’ of the house, such as the kitchen, and the grander areas like the hall and dining room. Watch the full episode of Design Notes with Carlos Garcia, as we tour his historic country house with its textured, characterful interiors.

Released on 10/28/2022


[footsteps crunching]

[lively music]

We found this house eight years ago now by chance.

I was looking at an estate agent's website.

And I thought that was a very charming house.

It is a 1635 house.

It is very typical of the area.

Vernacular sort of architecture.

Mainly one room deep

and it has a considerable amount of interesting features

that are a little bit grander

than one of this house type would normally be.

Like for example, [indistinct] the rooms

from one end to the other.

And we like it very much.

We originally thought to come here for weekends,

and we have now decided to swap around.

So we mostly live here

and go to London, rather than live in London and come here.

The English country house decoration

has always been something that has attracted me,

even when I was living in Spain.

When I came to this country,

I started visiting National Trust properties

and other private houses,

and that sort of ignited my love

for this type of decoration.

And that is one of the reasons why I wanted

to move into interior design

because I loved the look.

I loved the eclecticism.

I loved the sort of mixing.

I love all those sort of things

that make the English country house special.

I like the house in different seasons.

The wonderful thing about this house

is that it's got beautiful light.

And in summer, you get a very cool house inside,

and with beautiful coming in.

And then in winter, it becomes incredibly cozy

with the fires, with the textiles

that have been chosen.

This is our drawing room.

I have this idea

that if you have three or four or five rooms in a house,

you need to use it.

That is the purpose of a house, to be used.

And we have drinks here.

We entertain, we listen to music,

we stay by the fire.

I wanted, with this room particularly,

to create a canvas where you can just build

and add things to it.

And that's why I chose a very sort of subtle,

simple color on the walls.

And I added all the texture

and all the sort of colors,

which are quite strong some of them

in order to give it that warmth.

I think there was someone that said

that it takes an enormous about of busyness

to make a room look quiet.

And I think this is probably the perfect example of it.

You can add no matter how much to it

but the room still feels calm and soothing and comfortable,

despite the bright colors.

Another aspect that I very much like

about interior decoration is the fabrics.

I relish everything to do with fabrics.

I pay an enormous amount of time

and attention to what fabrics are used for what.

The purpose they're going to have.

Adding depth and pattern to the room.

[tranquil music]

So we are in what we call our library

and it is a very, very small room

but it is incredibly comfortable.

It's also a very awkward room

because it's relatively narrow.

It works very well for us

and it is very comfortable and cozy.

We call it our granny flat

because it's effectively the part

that we live in in winter when we don't have gas.

This is a room to relax,

and for example, these two armchairs,

which are Victorian are covered in loose covers.

Plain and white cotton loose covers.

Because we have dogs,

and they do jump on furniture, just as we do ourselves,

they can be just put in the washing machine.

And it's incredibly practical.

So that's the main feature of the room.

Useful, practical, and comfortable.

This house could be quite chilly in winter.

So we decided to install a fireplace.

And we thought it was a very wonderful thing

to involve some local artist.

So one of the local artists is a ceramicist.

And we commissioned him to produce a set of tiles,

which are made in exactly the same way

as they were made 16th and 17th century.

Each one of them has been individually painted

with things that mean something to us,

from our dogs or to the gate of the castle

just down the road.

[tranquil music]

This is the perennially warm room in the house.

It is useful not just for cooking

but as you can see as well,

it is absolutely handy for very cold Whippets.

When I designed this kitchen

and what I tend to do when I design kitchens,

I tend to play with colors.

So we can actually make a differentiation

between different parts of the kitchen

and it doesn't feel so monotonally

like a big block of color.

Proportions are key when designing a room.

And this little dresser is one of the very examples.

It is a Welsh canopy dresser.

And this part of the house

is what I call the cottage rooms.

The ceilings are much lower.

The important aspect of this dresser

is that it's very low and therefore,

it has to be a little bit narrower.

Another thing that I'm very much into

is Staffordshire pottery, 19th century.

These particular hens, which are really bold

and they have the face of a perpetually surprised hen,

and this wonderful Prince of Wales,

which I adore the colors in particular.

For me, they're absolutely essential

for an English country look.

Another thing that I'm very much into collecting

is Mocha ware, 18th and 19th century Mocha ware.

They were used to serve pints in pubs effectively.

Originally, I started sort of gathering them on eBay

and they were very, very easy to find.

These days, they're ridiculously expensive,

so I think I have to move to a different type of pursuit.

[lively music]

This is our pantry or utility room

and it is the most useful room in the house,

particularly if you like entertaining.

You can prepare things here.

You can hold all your food.

It's very easy and it's very comfortable.

But the reason why it's incredibly useful

is because once you have had dinner,

you dump everything here

and you don't worry about it until the following day

in the morning, which is really wonderful.

It is an incredibly useful room.

All the shelves are exposed.

You don't have to have troubles opening doors,

and it's very, very practical.

It's also a very cool house.

We've removed all the heatings in here,

so all the food can keep a very good room temperature.

We decided to use the rooms in a different way.

For example, the dining room previously

was used as a sitting room,

and I decided to make it back into a dining room

because it makes sense.

It was closer to the kitchen, et cetera.

And this together with the hall

is probably one of the two rooms in the house

where I tried to keep a little bit more truthful

to the building itself.

I don't necessarily believe

that you have to decorate 100% accurate

with regard to the building

because it can end up being a bit like a museum.

These decorations in here,

they are a little bit more sort of truthful

to the essence of the house.

The furniture is more of the period.

Despite it all, I've tried to do some sort

of break with the rule

and do things like, for example,

the upholstery of the chairs

that have this very bright Persian stripe

or the color on the wall with some more blue,

more intense that you would have.

The decoration in these two rooms

is more austere, more sober.

But this is a nice example

of an early 17th century court cupboard.

The reason why I chose it

is because unlike the majority of court cupboards,

which are normally carved on the front,

this is also carved on the side.

It also has an incredibly beautiful oak color,

which is not incredibly dark

and it has this wonderful patina.

And the majority of the fittings

with the exception of these two little knobs,

they're original ones as well.

For the back of this wall,

I wanted to choose a very early tapestry as well.

This is called a verdure tapestry.

And the purpose of this tapestry

is not the tapestry itself

but it's to show the texture

and the depth that it gives to the room.

[lively music]

I wanted the bedroom to look distinctively old fashioned

and very comfortable.

So I decided to go for a four-poster bed.

This particular four-poster bed

or the two posts are Dealers of Lancashire

and they are 18th century.

We had the bed built around it.

The hangings for the bed

are made on the outside

of a 19th French chintz in linen

and the inside of that is a glazed cotton.

The fabrics are bought somewhere in London, I believe,

but the bed and the dressings have been all made locally.

For this bedroom,

I wanted a particularly calm color pattern.

And I decided to go for a probably unusual color

for a male bedroom,

which is this very soft pink walls on the side.

It's in fact an off white with some hint of pink

but it's absolutely soothing

and it changes with the light beautifully

and makes it really warm and comfortable.

I wasn't particularly sure about this cornicing

but when we realized that the cornicing

was actually original to the house,

I decided that it would make a really nice combination

to have this completely different

and unexpected cornicing with the rest of the room.

And I have grown to love it very much indeed

and I wouldn't change it for anything.

[tranquil music]

My main objective is that I did not want this house

to look decorated, and by that,

I didn't want this house to look

like it had been put together

in a very short period of time.

I wanted to feel settled,

like it had always been there.

And there are many aspects that help do that.

It is also full of plenty of things

that mean something to me or to my husband,

and that is crucial as well.

And no matter where you are looking at in this house,

there is always something that brings some memories,

whether it's a trip where we bought a painting.

It is always crucial to look around

and to feel that every item,

you have some degree of relation with it.

[lively music]

Starring: Carlos Garcia

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