Interiors: Dare to bare

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Natural materials such as wood, stone and bleached fabrics are enjoying a renaissance. Gabrielle Fagan finds out how to create a pared-down interior.

Stripping off and baring all isn’t simply confined to the beach this summer - the most fashionable homes are celebrating an unadorned back-to-nature style.

Think rooms in a neutral palette where the focus is on wood, either bleached or showing the beauty of its grain, together with stone, complemented by pure cotton and linen fabrics, and wool throws or carpets.

Colour tones are subtle, interest is provided in the varying textures and it’s a serene, uncluttered ‘less is more’ approach.

While it may fly in the face of the current passion for colour and decorative extravagance, it’s perfect for those who want a calm, tranquil interior whose appeal never dates.

“The natural home is a place where nature meets interiors, and it’s a celebration of a home that’s sensual, personal and imperfect,” says art director and stylist, Hans Blomquist who’s created the look in his own home and for many of his clients.

“Materials used in the natural home such as wood, stone, concrete and metal are allowed to age in their own time and are paired with antique and vintage objects where their wear and tear adds to their charm.”

He reveals the simple steps to create this unpretentious, homely effect in his new book, The Natural Home which also provides a through-the-keyhole-view of the style in homes throughout the world.

“This is far removed from the bright colour trend which is currently dominating,” he acknowledges.

“But I think we’re all longing for something more warm and inviting and where things have a spontaneity and are not so styled.

“This look is about interiors which have clearly been decorated and loved over the years, and where things just seem like they have fallen into place.”

Embrace ‘natural’ now and you’ll be ahead of the game decor-wise, because this look hits the high street in the autumn.

Stores such as Marks & Spencer, Next and House of Fraser are focusing on this trend, with ranges which would suit ultra-fashionable loft-style rooms with exposed brick walls and varnished timber floors, or any home where the emphasis is on functionality and comfort.

“Our Clerkenwell design theme marries tweed fabrics, checks and heavy woollen textures with hardwearing industrial materials to create a cosy look with a modern edge,” says Sally Bendelow, head of home design at Marks & Spencer, whose new ranges launch in August.

“Splashes of colour and fun nature motifs lift a look that is otherwise quite masculine in feel.”

So whatever the temperature outside, dare to bare at home and do what comes naturally.

AWAKEN WALLS

Banish thoughts of over-elaborate decoration for walls; these are the backdrop for a pared-back scheme and should be decorated accordingly.

Minimal change is needed if you’re lucky enough to have exposed brickwork, polished or aged plaster, or smooth walls which just need a skim of paint.

Strip back, paint or, more quirkily, paper with pages from vintage newspapers, or make a feature wall with a collection of sepia-coloured postcards or vintage prints.

“Nature’s an amazing inspiration for the colours for these rooms and it can range from off-white to deep charcoal grey,” says Blomquist who began his career in Sweden and whose style is rustic Scandinavian.

“I always find myself returning to a subdued palette made up of colours found in the natural world - wet sand, earth, bark, dried flax, thunderclouds, fields of wheat, bare branches and vivid spring growth.”

FABULOUS FABRICS

Fabrics made from natural fibres are an essential for the natural home, but beyond that there are no rights and wrongs.

“Textiles bring softness and warmth to any interior and I use them in every room, as loose covers on chairs and sofas, for tablecloths, as cosy woollen blankets or just folded and piled upon a chair as a still life,” says Blomquist.

“When it comes to colour, I love neutral undyed linens, because I like the range of hues from flax to ecru to grey, or cottons bleached by age and constant washing.”

He’s also drawn to darker shades such as charcoal grey, earthy brown and faded blue-black.

TAKE ON TEXTURE

Texture is the secret ingredient at the heart of the natural home, and different textures add depth, interest and richness to an interior.

“Think of scuffed and scarred wood, peeling paint, rusting metal, frayed fabric, bare stone or objects that have been worn and marked by the passage of time,” says Blomquist.

“I like to play around and layer texture upon texture in my home - the roughness of raw stone walls and unpainted wood alongside the dull sheen of antique glass or murky tarnished mirrors.

“To me, there’s nothing more beautiful than an old piece of furniture or other seasoned objects whose texture has been left untouched. I think it’s a shame when people buy antiques or vintage pieces and set about eradicating all traces of age.”

The Natural Home by Hans Blomquist is published by Ryland, Peters & Small, priced £19.99. Available now.