A English country bedroom inspired by the country house that is the setting for Jane Austen’s Emma.
Welcome to the Virtual Book Club! This month’s book is Emma by Jane Austen. Many of the scenes in the book are set in Emma’s English country house. I have chosen to update a guest bedroom inspired by what I imagine an English country bedroom in that home may have looked like.
An overview of Jane Austen’s “Emma”
Emma is set in Highbury, England, in the early 1800s. It centers around the privileged and beautiful Emma Woodhouse, a young woman from a family of wealth who believes too strongly in her matchmaking abilities and has some romantic misadventures of her own. If you haven’t read it, it’s worth the time. Jane Austen’s writing style is filled with parody for a comedic portrayal of women of the time.
Updating a guest room
The guest room that I’m refreshing was my daughter Molly’s room. Molly is our youngest child and the last to move out. She’s six and nine years younger than our two older kids, and she went to four years of graduate school, so she was still using our house as home base up until a couple years ago. She’s been married for more than a year now, so it was time to give the room a refresh. Molly loves the color pink, and she chose the paint colors for this room as a young teen. The pink was pretty vivid and was accented with black and white floral and ticking stripes as the decor. It was a cute room for her teenage years. But, the pink shade was just a little too bubble gum for an adult guest room, and Molly agrees. I wanted to keep a feminine vibe with pink as the predominant color, but with a more sophisticated and grown-up feel.
The inspiration for the bedroom
Emma is set in the early 19th century during the Georgian-Regency period. This was a time of refinement and culture for the wealthy few, although poverty was rampant among the masses. Emma’s character was clearly among the ranks of the wealthy. I love the English country style with layers of fabrics, warm woods and an infusion of color. My room is not as elaborate as I imagine Emma’s would have been, but I found some inspiration from that time period. My research showed that, in spite of the opulence of the style, quiet colors and intimate spaces were the trend. Popular colors included light peach blossom, yellow pink and shades of white. A soft peachy-pink seemed like the perfect grown-up pink for this bedroom.
Start with the paint
The first order of business in giving this room a refresh was to address the paint color. This room already had a creamy white color above the chair rail. The problem color was the pink that was below the chair rail. You can see it in the photo on the left, below. I chose Sherwin Williams Romance. It’s shown in the photo on the right. It’s a much softer, muted pink. I may eventually paint the entire room in this color, but this is a nice first step.
Curate the furniture
Furniture of the Regency period was heavier than the Georgian period and made from dark wood. I happened to have the perfect bed and dresser for an English cottage bedroom. It belonged to my husband’s grandmother and is probably from a later time period than the Regency period, but with it’s dark wood and carved rose motif, it works well for the look I’m trying to achieve. The wicker rocker belonged to my great grandmother. It’s from the late 1800s and is probably more Victorian, but it provides a place for guests to sit, and it blends well in the room. If you don’t happen to have antique bedroom furniture, you can try thrift stores, Goodwill and Facebook Marketplace. Even if you don’t find the perfect furniture pieces, the English country look can be achieved with fabric and decor.
Finding a floral fabric
Most rooms in my house have a little bit of green. While I wanted this room to be predominantly pink, I knew I wanted some green to flow through the decor. I had a fabric remnant that I picked up on sale several years ago. It features a muted green background with pink tulips as the pattern, and I’ve always loved it. There was only enough to make an 18-inch square pillow cover, but once I made it, I knew it would be the inspiration for this room. I wanted to layer several fabrics, but one beautiful piece can make a big statement in a room.
Add layers of bedding
To achieve the English country look that I love, I wanted to add some layers with the bedding. I had a creamy white quilt that made a nice base layer. A quilt found at HomeGoods in the perfect shade of pink made a pretty second layer. It’s an exact match to the color of the tulips in my print fabric. Two creamy white pillows from Kirkland’s were the right size to pair with the floral pillow. They’re more of a modern farmhouse look, but they work. I like the eclectic look. A chunky off-white knit throw at the foot of the bed completes the bedding. While I thought I would add lots of color, the pink, green and cream palette was achieving the quiet colors look popular in the Emma era.
Lamps and decor help to complete the look
My mother gave me a Capodimonte porcelain lamp about a year ago that belonged to my grandparents. I never really thought I liked the lamp, but I loved my grandparents, so I took the lamp thinking I would find a place for it eventually. Capodimonte is very ornate, and it’s just not my style, but it looks charming in this bedroom. The colors are perfect with the fabric and bedding, and the lamp adds that bit of opulence to the room. It’s balanced on the other side of the bed by a glass lamp with a hurricane center. I added a couple of vintage-looking books to the nightstand topped with a bowl holding pink pearls. A little easel holds a picture of my grandmother as a young woman.
Wall art finishes the room
A thrifted floral print hangs above the bed. The gold frame is just ornate enough to carry the English country theme. I added a pair of platters above the nightstand. I might try to find some more colorful vintage plates in the future, but I think the platters work for now. A vintage mirror over the dresser is practical and pretty.
Virtual Book Club
Please visit my book club buddies and see what Emma-inspired home decor they’ve created! Click on the links below each photo to visit their blogs.