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Colorful Welsh Country Home

Color and light in a magnetic home for a couple who love to entertain 

From the Editors of Traditional Home
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  • Photographs by James Merrell
    Written and produced by Krissa Rossbund

    A journey to the Northern Wales country home of Austrian Countess Elisabeth Eltz and her husband harks back to the artful cinematography of many a warmly recalled historical film. Flocks of sheep dot the surrounding mountainsides like drifts of freshly fallen snow. Centuries-old villages beckon visitors to streets lined with timeworn architecture. Charming small shops—ranging from butchers to silversmiths—provide both the necessities and the little elegancies of life.

    When Elisabeth married her husband in 1990, he had already lived in the house for 17 years. It was his home base while visiting the U.K. location of his Austria-headquartered company. But his demanding work and travel schedule left little time for entertaining. The arrival of Elisabeth, an accomplished hostess, changed that.

    “After we married, we wanted our time here to include family and friends,” explains Elisabeth. “Our family members, who live mostly in other parts of Europe and the United States, have been great Anglophiles for generations, so we are able to provide them with a wonderful British experience and fond memories.”

    Not long after Elisabeth moved into the home, which was built in 1973, she devised a long-term plan for renewed interiors, hiring Chester, England, designer Mark Gillette, whose job it was to take the residence from austere to relaxed, comfortable, and inviting.

    “My role was always to provide a backdrop,” Gillette explains. “It was not about the decoration, but about the house, its beautiful setting, and the art and furniture collections. My goal was to update the house but not overwhelm or draw too much attention.”

    The design creates comfort with colorfully patterned fabrics that complement the textured wood surfaces of limed oak paneling and moldings framing the living room and library. Fabrics also warm the waxed walnut finish of the master sitting room.

    “I think the layering of pattern and texture that I strive for is an extension of the way I dress—a balance of new and old styles,” says the designer. “When I present my design plans, I often worry that these layers can be confusing and overwhelming at first, placed on an idea board in small pieces. But they are essential to achieve a sense of tradition and a home that has evolved over time.”

    The living room and library—which have doors that can be opened to enhance flow—boast riveting views of a landscape that includes manicured gardens, a pool, and wooded areas that afford fleeting glimpses of deer. The two rooms’ colors coordinate. A wool-and-silk rug with a dominant red ground in the living room inspired the palette. Gillette incorporated a gentler version of the color, a soft coral, on the sofas and on a pair of occasional chairs.

    The library’s palette is from the same family but more intense—like an outspoken younger sister. Nestled into a bay window, a sofa upholstered in a tea-stained linen depicting botanicals is flanked by drapery panels in a passionate red. Chairs covered in a Wedgwood blue mini-print work in both rooms, echoing the spectrum in the oil paintings.

    Effortlessly elegant, the dining room gleams, enhanced by the French doors’ mirrored panes that bounce light around the space.

    “People tend to design dining rooms so they are dramatic, and look good at night, when there is candlelight that reflects around the room,” says Gillette. “But it’s not always night. I didn’t want this room to be too heavy and overweighted with dark colors.”

    Also, to keep the dining room from donning the “boardroom look” that often develops when all the chairs are placed around the table, Gillette took several of them away and casually dispersed them in the living room and library to tie all the spaces together.

    Now that the interiors are complete, Elisabeth can let the house create its own patina—clear evidence that this is a place that has been lived in and loved by friends and family.

    “The house has the ability to be formal, but it is also very comfortable for the two of us, our guests, and our dog, Minnie,” says Elisabeth. “We have very busy lives and travel a lot, so the house has to be a calm haven. That it is.”

    Interior designer: Mark Gillette, Mark Gillette Interior Design Ltd., Mollington Grange, Parkgate Road, Mollington, Chester CH1 6NP, UK; 011 44 124 485 1897, markgillette.com.

  • Library

    The sofa’s multihued linen from Bennison injects color into the wood- paneled space. A sisal rug from Stark carpet is banded in red, echoing the color of the drapery panels and providing a soft, textural element on the tile floor. With their Wedgwood blue upholstery, matching Hepplewhite chairs provide additional splashes of color here as well as in the living room.

    Sofa (custom, by Mark Gillette): Mark Gillette Interior Design Ltd., 011 44 124 485 1897, markgillette.com.
    Sofa fabric (“Wheat Flower on Linen”): Bennison, 212/223-0373, bennisonfabrics.com.
    Sofa pillows: vintage fabrics.
    Drapery: owner’s collection.
    Drapery trim (by Claude Declercq, Declercq Passementiers): through Samuel & Sons, 212/704-8000, samuelandsons.com.
    Venetian blinds (wood): The Shutter Shop, 011 44 207 751 0937, theshuttershop.co.uk.
    Floor lamp: Besselink & Jones, 011 44 207 584 0343, besselink.com.
    Sisal rug: Stark Carpet, 212/752-9000, starkcarpet.com.
    Lacquer side table: The Parsons Table Co., 011 44 207 352 7444, theparsonstablecompany.com.
    Desk lamp: vintage.
    Blue chair: antique Hepplewhite.
    Chair fabric (woven to order): Bernard Thorp, 718/683-5100, bernardthorp.com.

  • Library Details

    Blue details stand out against the red drapery, matching sapphire hues throughout the living room and library.

  • Library Details

    Hepplewhite chairs wear a blue linen-and-cotton mini-print.

  • Dining Room

    Used for both breakfasts and elegant dinners, an antique Regency table—often set with English silver—can seat up to 12. The dining chairs are also scattered in other rooms to serve as a thread that pulls everything together, says Gillette. A red-and-ivory linen on the windows is from Pierre Frey. Enhancing the room’s understated formality are the mirrored panes of the French doors.

    Table; chairs: owner’s collection.
    Chair fabric (“Cravatta”): Opuzen Design, 323/549-3489, opuzen.com.
    Sisal rug: Stark Carpet, 212/752-9000, starkcarpet.com.
    Drapery (by Braquenié): Pierre Frey, 866/707-1524, pierrefrey.com.
    Picture lights: Mark Gillette Interior Design Ltd., 011 44 124 485 1897, markgillette.com.

  • Dining Room Details

    Silver sparkles in the dining room. “When there is candlelight, the mirrors give depth to the room, reflecting the light,” says designer Mark Gillette.

  • Living Room

    Gillette chose stripes hand-painted in colors that work well with the limed oak woodwork. Linen drapery panels are bordered with silk trim from Pierre Frey, tying them to the coral-colored sofa and chairs.

    Drapery (“Seville Texture”/Alabaster by Travers): Zimmer + Rohde, 212/758-7925, zimmer-rohde.com.
    Drapery trim (“Traviata Galon Gimp,” by Claude Declercq, Declercq Passementiers): through Samuel & Sons, 212/704-8000, samuelandsons.com.
    Red sofa: Peter Dudgeon Ltd., 011 44 207 589 0322, dudgeonsofas.com.
    Sofa fabric “Marldon”/Pale Tomato #F3701-09, by Colefax and Fowler): Cowtan & Tout, 212/647-6900, cowtan.com.
    Lounge chairs: Lawson Wood, 011 44 207 228 9812, lawson-wood.com.
    Chair fabric (chenille): Bailey & Griffin Fine Fabrics, 800/699-6554, baileygriffin.com.
    Cushions: vintage and 17th-century tapestry.
    Glass table lamp: Vaughan Designs, 212/319-7070, vaughandesigns.com.
    Blue chair: antique Hepplewhite.
    Chair fabric (woven to order): Bernard Thorp, 718/683-5100, bernardthorp.com.
    Walls: hand-painted washed stripes.

  • Living Room

    Vibrant colors and patterns drench the living room. Bright pillows on the neutral couch complement an avian oil painting above.

  • Exterior

    Built in 1973, the Welsh house is topped with a copper roof.

  • Portrait

    Countess Elisabeth Eltz enjoys the grounds outdoors.

  • Gathering Room

    The home’s entrance is equipped with an impressive fireplace and additional dining area, perfect for entertaining guests.

  • Master Sitting Room

    Against warm wall paneling, an 18th-century Aubusson tapestry covers a carved sofa of the same era. Striped draperies offer a handsome contrast to the delicate sofa.

    Sofa: antique.
    Sofa fabric: antique Aubusson tapestry.

  • Master Sitting Room Details

    Delicate details adorn the blue and white drapery.

  • Guest Bedroom

    Blue-and-white cotton toile saturates the guest bedroom—from the upholstered walls and the drapery panels to the bed skirt, table skirt, and quilted cover of the eiderdown that tops the painted caned bed.

    Drapery, bed skirt, bed coverlet, tablecloth (“Toile de Jouy”/Harvest): Design Archives, no longer in business.
    Sisal rug: Stark Carpet, 212/752-9000, starkcarpet.com.
    Drapery (by Braquenié): Pierre Frey, 866/707-1524, pierrefrey.com.
    Headboard (by Massant): available through Lars Bolander, 212/924-1000.

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