Amanda Brooks lives quite the charmed life. A former fashion director for Barneys, she boarded a plane from Newark to Heathrow with her family of 5 in June 2012 to embark on a yearlong creative sabbatical—and never returned. Today, she still lives in the same Cotswolds cottage that welcomed her and her family six years ago, coincidentally also the one where her husband, Christopher, grew up. In a heartbeat, Brooks traded the city rats and pigeons for pigs, donkeys, and horses, and the skyscrapers for orchards, barns, and stables.
What is a city girl—a fashion insider at that—to do in the English countryside—with Manolos traded for wellies and only one restaurant delivery option at her disposal—one whose owners have come to know her as "the American lady on the farm"? Write a book, maybe? This is precisely what Brooks did, with her latest tome Farm From Home, a romantic tale of her seemingly idyllic life in the Cotswolds, one filled with heartwarming tales and laugh-out-loud anecdotes, with picture-perfect photos of her cottage and recipes to match.
Step inside the quintessential cottage that this fashion insider now calls home—and pick up a few tips on how to decorate the English countryside way (even if you're not ready to leave the city just yet).
More Is More
Brooks's living room is what country home dreams are made of. A blue-and-red striped fabric covers the Chesterfield sofa, red antique chairs flank the fireplace, and a woven pendant hangs from the rustic beamed ceiling.
The lesson: Don't be afraid to mix and match patterns and colors in your upholstery. A damask ottoman and leopard pillows may sound like a lot next to the already colorful upholstery, but it actually ties the room together beautifully.
Create Cozy Corners
In the family room, a reading chair is perfectly positioned next to a cozy fireplace, complete with a reading lamp, footstool, and an entire library of books nearby. Brooks notes that in the colder months, she loves to hunker down in this room to write or answer emails.
The lesson: Create cozy corners like this floral reading armchair positioned under a reading swing-arm lamp next to a roaring fire. These layouts inform how you should interact with your home.
Storage Above All
Every country home needs a good mudroom. Here, coats and boots of all types and sizes line the walls in an orderly fashion. Riding essentials are displayed on a bench and a hardwearing doormat ensures that no mud gets past this room.
The lesson: Build out the storage that will keep your outdoor essentials at bay: from sports equipment to outerwear and footwear, everything should have its dedicated place to create a manageable and clutter-free entryway.
Make It Lived-In
In the kitchen, upper cabinets are nixed in favor of the view. A La Canche range keeps the room in line with its more storied past. Cookware and utensils are hung to provide convenient storage space that's easily accessible.
The lesson: Try to keep your kitchen in line with the architecture of the house, whether with period-inspired appliances or with small cookware and accessories. Add a lamp on the countertop and artwork on the walls to give the space a cozy feel.
Stay True to the Bones
The guesthouse's dining area is perhaps the most modern on the entire property. Once a farm building, it's now outfitted with midcentury Danish furniture, barn light pendants, and white-painted stone walls.
The Lesson: Know when to stay true to the bones of the house and when to depart from them. The architecture in this building was left mostly intact and the industrial pendants reflect the building's farming history. The Danish furniture provides contrast to the farmhouse style while still keeping a functionalist nod to the space.
Back in the living room, a window is dressed with heavy ochre curtains and a display of plants and stems from the garden. This, mixed with colorful antiqued pillows, provides yet another layer of accessories that add to the cozy feel of the cottage.
The lesson: Layer appropriately: Plants, pillows, and books can go a long way to make your space feel finished and lived in. Don't worry too much about the aesthetics of it. Instead, collect what you love over time.
Keep It Simple
Do as the Europeans and keep your outdoor dining area simple. Here, growing vines and plants along bird's egg arched doors create the perfect backdrop for a fabulous summer lunch. A simple table and folding chairs are covered with a white linen tablecloth and indigo batik cushions for comfort.
The Lesson: Keep it simple, and remember that antiques or vintage finds work just as well indoors as outdoors. Invest in the plants and surroundings rather than an expensive outdoor furniture set—it will repay you tenfold once it grows.
Next up: modern rustic décor ideas that will give you cabin fever.