Much of the coverage of Queen Elizabeth II’s September 8, 2022 death has focused on her seven decades of service, her meetings with other world leaders, her famous family, the love of her subjects, her dogs, fashion taste and funeral. Little – if anything – has been written about her impact on home design taste and trends. They’re worth a look.
“Conservative is the first word that comes to mind when describing Queen Elizabeth’s style or taste,” observes New York-based architect and historian Kate Reggev. “The Queen lived through some of the most exciting, innovative, and rule-breaking decades in the design and architecture worlds; however, she made few alterations to the historic homes she resided in, likely out of a sign of respect and deference to her lineage and the throne’s past (but also perhaps a reflection of her personal style).”
Enduring International Influence
British-born, Malibu-based interior designer Barrie Livingstone regularly visits the U.K. and incorporates elements of British influence in his design projects. In fact, he’d just acquired two pieces of royalty-inspired wall art that were hanging behind him when interviewed by NewsNation about the Queen’s death. “Traditional period styles in England vary from farmhouse to manor to city townhouse, but on the whole traditional interiors and the Queen’s home styles really do set the tone for good taste,” he asserts.
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Other hallmarks of her home style include antique textiles, tapestries and fabrics rich in vibrant colors used in all rooms, he notes, and Persian and ottoman empire rugs laid on unique antique old growth wood floors. And of course, there’s an impressive collection of art. While even the typical well-to-do California or Cambridge homeowner doesn’t have a royal budget to work with, you do see those influences in homes on both sides of the pond, especially the desire to personalize with one’s own precious collectibles and art collection.
Livingstone also cites heavy oak beams and huge stone blocks from the Queen’s Sandringham and Balmoral castles and Buckingham’s decorative ceilings, door moldings and ornate door handles as hints to her traditional architectural taste. These also show up in traditional and eclectic homes on several continents.
London-based Vanessa Brady, CEO of the Society of British & International Interior Design, describes the Queen’s taste as “classic” and unchanging. “She did not alter her dress style over the years at all. Her home in private areas was also the same.” Neither was dull or dated. “She liked colour, pattern, rugs, and flowers; it was a true English eclectic style with many porcelain décor items and gold-adorned artifacts. Drapes and carpets were subtle and timeless.” Brady notes that if you “think of a country house hotel, you’ll have a general idea of the Queen’s style for her private homes.” She liked tradition, but also comfort and privacy.
The Queen’s residential spaces were about family and relaxation – and about her legendary dogs, (mostly corgis). She is even said to have a room exclusively for their use! That doesn’t mean they didn’t spend time with their dog mom and other family members in the private quarters, and there was much coming and going. (Elizabeth II was often photographed with her pups.) “Over the course of her life, she owned over 30,” Livingstone comments. “Long walks in the woods and across the moors at Balmoral meant muddy boots and mudrooms that were well used in all her homes,” he adds.
The mudroom is an architectural trend that definitely shows up widely — and is a welcome addition to homes everywhere, the Malibu designer observes. “It helps us prepare entry from the outside to the interior. I love seeing how important they are at any location, whether rainy and muddy up north or at warm beaches where you enter all oily and with sand.”
“I would be curious if there were particular pieces in certain rooms where she requested dog-friendly materials that would be easy to clean in case of accidents or for easy removal of dog hair,” Reggev speculates. “In the images and videos I’ve seen over the years, it is not possible to tell.” (The Queen’s dogs will be moving in with Prince Andrew and his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, it has been reported.)
When you think of royal residences, you think about their expansive, well-manicured grounds as much as the grandeur of their architecture. “Her gardens observed history and she had wonderful advisors,” Brady notes.
“Traditional English gardens feature neatly laid-out areas lined with decorative hedges, ornamental specimen trees and bushes, along with spectacular water features, fountains and ponds,” Livingstone says. They are also rich with flowers in the Spring and Summer.
“The queen’s love of the outdoors kept her returning to her beloved Balmoral Castle set in the far north of Scotland,” Livingstone recalls. “It provided the seclusion and freedom she constantly craved,” he adds. Given that her son and heir to the throne, King Charles III, has a well-known affection for classic architecture, these are unlikely to change.
Decorative styles through the centuries often carry the names of past monarchs. The best-known are probably Louis XIV and Victorian. Since Elizabeth II’s taste looked back more than forward, we may not see an Elizabethan style, but that doesn’t mean her 70 years of royal presence won’t have an impact on residential design at home or abroad.
“I’m sure this loss will generate a profound influence of revived patterns and colour in fabrics and trends in residential interiors as people reflect on the comfort and timelessness of the style that we see as the private home and living area of the Queen,” Brady predicts. She concludes, “I think the American love for all that is British has never faded and the influence that design has on our lives and how we feel is now recognized as a value for well-being and safety.” Those are certainly reflected in wellness design trends here and abroad.