7 places in Wales for interior design inspiration
As I slowly restore my Welsh cottage, I am constantly on the look out for inspiration and advice for how to capture authentic period style and great design from our region. The trouble was, when I first began, it wasn't immediately obvious where I could go for this input. We think it’s time to shine the spotlight on our fantastic heritage and places you can visit for ideas in your projects. From folk art and fireside settles, to picture-perfect interiors with worn stone floors, whitewashed walls and splashes of colour. Here are 7 of our favourite places to explore, to stay in and to source the antiques and furnishings to give your interiors a splash of Welsh style. Be inspired!
1. Spend the day at St Fagan’s Folk MuseumOur No 1 for interior design inspiration in Wales has to be St Fagan’s (https://museum.wales/stfagans/) in Cardiff. You can easily lose a day here – and if you’ve children in tow they’ll love it too. Step inside tiny rustic cottages and century-old farmhouses, rest awhile by the fire and drink in the atmosphere – there’s no better way to get a real sense of what life was like for the people of Wales in centuries past. From smoky, half-timbered Abernodwydd, a traditional ‘hall house’ - its fire open to the roof - to Llainfadyn cottage, simple and perfect with its whitewashed walls, 18th century oak dresser and bread and cheese cupboard (‘cwpwrdd bara caws’), to the deep red limewash of Kennixton, designed to protect against evil spirits. Finally (or if it’s raining) prepare to study classic pieces of Welsh design up close in the new galleries – where imaginative displays find everyday objects suspended in mid air. With so much design inspiration, you can truly immerse yourself in Welsh heritage here.
Photo: St Fagans Folk Museum, Cardiff
2. Explore Welsh VernacularJust a few miles from Llanachaeron is Welsh Vernacular Antiques (http://www.antiques-atlas.com/welshvernacularfurniture/) - a real treasure trove off the beaten track. Housed in a former chapel it holds one of the largest collections of Welsh antiques and quality country furniture in Ceredigion. We adore this rare slate folk art plaque with its soul motif and pin-wheel design, which probably originated from the slate mining regions of North West Wales. Was it carved by a quarry-man or slate worker as a gift for a loved one? Finer pieces displaying the makers’ skills were often entered into local Eisteddfod – a Welsh festival of literature, music, performance and craft still very much alive today. The collection at Welsh Vernacular is well worth a visit – which can be made by appointment with owners Jon and Yvonne. Sign up to Welsh Vernacular on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/welshvernacular/ ) for your regular fix of rustic Welsh buildings and objects.
Photo: Courtesy of Welsh Vernacular Antiques, Ceredigion
3. Stay in a traditional Welsh homeAre you ready to fully immerse yourself in our Welsh heritage? No 6 on our list is a delight. Not one beautiful place to visit – but hundreds! There is simply no better way to get traditional Welsh design under your skin than staying in a restored cottage. And the brilliant Under the Thatch (www.underthethatch.co.uk) has a huge range of sympathetically renovated properties to choose from. From a white-washed fisherman’s cottage on a Pembrokeshire cove, to a stone mountainside lodge in Snowdonia, these properties ooze tradition and style. We especially love Bryn Eglur which was featured in World of Interiors magazine. Staying at Bryn Eglur is like stepping back a hundred years – with fabulous antique furnishings and carefully crafted pared-back interiors - it’s no surprise it’s regarded as one of the finest traditional cottage interiors in Wales.
Photo: Courtesy of Under the Thatch (www.underthethatch.co.uk)
4. Source Welsh art and antiques in LlandeiloThe small market town of Llandeilo (http://www.visitllandeilo.co.uk/) is one of Wales’ best kept secrets. Picturesquely sited above the Tywi River, with its quaint streets and passageways, this is manna for interior design inspiration. The emphasis is on independent and boutique - with numerous art, antique, craft, dress, home and interior shops to explore. Llandeilo has two large antiques centres and two art galleries focused on high quality Welsh art. We love Oriel Mimosa on Market Street for its ceramics and strong collection of local landscapes, including some of Wales’ best artists like Aneurin Jones, Meirion Jones and Muriel Delahaye. Don’t miss the antiques fair weekends at the nearby Botanic Gardens of Wales, where antiques, collectables, retro and vintage take centre stage among the blooms of the giant glass dome. You are sure to pick up something amazing for your home.
Photo: Antiques Fair at the Botanic Gardens of Wales
5. Portmeirion: part Italian village, part fantasy world...
Rural North Wales has many surprises - but the biggest is surely Portmeirion (https://portmeirion.wales/)! Designed from 1926 by Clough Williams-Ellis on his own private peninsula, this ambitious and successful experiment explored how a naturally beautiful site can be developed as a tourist destination – to sublime effect. Portmeirion is part Italian village, part fantasy world, famous as the backdrop for the cult 1960’s series The Prisoner. Take inspiration from the layering of piazzas, pools and sculpture, the Mediterranean planting, the riot of coloured render and limewash, the varied forms of the buildings, and the architectural details – pantiles, arches, timber-cladding, scrolls and cupolas, much of them salvaged. Not forgetting 70 acres of wild sub-tropical woods and the white sandy beaches of the Dwyryd Estuary to explore. A designer’s dream - not to be missed.
Photo: Stunning Portmeirion
6. 18th century estate style at Llanachaeron
No 6 on our list is little-known Llanachaeron – a near-perfect 18th century villa by John Nash (architect of Buckingham Palace no less) with restrained Welsh interiors and a herringbone cattle-yard to die for. In the care of the National Trust, the house is simple and elegant, designed to make the most of views across the landscape. We particularly love the fine plaster friezes (no two are the same), the Edwardian kitchen range, the gnarled step-over apple trees in the garden. Not taken by polite George style? It’s worth visiting Llanachaeron for the service yard alone – almost unique in surviving in its original form. A house this size needs support, and the yard helps explain how; with dairy, dairy scullery, cheese press room and store, bake-house, smoke-house, salting room, brew-house and the dry laundry room all designed for maximum efficiency. We find these simple spaces some of the most atmospheric on the whole estate. (www.nationaltrust.org.uk/llanerchaeron)
7. The Dylan Thomas Boathouse, LaugharneLast on our list might come as a surprise – it’s not a grand museum or country house - no architect or a designer has had a hand in its making. The simple, iconic Dylan Thomas Boathouse at Laugharne in Carmarthenshire is where the poet lived for the last 4 years of his life and its ability to conjure up Wales gone-by is uncanny. Pause at his Writing Shed on the way up – preserved as he left it – red painted table strewn with papers, jacket draped over a simple wooden chair, plain floorboards, threadbare rug. There is something so perfect about this space, overlooking the Tâf estuary, and unsurprisingly this is where one of Wales’ finest poets was his most prolific. In the house itself you’ll find simple mid-20th century comfort – this is a place for antimacassers and barley sugar twist-leg tables, Staffordshire dogs on the mantelpiece and chairs the wrong side of shabby. The radio in the background is tuned to Thomas’ recital of ‘Under Milk Wood’. Drink in the atmosphere and then wander back down the lane, taking in the picturesque corners of Laugharne, before stopping at Browns Hotel (https://www.browns.wales/), a favourite haunt of the poet, now a stylish boutique hotel and restaurant.
Photo: Exterior of Dylan Thomas Boathouse