When the mercury hit 40 back in July, many of us wished our homes were better equipped to deal with extreme heat. While we can’t transform a country cottage or London townhouse into a Provençal chateau overnight, we can still learn some design lessons from Mediterranean interiors.
‘Mediterranean design’ can be difficult to pin down - in part because this style actually borrows from all over the world. And yet certain features make it instantly recognisable, like swathes of natural light, a heady mix of natural materials, and a total embrace of the surrounding landscape.
A common misconception is that it means whitewashed. While you will see plenty of white both inside and out of Mediterranean properties, the true essence of the approach is rooted in colour - a palette inspired by the natural world surrounding the property.
Mediterranean interiors are laid-back yet considered. They're rooted in nature yet they feel contemporary. Below, we discuss a few ways you can bring this look into your own home - whatever the season.
Some are lucky enough to inherit a Mediterranean feel when they move into a property. Ever since the years of the ‘Grand Tour’, British architects have looked beyond our island confines for property inspiration. Archways connecting indoor and outdoor spaces, or courtyard gardens stemming seamlessly from bedrooms or living spaces, provide a natural starting point for Mediterranean-inspired living. It's not all luck of the draw, though, and you can lean into this style through renovating or just decorating.
Mediterranean design relies on organic textures, and this starts at the base level of a space. For example, raw plastered walls, stone flooring and plenty of tiles naturally create a villa feel. Sometimes this is in cool, neutral tones, but not always. Indeed, anyone who visited Portugal this summer will have seen plenty of ‘azujelos’; their iconic royal blue and saffron yellow patterned tiles. Terracotta, too, is at the heart of the Mediterranean look, with its warm earthy tones exuding depth and character.
Terracotta flooring instantly bestows rustic chic on a property, while marble floor and wall tiles bring timeless palatial luxury. However, like with any design device, you can go big or small. Use decorative tiles to create a statement washbasin splashback or to surround a garden fountain or statue, and get your terracotta fix from indoor and outdoor planters.
Throughout the Cotswolds, you’ll often spot sage green shutters in the windows of traditional stone houses. These serve the practical purposes of keeping onlookers and the weather out, but shutters are also synonymous with Mediterranean style. Look to these as a simple way to transform the feel of your home without making any major changes.
As we’ve already mentioned, texture is the crux of Mediterranean design. It relies on natural materials to bring a living, evolving feel to indoor spaces.
Timber is a key ingredient in this, and the more rustic the better. Natural wood brings much-needed warmth to Mediterranean interiors, especially where you do have an abundance of white or neutral shades. Think live edge dining tables and driftwood sculpture, complete with every knot, burl and medallion that speak to their long life.
Similarly, rattan has always brought a sense of warmer shores to our homes. This versatile, strong material is synonymous with laid-back living, whether it's used for a chair or just a lampshade. Rattan and wicker offer a ready canvas for soft furnishings, providing just enough structure while imbuing a space with a welcoming feel.
On that note, linen is your go-to material for softening such a space. The flax plant is native to the eastern Mediterranean, and creates a fabric that’s at once soft and textured - characterised by its raised slubs and flecks. Use a sheer linen for drapes that let dappled light in, or stronger blends for bedding or scatter cushion covers.
Relics of land and sea
The eclectic range of antiques that survive from this corner of the world testify to its diverse history. From furniture to objets d’art, these relics infuse our homes with character and intrigue.
Vernacular Spanish timber tables and benches with heavy, simple joinery ground interiors with their primitive aesthetic and sense of craft. Italian and French armoires, complete with remains of old paint, bring relaxed, farmhouse charm to a bedroom. You can also nod to this style with smaller decorative pieces, like French confit pots with their dripping glaze frozen in time.
Lighting is key to keeping Mediterranean interiors cosy and welcoming in dark winter months. Look to weighty cast iron candelabras and towering candlesticks for magical, atmospheric lighting. For more practical task lighting, choose gilded sconces or table lamps crafted from marble, travertine or ceramic.
We’re fortunate to have a host of sunburst mirrors brightening up our showrooms at the moment. Most originate from Spain or France, and some are by Chaty Vallauris - the Provence-based design house that made the sunburst their iconic legacy. These statement mirrors, with their mesmerising rays and glittering gold leaf, guarantee sunshine on even the bleakest midwinter day.
The Mediterranean embrace of the natural world extends to art and ornaments, too. From giant ammonite fossils to conch shells that whisper of the sea, nature’s sculptures bring a sense of the scale and history of our earth into our homes. They remind us of past travels and encounters and evoke the curiosity of our visitors.
The Mediterranean garden
When we think of the Mediterranean, the natural landscape is often the first thing that comes to mind - and not just the sea. From the vivid trails of Bourgainvillia that line Grecian streets, to French fields of lavender, each corner of the Mediterranean has its own chorus of mesmerising flora.
Mediterranean Sea Holly grows wild in this and other parts of the world, but you will also find the spiny plant in some British gardens. Recognisable for its blue, green and violet colours, this herbaceous perennial is as eye-catching as it is low-maintenance.
Olive and bay laurel trees are other staples of Mediterranean gardening, as are citrus trees - although these are better suited to an orangery during the British winter. Watching fruit grow from a mere seed is a rewarding antidote to seemingly endless grey days.
In the kitchen, keep rosemary, sage, or tarragon plants on your windowsill. If they don't spark culinary inspiration, they'll at least waft the scent of the Med your way.
Some of us long for the warmth of a Mediterranean summer all year round, but British reality is… well, quite different.
While this style may feel more instinctive in the summer months, it's actually accommodating of all seasons. The trick is textiles - of every kind, in every room. These form a crucial layer in the make-up of any space, but especially in Mediterranean interiors.
Rugs and runners offer welcome respite from cool stone flooring, while window dressings will soften stone or tiled walls. Contrast is key for keeping your surroundings stimulating as well as comfortable; the coarse texture of a hemp rug softened by woollen throws or sheepskin, for instance.
Textiles offer an opportunity to satisfy our cravings for colour on grey days. The Mediterranean basin was once a vibrant trading ground for pigments, and these original colours offer a springboard for decorating. Blend jewel-like indigo blues and malachite greens with earthier tones of ochre and madder red to evoke Mediterranean interiors.
It can be hard to know where to begin when it comes to such a ubiquitous design style. Browse our lookbook to inspire your own Mediterranean journey.