A Country Christmas

Vibrant colours and beautiful fabrics make Fenella Cockcroft’s Yorkshire home the perfect setting for the festivities.

In a home steeped in family history, interior designer Fenella Cockcroft takes great pleasure in preparing for a traditional Christmas, complete with all the trimmings. Her husband, Toby, their three children, Coco 18, Otto 17 and Rocco 14, and their adorable basset hounds Mabel, Bugsy and Snuff make quite a crowd before you have even included the many friends and relatives they are surrounded by in their delightful corner of North Yorkshire.

‘My family has lived here for generations,’ Fenella shares. ‘My mother still lives nearby, I was brought up on a farm, just over the hill from our house.’ When she and Toby first married, they lived in a rented cottage there, before buying this property from her grandmother. ‘It was a row of three little farm cottages, built by my grandfather in the 1930s and we converted them into one house,’ says Fenella. 

They took advantage of the period when the builders took over by going to live in South Africa for a year. The inspiration that Fenella absorbed in terms of light and colour, travelling around this fascinating country, plus the souvenirs she returned with, explain the exotic cocktail of styles contained in her home. ‘I try and bring something back from every holiday actually,’ she shares. Fenella is an expert at mixing patterned, ethnic fabrics in unexpected colours, with traditional British heritage pieces. 

Her home has a beautifully layered appearance, which she says is best achieved over time. ‘Don’t try and do everything too quickly,’ she advises, ‘You get a much more organic result by taking your time. Get the bones right first, of course, do the boring stuff, then experiment with colour and pattern to your heart’s content!’ She believes in using the best fabrics you can afford throughout your home, in every room. ‘Never save the best for formal rooms, use the best every day,’ she quips. 

She sells her exotic soft furnishing products, which include pleated fabric lampshades, upholstered headboards and sari fabric cushions, online and at country fairs. Meanwhile her interior design work has an international following and she has clients in all sorts of far-flung locations, from Barbados to London and Capetown.

The kitchen, open plan to the cosy snug, is the beating heart of this welcoming family home. ‘We all help with the cooking at Christmas and love to chat around the island. Anyone who wants to cosy up with the dogs in the snug can still join in though,’ Fenella explains. 

The original drawing room has become her design studio and workshop over the years, so she and Toby built on an additional drawing room in the style of an orangerie for the family. It is a space that you can use all year round from which you can enjoy the amazing views that change radically with every season. ‘Spring, summer and autumn are all stunning to watch, but most of all, I love sitting here at Christmas time with candles flickering and fairy lights twinkling on the tree,’ she shares, ‘It is a wonderful setting for a sparkling Christmas lunch.’ 

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