Home with a British Accent

With cherished antiques, clusters of collections, and a touch of chintz, this designer transformed a tiny condominium into a classic English retreat.


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Patricia McLean left her heart in London when she first visited 24 years ago, but she's brought as much of Great Britain back to her native Atlanta as her cozy condo will hold.

An interior designer known for her Anglophile look, she has filled her home chockablock with imported tea caddies, tufted footstools, and Regency-style antiques, making it the perfect place to sink into a velvet English sofa for a spot of tea.

"English style is about things collected along the way through your travels," says Tricia, as she's known. "The character of the room changes as you add bits and pieces, but even as it evolves, it always feels like home."

One of the keys to transforming her condo from nondescript box to stylish British abode is the strategic use of animal accents, so evocative of the late 19th century when the English began exploring Africa and other exotic lands. Tricia laid the groundwork for that look by running leopard-print carpeting up her stairs. She also replaced downstairs carpet with wall-to-wall sisal topped by a zebra-print rug in the dining room.

English adventurers might have thrown a cheetah pelt over an old wing chair, but Tricia updates that idea in her living room by dressing a French armchair in a favorite cut-velvet animal print. An English footstool, one of three in the room, sports the same fabric and is lavishly trimmed with tassels. "It's sort of like the Cosmo version of British Colonial," she says with a laugh.

+ enlarge image A mahogany cabinet conceals a television.

These playful touches are grounded by a pair of 19th-century George III-style chairs, which preside over the living room like royal elders. "They're the real deal," says Tricia, noting their original velvet fabric. "If they're a little bit tired, that's okay. That's part of the English style."

Despite the living room's modest size, it comfortably seats 10, thanks to an ottoman that doubles as a coffee table and another tucked beneath a console. "If it's on legs, stick something underneath it. That's the English way," says Tricia.

The 19th-century George III-style chairs in the living room flank a mahogany cabinet that conceals Tricia's television. An antique tea caddy and a lap desk, perched atop custom-made stands, serve as end tables.

+ enlarge image The gold dining room showcases a group of botanical prints.

Tricia painted her dining room gold to showcase a group of botanical prints. Pieces of her porcelain collection rest on and beneath the sideboard. "You can have furniture in your hallway," insists Tricia, who selected a slim Regency-style black lacquer cabinet for her upstairs landing.

Another touch is hanging artwork to the ceiling. In the dining room, reproduction botanical prints -- a gift from Tricia's friend, well-known English designer and author Lady Henrietta Spencer-Churchill -- take center stage, and in the living room, framed prints vie for space with porcelain plates and oil paintings.

+ enlarge image Upholstered ottomans double as extra seating.

Of course, in England, where heirlooms often predate the founding of the New World, collections of all sorts take pride of place, and Tricia's transplanted bit of Britain is no exception. Tortoiseshell boxes, papier-mache boxes, Staffordshire figurines, and silver pieces are artfully arranged on table tops throughout her home.

Tricia suggests that new collectors educate their eye by visiting fine antiques shops before expanding the search to flea markets, estate sales, and even retail chains. "If you're amassing a collection, every piece doesn't have to be as important as the next," she says. "Blue-and-white porcelain from Pier 1 mixes fine with Chinese export.

A reproduction tortoiseshell hangs atop a painting titled "Open Window," which stands in for the view that Patricia McLean's condo lacks.

"Find something you can afford to collect, and then the fun is in the looking," says Tricia, who has the best time looking in London. Summoning a quote from 18th-century poet Samuel Johnson, she blithely explains her Anglophile addiction. "When one is tired of London," she insists with a smile, "one is tired of life itself!"

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