This month in "Melbourne Home & Living Magazine, Lara Bailey writes about my new book "Country Style & Design"...

"Having spent his childhood at historic Pigeon Bank in the Yarra Valley, Melbourne-based interior designer Justin Bishop had a love of all things country instilled in him from a young age. His book, Country Style & Design, was published recently, and as Lara Bailey discovers, Bishop has much wisdom to impart to avid home decorators.


With a collection of stunning imagery gathered over a number of years and expert hints and tips for creating a beautiful country aesthetic in your home, Justin Bishop’s Country Style & Design is a stylish and accessible book that will prove invaluable for anyone longing for a country-style home.

While there is no doubting the allure of a sleek and striking contemporary home, there is certainly something to be said for the raw beauty and elegance of a country-style design.

The epitome of comfort, warmth and timelessness, well-executed country-style homes provide distinct charm that will stand the test of time and enchant even the fussiest house guests.

Here, Bishop explores his love for country design and reflects on his experiences in compiling material for his book. With an encyclopaedic knowledge on the topic, he is the perfect source for interior design advice.


Bishop’s earliest experience with country-style interior design took place when his parents’ vision to restore Pigeon Bank to its original condition, complete with genuine period details, took hold.

“My father was keen to give the house a grand facelift. Sometimes his decision-making leant more towards ‘city mansion’ than ‘country farmhouse’, however my mother held her ground firmly. The renovation and restoration of Pigeon Bank was sympathetic to its origins and it personified true country style,” he says in Country Style & Design.

With the knowledge instilled from this experience informing his career later in life, Bishop is wellplaced to offer advice on how to best achieve the country-style design he so adores.

“My idea was to present a stunning book for those wishing to emulate this style of design, whether they live in the country or the city, in a mansion or an apartment. They may be relocating, renovating, or simply looking to be taken on a journey by a book about a style they love,” he says of the book.

Bishop believes it’s the appeal of country living, combined with its irresistible design elements, that makes country-style décor so enduringly popular.

“It’s a practical lifestyle – more priority is given to practical requirements and general lifestyle considerations. Country living can often be perceived as being a slower, quieter way of life, but in no way is it cut off from the happenings of city life, thanks to modern technology! There is a wonderful feeling of self-assurance in removing yourself from the pressures of city life, and embracing a wholesome country attitude. It’s a very fulfilling lifestyle choice.”


Bishop suggests the big picture is as important as the smaller details when it comes to achieving genuine country-style design, and that it’s best achieved on various levels, large and small.

“For the best results, think about the ‘overall’. True country style should work from the architecture of a room as well as the fine details. This doesn’t mean you should consider rebuilding, however, large, open-plan designs can appear too contemporary [for this style, so] consider dividing up large areas into zones to create more traditional, intimate spaces. Use furniture in groups; [arrange] rugs and lighting to achieve this.

“Large, freestanding furniture is another way to achieve a country look. Built-in kitchen cabinets could be replaced with freestanding timber dressers and kitchen tables [for example].”


One of the things informing Bishop’s interpretation and application of country-style design is an aversion to colour, which he feels is key in achieving a genuine country look.

A subdued and restrained approach to colour can result in an authentic and tasteful design.

“I have often said that I do not like colour. For the most part, this is true. I do, however, use colour on the odd occasion as an accent or to work in with an existing colour scheme. The correct colour choice plays an important part in setting the tone for a country house, and I use natural colours wherever possible.

“[The key is to] work with a controlled colour palette. Colours that calm, such as white, beige, brown and antique gold, work into the accents of a country colour scheme. These colours are integrated onto walls, found in floor coverings and divulged in decorative accents.

“Warm whites and creams are my first choice … with accents in timber and other natural tones. If you’re keen on including colour in a [countrystyle] room, use restraint. Perhaps limit your choice to one or two colours – for example, a pale blue or olive green – that blend in with an otherwise neutral colour scheme.

“Wherever possible I like colour to be faded and aged; to have been painted or printed years ago and have lost its strength over time. While this may sound like a purely decorative concept, it works well in practical situations. It is as much about the colour itself as the objects I combine.

I might use faded blue linen on a kitchen breakfast table, red leather in a dining room or study, or soft green silk curtains on a window looking out to a garden.

“A controlled use of colour will not overpower a room, but draw harmony to it. It is a subtle approach and works well when combined with an otherwise neutral colour palette.”


Bishop says he’s been inspired by a range of styles from places across the globe that have shaped his notion of country-style décor.

These include Upstate New York, Connecticut and Maine in the US; rural Scotland, north of Edinburgh, Stirling and Glasgow; Yorkshire and the dales areas of Britain, and last but not least, the Australian Outback.

By identifying which style you most associate with or most aspire to, you can begin planning your country-style interior.

“The look of Outback Australia is basic and raw, with a solid ‘no-fuss’ attitude, while French style is lighter and always includes a touch of glamour,” he says.

“English country-style represents a slightly battered country estate look, with plaid, striped or floral accents. American country is grand yet rustic – think large log cabins and stately ranch houses, built to last.”

Bishop’s book goes into great detail about the various elements that comprise English, French, American and Australian country-style design, and can help you discover which style suits you best. If you’re drawn to a certain type of backdrop, accessories or furnishings, you may find one style stands out to you as being the best for your home.


Bishop advises that homeowners not be discouraged about achieving country-style design, even if their home or apartment is cramped or lacking space.

“Most of my tips [in the book] … lend themselves to smaller spaces. Light colours are a good option in [small spaces] and allow as much natural light into the space as possible. Also, definitely work with a theme – try to choose pieces with commonalities, i.e. similar tones and in timber and fabrics, and restrained, harmonious colour schemes. Avoid too much clutter by controlling your collections. [A good idea is to] group items into small vignettes on shelves or tabletops.

“Another idea is to think of your décor as an overall ‘collection’. Choose items that are focused on throughout your scheme. They should work well together because they have a common thread – they may be from a similar era or style [for example], [or] they may be a similar colour or texture. This way you will create a feeling of harmony and avoid an over-cluttered chaos!”

There’s nothing quite like curling up in a cosy blanket next to a roaring fire and taking some time out to read a book, and homes with a snug and welcoming country-style aesthetic have this ambience in spades. If you’re careful with colour, avoid clutter and select the best products for enhancing your space, you can have a timelessly decorated house that truly feels like a home.

Bishop says it best: “[Country-style design] transcends time and can be carried over generations. It’s not precious; I love that it demonstrates an aged character and history through the authentic nature of its design. It evokes a feeling of days gone by; of remembering ancestors and your family origins.”

Country Style & Design by Justin Bishop, published by Images Publishing, is available now. RRP $59.99.