Confession: When I first visited London in my twenties, on my own and headed for art school, I fell madly in love. Since then, I’ve visited England every chance I get. I had never made it north to Scotland though, until last year when Mr. H and I decided to spend New Year’s Eve there.
The trip inspired SmithHönig’s newest collection Ravenswood (which we’re debuting at High Point Market this week!), and ever since, I’ve been happily reliving memories of castles, rocky landscapes, layers of history and – of course – men in kilts.
Last year, after a traditional Christmas dinner and gift giving with family, Mr. H and I headed for the airport. We spent a few days taking in London’s Christmas spectacles before heading for the open road.
Originally, I had wanted to rent a castle somewhere with friends which, believe it or not, can be cheaper than booking hotels and infinitely more interesting when you have a good group. I craved that Scottish castle experience. Maybe I’d been watching too many Outlander episodes? After a bit of searching, I was able to find a series of castle hotels that took us on a meander through the North of England and into the Scottish lochs and moors.
Our first stop was Beamish Hall Country House in County Durham, a restored 13th-century home that’s both casual and grand. The tall, undressed windows took center stage in our bedroom.
Decor included a slightly wobbly vintage bed, a small desk and framed pressed flowers on the walls.
From there it was on through the Scottish Borders, with our arrival into Edinburgh planned just in time for an amazing celebration. The Scottish New Year’s celebration is called Hogmanay and involves bagpipes and traditional Scottish reels. We dressed up in black tie and walked from our room at Prestonfield House in Edinburgh, past colorfully-lit topiaries, to a party I will never forget.
This was definitely the grandest (and chicest) hotel on our tour, but the party wasn’t at all pretentious or stuffy. Kilts swirled across the dance floor. Gray-haired men and bonnie lasses and young newlyweds and escaped Londoners and locals all laughed and shouted and exchanged stories and toasts. We made new friends and vowed to meet up again, same place, in two year’s time. It was a perfect way to ring in the New Year. The house itself was pretty near perfection, too. A decadent layering of antiques, tassels, fringes, brocades and velvets made it the perfect splurge for a design geek like me.
I loved the rough, unfinished floors in this sitting room, mixed with gilded furniture and embellished velvet drapes. (I’m pretty sure ‘decaying grandeur’ is my spirit animal.) Here’s Mr. H pondering the Jacobean uprising – or more likely planning what to have for dinner – in the Tapestry Room. The tapestry on the wall behind him is almost entirely black, having survived a fire many years before. I love a room with a good story.
The room was created by craftsmen working on the Palace of Holyrood House in 1687. Grand, yes, but there are comfortable sofas, board games and piles of books. We had tea and scones by the fire.
Red is the color of choice at Prestonfield. These fringe-trimmed drapes adorned the entrance to our hotel room.
Here’s a sitting room full of red stripes, plaids, velvets and brocades.
Having breakfast at Prestonfield was like stepping back in time – and up in rank! Mr H. made Downton Abbey jokes every morning, wondering when Carson (Cah-son) would bring him the newspaper. My soft boiled egg arrived in a silver plated egg cup, with a domed lid.
The adventure continued, which sadly meant leaving our Prestonfield life behind. On the way to our next stay, we discovered a country shop specializing in cashmere with locals-only winter pricing. We spent hours in the shop – with Mr. H trying on sweater after sweater, while I drank coffee in a chilly upstairs room. He left with pullovers in lavender, pine green and red and of course, gifts as well.
Then it was off to Barcaldine Castle, in Argyll, built in 1609 by “Black” Duncan Campbell and restored in 1890.
There, we slept in a carved four-poster bed commissioned in 1898, under bedding embroidered with Scottish thistles.
This was the most “castle-y” castle of our trip, which meant lugging our suitcases up a circular stone staircase and sitting under stag horns at breakfast. Our views, toward the loch, were peaceful and timeless.
Scotland is the ideal place to indulge your romantic side and immerse yourself in tradition, without getting all uppity about it. SmithHönig’s new Ravenswood collection of fabric, wallpaper and trim was inspired by the country houses of England and Scotland.
While designing, we played with the idea of tapestries and the chinoiserie wallpapers often found in grand old homes, but our take is modern and decidedly rural with its watercolor ravens. The colors are lively and on trend.
Ravens feature prominently in the countryside, as well as in British folklore. As long as the ravens stay in residence at the Tower of London, it is said, the royal family will be protected. (The Tower of London’s raven keeper has a seriously high pressure job!)
For the Ravenswood collection, we’ve created three new fabric patterns, two new wallpaper patterns and our first offering of bold, coordinating fringed trim.
Bring a bit of England and Scotland into your home.