A journey around my decor: where to find inspiration

Where should we go this summer for interior design inspiration?

I’m not that good at sitting still on vacation. As I get older, I’ll admit that the thought of staying in a horizontal position on the beach for an extended period of time is intoxicating. But most of the time I’m up within 10 minutes and ready to sniff out the nearest gallery, museum or beautiful interior. Looking at and admiring beautiful rooms, gardens and objects refreshes my eyes and makes my brain fizz.

So where to? I suggest planning a proper trip and finding a charming place to stay. Hotels, B&Bs and rental apartments can be a great source of design inspiration, so think of it this way: A short break can not only be a holiday, it can also inspire ideas. Basically it’s all research!

Where is on my list? I’m fascinated by Glebe House, an agriturismo of sorts nestled in the rolling green hills of East Devon but only three miles from the coast. Run by Hugo and Olive Guest, the home has six bedrooms. An in-house bakery and aging room offer homemade bread, pastries, cured meats and pickles. Reviews I’ve read about the restaurant are enough to put me on the next high-speed link to the West Country: Think Italian-influenced, simple dinners using local produce and garden bites.

The interiors, designed by Studio Alexandra, take cues from the Bloomsbury Group (big ole tick mine) and feature a charming mix of period furniture. So often I find that the interiors of otherwise fine small country hotels are nothing special: the bane of too much plain cream linen. I’m not entirely sure why this is the go-to look. Maybe to appeal to the masses? That’s not the case with Glebe House, where thoughtful color and pattern combinations abound.

Kettle’s Yard Gallery at the University of Cambridge © Paul Allitt

One place I’m really looking forward to visiting again this summer is Kelmscott Manor in Oxfordshire which has recently reopened after a £6million refurbishment. The 17th-century mansion was the family home of William Morris, the Arts and Crafts hero and pioneering designer, artist, author and social activist, for 25 years.

After a three-year closure for structural repairs, the rooms have been re-exhibited to give a more authentic impression of what they would have looked like during Morris’ tenure in the 19th century. The arrangement of furniture and objects, as well as the selection of new paint colors and Morris wallpaper, were informed by visual or written sources consulted during extensive research. I can’t wait to see the result: I’m hoping for a lot of atmosphere.

If you’re looking for brighter, brighter spaces, how about a trip to Kettle’s Yard? Homey house museums are often my first port of call when visiting a city, even across the big guns. The experience is a quieter, more intimate one. Kettle’s Yard, the University of Cambridge’s modern and contemporary art gallery, is brimming with inspiration.

There is the wonderful collection of 20th century art. But I’m also interested in the sofas and armchairs with airy slipcovers, tile floors, textiles and collections of objects in the museum, which is still as it was when Jim and Helen Ede, two well-known collectors of 20th-century art, lived in the house.

Kelmscott Manor, Oxfordshire

Kelmscott Manor, Oxfordshire © Chris Challis/Society of Antiquaries of London

Of course, Italy always comes out on top. I was recently in Naples with some friends and one mentioned a gallery that she wanted to visit to pay homage to a particular painting. The Gallerie d’Italia (which also has branches in Milan, Turin and Vicenza) turned out to be the highlight of our stay in southern Italy.

Outstanding exhibits include a Caravaggio and a wondrous collection of Greek pottery found in Athens, Puglia and Lucania. The building itself is quite an austere, elegant looker, designed by Marcello Piacentini in the late 1930s and formerly the headquarters of the Banco di Napoli.

After that we hiked. I love nothing more than getting lost in an Italian city, as almost every street offers a delicious aesthetic gem: a gallery or church perhaps; a stone fountain built into a wall; a painted shop sign; the shape of a window. Keep your eyes open – inspiration can hit you when you least expect it.

Admittedly, after a day of culture on the stiflingly hot streets of Naples, I was more than ready for splashes and sun loungers. When on vacation you need the best of both worlds, don’t you think?

If you have a question for Luke about design and stylish living, email him at lukeedward.hall@ft.com. Follow him on Instagram @lukeedwardhall

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