Elegant understatement at Christmas? This rustic home shows how

With its wooden beams and natural warmth, this family home is the ideal setting for a rustic Christmas

large green kitchen island in oak frame house
(Image credit: Robert Sanderson)

Finding the right house in the first place can be a difficult task, so this family took another route – building their own property from scratch and creating a home that truly caters to all their needs – especially in holiday season, when they can dress the house with their favorite Christmas decor ideas and invite family and friends to share in the festivities.

Set in a rural landscape, surrounded by open fields with views of distant hills, and with a brook at the end of the garden, it was a hugely appealing option that cried out for a suitably stunning dwelling.

oak frame house exterior front door with christmas wreath

(Image credit: Robert Sanderson)

For owners Merry and Ben Albright, the solution was simple. Merry is creative director and Ben is managing director of Border Oak, a company specializing in the design and build of bespoke oak-frame homes.

The couple planned to create something super-contemporary home, but it was turned down by the planning department. Next, they opted for a more traditional design, but that was rejected as well.

’The planners suggested that instead, we designed from the heart. Ben and I have always loved old barns, so, with the help of our architect, our dream home evolved, laid out as three barns joined by glazed corridors and centered on a large leafy courtyard.’ 

This time the plans were passed, creating a series of voluminous interlocking light-filled spaces, all in natural materials, some topped with double-height apex ceilings, every room with access to the garden.

The front door leading into a lobby, is where the family leave dirty boots or logs to be stacked.  Merry made the large wreath made from garden foliage – a great idea when you're looking for Christmas door decor ideas.

long hallway in oak frame house with armchair

(Image credit: Robert Sanderson)

‘We incorporated two halls and wide corridors and many glazed sections, so there are no dark corners,’ says Ben. Long vistas open up from one corner of the house to the other, and every space enjoys a direct garden view, bringing the outside in.

These spacious passageways are carefully decorated, incorporating hallways ideas such as seating areas and wall decor ideas to bring warmth and character to the contemporary design.

Striking sitting room

sitting room in oak frame house with fireplace and large windows

(Image credit: Robert Sanderson)

The double-height sitting room, which is centered on an oversize fireplace decorated in natural fir, is an exhilarating space enjoying views from three sides. The walls are painted in Whiting by Edward Bulmer.

oak frame house sitting room with glazing on three sides decorated for christmas

(Image credit: Robert Sanderson)

The room enjoys views from three sides, linking indoors and out, white the rustic coffee table complements the oak frame.

One of the luxuries of building from scratch is being able to incorporate special features. For instance, there are some internal vintage windows upstairs to bring in more daylight.

As part of their living room lighting ideas, uplighters were buried into the brick hearth in the sitting room to draw attention to its exhilarating height.

A harmonious color palette

double height hallway and stair decorated for christmas

(Image credit: Robert Sanderson)

Merry’s preferred style is rustic but also minimal and pared back. The palette is a blend of muted natural shades of greens, greys and inky blues united against a backdrop of milky whites. 

Ben, by contrast, likes vibrant pops of color in pictures and backs of window frames to inject ‘irreverent’ fun, generating a homely feel. 

A compromise has been reached as Merry hates matching plates and so allowed color to creep into her china cupboard. ‘Color makes me quite nervous,’ she admits.’ I worry about making wrong decisions.’ 

They toyed with the idea of painting the kitchen island unit bright orange, but Ben saved the day, realizing orange was a step too far for his wife. 

Cozy snug

snug with navy blue wall and gallery wall

(Image credit: Robert Sanderson)

Merry's collection of prints in vintage frames from markets, secondhand shops and auctions lines the wall behind the sofa in the snug. 

Snug room ideas tend to focus on deep colors, luxe textiles and lots of layers – a look perfected by Merry and Ben in this space.

Generous kitchen island

large green kitchen island in oak frame house

(Image credit: Robert Sanderson)

Focused on a generously sized island unit, the kitchen is a simple Shaker style made locally. 

Shaker kitchen ideas suit oak-frame homes like this because of their sturdy simplicity. They don't look overdone, or by contrast, too delicate for the scale of the property. 

A kitchen island idea that plays with size and shape to create a real focal point also works well in this capacious home.


oak frame house utility room with butler sink and painted cabinets

(Image credit: Robert Sanderson)

Merry and Ben opted for a pantry-meets-utility room to create an additional work and storage space.

pantry with glass jars organization

(Image credit: Robert Sanderson)

Deep open shelves in the pantry were painted in Flaxen Grey by Edward Bulmer. Provisions are decanted into new and vintage glass jars – a great tip when you're looking for pantry organization ideas.

Dining room

dining room with mismatched blue and white wood chairs

(Image credit: Robert Sanderson)

The dining space divides the kitchen and the snug. The extending table is surrounded by a deliberate mis-match selection of chairs ranging from 1930s Windsor and 1980s repro Georgian dining chairs, some sandblasted and others painted in Azurite by Edward Bulmer Paints. 

The result shows how relaxed and welcoming dining room ideas can still look stylish. Merry and Ben's Christmas dining room decor takes its cue from the simplicity of their home and the natural materials it is built from – a few sprigs of holly bring a fresh and seasonal look to the table.

Cozy main bedroom 

bedroom in oak frame house with oil painting and beamed walls

(Image credit: Robert Sanderson)

Exposed beams in the walls of the master bedroom give this room a robust classic manor house feel that's enhanced by the oil painting portrait of a Victorian gentleman. The look is one of the simplest country bedroom ideas, letting the architecture shine and creating a cozy vibe with warm lighting and the comfiest of bedding.

Cabin-style guest bedroom

cabin style bedroom with bath in room and oak panel walls

(Image credit: Robert Sanderson)

Warm tones of wood planking give the spare room a cozy log cabin vibe. Here, the wall paneling ideas showcase the natural tone and texture of wood as a complement to the oak frame of the building itself. 

Andrea Childs

Andrea has been immersed in the world of homes, interiors and lifestyle since her first job in journalism, on Ideal Home. She went from women's magazine Options to Frank. From there it was on to the launch of Red magazine, where she stayed for 10 years and became Assistant Editor. She then shifted into freelancing, and spent 14 years writing for everyone from The Telegraph to The Sunday Times, Livingetc, Stylist and Woman & Home. She was then offered the job as Editor on Country Homes & Interiors, and now combines that role with writing for sister title homesandgardens.com.