House Design

5 design tips to steal from this colorful 18th Century English folly

The historic home was designed by the architect who built Blenheim Castle...

Exterior of an English summer folly
(Image credit: Unique Homestays)

Nestled within the grounds of one of England's greatest country houses, this English summer folly boasts an abundance of pattern and color behind its ancient rose-covered walls.

The home was the final creation of  architect Sir John Vanbrugh – who also built Blenheim Castle – and was built in the 1720s.

Called The Summer Folly, the retreat is settled in the grounds of Grimsthorpe Castle, and now serves as a curious holiday retreat in the UK's rural Lincolnshire. Beginning life as the estate’s summer house, it's played host to picnics and parties for visitors, housing estate workers and even hid an anti-aircraft battery during the Second World War.

Inside, a curated mix of hues and pattern have created an exquisite home that's also warm and inviting. Intricate, hand-painted murals (designed as a personal account of the previous tenant’s life in the style of a Renaissance take on Pompeii) adorn the ceilings and walls of the living room and snug.

grand lounge in English folly with handpainted walls

(Image credit: Unique Homestays)

See the beautiful interiors below and discover five interior design tips that can inspire your own home makeover.

1. Embrace pattern and brights in the kitchen

blue and green kitchen with patterned tiles

(Image credit: Unique Homestays)

Looking for some aspirational kitchen ideas? How about patterned Moroccan tiles splashed across an entire wall? We love how the beautiful blue paint hue is picked out to accentuate the blue in the tiles, and the gorgeous green is a bold contrasting pop of color. 

The rustic round wooden kitchen table adds a warm texture to the space, while brass taps add a frisson of glamour.

patterned tiled kitchen wall and splashback

(Image credit: Unique Homestays)

2. Use the fifth wall for a style statement

green bedroom with panelled ceiling

(Image credit: Unique Homestays)

Using the fifth wall (yes, we mean the ceiling) is a great bedroom idea and works to create a cozy cocooning effect.

We love the beautiful green colour of this room, and how the tongue-and-groove paneling is painted in the same hue. Lift the room with printed blinds and cushions, and add a throw in a contrasting color – mustard yellow works well with blues and greens.

green bedroom

(Image credit: Unique Homestays)

Incorporating the fifth wall into the color scheme is also seen in the library, where a scarlet shade has been used all over for an impactful finish.

red library snug

(Image credit: Unique Homestays)

3. Go bold with your bath

bathroom with red bath and patterned tiled floor

(Image credit: Unique Homestays)

Instead of opting for a white bath, step outside of your comfort zone and make the tub a color focal point. This works beautifully in this bathroom, where the bright red bath wows in an accent hue picked out from the pretty patterned tiled flooring.

modern bathroom with red bath and heritage tile pattern flooring

(Image credit: Unique Homestays)

4. Harness the power of a stand-out headboard

pink bedroom with statement headboards

(Image credit: Unique Homestays)

Don't underestimate the visual effect of a bold-hued headboard. They can easily elevate a neutral room and, if you're opting for a color-block  finish, you can add pattern in art or soft furnishings.

5. Use paint to create accent features

dining room with mustard yellow alcoves

(Image credit: Unique Homestays)

Unanticipated bursts of yellow shine from the kitchen alcoves, creating a point of interest. This use of paint to highlight certain areas and add color without covering the whole wall can be seen throughout the home to great effect. 

Whether it's alcoves or wooden framework, paint is a simple way to inject color to a space and add cohesion to overall aesthetic (spot how the door and skirting match the throw in the bedroom below).

pink bedroom with statement headboards

(Image credit: Unique Homestays)

This property is available to rent as a self-catering holiday retreat via Unique Homestays.

Contributing Editor

Ruth Doherty is an experienced digital writer and editor specializing in interiors, travel and lifestyle. With 20 years of writing for national sites under her belt, she’s worked for the likes of, Standard, Ideal Home, Stylist and Marie Claire as well as Homes & Gardens.