Sue’s Guide to Effortless British Style


OKA embodies the spirit of effortless British style; that certain flair for gathering ideas from travels all over the world and distilling them into interiors that feel perfectly put together—without trying too hard. Much of this aspect of OKA’s design ethos is due to our stalwart co-founder and creative director, Sue Jones, whose 22 years leading the company have infused it with her own innate understanding of British interiors.

So, how does one define British interior style? Here’s the good news: according to Jones, it’s all rooted in comfortable, livable spaces. In a British home, friends and family feel welcome and cared for, not like they’re tip-toeing through a museum. With this simple principle in mind, keep reading for Jones’ tips for achieving British style in your own home.

Display treasured souvenirs

“The British have always had a unique knack of mixing ages, styles and cultures in interiors,” says Jones. “I think partly it’s because we’re such a small country that we’ve always been veteran travelers, and curious about what other people are doing.”

If you fancy yourself a fellow “veteran traveler,” here’s your invitation to reminisce over keepsakes from your favorite trips. Perhaps you’ve collected artwork, baskets, textiles or other souvenirs along the way, and are just in need of an excuse to hang them up. If you stuck to journal entries or photo albums, flip through them for memories and look for decorative pieces that remind you of the most beautiful and inspiring places you’ve visited.

Embrace the old along with the new

“The British have this very good way of making older things relevant; there’s a sense that you don’t have to have ‘the latest’ everything,” Jones insists. “If you have much loved things from your past that you’ve inherited or been given, it doesn’t mean that they’re old fashioned. You can make these pieces live in any century.”

While not all Brits have houses filled with antiques, they do have a unique perspective on living with both old and new; the country is host to vast numbers of ancient ruins and historical buildings. You’ll find Neolithic stone circles (many more than just the best known, Stone Henge), Roman baths tucked nonchalantly away on bustling, ultra-modern London streets, splendid village cathedrals and medieval castles… To an American, it might be amusing how accustomed to this mix the British seem.

If you have older furniture in your own home, practice the British art of caring for it, whether that means varnishing, reupholstering or cleaning it regularly. You might be surprised at how well it fits in with your more modern pieces. If you don’t find yourself surrounded by antiques but love the look of them, opt for reproductions and mix and match each item with contemporary decorative accessories, throw pillows or wall art.

Lead with what you love, then reverse it

To Jones, hospitality is an incredibly important part of the British home. “I get great pleasure from thinking about what would make people feel good in my house. I think that is an English trait.”

Luckily for us, her philosophy of how to create a happy and hospitable space starts with focusing on your own enjoyment of it. “If you feel comfortable in your house, other people will too,” she says. “Make it something you love for you, don’t simply show off to other people—that’s what will create the magic.”

So, as if you needed an excuse, surround yourself with things you love, and don’t worry about impressing others as if your house were on show. Rather, remember the little touches that make you feel at home when you travel, and offer these to your guests. This could be anything from outfitting your spare room with a luggage rack or tea station to keeping a few extra pairs of wellies for friends and family who accompany you on muddy walks. What could be more British than that?