While I was out preparing a terracotta pot for a shrub rose in need of a home, Alan was watching Escape to the Country. You’d imagine that, having found our own, this series would have lost its appeal. Not a bit of it. It grows even more compelling when you’re no longer sizing places up for your own needs, and can focus on spotting a property’s potential pitfalls with – as we now like to think – a connoisseur’s eye.

This week’s episode featured a couple being shown around a 17th century thatched cottage in Norfolk. It came with small windows and such low beams the presenter had constantly to remind the potential purchasers to watch their heads as they passed through doorways. When it came to the stairs, they were advised to stay hunched until they reached a mirror, at which point, like soldiers in the trenches, the all clear was sounded and they could stand up fully.

Such a place would be fine for folk like us, who have more in common with hobbits than Peter Crouch. But for anyone approaching six foot, the idea that a moment’s inattention could render you unconscious is surely a drawback.

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As the trend for hymning the country lifestyle intensifies, it’s no great surprise that interior decorating is taking its cue from the nation-wide longing for all things rustic. Obviously, the rococo revamp of Number 11 Downing Street does not fall into this category. Gold wallpaper on puddingy croft walls, or a superabundance of velour or velvet in a farmhouse are not a natural fit for a home that needs to accommodate fishing tackle or dogs and walkers returning from the claggy fields.

Given what living in the country entails – a never-ending process of hosing, washing, dusting and brushing-down – the less cluttered and more functional your surroundings the better. Or so you would think. Wisely, though, the fashion for Modern Country, as it’s called, taps into the age-old instinct for cosiness rather than streamlined utility: £840 rolls of wallpaper cannot be entirely ruled out, unless on grounds of common sense and value for money, while dressers, tall-boys and wicker chairs are back in vogue, if ever they were out.

Back, too, is the unfitted kitchen, with free-standing units and shelves behind which crumbs and contact lenses can lurk for decades. This allows everything to be on show, other than what you prefer to keep hidden, which is tucked behind a gingham curtain threaded on wire.

So far, so much like my grandmother’s house in Bathgate, rather than anything uniquely rural. Some of it, I must confess, I find immensely depressing. When a particularly dreary shade of green became ubiquitous on distressed bathroom cabinets and kitchen units, it was like being in a cottage hospital, circa 1965.

If you opened a door in search of chocolate digestives, you expected to come across a tin of Germoline. It’s probably no coincidence that Sticking Plaster is a Farrow & Ball colour much favoured at the moment. That said, now that the arbiter of colour chic has been snapped up by a Danish firm, its personality – and our décor – might soon morph from English vicarage to Copenhagen loft.

Nostalgia, on which certain decorative fads depend, is a dangerous thing. The olde-worlde country style is trying to recreate a period when your child might come home from school with polio. There was nothing idyllic about it. Housework was hard, luxuries few, and big families were crammed into small spaces.

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Last week, we had the taps on our ancient cast-iron bath replaced. I was working in the room next door, and the plumbers’ groans as they attempted to wrench them off were gruesome. It was like a molar extraction in which, mid-way, the dentist puts down the pliers and asks for a monkey wrench.

When eventually the taps released their grip, the plumbers discovered they dated to 1954. Back then, even the bathtub would have seemed old-fashioned. Plastic fitted baths, with no crawlspace gathering dust beneath, were everybody’s dream. If they came in a shade of caramel blancmange, all the better.

Successful country interiors, as far as I can tell from friends’ houses, are a combination of individual taste and practicality. Kitchens with ranges are the ideal, keeping the place warm 24/7, with a large scrubbed wooden table nearby, where most of the day’s living is conducted. Fabrics and carpets are warm and heavy, like our clothes.

When the weather plays a large part in how you get by, and with so many months of dark and cold, the very thought of bare floorboards or acres of open-plan space in an old and draughty house makes you shiver. No matter how well insulated your home, the wind finds a way in. We’ve had our doors and all but two gable and skylight windows replaced or reglazed, and still a door will click open when there’s a gust. Sometimes I feel like renaming our cottage the House of the Four Winds.

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I shudder when I see remote new-builds or renovations where the kitchen is so clinical it could double as an operating theatre, and the living rooms and bedrooms, with their walls of glass, are dressed in raincloud greys.

Often, these bold and “brave” designs (copyright Kevin McCloud) are perched on a clifftop facing the full wrath of the Atlantic, or have an outlook of unrelieved moorland. Enviable views, certainly, but when the outlook is less than welcoming, all the more reason for the indoors to offer a metaphorical embrace. I remember some years ago when a medieval tower house came up for sale near where we were then living. When excitedly I looked online I could not believe that the interior was like a laboratory. The exterior spoke of the 15th century, but inside it had been banished, as if it was something to be ashamed of.

The key to a comfortable rural home is combining past and present, while keeping comfort to the fore. Nothing embodies this better than the Orkney chair I’ve always secretly longed for. Designed to sit by the inglenook and keep the sitter toasty, its cowled canopy is like hood and shawl combined. If it weren’t for lack of space, and fear of turning into a character in the People’s Friend – a little too close to the truth – I’d start trawling eBay for one now.

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