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Winter Warmth The Right Furnishings Can Brighten The Darkest Days

Fri., Jan. 27, 1995

Home is a place of comfort, like a warm coat on a cold night. And since there are plenty of cold nights and days left before spring arrives, combat the winter chill by infusing warmth into your home through decorating.

Homes that exude warmth mean more than a cranked-up thermostat. During gray days, our fatigued and dreary moods can be re-energized through small but satisfying changes in our decor.

These changes can awaken our senses.

The textures are soft and rich to the touch. The smells are of simmering potpourri or firewood. The tastes are of coffee or baked bread. The sounds are of crackling fires or calming music. The sights are of soothing lights, deep colors and pleasurable furnishings.

These are elements that create winter warmth. They are usually quick additions for the winter months that can be changed or removed when spring arrives and stored until next year.


“Being inside our houses and apartments with ordinary lamplight gives us only ten percent of the natural light we would enjoy from being outside on a summer afternoon,” says Alexandra Stoddard, author of “Creating A Beautiful Home.”

Research shows sun-deprivation affects our moods, so in the winter months we need to fill the rooms of our homes with light. Here are some ideas:

Add some small portable uplights to highlight pictures and bookshelves, or low-voltage miniature spotlights.

Consider light-pink bulbs rather than white to provide a softer light. Filters and gels are also available in all colors at lighting stores and can be fitted over the tops of bulbs to change the mood of the room.

Take advantage of the winter chill to enjoy candles, hurricane and oil lamps, and firelight for a romantic glow.

Design window treatments to let the sun in, says Dorothy Mansfield of Spears Home Furnishings in Spokane. The room will feel warmer when it’s flooded with sunlight.


Throw pillows are easy and inexpensive to change for every season. In the winter, make them large, soft and abundant.

“Because we tend to hug pillows,” says Stoddard, “cover them in a sensuous fabric.” Tapestry fabrics in rich patterns and colors can be slipped over your summer pillows and then removed later.


Next to the pillows, add afghans or cotton throw blankets on the sofa, ottoman or large chair, in deep jewel tones. These invite cozy conversation or quiet relaxation.


“The skirted table is one of the most useful additions to a room,” says Mary Gilliatt, author of “Decorating.” “The table itself need only be utilitarian; the cloth will add color, pattern and texture to the space, acting as a balance to the other color schemes in the room.”

Again, tapestry or upholstery fabrics work well as tablecloths in the colder months. Place a small “welcome” lamp on the table, with mementoes or collections filling the surface.


Whether live, silk or dried, plants and floral arrangements go a long way toward lifting our spirits.

“Choose heavier-looking plants that we associate with winter,” says Jackie Halversen of Halversen Home Interiors in Liberty Lake. “Mix silks with live plants, either in the arrangement or side-by-side and change them in the different seasons by moving them around the house.”

Robin Panagos, floral manager at Stanek’s nursery in Spokane, suggests the flowering cyclamen plants - now in season - in vibrant pinks, purples and reds; or the Chinese evergreen as an indoor floor plant.

Add pine boughs or pine cones to arrangements.

For topiary trees, add a velvet bow around the trunk during the winter season, suggests Halversen.


Our small-sized possessions add character to a room, making it personal and memorable.

“The most deeply restful rooms are those in which all the furnishings and objects weld gently together, with no one thing jumping out,” says Gilliatt.

Consider alternating accessories from one season to the next - for instance, put away the shell collection for winter and display your miniature frames with family photos instead - or, move accessories around to give the room a new look.

Make reversible valences as window treatments, suggests Halversen. Choose coordinating fabrics, then turn the valence on one side for summer, the other side for winter.

For wooden chairs, make seat covers with tie-ons in darker, richer colors. Make placemats or table runners to match.

Books make wonderful decorating accessories. Fill end tables with eye-catching picture books, which add color and warmth to the room and invite the occupant to browse.

“Folding screens make a room look totally different,” says Halversen. “Put fabric in the panels, or wallpaper. Paint them. Or cover the panels with mirrors,” she suggests.

They can serve to brighten up a corner or separate a room like a portable wall.

Paint and area rugs

“Color is so powerful in affecting mood that it is the single most important decorative element,” says Carleton Varney, author of “Roomby-room Decorating.”

Painting a wall a vibrant color gives the greatest mileage for your money in transforming a room, but it is more permanent. Another alternative is purchasing an area rug, which also gives a dramatic new look.

“Many of the homes are in neutral colors,” says Mansfield. “People are practical and if they have these colors (on their walls) and it feels too cool, by pulling in the accent rugs with the jewel tones, that warms up a room.”

Mansfield suggests an area rug that encompasses the entire sitting area of the room. “It invites people over, defines a conversation area and is warm.” There are various types of area rugs for every budget.

“If you do decide to paint, even in a neutral color,” says Mansfield, “choose a warmer tone instead of a white-white. A touch of red or black in a white base gives the tone a warmer feeling.”

Our homes are not like still-life paintings, but continue to grow and change as we do. “You don’t have to do an entire makeover in order to bring some new energy and vitality into your living spaces,” says Stoddard.

Little touches give winter warmth to a home - and great enjoyment - while waiting for the spring.

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