When you’re looking for a cozy, quiet place to call your own, consider every room in the house. Just page through design magazines and you’ll see patches of warmth being played out by photographers in nearly every room.
Check out the camera angles. Photos are purposely shot at eye level. Tight slices of a room are favored over sweeping whole shots. There’s a good reason: Such “vignettes” invite you in and make you feel as if you’re right there.
Look for subtle details that draw you in: fresh flowers, bowls of fruit, throws, books and magazines, candles, food and beverages. In other words, elements that lend warmth, reality and atmosphere - a sense of being lived in.
Paying close attention to cues that add warmth is one of the most powerful design tools you have. Once you imagine your home, room by room, as a series of vignettes, you begin to understand how to capture that sense of warmth throughout.
For many of us, the library is an obvious choice. Part of the reason is that bookshelves close in a space. Dark or warm colors often are chosen because they are soothing and they draw the walls in.
It also helps if the furnishings are almost hugging one another.
In an Ethan Allen catalog, for example, a striking library with red walls looks cozy because of a pillowlined sofa with chair and ottoman pulled close. Fill the coffee table with objects that lend personality - candles, magazines or flowers. A basket of apples in the foreground does the same. Shutters on the windows also pull in the space.
You can layer in furnishings and accessories as you wish. The 85-inch sofa is $1,599; the chair is $1,259; ottoman, $639; coffee table, $949; and the double-arched bookcase is $2,499. All the pieces are part of the Legacy collection.
Taking a cue from the library into a defined area can create a similarly inviting atmosphere. By creating a window seat, you add instant intimacy to a room. Try one in a stair landing, between two walls of unused space, flanked by a pair of bookcases, or beneath a window with a pretty view, where you might curl up and read, pausing now and again to gaze out the window. Coordinate the window treatment with the pillows on the bench.
Once you have the spot secured, you can find most of the ingredients in department stores or mail-order catalogs.
Some magazines even give you the tools to create your own comfy window seat. Women’s Day Weekend Projects shows how in its summer issue, using crayon-bright fabrics from Spectrum and Calico Corners. The piped window cushion was sewn with Spectrum’s Fleur, a floral pattern in lemon, with Harlequin in Famille Rose for the contrasting boxing strip. Each pillow is stitched in a different pattern, one piped, a couple ruffled, one flanged and banded in a solid color and one edged in fringe.
Window seats brighten an area with color and pattern, and also introduce architectural oomph, especially welcome in an otherwise boxy space.
Layering into a space also is ideal for expressing personality. Some of that is reflected in accessories or in collections. Selection of fabric and wallcovering can be key - how you use it, where you place it, its pattern and scale. The scale of furniture also can make a difference; big where you might be afraid to use it, such as in a small study, may be effective. The unexpected touch is part of the idea.
You can even apply these ideas to the bathroom. Placing a pretty overscale upholstered lounging chair next to the whirlpool is the kind of unexpected touch that appeals to West Coast designer Rela Gleason. Her Summer Hill line of fabrics and furniture exert a romantic attitude. A soft sage green and tan striped chaise is plump yet trim in tailoring. Its whitewashed tapered legs blend with the glossy marble floor and tub surround. A painted decorative screen, crisp shuttered doors, framed etching and topiary spell personality.
The Malibu chaise, which measures 63 inches long, 43 inches wide and 31-1/2 inches tall, retails for $3,975 (fabric is additional). The Morgan stripe in ivory and green is $80 per yard; the McCrae plaid on the pillow also is $80 a yard, and the plush brush trim is $33 per yard.
You can get the same kind of warmth in a room with a minimal look.
Kind of rumpled and relaxed is the philosophy of Faded Rose slipcovered furniture. In a stark modern setting, without even an area rug on the hardwood floor, the softness and warmth of the natural and apricot crinkled fabrics on comfortable armchairs reach out to visitors to be part of this setting. A bowl of oranges on a mosaic-topped iron table and a rustic chest, hand-rubbed in a blue stain, add colorful sparks.
The sophisticated yet relaxed attitude of Guess jeans has been translated into a home collection with the same features. In the bedroom, for example, the idea is casual, echoed in a large-scale floral in dusty red on cream teamed with a soft plaid. The comforter pairs both fabrics, one reversing to the other. Michael Benasra, who created the collection, describes it as “domestic untamed,” a mix of stripes, prints and plaids with a fine linen look that’s OK with a dog that takes up half the bed. He even likes to show the bed unmade, “as if the kids just finished a pillow fight.”
Perhaps Benasra has touched on a key element of creating intimacy in the home. Perfection isn’t expected. Tousled is OK. If you’re relaxed and don’t try too hard to decorate, but think of how to romance your home room-by-room, it will take on a coziness that you may not want to leave.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: SOURCE LIST Calico Corners. For a store near you, write Walnut Rod Business Park, 203 Gale Lane, Kennett Square, PA 19348, or call (800) 777-9933. Ethan Allen, Ethan Allen Drive, P.O. Box 1966, Danbury, CN 06813-1966; (203) 743-8000. Faded Rose, 1017 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago, IL 60614; (312) 281-8161. Guess Inc., 1385 Broadway, New York, NY 10018; (212) 730-7200. Summer Hill Ltd., 2682 Middlefield Road, Suite H, Redwood City, CA 94063; (415) 363-2600. Waverly, Division of F. Schumacher & Co., 79 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016; (800) 423-5881.