February 23, 2006

Romancing the home

By Mary Beth Breckenridge
Knight Ridder Newspapers

Romance isn’t just champagne and roses.

Romance is sinking into a plush sofa in front of a crackling fire. It’s lingering over breakfast in a room filled with floral fabrics and antiques. It’s settling into a comfy chair with a good book and some chamomile tea served in Grandma’s Haviland cup.

In the home, romance is all about comfort and connection. And that’s a feeling you don’t have to limit to Valentine’s Day.

Romantic style is hard to define, because it’s so wide-ranging, said Jacqueline deMontravel, editor of Romantic Homes magazine. It’s the casual appeal of Shabby Chic and the ageless elegance of French country, the eclectic appeal of a Paris flea market and the warmth of the Tuscan countryside.

"You can’t really pigeonhole it in one style. … It’s just really cozying up a space," she said.

Whatever the style, it’s a timeless look that continues to grow in popularity, interior designers say.

That might be because of the way a romantic room serves as an antidote to the bustle of our ever-more-hectic lives. It beckons us, urging us to relax and share in conversation or leisure activities with the people who are important to us, said Dan West, a Jackson Township interior designer. "That’s pretty romantic to me," he said.

Appeal to the senses

Central to romantic decorating is its appeal to the senses, deMontravel believes. So a romantic room might incorporate scented candles to pique the senses of sight and smell, fabrics that are soft to the touch, soothing music and a dish of chocolates or a glass of wine, she said.

A sense of antiquity adds to the charm, said Cindy Mihalic, an interior designer with Akron’s Chez-Del Home Furnishings & Interior Design. That’s not to say a room has to be filled with family heirlooms, but touches such as classic designs and Old World wall treatments add to the warmth that’s essential to romance.

Mihalic, for example, used a dramatic faux finish on the walls of a Brecksville, Ohio, guest room to give it the illusion of age. The finish incorporated the grayish-blue and bronze colors she used throughout the room to warm up what was once a stark space with white walls and a gray carpet.

The room’s centerpiece is an iron bed from Wesley Allen, with hand-painted gold and bronze leaves on the headboard. She also included an armchair covered in soft chenille, a backless daybed that hints of Hollywood glamour and a few of the homeowners’ antiques, including a glass-front bookcase, and old dresser and a side chair with a needlepoint back. Cording with heavy tassels winds around the bedposts, curled ribbons hold back the curtains and crystalline beads sparkle on the bed’s accent pillows.

The ribbons and tassels serve to soften the hard lines of the wood and iron, Mihalic explained, because softness is all part of the romantic allure.

Don’t overdo frills

But both Mihalic and Akron interior designer Linda Russell believes it’s important not to overdo the frills. Instead, Russell said they should be balanced with simpler elements, especially in a room that will be shared by members of both sexes.

Russell thinks that’s why so many men seemed to like the unabashedly romantic breakfast room she decorated for the Junior League of Akron’s Designer ShowHouse two years ago, despite the lace panels in the windows, floral curtains and tablecloth and chandelier draped in crystals.

She’d often find men standing and staring at the room, taking in the details. "They weren’t offended by the flowers. They weren’t offended by the chandelier," she said.

Elements such as flowers and beads may be common in romantic decorating, but there’s no rule that says a romantic room needs to be feminine at all, the designers said.

"I never think of romantic rooms as being prissy," West said. In fact, he said many of his clients are leaning toward cleaner lines and simpler forms that have all the sink-in comfort of a romantic room without fussy details.

Clean but cozy look

That clean yet cozy look is what West was aiming for when he decorated a 1930s bungalow in Canton. His client was a single man at the time, but the style has proved to be just as suitable for his new bride, West said.

West used a combination of Arts and Crafts and Neoclassical influences in decorating the adjoining living and dining rooms. The furniture is upholstered in plush, textural fabrics including boucle, chenille and frise; cashmere Roman shades pull up from the bottom of the windows to provide privacy and intimacy without shutting out sunlight; and classic furniture pieces such as a Lawson chair and an old chest lend timeless style.

A few steps away, the decor in the den pushes the romantic look all the way to sexy, with its charcoal-gray walls, zebra-stripe carpet and curvy, cushiony leather sofa. Polynesian and Asian decorations and a set of Moroccan bunching tables hint of adventure - exotic elements that add to the romantic allure.

There’s a wine rack, too, strategically placed at the entrance to the room.

"Couple of shots of that," West joked, "and you can fall in love with anybody."

Isn’t it romantic?

Want to add romance to your home? Here are some suggestions from Romantic Homes editor Jacqueline deMontravel and interior designers Dan West, Cindy Mihalic and Linda Russell:

_Think comfort - enveloping furniture, plush fabrics, soft lighting.

_Appeal to all the senses. Use lots of textures, maybe add some pink light bulbs for flattering lamplight, and have music or soothing sounds within earshot. Don’t forget flowers or some other source of fragrance, and something delicious to eat or drink.

_Soften hard edges and straight lines. For example, add slipcovers to dining chairs, frame a window with curtains or top a lamp with a luxurious silk shade.

_Bring in nature in the form of flowers or greenery. Floral motifs are a staple of romantic decorating, but their presence can be as dominating as yards of floral fabric or as understated as a few blooms in a vase.

_Add something old. Silver pieces, antiques and faux finishes have a comforting familiarity.

_Go a little wild. A bit of animal-print fabric or a few well-chosen mementos from trips abroad add an exotic allure.

_Light some candles. Instant romance.

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Kari Weller, of Uptown Interiors

Decades ago, a room would be painted, furniture would be purchased, and for the most part, the decor was complete. Many times a home’s decor sat untouched, unchanged for years. Those days seem to be over. Television shows, even entire channels and magazines tell us how to do, and redo, every room. As an owner and designer of an interior design store, Uptown Interiors, it’s important for me to know what the latest decorating trends are. We can then help our clients illustrate this style in their homes.

Designing a room has become more about comfort and function, while infusing luxury with playfulness and fun. And, this determines many of the trends. Comfortable furnishings and storage are going to be increasing in popularity. We saw a very clean and contemporary version of this trend emerge last year. This year we want some of our clutter back, but with a little bit of order to it. The minimalist look is a little bit lessened and replaced with items grouped in collections.

What has been referred to as the "old-world" look or sometimes "global" look is still a trend on the rise. This allows us to bring in components from many cultures and enjoy them together as design pieces. We continue to embrace styles and colors from around the world. Weathered or antique reproduction versions of items seem to remain a popular way of doing this.

The recent fashion attack of "bling," or sparkling things (gems, sequins and colorful beads), makes it into the home. Curtains, pillows, and accessories like frames, table runners, lamp shades and more are simple ways to add a little "bling" to a room. This trend seems to work in small doses with traditional, contemporary, global themes and more, so give it a try.

The sky’s the limit and there’s really no reason for anyone to be stuck with a home decorating scheme that doesn’t capture their own unique style and interests. You’ll find that nothing is really new, but it’s fun to see how old favorite themes, fabrics, and details adapt to a fresh new look. Clothing and fashion is giving us our cue for eclecticism. In order to look fashionable right now, women have to look a little vintage, a little girly, with a splash of bling and a little like they’re not trying too hard. The same carefree casualness rules the fashionable home. Nostalgic items, including new items made with an antique look, are popular additions to our decor. Some of these items are useful and practical, but still add to the decor.

Overall, there is not one particular style that will dominate in 2006. There are no rules this year to decorating your home, make it feel unique, make it say "You." What’s in style is anything that looks good to you. Find the style that will help to give your home your distinctive look. Home decorating is all about mixing it up and making your home eclectic and happy!

Let our experts at Uptown Interiors inspire your next home decorating project with the latest design trends and techniques - whether it’s a single room or an entire home. Find the tools and the talent to help make your home just right - from our wide selection of fine products and accessories to our friendly, knowledgeable staff.

Kari Weller is the owner of Uptown Interiors. Full-service design center is open 6 days a week in Salmon Creek at 1308 NE 134th Street. Visit their web-site at www.UptownHomeDecor.com or call for hours at (360) 574-4988.

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December 4, 2005

Bird is the word in home decorating

The Cincinnati Post - Bird is the word in home decorating

By Korky Vann Hartford Courant

Keep an eye out for birds - indoors and out. They are the decorating world’s newest darlings, showing up on everything from drapery fabrics and wall art to dinnerware and linens. The trend signals a real shift in attitude, says Robin Fisher, president of RLF Home, a Hartford, Conn.-based manufacturer of upscale window treatments and other soft goods. "In the past, I’ve had buyers just flat-out say they weren’t interested in any bird-print fabrics, period," Fisher says. "That’s changed. Now those same buyers are much more open to the concept. As a result, we’re seeing a huge variety of bird prints used in casual, traditional, Asian and contemporary settings." Decorating chain Calico Corners, for example, chose "Japonica," an Oriental fabric featuring brilliant birds, flowers and bamboo for the cover of one of its 2005 catalogs. Birds also show up on many of the company’s brightly colored casual cottons, as well as more muted decorating fabrics. "In America, birds have always been a classic motif," says Jen Jessup, marketing director for Calico Corners. "Think French Country roosters or Audubon prints. Now we’re seeing an updating and re-interpretation of the designs. You’ll see birds used in garden rooms, but also in living rooms. The market is always looking for something different." Key to the current avian look is color - think parrot green, robin’s egg blue and canary yellow. "People are excited about strong colors," Jessup says. "They look fresh and new and appealing." And it’s not just fabrics that have taken flight. Bombay Company highlighted a pair of graceful crane garden sculptures in a catalog earlier this year. And designer Oscar de la Renta featured a beautiful chinoisere chest with hand-painted birds, flowers and butterflies in a vivid parrot green finish in his spring 2005 Home collection. Anita Tiburzi, design director for the Source Perrier Collection for Home and Garden, based in Sharon, Conn., says bird prints, figurines, sculptures, tableware and linens are popular items for the catalog and online company. "There are so many applications," says Tiburzi. "Lovebirds in the bedroom, bluebirds in the kitchen or dining room, exotic birds on the patio. Source Perrier Collection best-sellers include a set of two colorful ceramic cockatoos with pale green crests and rosy beaks; Chinese porcelain exotic bird plates; hand-engraved glass table accessories featuring cranes, palm trees and lush foliage; and "Nesting" tableware, a collection of blue-and-white Limoges dishes and table accessories featuring a charming array of blue birds, nests, birds’ eggs and feathers designed by Tiburzi. "There’s something truly engaging about these creatures," she says. "They bring a sense of renewal and they also convey so much symbolism. Cranes indicate good luck, and storks are associated with birth. There’s a reason people watch for that first robin after a long winter. It’s a symbol of life going on." If you’d like to incorporate some flights of fancy into your decor, experts suggest updating your look with bird-inspired pillows, table skirts, slipcovers or wall art "Think outside the decorating box and incorporate a few unexpected items here and there," Tiburzi advises. "They’ll provide compelling contrasts and add interest to your surroundings."

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