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.