Romancing The Room

The dead of winter is an opportunity to summon our soft, sweet and even sensuous sides. A romantic room can be many things beyond the obvious satin sheets and red roses. Don’t get me wrong—those things are wonderful, but a romantic space can also make you feel relaxed and contemplative, energized or inspired. Or transportive, taking us to another time when our focus was on what actually happens in our rooms, as opposed to what happens in our virtual lives.

Color provides the biggest design impact to a room. Adding color, like adding spice to a recipe, can be administered carefully with a measured hand, or liberally by generously tossing it into the mix. The more color used in a room, the more intense the space’s mood becomes. Dramatically colored walls with saturated hues can spark passion and creativity.

Shades of red, from burgundy to cerise, can raise the perceived temperature of a space. These hues have been proven to stimulate the appetite when used in a dining room. On the color wheel next to red is red-violet, similar to purple. Red’s flamboyant cousin symbolizes royalty and has become a favorite among designers the last few seasons when a bolder, more uplifting use of color has been used on fashion runways and in the home. Variations on purple are beautiful and sophisticated, including lavender, mauve and aubergine. The warming effect of gold can be added to any color scheme on walls and furnishings. Try using a large gilt mirror, a polished brass accent table or a golden-bronze chandelier to create a feeling of richness.

When selecting colors for a room, follow one of these two directions. You can use up to three colors that are next to one another on the color wheel to create an analogous scheme. For example, pairing multiple tones of red, red-violet and violet is an example of a collection that invites intrigue and romance. Or you can pair colors that are opposites on the wheel, like violet and yellow. This creates a dynamic, energetic and complementary scheme.

imageOn the other hand, a white-on-white palette feels pure and serene using varying shades of off-white, cream and whites with pale tints of color. Add a deliberate punch of brightness with your accessories. Be sure to layer contrasting textures when using a monochromatic palette. Try combining velvet pillow covers that have satin trim with a cashmere throw, and then add sheer window panels with a subtle pattern to filter natural light.

Designers refer to the way a fabric feels to the touch as its “hand.” To make a room romantic, fill it with fabrics that have an irresistible, luxurious hand that almost caresses you back. Think about those tactile sensations you really like, from silky-smooth to super plush and all the textures in between, and incorporate them into your decor.

Another way to channel romance is to reach back into the past and put together a room that brims with beautiful objects. Decorative antiques and ornate items, reproductions or originals, bring a sense of culture and authenticity to your spaces. Appreciate the way your grandmother’s house looks and borrow some of her staples: Toile wallpaper, china with romantic scenes, embroidered table linens, a glass curio filled with collectibles, velvet upholstered chairs, tasseled pillows and lace curtains.

Long Islanders are lucky to have so many good antique shops at home. Adding an old marble console table, a faded French tapestry or an antique pendant light brings that special, vintage vibe to a room.

A piece of furniture can often become the centerpiece of a room. The effect of a single, unique piece, like a sprawling chaise, a curvy camelback loveseat, a fancy daybed or an enveloping wing chair, can be alluring. And with the right accoutrements, you can create a vignette that draws you into the room. Look for curvaceous, serpentine styles as opposed to straight lines, and intricate details like carved wood, hammered nailheads and hand-painted embellishment. Tufting on ottomans, headboards and the seats and backs of furniture is very inviting, as is velvet or silk upholstery. The use of a bold color on upholstery, like hot fuchsia or bright cobalt blue, can actually spark a surge of adrenaline when your eye lands on it. And consider how the piece is placed in the room to create an attention-grabbing focal point.

Finally, your room’s lighting completes the mood. A well-made fixture is like a work of art—each is a sculpture with a unique personality and specific way it casts a glow. As with art, selecting lighting is personal and subjective. Shop for lighting with an open mind, meander through the lighting showroom to see what you’re attracted to. For a romantic effect, lamps with black or metal shades are mysterious and intriguing, traditional chandeliers adorned with sparkly crystals are enchanting and captivating.

Creating a romantic room is a fun and light-hearted experience. Incorporate the elements and colors you love into the design and the space becomes something you want to spend time in, a space that is intimate and relaxed, where you linger and explore.

caroline wilkes

Caroline Sophia Wilkes is an interior designer who also writes about design trends. From Manhattan to Montauk, this native Long Islander derives inspiration from the dynamic forms and energy of the city to the organic serenity of our land- and seascapes.