Get Warm With These Sunny Décor Ideas

Winter is here and getting home at the end of a long day means getting warm and comfortable. But there are more ways to add heat to a home than simply resetting the thermostat. “Warmth” connotes different things to different people and sources abound for sunny décor ideas—from exotic, balmy locales and rustic textures to prints and accessories from around the world. Strategically applying some of these elements to create a cozy retreat can turn up the heat without adding a penny to the energy bill.

Often, warmth means looking south for inspiration—to the Southwest, Mexico or Latin America. But that doesn’t always have to equal palm trees, bright colors and woven baskets. Soft, neutral tones can conjure up desert scenery, while a woven shawl or tapestry in a Southwestern print provides a colorful touch. Anything woven with a geometric Native American motif in hues of contrasting red, orange and turquoise instantly says Arizona (which equals warm). A few well-placed ceramic pots call to mind desert climes as well. Cacti and succulents, potted lemon trees and small palms will also add to the vibe.

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Summers visiting family in Italy and Miami Beach influenced Greg Lanza’s aesthetic. The Glen Cove-based designer emphasized that turning up the heat in a room doesn’t necessarily have to translate to color. “The trend has been for cooler palettes for some time now. I prefer to add warmth with texture, lighting and collections.” Lanza looks to hotter destinations for design elements like African tribal or animal prints. African ikat patterns have been the rage in fabrics for the last few fashion cycles. Working in a cushion covering on a solid colored couch and scattering some famous Zulu baskets (identified by typically brown, orange and white diamond patterns) can recall exoticism. Other elements Lanza incorporates to freshen up a room include arch profiles from India and Spain, Sicilian geometric patterns and the casual, elegant style of Provence in France that uses a lot of cheery yellow and cerulean blue.

But the right shade of white can create a similar sensation. Interior designer Dafna Adler suggested using fuzzy throws and even fake fur in a snowy shade to keep a room feeling toasty no matter the weather. “It makes you want to wrap yourself up in a blanket with a good book,” said the West Hempstead-based designer. “I love the warmth of winter white, which is a little creamier with undertones of yellow and gold.” Adler also likes to switch in heavier fabrics like velvet for window panels in the colder months and add textured pillows to a leather sofa and a high-pile area rug for a cozy update. The kitchen is often perceived as the hottest room in the house, but using all white in the kitchen can feel a little frosty due to the sheen of the cabinets and counters.

“I prefer cabinets and floors in natural woods, ceramic tile backsplashes, a granite in a gold hue,” said Kerith Flynn, principal of Margali + Flynn Designs in Williston Park. “Dark stained floors are popular now, but I’d rather see a light wood.” Some heat can still be added to a white kitchen—try a patterned tile backsplash, a woven rug, bright towels or pendant lighting with a rich metallic finish. Copper is a warm-toned metal that is all the rage in light fixtures and accessories and it contrasts nicely against white (see our “Trending Metal” at Just keep the mood light and the look won’t feel contrived.

Flynn also noted that after years of neutrals, she’s starting to see a return to shades of red and gold. These rich Mediterranean hues work well with transitional décor. She particularly recommended thick, nubby fabrics, beamed ceilings, textured wallpaper and wrought iron, as these elements convey a temperate climate with a rustic style. Complete the thought with a potted olive tree (if space allows) or other herbs used in this region’s cooking.

And it’s not just décor that can make a room feel warmer, lighting has a major impact as well. “Oversized fixtures can bring in a nice flood of light,” Flynn said. Lanza also emphasized the importance of using the lowest temperature bulbs, especially when converting to LED. 2700K emits the ideal glow. Compose each wall on its own, including light sources that highlight furniture, objects and architectural details. Or for a more authentic touch Lanza suggested incorporating different modes. “We’ve been accustomed to candlelight for centuries. Dim the lights, use multiple sources, create the mood.”

annette rose-shapiro

annette rose-shapiro

Annette Rose-Shapiro writes about decor, interior design, art and architecture. She is currently working on a short documentary about the creative process.