Spice up home with romantic decor

Muted colors, soft lighting, antique details give house looks you'll love

August 12, 2007|By Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub | Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub,South Florida Sun-Sentinel

The outside world is awfully rough on our psyches. We're bombarded with unending e-mails, ringing cell phones and frustrating commutes to and from work.

It's no wonder that many of us crave the kind of romantic comfort we see in movies. Candlelight. Champagne on ice. Soft colors. Feel-me fabrics. Dressing tables. Beds draped with fabric or mosquito netting.

Just ask designer Florence Pion. A few years ago, she asked her antiques class at Florida Atlantic University to name their favorite decorating style. The students, ages 22 to 48, overwhelmingly said they preferred "romantic."

"Each one said they wanted a romantic atmosphere with soft lighting and candles," she said. "In other words, the period was not as important as the feeling. At the time, they were all going to thrift shops and they were in love with the past."

Ah, romance. Don't we all crave more of it?

Now there's help. A new design book, Jessica McClintock's Simply Romantic Decorating (Rodale, $32.50), takes you through the steps to transform your home into a romantic nest.

McClintock includes everything from steps to creating beautiful backgrounds to advice on cooking, dining and entertaining. And, if anyone knows romance, it's McClintock, best known as the go-to fashion designer for old-fashioned wedding gowns and prom dresses. This book completes her foray into home furnishings, which includes designing furniture for American Drew, C.R. Laine and Lea, rugs for Loloi, and lighting for Minka.

"I just love to think of a room as a beautiful jewel box," McClintock said in a telephone interview from her home in San Francisco.

"Bring into it memories of historical references, and fine-tune it into a little jewel box with colors you like and paintings."

She also suggests bringing in classic elements such as wooden panels from older homes, architectural capitals in the corners of rooms and painted details such as soft vines or cascading flowers. Colors are muted. Soft lighting comes from candles and wall sconces.

"With me, romance is all about the structure, the color, the fabrications I use, the furniture," she said. "It's so overwhelming that many people don't know where to start."

As an apparel designer, she likes to start with swatches of fabric. She prefers soft colors that look natural and aged, nothing new or shiny. Think off-white, cream, rich taupe or gold.

"Wood that has been lived on and walked on for 10 years looks better than wood just placed on the floor," she said. "A house that is lived in has beautiful pieces of furniture and experiences in romantic situations. You draw from the essence of older things."

McClintock suggests using glazes on the walls to make them look as if they have been aged, such as starting with sage and adding soft glazes such as gray lavenders.

Romantic decorating, like romance, means different things to different people. McClintock suggests exposing yourself gradually to romantic design.

"Take care," she said. "Your home is not the place for immediate gratification. Follow your mind, your eyes and your heart."

Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub writes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

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