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Warming up to Cooler Nights (Posted On: Wednesday, August 20, 2008)

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Autumn is here and that can only mean one thing…. it’s about to get cooler.  Being a native southern Californian, I find the very idea of winter daunting.  On the other hand, there is no place I’d rather be from November to February than nestled comfortably in my country house with a cup of cocoa in my hands and a good book in my lap. 

In anticipation of shorter nights, cooler temperatures and winter cocooning here are some simple ways to warm up your interiors.

Add layers
Shortly after Labour Day we dig out our scarves, gloves and topcoats in anticipation of colder weather and new fall fashions. This “bundling up” process is equally warranted when it comes to our interiors. After all, we may love that light, fresh and breezy feeling in July but we recognize that we need something more substantial for the winter months ahead.

Strategic layers provide added warmth and soothing comfort.  Toss a cashmere throw on the arm of a favourite chair, place an extra set of pillows on the living room sofa, or add a coverlet to the foot of the bed. 

Design Tip: If storage space is at a premium it may not be realistic to keep several sets of pillows in the house.  Instead, create a single pillow using two different fabrics; one for each side. Choose cotton or linen for the “summer” side and a heavier velvet or chenille for the “winter” side. Rotate as required.

Embrace colour and pattern
If beige is leaving you cold, introduce rich colour. Add a splash of cinnamon, chocolate, or lavender to rooms.  A series of red vases down the length of a dark wood table strikes a dramatic pose.  Navy blue toss cushions enliven a dependable tan sofa. Top a plain white duvet cover with a bed “runner”; a hot trend in hotel design. To increase colour’s impact, introduce pattern as well. Do we dare? Oh yes.  Large scale pattern is turning up on upholstered pieces such as armchairs, sofas and headboards.  Look to exuberant floral, exotic paisley and dashing animal prints to revive listless rooms and add warmth. 


Design Tip:  Pattern has more visual weight than a solid colour, so it’s a welcome addition to rooms that require warmth and depth.  To successfully mix pattern vary the scale; pair a small geometric with a medium stripe and a large floral print. 

Make a switch
If patterned carpets are stowed away for summertime, put them back underfoot.  Luxurious wool provides physical and psychological warmth. Exchange white or off-white lamp shades for dramatic black or red.   A dark, opaque shade stylishly highlights a favourite table top collection.  If your home has a fireplace, it’s a natural attention getter.  Try angling furniture away from windows towards this central attraction from October to April.  At the same time, pull the furniture into a tighter grouping and guests will feel cozier.

Design Tip:  Sheer fabric not only provides a modest amount of privacy, but warm, pale colors can energize the gray light that accompanies drizzly days.  Look for today’s most stylish sheers to have accent stitching for added depth. 

Turn up the Light
Clean the windows and tidy the landscape.  As simple as it sounds, dirty panes and overgrown shrubbery restrict the amount of sunlight that penetrates windows.  If you’re remodeling or building from scratch, choose a window that allows wash-from-within rotations to make this task easier. 

Introduce mirrors
Of course, mirrors are a designer’s not-so-secret weapon in the fight to expand space, but they are equally effective in bringing sunshine indoors.  Placing a mirror adjacent to a window amplifies the effect.  You might also include reflective materials such as glistening chrome or nickel, highly polished brass or silver, and crystal or glass. Tiles with a shiny surface are a great choice for a kitchen backsplash or bathroom shower surround where increased warmth is desired.

Design Tip:  Paint windowsills and surrounds in a light reflecting colour such as ivory, cream, and white to bounce sunlight into rooms. 

Create drama with colour
With cooler weather approaching, it’s the perfect time to consider the importance of paint colour as family and friends gather inside. The fashion for using deeper colours in all living spaces dates back centuries. Rich shades work beautifully for rooms dedicated to evening entertaining but may not be ideal during the day. A mid-tone colour (neither too dark nor too light) allows more flexibility, as it may appear fresher in daylight and creamier in evening light. Pale colours also work when they benefit from the drama and sparkle provided by accents such as mirrors, silver and crystal.

Proper lighting is an exercise in layering and subtlety. Ambient or general lighting (down lights) allows you to move through the space easily. Task lighting (a focused spot or table lamp) is essential in living, family and dining rooms, especially at the buffet or sideboard to facilitate serving.

Design Tip:
Decorative lighting is a key element in areas where you entertain the most. Create drama with accent lighting directed to show off paintings, objects, and floral arrangements. And don't forget about the warmth of candlelight — a must for all special occasions.

Join Kimberley for her Small Spaces Seminar in Toronto on October 2nd from 7 to 10 pm Cost: $125.  For more information or to register, visit our web site or download the registration form.

For a room-by-room guide to small space living, pick up a copy of Kimberley Seldon’s 500 Ideas For Small Spaces: Easy Solutions for Living in 1000 Square Feet or Less, (CPi Publishing), available at Chapters

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