Coastside Designer Tips for Warm Interiors
by Joli Allen
As long halcyon days of summer morph into fall’s short daylight hours, we long to use our homes as warm, cozy retreats. So how can we bring more warmth and brightness into our homes? Three Coastside designers shed some light on the subject.
Erica Sofrina founded the West Coast Academy of Feng Shui and is the author of Small Changes, Dynamic Results: Feng Shui for the Western World. Sofrina is also a green-living columnist at Care2.com. She conducts workshops worldwide, and does staging and interior design for homes and businesses. One of her current goals is to design feng shui-based living environments for assisted living homes.
Sofrina says feng shui is about creating an outer environment that supports and enhances one’s inner state. In her work, she integrates its Eastern principles into a Western cultural mindset to make it easy for clients to understand.
Feng shui’s focus on the five elements — fire, water, metal, earth and wood — reflects the belief that we are all deeply connected to nature. Therefore, we feel most at home when we are surrounded by things that represent these five elements. “It doesn’t mean we have to bring in stones or water,” Sofrina says. But we can use representations of these elements to change our environment.
To create more warmth and light, Sofrina suggests the following:
1. Bring in earth elements more than anything else; that includes “things made of tile or stucco.” Also, “things that are square and heavy are representative of earth.”
2. Use mirrors to reflect light. But use them sparingly because to the subconscious they remind us of water. Sofrina says we already have an imbalance of water in our homes because it is cold and damp on the coast. So we might not want too much water representation in our décor.
3. Paint the interior; it’s a great way to change the home atmosphere. Earth elements tend to work well, because they carry warm tones. Yellows, gold and terra cotta are also effective. But definitely choose colors you love. If you don’t like yellow, bring in those tones with accessories.
4. Keep cool colors to a minimum. “In the Southwest you bring in blacks because you want to cool things down. You would not have a lot of reds in the Southwest because that would be very uncomfortable,” she says. While earth tones warm a habitat, Sofrina wouldn’t bring in all earth tones. Balance is key.
5. Choose lighting to fit the architecture of your rooms. In Sofrina’s book, she writes: “UP lighting will direct energy skyward to brighten low, dark rooms and to round out a corner. … DOWN lighting will bring the energy back to earth in large rooms with high, cathedral ceilings.” She also notes that fluorescent and halogen lights tend to be too bright. Instead, go for lighting that is soft and ambient.
When Shelby told a friend she was practicing interior design, her friend said, “Well, it’s about time; you’ve been doing it since 9th grade!”
She says she has always been aware of interior beauty. “I remember moving furniture around as a kid and building forts and visiting my grandmother and great-grandmother’s homes and being inspired by how they put all their treasured objects together.”
Shelby’s business, Spaces Within Interior Design, serves the Bay Area and beyond. She’s a former chapter president for the International Furnishings and Design Association of Northern California. Like Sofrina, she provides a wide range of services for those who are redecorating or remodeling their homes or businesses.
1. Paint offers a simple fix for adding light and warmth to a room. She recommends choosing a paint with sheen. “While color has a high impact, it is important to remember that sheen has high impact as well. A flat sheen absorbs light; this is the opposite of what we’re looking for when we want to add light to the space. The higher the sheen, the more reflective of light it is.” As for color choice, “Go with what puts a smile on your face.”
And don’t just paint the walls. “Remember the ceiling!” she says. “Even just painting the ceiling in a room can make the biggest difference. The ceiling can be the most beautiful part of a room, whether simple or complex.”
2. The right accessories also work to give a room a lift. Add mirrors and artwork to brighten a dark space.
Darlene Pearl worked many years in an executive capacity for an electrical company. When she decided on a career change, her son thought she would be great at interior design and suggested she go back to school to specialize in it. She created Pearl Interior Window Fashions 12 years ago. Pearl’s clients span the state and she has business outside the state as well. Her range of elegant window coverings is extensive, and includes green products.
A way to literally add warmth is to use a product with a high insulation quotient. Pearl carries Hunter Douglass’s Duet Architela honeycomb blinds, which insulate and reduce energy loss by 50 percent. “They are one of the best. You can get sunlight through. Duet is a very contemporary look,” she says. Pearl explains that the honeycomb-within-a-honeycomb construction traps cold air, making it highly energy-efficient. The blinds add physical warmth, and also cool the room when we do have a heat wave. She notes that you can also “add a soft valence to it for a striking effect.”
It is somewhat ironic that window coverings can increase how light a room feels, but new fabrics and design make this possible. Pearl suggests Silhouette shades to clients who want to add light and space to a room. These shades have two layers of sheer. You can still have your view, but the shades give you privacy. “Add stationary drapery panels to add warmth,” she says.
Motorized window coverings that adjust to solar activity are another option.
All three designers stress that these are general tips for creating warmth in cool surroundings. However, each of us has unique sensory perceptions. Experiment with what nourishes your soul, and then have fun with the results.