Keep Calm and Stay Comfy

By Laura Euler

It’s a hard, cold world out there—so it’s important to make your home a haven for relaxation. To find out more, we asked some local interior designers for tips on making a comfortable home.

First up, choose soothing colors. White is perennially popular in the Hamptons, but watery blues and greens also promote relaxation. Sometimes people worry about purchasing pale furniture because it might get dirty, but washable slipcovers take care of any spills, kids’ stains, or dirty paw prints. If you want to add more color, choose colorful accessories and artwork.

Austin Handler, principal at Mabley Handler Interior Design in Water Mill, says, “One of the most visible steps you can take is to use soft, soothing paint colors on the wall. Pale green and blue tones are especially soothing. Taken one step further, a textured grass cloth wallpaper in similar soft hues can create the feeling of serenity by bringing in soothing colors that also have some texture, which helps a space feel softer and more cozy.”

Soft textures not only feel good, they promote mental relaxation as well. Layer fabric window treatments for a lush feel, and layer fabrics on upholstered furniture as well. Toss throws on your sofa, and make sure you have plenty of soft cushions. Mix cushion textures: perhaps some chic needlepoint interspersed with a single long-haired sheepskin pillow?

Designer Barbara Feldman says, “Use furniture that is comfortable and fabrics that feel good. Choose colors that are not trendy or too strong as a background and accent with small touches. Try to carry some variation on the theme throughout so there is no visual disconnect as you travel from room to room or area to area.”

Upholstered headboards and dining chairs are just plain more comfortable than hard wooden options, offering your head or back a soft place to rest after a long workday. Cushioned ottomans invite you to put your feet up comfortably, something that could never be said of a glass coffee table. If a hard surface is needed for drinks, add a wooden or metal tray. And don’t forget the floor. Austin says, “You can take very physical steps to bring comfort to a room by utilizing carpets that are comfortable when you walk on them barefoot or even lie down on them.”

Another factor to consider is artwork. Austin advises, “Be cautious in the art choices you make. If you’re trying to create a soothing space, you’re probably not going to want to utilize bold artwork that might dominate the room.” Consider framed family photos on side tables to remind you of people and places you love. But don’t overdo walls or tables: your eye needs some blank wall space to rest on, and your drink needs a place to land on your table. Clutter is the opposite of relaxing.

How you use space is also important when creating a comfortable home. Barbara Feldman says, “Rather than separate spaces – a living room, a dining room, a kitchen – we are tending towards multifunctional open spaces that allow for ease of conversation, movement, light and a more laid back environment. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to open up a space by removing walls whenever possible to make it easy for family and guests to maintain visual access, communication and shift from area to area. Then use the furniture and furnishings to create groupings that define the space.”

Eschewing the usual seating arrangement of a sofa, coffee table and one or two club chairs, Barbara says she sometimes places four comfortable chairs or a pair of loveseats instead. And don’t line up the seating around the perimeter walls; too much space between seats makes conversation difficult. Instead, Barbara suggest, “pull the chairs or seating up close around a coffee table (but leave enough room for knees!) and make sure it is large enough to be easily reached for easy access food and drinks.”

She adds, “It’s nice to have a chair and ottoman or two smaller chairs slightly distanced from the main seating area to give someone the ability to tune in or tune out, or have a more private conversation. Place these near a bookshelf so readers can have some privacy yet remain a part of the general space.”

Pay attention to lighting. Austin Handler says, “Instead of using one main bright overhead lighting source, spread the lighting options out around the room, to keep the balance of light spread around. Also, use dimmers wherever you can; there’s nothing more frustrating than wanting to spend time in a room where you can’t dim the lights to create a soothing lighting environment.”

Barbara Feldman agrees on the importance of dimmers. “I make sure to use dimmers because lighting creates atmosphere and can shift the focus from one area to another. For example, you might want to turn up the fixtures over the dining room table when everyone sits down to eat, and dim the others so the focus of attention is where you want it to be.” She says if there are not a lot of windows in the space she’s planning, she makes sure to use fixtures that simulate natural light as much as possible.

As you can see—the world can be cold and hard, but your home doesn’t have to be.