In the Mood

In the MoodLocal designers offer advice for creating romantic retreats at homeBy Lilly Rockwell

There is just one day each year — Valentine’s Day — dedicated to celebrating couples. We all know the well-worn rituals: Snag a good dinner reservation, order flowers, buy a box of chocolates and hope that you’ve done enough.

But what if your plans fall through or, in the aftermath of an exuberant Christmas, you’re looking to save a little money without sacrificing romance?
You don’t have to look any further than your own home.

A house can be more of a romantic retreat than a fancy restaurant or resort spa, say interior decorators. And it’s not just the obvious places, such as the bedroom, that can help set the stage for romance. Unlikely spots such as the living room, dining room, outdoor patio and even bathrooms can easily, and inexpensively, become love nests.

“Overwhelmingly yet subtly indulging all of the senses and setting a mood — that’s the essence behind creating the enhancing experience of a romantic space or retreat,” says Tamera Massey, an architect and interior decorator with offices in Seaside and Tallahassee.

These spaces must be crafted with intimate attention to detail, Massey says, mixing the mystery and excitement of romance with a warm and tranquil atmosphere.
Rose petals on the bed are for amateurs, these decorators say. To really transform a room into the ultimate romantic retreat, you must indulge all five of your senses: taste, smell, sight, hearing and sound.

It’s not always the obvious choices, such as red walls, that decorators consider romantic. A newly single woman who owns a 5,600-square-foot home in Shalimar chose one main color to decorate her home: white.

Destin-based Kelly Porter-Smith, her interior designer, says it evoked the “clean slate” the divorcee was looking for.

“We created a cocoon effect,” Porter-Smith says, with a variety of textures to help break up the monotony of white, such as thick frieze carpet.

If you don’t have the time or money for a take-it-down-to-the studs renovation or custom-built home, there are simple, inexpensive tricks that homeowners can use to achieve a romantic atmosphere. Adjusting the lighting, adding a few decorative touches, and focusing on sentimental themes are some of the recommendations decorators have for heightening romance.


Christmas in February

Treat Valentine’s Day decorating with the serious attention given to other holidays, such as Christmas, says Cara McBroom, a Miramar Beach-based interior designer with Lovelace Interiors.

“On Feb. 1, we should do the same thing to lift our spirits,” McBroom says. “One easy way to do this would be to save all the simple red Christmas decorations.”

Red vases, candle holders, a red velvet table runner can be salvaged for Valentine’s Day, she says.

“You want long-lasting decorations you can set out two weeks prior to the big day.”

McBroom says the five senses are used in Christmas decorating and can also be used in February.

“At Christmas we have cinnamon candles, earthy pine trees, holiday music, sparking lights, cookies and candies, and a variety of textures under the tree.”

Do the same thing in February, McBroom advises. Stock candy dishes with chocolates, play love songs, rent chick flicks, burn rich candles with scents such as chocolate, and decorate with textures like silk and velvet.

“This is a great time to bring out all the crystal you were given when you got married, for a little glitz and glamour,” she says.

The Right Light

Just as Realtors preach “location, location, location,” interior decorators tout “lighting, lighting, lighting.” When designing a room for couples, decorators say using soft lighting is important.

If you have dimmers, now is the time to use them, McBroom says. Aim for flexibility with your light choices, Porter-Smith adds. In a bedroom, have overhead lighting as well as lamp lighting.

Then there is the obvious choice: candles. If it’s for a special day, drape the room with candles, using different sizes and shapes in order to achieve a staggered look.

Light the corners of a room, or putting accent lights on art, is a less expensive way to set the mood. A more expensive option for homeowners is installing dimmers so the mood can be instantly changed with a single button. Make sure any lighting changes also add convenience, she says. For instance, don’t install lighting that requires crawling out of bed to flick off a switch; instead, use remote controls or have a switch near the bed.

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Arranging a room around a specific theme, beyond Valentine’s Day, is effective.

For couples, celebrate your love by taking a walk down memory lane, with photos, mementos, music and art that evokes a favorite vacation or honeymoon locale.

On the wall could be art or a photo of Venice and its abundant gondolas gliding down a canal. On a table could be photos from the trip of you and a loved one kissing at a piazza, posing in front of the Coliseum in Rome, or twirling spaghetti in Florence.

Scented candles, soft music, candies or chocolates on a nearby table — all can add a splash of romance to a room. Depending on how far the theme is taken, wine could be offered from an Italian vineyard, the music could be Pavarotti, and the candles could be hand-dipped from Florence.

If you’re after a more permanent transformation, go for glamour by hanging a Venetian chandelier, which is more conventionally seen in dining rooms but can be placed in a bedroom for a romantic effect. To invoke the luxurious lifestyle of European royalty, shop for an ornate four-poster bed draped in Italian silk, with matching dressers with solid bronze or gold handles.

With the workday pressure gone, it puts you in the mood for romance because you’re in vacation mode, relaxed and comfortable. Think about what made a good resort or hotel experience and try translating this in your own home, decorators say.

Hotels are great resources for romantic settings because they don’t contain the typical bedroom clutter. There are no books, no messy nightstand and no misplaced furniture. Hotels offer simplicity, and many are designed to emphasize romance over other practical needs, with bigger beds, whirlpool baths and hammocks on balconies.

“One design essential is a great bed,” Porter-Smith says. “Start out with a good mattress and bed linens. No polyesters — it has to be natural fibers.”

One big no-no? Using your bedroom, or any other romantic retreat such as a living room, for “double duty.” Don’t put gym equipment or an office desk in a bedroom, Porter-Smith says.

“You could create a more harmonious space if you just keep it as a place for relaxation.”

Soft Touch

Don’t forget about one of the most important senses — touch. Decorators say soft, inviting fabrics such as velvet and silk are key to setting the stage for romance. This extends from the window treatments down to the type of rug or carpeting, sofa, bedding, and tables and chairs.

While modern furniture might appeal to you aesthetically, designers say to watch out for sharp corners and stiff furniture that may look great but not feel so good.

If a homeowner has wood floors, place a soft rug on top of it to add warmth. Or choose carpeting such as a long-haired California Berber.

In the bedroom, go with sheets or comforters that are soft to the touch.

In the dining room, just using linen napkins, or having chairs with a smooth texture such as suede, can help soften the room. Use a table centerpiece that is inviting to the eyes, nose and fingers, such as roses, an orchid or lilies.

Beyond the Bedroom

Bedrooms aren’t the only place in a home that can be transformed into a romantic retreat. With the right decorative touch, practically any room can have a seductive appeal.

Backyards are sometimes overlooked but can be the perfect spot for romance.

If you have a pool or whirlpool, use floating candles with waterproof candleholders. Tiki torches along the perimeter of your backyard provide a gentle glow. And if your backyard offers some privacy, try setting up massage tables with aromatic oils.

Living rooms or family rooms can also be transformed into a romantic hideaway. Many of these rooms have televisions, which offer the opportunity to settle into a cozy couch and watch a romantic movie. Don’t ignore the rooms that have good views of a nearby lake or park.

These transformations need not be temporary, decorators say. The best part about turning your home into a romantic retreat is that you don’t need the excuse of Feb. 14 or the pressure of the right dinner reservation to achieve the spirit of Valentine’s Day, or any day of the year.