When it comes to home interiors, there's an age-old tug-of-war between form and function: We want our home to look like a pair of killer heels, but feel like our favorite fuzzy slippers.
Happily, when it comes to decor, you don't have to sacrifice cozy for chic - or vice versa. In fact, adding an element of softness to a sleek space or creating some definition to offset your too-cuddly trappings can give your home a finished look that's equal parts stylish and snug.
But designing a room that evokes the warm-and-fuzzies while still looking polished, put-together and personal takes a bit of skill. "Cozy is a visual as well as a tactile experience," explains Caroline Wilkes of Caroline Wilkes Interiors in Merrick. "A cozy space requires furnishings and fabrics that bring comfort to the body and softness next to the skin." But it's not just about the touchy-feelies - it also has to look the part, she adds: "A cozy room must also be perceived as comfortable and inviting and appear relaxing and intimate."
First, carve out your corner. "An extremely important part of a cozy space is the definition of that space," says Brooklyn designer and Smithtown native Harry Daniell. An area rug and an intimate furniture arrangement can help mark your territory. "Conversation groups should be situated within an eight-to 10-foot radius," says Rosalba Campitiello of East End Interiors in St. James. "An area any larger would result in a separated seating arrangement - anything but cozy."
Next, use cheery colors and soft lighting to give the space a glow. "Lighting in a cozy room should be warm and not overbearing or too bright," Campitiello says. "Add a dimmer switch to overhead lighting," says Elizabeth Vaughan of In-Site Interior Design in Huntington Station and Manhattan. "And use lamps whenever you can - floor lamps, table lamps, decorative lamps. Soft lighting is essential for a cozy room."
Last, it's time to personalize your room with soothing textures and favorite accessories. "Cozy means an environment that is almost like a cocoon," says St. James interior designer Natalie Weinstein. Throws, pillows and fluffy carpeting are standard cozy fare. But one person's comfy is another's claustrophobic, so don't feel obliged to go cushy-crazy - just surround yourself with whatever makes you feel good.
Whether you're at your most relaxed in denim or silk, these designer tips will help you customize your comfort zone with just the right balance of fluff and flair.
You may need your personal happy place to look glitzy and gorgeous, but that doesn't mean it can't feel glorious, too. The mesmerizing tile work above this fireplace is like an irresistible invitation, its visual depth drawing guests deeper into this 2010 Holiday House show house in Manhattan by Scarsdale designer and East Hamptonite Jolie Korek. The silky drapery and super-shaggy area rug underfoot give a person the sensation of being wrapped in luxury, while the sheen of the upholstery and sparkly accents refract the light in ways that delight the eye. "My interior design mantra has always been to take modern design elements and translate them into a cozy and warm, relaxing and serene space," Korek says.
Stepping into the familiar prettiness of traditional decor is like getting to skip the introductions: Guests are immediately warmed by the sense that they've been here before - and enjoyed it - and everyone naturally knows where to sit and what to do. Campitiello and William Johnson incorporated assorted levels of cushiness in this East Islip home to suit every visitor's comfort level: A straight-backed seat for that buttoned-up guest who's aghast at poor posture, a roomy armchair for softer seating and a plush sofa where your closest chums can sink in and stay all day. The symmetrical floor lamps serve the double duty of framing the space and lighting it up for some quality time with the Sunday paper in front of the fire.
Edgier tastes don't preclude you from having a warm, inviting space. Glen Cove designer Greg Lanza says he modernized cozy in this Lattingtown home by using "a warm and cool color palette, along with lots of textures including iron, wood, glass, leather and velvet." The slightly devilish pointed silhouettes of the toss pillows offset the fluff factor while echoing the chic lines of the mantel. "The client modernized the hearth by selecting a gas-operated unit with chopped glass to replace ceramic logs," Lanza says. "Although this room is lit with recessed lighting, warm task lighting is achieved by the addition of a pair of industrial pharmacy lamps and an adjustable iron shade lamp," Lanza says.
The fleeting nature of things in a plugged-in world can be awfully disconcerting - it's reassuring to look up from the ever-changing information on an electronic screen and see comforting signs of permanence. In this home office in St. James designed by Natalie Weinstein, framed photos - not digital slide shows - and books on built-in bookshelves serve as evidence that someone is still willing to commit their thoughts and memories to print. Leather furniture transcends the trends and promises years of clubroom-style comfort. Framed artwork offers timeless beauty, and the wood paneling and carefully placed lighting warm the space like a sip of brandy.
Soft overhead lighting, punctuated with decorative accent lights or the flickering flame of candles or a fireplace, create inviting depth and a festive glow. "Using additional 'layers' of lighting on dimmers softens a space and adds warmth and ambience," Wilkes says. "Specifically, adding chandeliers or wall sconces bring to eye-level a wonderful decorative element that makes a room more inviting. This type of accent lighting" - shown here inside a Merrick home - "casts a flattering glow to the room's ceiling, walls and furnishings, and also to people's faces, which therefore makes the space a favorable gathering spot that feels nice to be in."