A Fine Romance
These days Valentine’s Day is big business, with just about every arm of the retail trade wanting a piece of the action. Along with the usual (and I’d say quite legitimate) suspects such as florists, card and chocolate shops, restaurants and lingerie suppliers, you’ve now got supermarkets, record companies and even sock manufacturers – yes sock manufacturers getting on the band wagon. Ladies, far be it from me to suggest what you should or shouldn’t be buying to sweep your Valentine off his feet – but socks ??? Ah well, I suppose it would be payback time for all the dodgy underwear he’s ever given you.
Anyway, with all that in mind I thought this month it might be a good idea to look at Romantic interiors – both the concept of them and how to create them. Is the age of romance dead, or just mortally wounded ? It’s certainly true that life is lived at a more frantic pace these days, tending to make people less chivalrous, and to a great extent less courteous. When you’re in the car and you let someone out of a junction you seem less and less likely to be thanked for doing so. By the way, if I’m ever Prime Minister I’m going to bring in a law that says if they don’t at least wave a friendly hand in thanks, you are quite entitled to have their car impounded and subsequently crushed ! But I digress.
So what does the word Romantic conjure up in terms of interiors ? Does it bring to mind a Jane Austen heroine, the Bohemian movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries, a Hollywood starlet’s boudoir in the 1930s ? Well yes, all of that and much more. To me it’s everything to do with comfort, elegance and sumptuousness, but stopping short of decadence. A romantic room should entice you to enter, and to want to linger there once you have. It should have a slightly dreamy feel. It can be overstated in parts, but not cluttered. It is the antithesis to my pet hate the minimalist interior. In fact (and I might just have invented a new word here), you could say it’s maximalist.
So how do we achieve this look and feel ? Well, there are several ways to go. The thoughtful use of colour to set the mood is very important. In bedrooms you can really go to town with rich emeralds, hot gingers, passionate reds or vibrant aubergines. You can of course use these wonderful deep tones in living rooms too, but be careful, as the last thing you will want is to create a room that you absolutely love for six months or so but then become heartily sick of ! As I’ve said before, be as indulgent with colour in a dining room as you like, but consider reining it back a bit in a sitting room. You can just as successfully create a stunningly romantic room using shades of neutrals, stones or creams.
Fabric is the real key. Use loads of it !! If simplicity is your bag, make your window treatment lined and interlined curtains with hand pinch pleated headings and plenty of fullness, hung from a substantial pole. By that I mean a pole of at least 50mm diameter, and even more on wider windows. And what about adding a self valance to the curtains, trimmed along the bottom with a dramatic fringe ? But for that real romantic feel, consider having a deep, shaped pelmet, a goblet pleated valance, or even the Full Monty option – swags and tails !!! Yes, there, I’ve said it !! Swags and tails. I know some of you will now be cringing behind the sofa in horror, but come on out. Swags and tails can be beautiful. They don’t have to consist of lots of finely pleated little swags piled on top of each other. Larger, more gently draped swags with long soft tails can be the picture of elegance in the right room. Layering also gives that dreamy romantic feel. A voluminous soft sheer under your curtains will not only give privacy, but will focus the attention inside the room, blotting out external distractions. Dumped curtains, or London length as they’re sometimes called, look opulent and romantic, but can be a bit of a pain to live with. It’s ok if they’re to be tied back and left as dress curtains, but they will need constant re-dressing if you’re going to use them on a regular basis. And if you do fancy that look please make sure they are properly over-long. We like to have at least 25 centimetres on the floor, otherwise they tend to look as if someone’s just made them a bit too long by accident, and not bothered to get them altered.
If your romantic room in question is the living room, make sure you have large, comfy sofas with gently rolling arm contours. These will not only soften the overall look, but will be great to snuggle up in. If it’s the bedroom, what about a fur throw on the bed, and loads of scatter cushions ? A deep, velvet pile carpet is fabulous to bury your toes in, but some people find the footmarks that are always left too much trouble for everyday use. Multi level lighting is essential to give a romantic feel. Use as many table lamps as the room will take, along with any ceiling fittings, and make sure they’re all controllable on a dimmer.
Finally, add the all important finishing touches. The sense of smell may not be utilised much in the world of interiors, but in creating a truly romantic room it most certainly is. Whilst a bedroom will probably naturally smell of its occupant’s favourite fragrance, albeit perfume or aftershave, a living room will need a little help. And for this you simply can’t beat fresh flowers !! Now if you’re a man reading this and you’re thinking of picking up a bunch of carnations at the garage on the way home, may I say that really won’t cut it. I’m talking about a generous, lavish arrangement that will not only look fantastic, but whose aroma will evoke the most wonderful heady, romantic atmosphere. Come on gents, splash out. Who knows, she might even decide not to get you the Valentine socks after all.
John Biddell, John Charles Interiors
Live 24 7 magazine editorial - February 2016