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Sanctuary, by Hooker Furniture

We’ve become a nation of busy bodies. As nine to five become 24/7, our homes are fast becoming one of the few places we can disconnect from the world.

So how can you create a sanctuary, or private haven, in your own home?  Start by taking a look at your home in a new way. Look for ways to relax or unwind in comfortable, unexpected places. At the same time, look for ways to re-energize in open, well-lit places. The perfect private haven balances intimate,  private spaces with head-clearing open spaces infused with natural light.

Here’s some ideas!

  • look for unexpected (or missed) places you can unwind, take a nap or look out a window.
  • add more natural light or vary lighting levels with a dimmer switch or lamps in unexpected places.
  • think small and intimate; sometimes the most restful places are a place for 1 or 2 people rather than a crowd.

You’ll know if your home is haven-worthy if you can achieve each of these 5 private haven benefits in each room!

1. Get Comfortable
Getting comfortable at home means finding plenty of places to kick off our shoes and settle in. Adding upholstered chairs around a dinner table invites us to linger for hours. Adding extra bed pillows helps us sleep better. Choosing weathered furniture finishes or organic colors inspires a feeling of quiet calm.

2. Lighten Up
Adding mirrored surfaces and mirrors doubles the light Daylight rejuvenates and heals. Sheer or translucent curtains diffuse light rather than blocking it. Light or white walls recreate daylight, while mirrors and mirrored finishes double the amount of natural light in a room…  especially when placed next to windows and chandeliers!

3. See things in a new way
A change is as good as a rest, even at home. Leaning a   picture against the wall, mixing two wood finishes in the same room, using mismatched chairs around a table or adding a bar cabinet or chair in the bedroom feels fresh and new.

4. Embrace the imperfect
A perfect home no longer needs perfectly matched, new or polished furniture Time-worn finishes, uneven, natural weaves and unmatched accent  pieces make us more relaxed, connect us to nature and invite us to experiment without regret

5. Reach out and touch something!
Think how good it feels to walk barefoot in the sand. Creating similar sensory   experiences at home means choosing textures that beg us to touch them and feel good when we do… a wooly rug next to the bed, hand-scraped or waxed table tops, carved bed posts or nubby fabrics.

Click here for more information about the Sanctuary collection, including some inspirational photos!


Dining Room with white wainscot, make small dining room look biggerIf you like the drama and coziness of dark interior paint colors, but also want to make your small dining room look bigger, here’s how to do both. Paint the lower portion of the wall white (or off-white) and reserve the darker paint color for the top portion. The dining room will look bigger than it would have if whole wall would have been painted dark.

When dividing a wall into two portions, experts usually recommend putting the light area on top – partly because dirt and scuffs occur on the lower portion and are easier to hide with dark colors, partly because  it mimics the natural world (the ground is darker and the air above it lighter).

BUT in the case of a small room, the reverse can be effective. Notice how the areas that add light to the room (the ceiling because it reflects light down and the upper wall because it’s most visible) are kept dark and enclosing. But the areas that create the room’s perceived size (the lower wall because it connects to the floor space, the window because it opens views to the outdoors), are kept light and spacious.

The horizontal wainscotting and horizontal ceiling molding add to the spacious look. By moving the eye right and left, rather than up and down, the room looks wider and longer.

Another side benefit of a light-colored lower wall? The intricate details of dining chairs are easier to see against a light,  rather than dark wall.

For more home decor ideas, or to download our free magazine, visit

Long Cove, by Lexington Furniture

There’s something easy and breezy about beach house decor. This white, light-infused style makes us want to turn off our cell phone, curl up with a good book and disappear for awhile.

If you haven’t quite secured that waterfront beach house property yet, not to worry; Beach decor today is as much about an attitude today as a location. In other words, you don’t need to have coastal property to feel like you do!

In a word, beach house decor is about simplicity, as perfectly translated in the beach house dining room shown here (Long Cove, by Lexington Furniture). Nothing says beach house style quite like white-washed furniture.

But what’s so intriguing about this room is that it’s elegant rather than rustic or cottage-y. Notice the elegant oval-back chairs and and that hefty table base. In a darker wood they’d have looked traditional, formal and all serious-looking, but in a washed tone, they invite us to relax and unwind. (Remember the house in the movie Something’s Gotta Give? The furniture was classic and elegant; but all those light colors made it so-ooo relaxing

Light-colored fabric on the dining chairs make them disappear, like we want to do at the beach. A round table feels more relaxed and intimate than one that’s long and formal, and a simple sideboard rather than a full-fledged china cabinet feels informal and casual. Notice its long legs – they add to the airy quality we love about the beach. Hanging a whitewashed mirror above the sideboard creates an elegant, shabby chic quality. But even more impressive; placed on a wall adjacent to a window, it reflects the window; (… a very crafty designer’s trick that doubles your light)!

Simple topiaries flank the mirror over the sideboard, and there’s nothing fancy about that shaded bulb chandelier – it’s casually elegant with the wrought iron frame. A woven jute rug simulates beach sand; windows are kept uncovered. This is a beautiful thing if your view is the ocean; not so much if it’s your neighbor’s window. If you need a little privacy, choose simple white or light-colored cotton or linen curtains that diffuse rather than block light; make sure they can be pulled completely off the glass during the daytime to maximize your natural light.

Speaking of light, a white ceiling is pure beach house style, reflecting all the light back into the room. Even the charming ceiling beams are painted white so they add texture but don’t deduct any light. The  simple slate color wall color (Behr 750E-3, Skyline Steel) is cool and slightly gray… so it feels refreshing and relaxing at the same time! You could go slightly brighter for an even more refreshing look, such as seaglass color (Behr 520C-1 or 2), an azure color (Behr 560A-1) or even nostalgic wedgewood color (Behr 570E-1 or 2).

Lexington Furniture is known for their fine quality furniture and also their Tommy Bahama collections …so they really understandbeach, tropical and nautical style. Check them out at

Want more information on decorating in beach house style? Find out which paint colors, furniture, accessories and designer tips ideas will create a professionally designed beach house look in our 24-pg Beach House RoomCue.  Just $12.95 at

The kitchen & dining set design of It's Complicated

The movie set decoration of  It’s Complicated  (Universal Pictures, 2009) showed us the latest interior design trend toward casual elegance… inspired by a blend of American and European gourmet and wine country influences, a desire for quieter homes with more organic materials.

Writer and director of It’s Complicated, Nancy Meyers, is already well-known for her portrayal of women as strong and independent; she’s becoming as well-known for the fabulous interior design ideas she packs into her  leading lady’s home. The movie set of her latest movie follows on the heels of another  memorable home in Something’s Gotta Give (Columbia Pictures, 2003). And if the influence of her most recent set decor on interior  design is anything like the last one, it’s likely to inspire more than a few home makeovers!

Jane (played by Meryl Streep) owns a Spanish ranch in southern California that blends Italian, French and California country styles. In a nutshell, the home is sophisticated without being fancy.   Terracotta-colored accents seem inspired by the rooftops of Santa Barbara. Antiques mix with high-end furnishings. Belgian linen pillows and cashmere throws are tossed over French chairs and slip-covered sofas. A  gourmet influence (Streep’s character loves to cook and owns a bakery) is seen in the charming, though slightly makeshift kitchen.

Meyers went after “a quiet palette” and the home is certainly serene, with even Streep’s ex-husband Jake (Alex Baldwin) commenting on how ‘quiet it is here’.

For a closer look at how the set design team pulled off one of the most exciting movie homes we’ve seen in quite a while, check out our March 2010 issue of RoomPlanners. (We’ve also included some of our top picks for wine country furniture inspired by Tuscany, Provence and Sonoma!). Click on the magazine cover on the right to open, or click on

If you’d like to receive our free magazine every month, visit and sign up!

Here’s a few other blogs and articles about the It’s Complicated movie interiors…

From Remodelista…

From Traditional Home…


 Country-style  rooms are typically painted vegetable hues… tomato, straw, denim and other paint colors the Waltons would have loved.  But one of the quickest ways to give simple, worn-down furniture (or worn-down people who need for a simple change) is with a can of white paint.

White paint was birthed by early 20th century modernists. Tired of Victorian clutter and drama, they wanted to lighten up a little (a lot, actually)… and white paint did the trick. One hundred years later, it’s working again, this time to lighten up rustic rooms.

The beautiful thing about white paint is that it brings furniture into really sharp focus so we can appreciate its shape and texture more. Notice in this dining room how good the ladderback chairs, table and sideboard look against the pristine walls. The  room feels fresh, light and even slightly contemporary. Even the old-looking rug looks fresh and stands out.

As a side note, the furniture shown here (Attic Heirlooms) is one of my personal faves. It  mixes painted and natural wood finshes so it’s a little less matchy-matchy. Those casual straw-seat chairs are casual and that bench is pure fun. This collection has been around for a while and is still pretty popular, so it shouldn’t be hard to find if you’re in the market for new furniture.

For more info on the dining room, visit

If you’ve thought about choosing an interior paint color that’s dark or deep, but are worried it might be just a litte too bright or memorable, painting just one wall can seem like the perfect solution.

The challenge with painting just one wall in a room, though, is that the room usually ends up looking choppy, with paint color changes between walls too abrupt. But in the case of this dining room, the amber-colored accent wall  worked perfectly. Here’s why!

The paint color chosen for the accent wall color has something in common with the paint color used on the other walls. The amber paint color (right) and old gold paint color (left) are both warm… in fact, they sit right next to each other on the color wheel. They’re also similar in value – meaning the amber color is darker than the old gold color, which is only right for an accent wall…  but only slightly  making the transition less shocking.

An important piece of furniture was placed in front of the painted accent wall. It always works best to make the brightest or darkest wall the feature wall – it reinforces why the accent color is there.  In this case, since the sideboard placed against the amber-painted wall wasn’t tall or big, so artwork and accessories were added above to build up its size and importance. The other reason to place large furniture in front of a strongly colored accent wall is to conceal some of the strong hue so it’s not to overpowering.

The accent color is repeated around the room. The amber color is picked up on the curtains on the adjacent wall. It has sort of a balancing effect. It’s also seen in the artwork and accents on the table.

The color of the furniture looks good with the accent color. One of the things to love about all the dark brown furniture in vogue right now is that it holds its own against bright colors. In this room’s design,the furniture isn’t swallowed up by the wall color. It’s one step darker and the accent wall simply creates a backdrop for it.

There’s plenty of daylight to offset the darkening effects of a strong accent color. A lot of light isn’t necessary if a dining room is used just for dining. But for most of us, the dining room can be a multi-purpose room; the large window helps balance a dark color.

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