February 21, 2014

Tips For Relaxing a "Traditional" Home

A reader recently asked me if I had any suggestions for relaxing traditional homes…  She’s moved to the Northern Virginia area from California and prefers a relaxed, casual feeling but knows that her home and neighborhood have a more refined, traditional style and wants to find that perfect balance of refinement and comfort.  It’s something I’m called on to do frequently in this area…  DC can be a bit more buttoned-up architecturally than other areas of the country, but it’s still got its share of casual people who are looking for their homes to feel appropriate to the area but feel relaxed.  

{Our clients’ family room…  They’ve since moved across country!! 🙁   }


So today I thought I’d share some tips for trying to achieve that refined-casual balance.

1. Natural Elements:  It probably won’t surprise you that I’m saying this, but, bringing in natural element instantly relaxes a home.  Nature is extremely pure and unassuming, there so bringing it into a home lightens the mood and makes it feel fresh. 

I love bringing in natural materials like linen, warm and raw woods, natural fiber rugs (seagrass, jute and sisal are my usual favorites) natural woven shades (I love matchstick shades & bamboo shades, both lined & unlined)and grasscloth wallpaper.  I especially love to layer wool or cotton rugs on top of natural fiber rugs for a casual, layered look.

{A Maryland Living Room We Finished Last Year}

Actual things from nature work too: plants, flowers,driftwood, roots, bark, fossils, coral, seashells, stones, branches are just a few of the things you can outside (or buy if you can’t find!!!  I’m not above that 😉  My family and I do love going on walks to find things to display in our home.  

{My dad found the teak root on the wall while fishing.. it’s one of my favorite things!!}


2.  Keep windows simple:  To create a breezier, more causal-feeling in a home, I often forgo lining on curtains.  In my own home, not a single curtain panel has any lining and I love seeing my curtains blowing when the windows are open.  I stay away from swags and valences of any kind and prefer simple metal rods and rings vs. more ornate wooden rods.

{Unlined linen curtains and simple roman shades in our last home}


3.  Gallery Walls: Salon-style gallery walls feel more relaxed than formal grid arrangements.  Using a mix of different frames is even more casual-feeling.  


{The room I designed for the DC Design House a couple of years ago}


When things look a bit more effortless, less-planned and more imperfect, a home sort of exhales.  

4. Relaxed Patterns & Fabrics: When selecting fabrics & patterns for large pieces, steer away from overly traditional patterns like damasks in serious tones or fussier florals.  Don’t be afraid, however, to include them in small doses as a little nod to tradition.  

{In our clients’ family room, there is one formal pillow fabric but the large pieces- like the curtains- are in a fresh trellis pattern by Windsor Smith}


5. Juxtaposition:  Interest in rooms comes from juxtapositions, and so when the materials in a space play off of each other, it creates a sort of beautiful tension.  This applies to both formal and informal homes, but is extremely important in relaxed-feeling homes because it adds to that not-so-planned feeling I mentioned.  When things match too perfectly, a room feels less inviting, less warm

{My Old Living room}

6.  General Furniture Style Choices: To keep things relaxed, steer towards pieces with clean lines.  Even a spare Louis XVI piece can feel casual in the right setting as opposed to a curly, scrolly piece Louis XV.  Slipcovers over pieces with lots of dressmaker details hep in relaxing.

{Our clients’ family room}

6.  Chill:  Just have fun with your house. I find that most people aren’t that serious, yet they decorate seriously.  It’s like we feel we have to create these (often boring!!) grown-up houses.  I did it in my first house, for sure.  The more personality and fun you can bring into your home, the less “stuffy” it feels.  A painting by your child, for example, can be both beautiful and surprising in a formal living room, and make it feel more relaxed and livable.  

{Our clients’ dining Room}


I’m off for the day but hope you enjoyed the tips!!  Be back tomorrow for a pretty little Friday post of an INSANE flatbread you’ve got to try!!

*photos by my good friend, Helen Norman 🙂


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