By Marilyn Bailey
From perfect lighting to fireside club chairs to window seats, designers share ways to make you want to curl up and sigh.
Kim Milam, the Fort Worth interior designer who also owns the retail shop House Essential on Camp Bowie Boulevard, leans into textures like velvets, mohairs and woven fabrics to help create coziness in a home. And the right furnishings: “Ottomans and benches add a casual, comfy feel to any room,” she says.
But for Milam, cozy is really all about lighting. “Lighting is everything, no matter the mood you’re trying to create,” she says.
She stresses that whether your style is modern or more traditional, it’s essential to create an environment that’s comfortable. “Your home is your soft place to fall.”
In her designs, she thinks about combining lamp light and a small amount of overhead lighting, such as strategically placed halogen spots. “Lighting art and furniture pieces will make you want to snuggle in and enjoy the beauty with which you’ve surrounded yourself.”
Wall sconces can create a softer feeling than recessed ceiling lights. And try warmer-colored bulbs in lamps for more comfort.
“Cool LED lamps will distort the colors you have in your room, often to something undesirable, whereas the warmer lamps will keep colors more true. I personally still use incandescent in lamps and halogen spots for overhead — never flood.”
This time of year, don’t forget firelight. “Nothing says cozy like a flickering, crackling fire.” But when it’s not fireplace weather, Milam says: “The coziest daytime lighting is sunlight. And when you’re home, leave your lamps on.”
“When I think of cozy, I think of a warm, inviting environment,” says Katie Irsaneous, principal designer at Fort Worth’s Irsaneous Interiors. In her residential work, she creates that with rich colors and a play of textures.
Another word that comes to mind when you see her work is “classic.” Working hand in hand with the firm’s design director, Brie Stierwalt, Irsaneous is drawn to the timeless, she says. As they make cozy little worlds, “we’re really refining classic elements.”
Irsaneous’ mind turns first to warm colors. “I think of the tones of colors, like the warmth of wall colors. I painted my own house really white. The one thing I would have changed is picking warmer walls. ‘Cozy’ is warmer colors, and fabrics with texture, like velvets.” Stierwalt says she thinks of images from a Ralph Lauren showroom — “plaids, wools, things like that.”
The project that best shows off these thoughts, a bit of Ralph Lauren style as well as the Irsaneous firm’s flair for orchestrating a cozy environment, is a ranch house about 90 minutes out of town that they furnished for a Fort Worth family.
It’s all about color and texture. “They have this beautiful dining room that was just a big white box. We brought in a beautiful deep green wall color, and we upholstered some chairs with a Ralph Lauren fabric, a really beautiful tartan plaid. And we had leather seats — the warmth of cognac leather,” Irsaneous says.
A large living space off the dining area already had a gorgeous rock fireplace. To enhance this family space, Irsaneous and Stierwalt upped the lodge feel with leather club chairs, upholstered sofas and — a key detail — kilim slipper chairs. “We took almost a whole year to do that house, because we didn’t want everything to be new, we wanted it to be eclectic,” Irsaneous says. And that’s her final tip for creating a warm and cozy feeling: Don’t forget to layer in some old with the new.
Hilary Colia and Jennifer Kostohryz are the creative duo behind Fort Design Studio, a full-service firm known for its fresh, contemporary aesthetic. One of their signatures is carving out spaces for seating nooks. “When I think of cozy, it’s definitely something small and inviting,” says Colia. Adds Kostohryz: “We think of a spot where you could feel comfortable sitting and opening up a good book or having a hot cup of coffee. A place that’s relaxing that has soft, comfortable fabrics you feel like you could just curl up in.”
Fort Design has a talent for noticing areas in a home that other people might overlook and “turning them into a space that’s well-used,” Colia says. For one current client, they’re creating a reading nook for a young girl. “Window seats are always a good place for something cozy,” Kostohryz says.
Even a closet can be reworked with this kind of thinking. The designers just finished a new closet with secret powers. “It’s a good-sized space,” says Colia, “but when you get in it, I would say it has a cozy feeling. Most of it is enclosed behind doors, but then there are two little window seats where you can sit to put your shoes on or drink your coffee — it feels very cozy.”
For another children’s project, they designed a nursery for twin girls that was intended to cushion both kids and parents in comfortable vibes. “The layering of different textures creates a feeling where you just want to sit and rock a baby.”
Colia has two rules of thumb for achieving a desirable homey feeling: Never be afraid to mix textures, which creates an attractive, settle-in appeal. “And don’t be intimidated by a small space, thinking that, designwise, it has to be very simplistic.” She knows you can find a lot of comfort in the smallest of spaces.
And for an instantly pleasing, easily achieved upgrade, Kostohryz recommends something incredibly simple: change a pillow insert to down.
“It definitely goes more cozy — it changes everything.”