Following your heart in interior design

Probably the purest expression of romance I have ever witnessed is the scene in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” in which Sally looks at Linus and a hundred red hearts spontaneously burst forth over her head, each one throbbing wildly.

She claps her hands so quickly, that they reverberate like butterfly wings. A smile wafts across her face, which vibrates with happiness. She runs over to him, clasps her hands together, as if in prayer, and gushes, “Isn’t he the cutest thing?” while several more pulsing hearts pop open. 

The Mondrian SoHo hotel, designed by Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz. Photograph by Tom Sibley.

The fact that Linus responds by throwing his blanket over his head is totally beside the point. Who doesn’t relate to the feeling that celebrates the possibility that anything can happen, because the world has just opened up for you? To me, romance is that feeling — looking at someone or something and seeing a fantasy expressed in real time for a moment or a collection of moments. Having stars in your eyes will frequently get you a warning from others to “come down to earth.” However, I stand firm in my prerogative to give in to rapturous feelings now and then — to seek inspiration and wholeheartedly surrender to my imagination. 

So, what does a romantic environment look like? It doesn’t necessarily have to be filled with flowers and candles and billowing fabric panels. Modern spaces can have a soaring quality just as easily. The common denominator is warmth and soulfulness — a relaxed, comfortable and elegant sensibility. Maybe things are just a little mussed-up and not too perfect. Color brings emotion. The more intense the color, the more affecting it is. 

Texture brings depth and lighting creates a mood. Let softness prevail. No clutter and little emphasis on function either, because you need to remove some reality in order to create romance. Use furniture as sculpture. Regard the negative space between objects as an opportunity to create a sense of serenity. Curvy shapes are sensual. A little metallic sparkle and reflective glass. A few vintage pieces that have an interesting story behind them. 

Of course, mirrors add dimension. Play with scale. Oversized and miniature objects alter perception. Architecturally speaking, charming details and the grand scale of high ceilings are instantly captivating. Give some attention to fragrance, too. It’s all about appealing to the senses.

One of my favorite interior designers, Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz — who is known for infusing an element of fantasy into his designs — says, “The first and most important thing to decide is how you want the room to feel. Once you decide on a strong emotional concept, everything else falls into place.” Leading your aesthetic decisions by sensual and emotional desires sets the stage for inspiration. Decide you want to be transported and romance will surely follow.

For more, visit janemorganinteriordesign.com.

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