Saturday, March 7, 2009

Casual Elegance Decorating Design

There was a time when 18th century looks and traditional styles seemed to dominate home design. No more. As people spend more time in their homes — entertaining, working, unwinding — they’re choosing instead to create home environments that reflect their own individual sense of style and sophistication. Not willing to sacrifice comfort for design, they’re mixing different periods, fabrics, even styles and furnishings to bring a sense of relaxed, casual elegance into their homes today.

“Comfort comes first today,” explains one interior designer. “The days of the formal living room that was never used are gone. Now, people want to create a sense of sophisticated elegance for every room in the house and they’re doing it with ‘collected’ or mixed looks as opposed to the pure period looks of the past.” For example, one might mix a comfortable, casual over-sized chair and ottoman with antique or formal pieces. “The contrast and surprise of blending formal and informal styles together are what make home design so exciting today,” adds another designer. “It’s more of a conservative approach carried out in a casual way, where less formal, less ‘period’ pieces mix in naturally with classic anchor pieces. The old standards can exist side by side with more contemporary styles, and the results are often extraordinary.

”For another look, people are even blending contrasting architectural and furniture styles. “I’ve even found traditional furnishing styles in homes with very contemporary architecture,” notes another designer. “While the home might not be as full of furnishings as a traditionally styled dwelling, the contrast is much more extreme. I think that people are working so hard and so much today that they’re turning to their homes as almost a warm, safe retreat. And, as technology continues to advance at such a rapid rate, it’s pushing its way into our homes. To some extent, I think these modern advances cause us to start searching out the comfort of the familiar. We start looking back to historical things and styles that seem to soften technology’s hard edges.

”In addition to furnishings and accessories, the latest fabric design and introductions are also helping people create the casually elegant, relaxed looks they seek.

“The Country look has trained people to relax their homes, and when we look at the imagery of its styling, we see fabrics with simple stripes and dots. People have loved this look and grown with it. Now we’re starting to seek out more refined styles, but we’re not willing to give up this relaxed look. As a result, finer fabrics are starting to replace simpler cotton prints, and we’re seeing a shift to chenille velvets and washed damasks,” says one designer. “Fabrics not normally seen in slip covers are starting to show up. It’s that wonderful contrast of a rich fabric used in a relaxed and casual way. People want to strike the middle ground between great looks and livability.

”Product designers are responding to this increasing demand for relaxed, yet sophisticated looks by creating furnishings and accessories that blend different textures, tones, finishes and styles together.

“This continued emphasis on casual elegance has led designers to take classic looks and styles and make them more approachable,” states one trend-spotter. The newest furniture finishes are also contributing to this sense of comfort and styling. “Many of the finishes today are leaning to more antique,” says one designer. “These finishes make the pieces look like heirlooms that have been passed down through generations.” Often these pieces are given a wood finish and then paint is applied over it. Then they’re intentionally “distressed” to allow the finish to peak through where the paint is “worn away.” The end result is a piece that has the charm of an antique, but is styled for modern uses. Chairs with more comfortable seats, hutches and armoires that can accommodate what people own today. It's about getting the look without sacrificing modern convenience. The bottom line? There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for this quest for comfort.

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