Cozy and calm decor

It’s all about warm lighting and rich colors

Coming off the busy holiday season, January is a month for recuperation and renewal, a time when I want my home’s interior to support a calm, introspective state (during those precious moments that aren’t dictated by the season-blind chaos of life, that is).

Photo by Liz Johnson

Interior designer and decorator Liz Johnson of Liz Johnson ReDesign in Kennebunkport has some tips on how to modify home decorating to embrace the cold season without spending a fortune.

“The changing of décor from one season to the next is really all about lighting, color and texture,” Johnson says. “The idea is to incorporate feelings of warmth. Even in a space with light upholstery and furnishings, you can create a cozy feeling by adding accessories in richer colors and textures, and a few candles scattered around.”

Johnson suggests keeping seasonal items in well-marked bins that won’t disappear into the storage abyss and are easy to swap when warmer weather returns.



Exchange breezy summer panels for heavier velvet or rich brocade. When drawn, winter-weight curtains close in a room, creating a feeling of coziness and shelter against the elements. The heavier fabric also provides extra insulation against cold, drafty glass. Don’t want to lose precious sunshine? Add a sheer curtain behind the thicker panel. The heavier drape frames the window while the sheer lets in light and provides daytime privacy.


Replace lighter fabrics with faux fur, velvet, felt and wool. Stash your lightweight throw blankets, too, and look for thick plaid patterns, knitted textures, plush sheepskin and extra-soft fleeces that coordinate with existing décor and keep you warm while the snow flies.

Photo by Liz Johnson

Overhead lighting can feel too harsh for quiet winter spaces, but using dimmer switches and changing out bluish “daylight” bulbs for warmer “soft light” varieties will tone down brightness and make the textures and colors of winter décor feel richer and warmer. For an even easier shine-up, find pillar candles in colors that complement your seasonal décor and place them in wide glass holders or large mason jars. Group varying heights and embellish with strands of tiny battery-powered twinkle lights to create a bright centerpiece in any room.


Photo by Sarah Holman

At my house, this means repurposing a drop-leaf table that sits in front of a large living room window. During the summer the leaves stay down and out of the way, and the table is used as a sideboard, occasionally called into action to display a vase of cut garden flowers or to hold appetizers during a party. But when winter arrives the leaves come up, chairs are dragged over, a lamp is repositioned, and it becomes the puzzle table.

Sometimes a puzzle is worked on in long, committed sessions during snow days or dreary weekends. Other times we pause to maneuver one piece into place as we pass by on our way to some other task. Guests tend to congregate around the table, enjoying the satisfaction of connecting pieces between sips of wine, touchdowns and conversations. The puzzle table is a place to gather, to pause and to think. It’s a place to be enjoyed alone or with others. Puzzles, like snowstorms, don’t allow us to rush.

Whatever your slow down spot looks like, it’s time to grab a snuggly blanket, light a candle, pull the drapes and enjoy the quiet season while you can. Summer will be back before we know it.

Sarah Holman is a writer living in Portland. She is enthusiastic about cheese plates, thrift shop treasures and old houses in need of saving. Find her online at

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