It’s cold out there. In much of the country, now’s the time when home serves as a cozy refuge from the ice and snow. We light our fireplaces and wish for springtime.
But what if we took the opposite approach, using the inspiration of frosty winter colors and shimmering, icy textures to create rooms that look gorgeous year-round? A winter-inspired room can celebrate the beauty of this season, and also provide a cooling refuge perfect for the spring and summer ahead.
“My clients usually think I’ve lost my mind when I suggest using winter as a source of inspiration for a cozy bedroom,” says designer Brian Patrick Flynn, founder of decordemon.com. But, he says, “When done right, a combination of layered whites, blue-grays and touches of metallic can add a wintry look that’s chic, inviting, surprisingly warm and totally timeless.”
Flynn and two other interior designers — Betsy Burnham of Los Angeles’ Burnham Design and Kyle Schuneman of Live Well Designs — offer advice on using winter as a decorating inspiration.
Start with the reflective sheen of ice as your main inspiration, says Flynn. “Use a plethora of reflective surfaces and metallic touches,” he says, including mirrored accent tables and nightstands, as well as mirrored lamps.
Flynn and Schuneman both recommend metallic wallpaper. “One bedroom I designed in California was completely inspired by Candice Olsen’s birch bark wallpaper from York Wallcovering,” Flynn says.
“The paper is made from white-toned birch bark, and has a metallic backing which just screams ‘winter chic.’ ”
If you’d prefer painted walls, Schuneman suggests choosing a shade of pale gray or icy blue and buying it in two different finishes — one with a high sheen that almost looks metallic and the other matte. Paint the walls with alternating stripes of each finish.
This use of just a few metallic or mirrored items is a great way to bring in some icy glamour, Schuneman says, “without it becoming the ice princess’s dungeon.”
Mirrors and chrome
Mirrored and metallic items also maximize light, warming a room even in winter.
“Since trees lose their leaves in the winter, the amount of light that streams in through the window can be double the amount in the spring or summer,” Flynn says. “By the time that gorgeous light hits the reflective surfaces and metallics, the room instantly warms up.”
Burnham also likes mirrored items. A mirrored table “adds a dimension to a room that wood just doesn’t,” she says. But she cautions against taking the look too far. If you’re buying mirrored end tables, she says, put a ceramic lamp on top rather than a mirrored or glass lamp. Or mix mirrors and chrome with warm shades of ivory, rather than stark whites.
“The biggest trick to doing a wintry palette right is to layer, layer, layer,” Flynn says. “I like to stick with an overall white palette, but bring in ultra-white, off-white, cream, blue-white and then add touches of blue-gray. This makes a space soothing and sophisticated, while adding depth.”
Burnham’s favorite wintry wall color right now is a shade called “Silver Spoon” by Dunn-Edwards. “It’s a really, really pale gray-blue, and I cannot tell you how many rooms I’ve used it in,” she says. It contrasts well with white for a modern look or with warm shades of brown for a more “organic and earthy” feel.
Schuneman loves mixing wintry whites, silvers and grays accented with shades of purple. Or he sometimes pairs “a gray that has blue as its base, and a blue that has gray in its base” and brings in “hard edges, like crystal lamps” for a chic, “wintry feeling.”
Work it anywhere
Winter-inspired design can work in any climate, from a Vermont ski house to a California beach condo.
“I did a bedroom in the Hollywood Hills with icy blue walls, and the headboard wall was all metal ceiling tiles,” Schuneman says. For the bedside tables, he chose pale blue glass lamps that resemble melting chunks of ice.
“You can really go for it” and do a full-on winter-inspired style, he says, or use just touches of it as “the thing that gives a room an edge.”
In southern California or other warm locations, Burnham says, it may work best to mix winter-inspired items with something more reminiscent of the local weather.
“Think of a beautiful driftwood table with something sparkly on it. That brings it back to the sand and the beach, and keeps it relatable” to your warm-weather location, but also includes a bit of icy beauty, she says.
Balance icy with cozy
Along with shimmery, mirrored surfaces, be sure to include soft, cozy ones: Look for “beautiful cable-knit cashmere throws,” Burnham says, or “a big faux-fur coyote blanket on a bed. It’s wintry, but it’s also so luxe, so high-end hunting lodge, and that works at the beach, too.”
Layers of soft fabric on furniture and floors bring a welcome feeling of warmth. If you choose a “fluffy, white flokati rug for the floor, you’re still having a kind of wintry moment,” Schuneman says, “but it’s just not hard-edged.”
What not to do
Just don’t get silly, Flynn says. “First and foremost, I let my client know that just because we’re going wintry, it doesn’t mean we’re going to pop out igloos, snowflakes and polar bears. In other words, we completely avoid themes and clichés altogether.”
Instead, he says, “We just think of different ways to use whites, grays, metallics and textures in a manner which fits their personal style and makes a room feel airy and open. That’s usually my trick to getting winter-inspired design right.”