Creating warmth in a cool space

Mar 31, 2017

Recently I worked with a client who really loved the colour brown. When I met with her at her home she indicated she absolutely hated everything about her home and that it felt cold, dark and uninviting. Everything needed to go and a fresh, new place to call home was the end goal. She wanted to create a space that was warm and cozy with informal pieces to feel relaxed in after a long days work. When I say everything was brown, I mean literally EVERYTHING was brown. Floors, walls, furniture, lighting, pictures, cabinetry and so on.


My client clearly really liked browns and this was what made her feel comfortable so why did she dislike her home so much? This is the perfect scenario to describe why interior designers are so helpful. A lot of people think they know what they like but just don’t know how to achieve the look. Reality TV and the help of the endless amounts of design shows make putting together a homes interior look easy but when you really get down to it, picking pieces and changing colours that compliment each other can be very challenging. Home sense for example is really my home away from home, I rarely leave without feeling the urge to buy 101 things but I have heard many of my clients say, “I walk in and can’t find a thing”. 

The best way to understand a clients wants and needs takes some serious research to establish a plan that encompasses the perfect interior design to achieve function, style and atmosphere. How does the space function? Who is using the space and why do you want to redesign it? What is the style you feel suits your taste and lifestyle? Are there any features in this space you want to accentuate or conceal? How do you want this space to feel?

What is a warm space vs. cool space? What emotion is felt in a true warm or cool space? Lets begin with a warm environment.

A warm space encourages a sense of security, comfort and containment. Warm colours typically have earthy hues or dark tones in coordination with cozy tactile finishes and textures. Patterns in fabrics, wall and window coverings and natural materials such as woods and textiles also warm up a space. Soft and solid furniture that looks comfortable and enveloping adds warmth and a sense of coziness. The use of plants create instant warmth by connecting the interior with the exterior and what is more beautiful then greenery to soften a space. Soft and or dimmed lighting creates a warm ambience and enhances the mood in the room. Using a number of different light sources such as overhead pendants, pot lights, wall scones etc. can add dimension which creates interest and a welcoming feel.

A cool space typically has a feeling of grandeur even if it’s only an illusion. Colours are generally subdued, muted and pale with subtle patterns that contrast in colour and texture and encourages a sense of precision. Straight, crisp lines often define the furniture shape and can tend to be more delicate with focussed proportion to one large feature in the room such as an art piece or structure. Textures typically feel more smooth and hard with precise placement of objects and lighting is generally focussed to one area accentuating the negative space.

How do you create warmth in a cool space? How do I add colour to an overly brown and boring space without making my client uncomfortable and veering too far from her natural environment? Here are some tips on how to achieve the perfect balance.

Colour scheme:

Although grey is all the rage these days it is very hard to find a true grey. Natural and artificial light play a huge part in why you just can’t seem to find a not too purply grey, blue-grey or green-grey that if not paired properly can feel very cool. The solution, choose a grey with a taupe undertone. Benjamin Moore- Revere Pewter or Sherwin Williams- Repose Gray are my two favs. I have used these colours time and time again for clients and have yet to hear anyone say they don’t like it. The versatility of these colours add warmth and create a cozy feel allowing for ease in incorporating contrasting colours for furniture and accents. For my client discussed above I used Benjamin Moore- Revere Pewter throughout the entire main floor, excluding the dining room. The dining room was in the middle of the main floor with views from all rooms surrounding it. I created impact and a sense of separation and intimacy with a dark brown in the use of Benjamin Moore- Barnboard. It turned out absolutely beautiful and my client was thrilled to see, you guessed it- BROWN! I contrasted these colours with off whites, creams, greys and hints of green with tactile finishes in natural stone, reclaimed and live edge woods and rod iron.



Oh lighting how I love you! Lighting can dramatically impact and transform a space with the flick of a switch, pun intended. There are so many types of lighting; ambient, accent and task all contributing to the feel, look and style of a space which is why I consider this the most important element in creating a warm and intimate environment. The way you hang a light, its proportion to the size and scale of the furniture around it, the pattern and texture it creates all affect the vibe of a room. To achieve warmth, lighting should be dimmed and soft with a number of light sources adding dimension and complexity to a space. Overhead lighting can be harsh even when dimmed so make use of accent lighting and floor lamps which add interest and instant warmth. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog focussed solely on my love affair with all things lighting!!



The silent impact of nature creates a sense of warmth and stability in any home. Often greenery will soften a space by adding life to a room through colour and texture, connecting the interior with the exterior. This point could be argued and some designers will say that bringing in an element from the outdoors could create a cool atmosphere however I totally disagree. What is more encouraging on a rainy and cold day then looking at your beautiful indoor plant that keeps the hope and reminder going warm weather is coming!!



Determining the focal point of the room and the way you emphasize this is important in achieving warmth and visual interest in a room. Texture and pattern in pillows, accent pieces and throws are all versatile pieces that can be changed throughout the season adding to the feel of the room. Framing windows with beautiful drapes enhances the natural light and creates interest. A bold fabric not only adds visual interest but also physically warms a space by adding another layer of insulation for those cold days and nights. As with textiles and window treatments, layering is key. Books, framed family photos, artwork and fresh flowers are all examples of great styling pieces that add warmth and create conversation starters for when your guests are over. Furniture layout is also key. When a couch is shoved up against a wall with a ton of space between a chair or coffee table it creates a cool and unwelcoming environment. Well thought out planning and the scale of furniture in proportion to the size of the room is important in achieving a comfortable, welcoming and intimate environment to gather.




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