True, a man’s home is his castle.
But turrets sure are drafty, stone floors are cold underfoot and it’s hard to have a conversation in a cavernous banquet hall.
So, how to cozy up the castle?
Happily, grandeur and a sense of intimacy and comfort are completely compatible.
Ask Tim Dewson, president and founder of Dewson Construction in Wilmington. He has been building homes and additions—from Philadelphia’s Main Line to Maryland’s Eastern Shore—that are luxurious and expansive, yet sublimely livable, for more than 20 years.
“No matter how large a home is, people want a place that is welcoming,” he says.
What’s Old is New Again
To enhance the authenticity quotient, Dewson makes extensive use of reclaimed materials that already have developed the patina of age. That might include cobblestones from streets in Philadelphia, a mantel rescued from a manor house or beams from a 19th-century factory.
“We have made hearths from old curbstones and have used antique bricks in floors and archways,” he says. “We have laid wood floors salvaged from old mills and incorporated reclaimed wood from barns into furniture and built-in cabinetry.”
Achieving a timeless look also requires time-honored skills. Picture a finish carpenter crafting moldings, replicating a centuries-old design. Imagine a master mason chiseling granite steps that lead from the house to the garden. Visualize a decorative painter mixing glazes that mimic the appearance of centuries-old plaster.
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Sentiment and history loom large in creating a personal space. For a manor house on the Eastern Shore, Dewson commissioned a woodcarver to craft a meticulously detailed mantel centered around the bearded face of an old man, a figure in Irish folklore.
“The homeowner is Irish and it was extremely meaningful to him, in addition to being quite beautiful,” he says.
The Age of Enlightenment
Lighting—from lamps to chandeliers to candles—is an essential element in setting the mood for a space.
Recessed lighting allows homeowners to illuminate targeted areas with the flick of a switch. But a successful lighting strategy goes far beyond punching holes in the ceiling and putting in can lights at regular intervals.
The goal might be to highlight important pieces of art, infuse a dark corner with cheer, enable a hostess to artfully apply lipstick or allow a home chef to chop celery with a clear view of the cutting board.
“Before we install recessed lighting, we talk with homeowners about how they will use the room,” Dewson says. “Where will they place their furniture? Do they like to read? Will they be entertaining in the room?”
Subtle layers build warmth in a room. Fine wood paneling, wallpaper or fabric applied directly to a wall form an elegant cocoon. Carpets add another layer for the senses.
The elements of hospitality extend a subliminal invitation to relax and enjoy a space. A cashmere throw on a wing chair and a pile of leather-bound books are a beacon for readers. Sparkling crystal decanters announce the cocktail hour.
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Patterns and textures in organic materials also convey a sense of coziness. Consider the graining in wood and the veining in marble, the depth in wrought iron and the earthiness of slate. Silk is opulent and classic. Leather and linen grow more inviting with each passing year.
“People gravitate toward materials that are natural,” Dewson says. “They give us an inner feeling of comfort.”
Find Your Comfort Zone
Breathe deep and relax. Here are seven ways you can make your abode a cozier place to come home to, without getting too frazzled.
Snuggle into big furniture, large pieces with cushions that are wrapped in down for extra comfort. Choose upholstery that feels comforting to the touch, such as chenille, micro suede or distressed leather. Then pile on the pillows.
Light the space strategically. Instead of harsh, overhead lights, install recessed lighting. Add a chandelier and mute the bulbs with small silk shades. Arrange reading lamps on tables. Make certain all your lights are on dimmer switches.
Frame windows with sumptuous fabrics, even if you never pull the curtains. Think silk, with fringe or velvet, with tassels. Filter the glare of sunlight with shears.
Give your feet a treat with soft carpeting. Warm a marble bathroom floor with a fleece. Give a traditional oriental rug a touch of the exotic by layering on a cowhide painted in zebra stripes.
Create a cozy cave by painting the walls dark. Think ruby red for an intimate dining room, chocolate brown for a home office, deep navy for the bedroom.
Line your nest in the bedroom with tactile surfaces, such as elegant wallpaper, sumptuous high-thread count bedding in Egyptian cotton and a faux fur throw. A canopy bed can be your own private haven. Or add a headboard upholstered in velvet, linen, leather or suede.
Add architectural elements. Warm a room with a fireplace mantel. Transform a family room with built-in bookcases filled with vintage volumes. Put your dining room over the top with crown moldings and wainscoting.