Interior designers are experts at making a space comfortable, and those skills are never more needed than as the dark, cold days of winter approach.
I do like to try and do an old school ‘winter clean’ before the clocks change, if I possibly can. It may sound dull but sorting through the cupboards and pantry, the linen cupboard and the junk that accumulates in the bathroom and doing a really good clear out can make the house feel bigger when you are stuck inside it over the winter months as well as reminding you of that coat you have, or the recipes you could do. You can properly put away the summer clothes, the cricket bats and garden cushions that clutter the communal spaces of your house and make room for the wellingtons and waterproofs, the woolly jumpers and the candles. I order indoor bulbs around the same time and get those planted up so that by the time January comes around I can have early reminders that spring will come…
Now that the mornings are colder and darker, there is nothing like staying in bed for that extra couple of minutes and luxuriating in being warm and relaxed whilst the weather beats against the window. I have fabulous fleece mattress toppers which come from Dunelm and they warm you up the instant you get into bed, and make you feel cosseted all night – mine go on when the clocks change and come off when they spring back. If your budget allows, then spoil yourself with some really good sheets too – either linen or a crisp cotton (I know, that means ironing, but is there anything nicer than the feel of ironed sheets?). Add to that a thicker tog feather and down duvet and you may never get up again. The final layer on my winter bed is an antique Welsh blanket that is too hot to use in the summer. It has a wonderful weight to it and adds warmth and colour to the room as well as to me when I am under it! Lastly I like a sheepskin rug next to the bed so that when you do get up, your feet get a treat. Going to bed never looked so good as it does when winter comes to Wales.
Reading is another of the joys of winter – rather than resenting those dark nights, I gather books through the summer like a squirrel hoarding nuts. Whether it is old, forgotten favourites, new ones to be discovered or digging out the more wintery cookbooks to inspire weekend menus, these become a treat I look forward to indulging. It can be an act of will to remember to sit down and read, but it is the ultimate in escapism and very affordable. Having bookcases where you can see what you have, and find what you want easily is a help. I light mine with picture lights at the top of the bookcase, and they fill a wall of the sitting room (ok, and one on the landing, and in the bedroom and bathroom, and often stacked up on the staircase). Lots of the books on the shelves are not read yet – I don’t think a bookcase has to be a statement of how well-read you are. Perhaps it is more a statement of how well-read you would like to be and winter is the perfect moment to make time for that. So pick your favourite chair, or spot on the sofa. Make sure there is a good light nearby and a low table for the cup of tea or glass of wine and settle in to get lost in somebody else’s world for a while.
Don’t forget music. Drown out the sound of the wind, or the rain with your favourite music in the background instead. Bluetooth speakers are so affordable now, and we have a music library at the touch of a phone. It changes the feel of your whole house if there is music in the air. Is there anything nicer than a bath, with a book and perhaps a candle or two, and some music playing through a really good speaker?
Victoria Barker, Studio Faeger
Layer the table up with a lovely patterned cloth and some pretty place mats, a bowl of chestnuts with a nut cracker and a pretty pair of pillar candles. I often use an antique quilt on the table as I love the rich pattern and the thickness of the textile brings an element of warmth & surprise. Make it look inviting all of the time and ready to use, rather than undressed and piled high of your never ending admin.
Hunker down and get busy in the kitchen, make some fresh marmalade or chutneys and pop them in some new jars, hand labelled and out on display on a shelf to look forward to each month through winter, whether it’s a jam of the month for breakfast, or a new chutney for the cheese board to open when entertaining friends in the dark winter evenings.
The dark nights and wet, cold mornings can become really gloomy, especially after the Christmas period. Treat yourself to some new beeswax pillar candles to light in the morning as you rise and as soon as you finish the working day to settle in for the evening. I particularly love lighting a candle at breakfast with the smell of fresh toast and some homemade marmalade ready to go.
Add a lovely iron pole and hang a curtain to the inside of the entrance door to keep the howling nights outside. If you are short on time to have one made, you could use clip rings on the pole and hang an antique textile, quilt or lovely rich piece of double sided corduroy, simply hemmed.
Layers of textiles are key to bring in some comfort and warmth, especially with muddy paws and fingers lingering about. Add some mattress covers to the sofas, layering a couple on top of each other is always fun – a real life princess and the pea scenario.
Place a lovely large basket by the door ready for muddy boots & shoes. Not only is it charming to look at, it is practical on wet & muddy days too. If you are fortunate enough to have a well organised boot room, pile the basket full of logs ready to throw on the fire, nothing quite beats the smell of fresh logs as you enter a home.
In winter, low lighting is crucial. It helps to draw the night in. It’s also a lovely ritual to go around putting on lots of lamps and it gives coloured and patterned shades a moment to shine as they light up the space. I always notice lampshades a lot more in autumn and winter.
I love bringing part of the garden in. Even in winter, do foliage arrangements – why stop bringing in living things just because it's not summer anymore? I put rosehip stems, foliage or bits from the garden to make it feel warmer.
If you're lucky enough to have one, always, always light the fire. It instantly transforms any space. I light it at about five o'clock every evening. It sets the tone for the evening.
You've got to involve your other senses too. Candles are brilliant because they evoke smell as well as sight. When you walk into a house and the candles are going it feels really welcoming and very thought out. At the moment I am burning 'Geranium and Orange' by Plum and Ashby. Nearer Christmas I like to put cloves in oranges and put them in a bowl on the island. The smell that comes out is absolutely amazing. I am quite aware of smell and it’s such a nice touch to go into a house and be greeted by a delicious smell.
Whether you work from home or do it only occasionally, it is vital that you find a specific area where you create a clear definition between a working space and the rest of your home. Whether it is a library, study or simply a small desk or side table in the sitting room, make sure this area is well defined, bright, ideally close to natural light. This will allow you to stick to a routine and ‘shut the door’ and enjoy your leisure time or family life once your work is over.
At times of uncertainty we all seek solace. Home, more than ever, has become our refuge from the outside world. Surround yourself with items that mean something to you, that remind you of your loved ones, or were bought on holidays or weekend trips. Someone once said “framed pictures only belong in bedrooms”. I wholeheartedly disagree. Now more than ever is time to bring your loved ones closer together, and a couple of perfectly framed pictures on a side or console table can be a reminder of a kinder world. Pattern is another good source of comfort. Small patterns give a sense of order and restfulness; try incorporating these onto a large sofa or small chair and add lots of cushions.
Lighting is crucial to achieve a sense of calm and warmth. A lamp next to your favourite chair with either a gathered fabric or a papyrus shade will ensure the perfect soft glow of light to allow you to relax over a book or a newspaper. Lampshades are one of the most effective ways of introducing a new injection of colour into a room.
Flowers and plants bring a room alive and remind us of nature’s constant renewal. As we spend more time at home, it is easier to look after plants too. I find pelargoniums the perfect plant to keep at home, next to a window and requiring little maintenance. Some of them with scented leaves they’ll constantly remind you of warmer times.
Finally, treat yourself with a dinner date with candles. Cook the perfect dinner, get your best china out, light some candles and light the fire, play some music and pour yourself a delicious glass of something. Most crucially, don’t forget to stock up the cellar.
James Waterworth - Thurstan Design
People have been spending more time at home recently, and a lot of people will still be having smaller groups over and more meals at home. Therefore, invest in something for the household; items such as a drinks trolley add something practical and fun to the space and make evenings a little more of a special occasion.
With the nights getting longer and the temperature getting colder, adjusting the lighting for the season is key for a warm, cosy feel. Low level table lamps and floor lamps, ideally dimmable, scattered around will create a warm inviting space. Candles dotted around, especially for evening dining, will add to the overall feel. Fabric shades on the lamps will also create a snug feel. A super easy fix is making sure the bulbs are a warm white.
Add lots of comforting layers to your rooms. They are both practical and have an impact on our mental state. Chunky wool or cashmere throws over seating and beds not only provide real warmth, but the idea of warmth too when you might need it. Add textured fabrics where possible, such as on cushions, and if you are adding fabrics to the space, try and lean towards warmer tones.
Scent is often underestimated in interiors. Bringing in woodland, chestnut, smokey smells that evoke winter outdoors is very important. When you're stuck inside, it’s vital to bring some of the outside in with candles but also of course dotting plants and evergreens in small accents around the house or dining table.
At all times of year, but especially when it is getting dark and you are spending more time inside, it is important to get your ambience right through lighting. I love low level lighting and so have sprinkled my house with lamps wherever I can fit them. I scour online auctions for old candlesticks which I have made into lamps for not very much – you can pick up a bargain on eBay. Often for clients who don’t have a 5 AMP circuit and who don’t want to do the rewiring, I buy these amazing lamp remotes from Amazon – you plug each lamp into them (they are numbered) and use the remote to turn them on and off, so you don’t need to go round each lamp.
It is a good time to comb the internet; antique dealers are updating their stock, there are copious amounts of interior auctions taking place, and there is nothing nicer than finding something you really love that is unique to furnish your home with. We are still working from home more than in pre-Covid times, so looking out for office chairs, bins. Anything that can make your home office more aesthetically pleasing and comfy is worth investing in. I’m in love with these woven bins from the antique dealer Foster and Gane.
Smell is incredibly important to make you relaxed and cosy. This is the time of year to invest in all of the winter smelling candles. They can be very expensive but I came across a brand called St Eval that make delicious smelling ones for a bargain – my favourite are Tabac, fig, and Bay and Rosemary.
Make the boot room your priority for winter. This is the perfect space for making and storing chutneys, drying seeds ready for next year and creating flower arrangements to brighten up the rest of the home. It’s also the perfect room for storing those muddy boots and outdoor gear after refreshing country walks.
As life turns more indoors this winter, we suggest making your bedroom a cosy haven. Paint colour can really help add warmth to the palette. Indulge in a cashmere throw for an extra cosy bed.
The drawing room is usually the least used room in a home as it is often kept for special occasions. This empty room could be a blessing this winter so why not spruce it up with beautiful artwork or finally frame those olds pictures in the attic. Spend on comfortable seating and dress with lots of sumptuous textiles so the family can come together and relax around the log fire playing games.
Gail Taylor - TH2 Design
Light is such an important contributor to good health and wellbeing and we are sadly rather short of that generally in the long winter months. If you spend much of the day at a desk try and locate it near or in front of a window - a window behind you just does not work for those long Zoom meetings. When it gets dark, warm lighting gives a much cosier glow and real atmosphere so switch off bright overhead lighting and add a selection of lamps with bulbs that give off a warm, yellow low-level light source instead. Alternatively, a tray of candles can give a similar feel to a real fire, and add a scented candle to the collection to stimulate all your senses.
Try a SAD lamp in your bedroom and use it instead of your alarm to wake you up each morning to the gentle glow of a sun rise. The light produced by a SAD lamp simulates sunlight and helps produce the “happy” hormone serotonin and reduces the “sleepy” hormone melatonin. Using this to wake you up also means you can switch your mobile off and leave it outside the bedroom for a really restful nights sleep.
If you are combining work and relaxation in your home it works really well to try and zone different spaces so that you can move from one area to another and leave work behind at the end of the day. Declutter to feel calm and relaxed in your living space and make sure you have ways to tuck away papers and work related items to help you switch off. Baskets are great for this, and a selection on your shelves and tucked under your desk can hide a myriad of clutter. If you can find a quiet spot, make this a designated space to give yourself somewhere you can retreat to in the dark months and indulge in a spot of yoga, some meditation, or to read a good book.
Adding some seasonal cushions and throws in rich winter tones and tactile fabrics can transform your space into a winter haven. Choosing organic and natural fabrics like wool give a lovely cosy vibe or select velvets for a richer more glamorous feel in one of the many deep tones that work so well in velvet. Add a rug to your flooring to give another layer of insulation, it’s also a good way to add colour, pattern and texture to your space.
Put your fairy lights up early this year and leave them up well after Christmas. I string fairy lights all over my house and garden and often leave them up well into January. The twinkly light really cheers things up in the bleak weeks post Christmas.
This story originally appeared on House & Garden UK