"When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among (friends and family) and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn't imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter." (Groundhog Day)
Six more weeks of winter! For those of us dealing with darker, shorter days this winter, here are some strategies for introducing color and light to add warmth and luster to your environment, essential to beating the winter blues!
Have you ever heard of chromatherapy, the art of using color to elicit a specific mood? Intuitively, we know how certain colors make us feel, but there’s actually a bit of science for how the majority of folks react. Our reaction to color is usually related to our experience with natural phenomena; for example, yellow suggests the warmth and joy of sunshine and summer days. I love a yellow room, and find Benjamin Moore ‘Candlelit Dinner’ a perfect, buttery, and warm yellow. Similarly, blue and green are reminiscent of the natural world and the earth’s natural beauty, so most of us find these colors fresh, relaxing and stress reducing. Farrow and Ball have a great range of sophisticated blue and green paint shades and can advise you on the best shades depending on which way a room faces and its natural light source.
If you don’t want to commit to painting (or wallpapering) your rooms, here are other more easily changed options to introduce mood-lifting color:
- Rugs can be layered and have the added benefit of providing texture and softness– but because it’s not at eye level, a rug can be a bit bolder, more of a design statement and the starting point for a room’s palette.
- Colorful accessories like ceramic ginger jar lamps in a pretty color also lend a little sheen to a space.
- Change out decorative pillows on beds, sofas, and your favorite reading chair to pillows with bright happy color, mix and match with abandon for a boost of energy and cheer in a room!
- Textiles of various weights and hands will add visual interest, even if they are all monotone. A favorite decorator recommends “a marigold pillow, a deep rust velvet chair, colorful patterned slipcover on a headboard, or a splash of color in your rug” to add value and interest to your space. Don’t forget throws that are not just cozy, but add a pop of color, texture and pattern. I love the look and feel of Irish or Scottish wool throws in gorgeous color, or even traditional plaids.
- Personally, I prefer prints over monotone – mixed and matched they lend a room energy and life! A decorator recommends: “When I am decorating I pull together a palette of colors and patterns in the fabrics and use them like a painting palette. I can see what colors all work together, sometimes colors that I might not have immediately thought of, and then the scale of pattern can be worked out to put larger scales and smaller scales, and geometrics with florals for example”. Pillows with blousy florals backed with checks and stripes are just so fresh and fabulous! Try pillows with two different sides – mixing different scales and types of print, or in our case very special rescued textiles with a solid linen back or woven trellis or stripe, for interesting contrast and texture too.
- Artwork truly interjects your unique personality, and can be a brilliant way to add bold, surprising shades of color to a room. Find colorful artwork you love and use it as a starting point for a scheme, setting the color palette and atmosphere without taking over your room.
LET THERE BE LIGHT!
Those with serious seasonal mood disorder benefit from light therapy --- but we can all use light to lift our mood. Dark day? Turn on the lights! A dark house is not going to help your mood. Small lamps for reading, or on a chest, table, bookcase, etc. create a warm, cozy, and lustrous ambience. I keep the outdoor white sparkle lights on till the time changes in mid-March – it makes the exterior and garden look a bit more festive and welcoming to visitors on these short days and early nights. Don’t forget to open the shades and curtains. Turn on the fireplace if you are lucky enough to have one – both warmth and light, heavenly! Picture lights, aimed to focus on your artwork are a beautiful way to brighten a room. Light candles. Always have a place to perch near a sunny window.
The power of fragrance to elicit a mood, even a memory, is well documented. Use candles to add glowing light as well as scent to a room. There are many spa-like candles, said to promote relaxation and calm. Or go in the opposite direction and boost your energy and brighten your mood with a scented candle featuring invigorating notes of lime zest, green tea, and herbs. You can add a little delight to your space with organic lavender sachets like our upcycled Liberty sachets – in closets, luggage, drawers -- as lavender is thought to calm and also to be the flower of devotion and remembrance.
CITRUS TO THE RESCUE
Citrus fruits are like sunshine – whether it’s the color, taste, or their bright fragrance! Eating citrus is of course a great source of Vitamin C, the “sunshine vitamin”, and may help with energy and mood. Try roasting chicken or stews with lemons and oranges and invite your friends over to share. Some believe that citrus scents, with their strong tangy aromas, stimulate activity in the brain and the production of serotonin, the hormone most closely related to the feeling of happiness and energy. Try citrus candles and lotions. Just as pretty and colorful to look at, decorate in the winter with bowls of bright citrus. They are at peak season here now until early April. In February, the French Côte d’Azur, between Monaco and the Italian border, celebrates their seasonal citrus crops with a festival of huge, towering sculptures of local lemons and oranges – a place known for its winter-gloom escape possibilities!
FLOWERS, THE BEST PROMISE OF SPRING!
We need winter for nature to rest before the flower-filled filled days of spring. In the meantime, bring nature in. For your home, or that of a friend in need of a boost, forage in your garden for greenery, then add a bloom or two grown on a local farm (our local Moonshot Farm has tons of tulips right now, grown with sustainable organic practices). Easiest of all, force bulbs from your local nursery – daffodils, hyacinths, anything at all -- in glass bulb vases, designed to hold the bulb up high with roots reaching down into water (no soil!) or just make your own bulb vase with pebbles and water suspending the bulb in a glass cylinder. You may even be able to find vintage bulb vases, usually in richly colored glass.
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR SENSES – COLOR, LIGHT, SCENT, TASTE – AND YOU CAN BRIGHTEN THOSE SHORTER WINTER DAYS!