- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Patricia Morgan of McLean enjoys the romantic atmosphere of her home after a long day at the office. She feels her house is a sanctuary separated from the chaos of life.
"When you put in the kinds of hours you have to work in Washington, you have to go home to someplace that makes you happy," she says. "It's a respite. It's where we vacation, basically."
Creating a romantic atmosphere in a home requires creativity and imagination. Whatever the budget, any home can become a charming retreat. Transforming a house into a haven from the world can bring many benefits, such as improved relationships and decreased stress levels.
What makes a home a "haven" can be very subjective. Mrs. Morgan's master bedroom features a peach-and-navy-blue color scheme with a fireplace and sitting area. The room also has a separate dressing area. The living room is decorated in aquas and blues, with an Oriental rug that highlights those hues. Family heirlooms throughout the home mirrors, silver and porcelain add intimacy to the setting.
The interior of Mrs. Morgan's home was designed by Sue Debevec, owner of Debevec Interiors in McLean. She says designing a romantic setting depends on the tastes of the individual.
"I ask the client to describe to me their perception of romance," Ms. Debevec says. "It's different for everyone. For some people, it would be flowers and ruffles. For other people, it would be dark colors or a tailored look."
Once, Ms. Debevec had a client ask that the dining room provide a striking atmosphere. She had the walls painted navy blue and installed a brass chandelier on a dimmer. She also placed many candles around the room.

Before even entering a house, visitors make judgments about the environment from the home's outside appearance, says Susan Wales, author of "The Art of Romantic Living; Simple Touches to Enhance Everyday Life." She is the author of four books, including the "Match Made in Heaven" series.
Because first impressions last forever, Mrs. Wales suggests allowing the beauty of nature to play its part. For instance, making the appearance of the mailbox special adds sparkle to the setting. She proposes adorning it with morning glory or ivy.
Another technique people can use to welcome visitors is hanging twinkling Christmas lights, even if it's not the holiday season, Mrs. Wales says. Placing small candles in white paper bags along a sidewalk, porch or stone pathway also can create a breathtaking ambience. The candles usually are secured inside the paper bags by sand or rocks and illuminate the area with their glow.
Mrs. Wales likes to greet visitors at the door with fragrant plants such as night-blooming jasmine on both sides of the doorway.
She also advises painting the door a color that exemplifies the character of the home. For instance, a red door signifies good cheer, while a blue door signifies peace. A black or dark green door communicates that the home is secure. A white or beige door means it's a house of purity.
"Once you walk inside the house, you've already been greeted with beauty and warmth," Mrs. Wales says. "Inside should be an explosion of fragrances, sounds and lighting to set the mood."

Ambient lighting provides a better atmosphere in a home than overhead lighting, says Tamara Catania, a designer at DesignWorks Interiors in Centreville. She says overhead lighting can be overbearing, while lamps on tables are easier on the eyes. She also tries to spotlight appropriate pieces of artwork in a home.
When choosing art to display in the home, she advises using pieces that are appropriate for the area. Remember that glass on top of a painting reflects light and makes it more difficult to enjoy, she says.
Along with artwork, she suggests highlighting objects that portray the story of the homeowner's life, such as artifacts from travels. She says black-and-white photographs, instead of color pictures, make a striking presentation. Antique books can be used to raise the level of such items for an added touch.
"It's important that you have a cocoon of warmth, enjoyment and love with your family," Ms. Catania says. "You want to be able to sit and look out a window and feel totally at ease, as though your house completely reflects you and your love for others and their love for you."
Rugs also can be a great addition to a home, she says. They provide a soft texture underneath a person's feet. Apart from their feel, they can designate the conversation area of a room. Finding pillows or throws to match the rugs or furniture softens the environment.
Designing a romantic interior can become expensive. Ms. Catania suggests buying items in stages instead of all at once.
"I always tell my clients to get the best they can afford and not to skimp," Ms. Catania says. "It's better to have better-quality things."

Discovering the beauty of pearls and various ways to use them in the home is a popular way to evoke a special setting, says Justine Sancho, owner of Justine Sancho Interior Design Limited in Bethesda. One of the favorite bedrooms she developed for a client featured seed pearls hand-sewn on peach-and-white English silk drapes.
In other settings, she has used silk on its own. For instance, she draped purple, melon and peach silk over the bed and windows in a client's home. She enjoys that combination because it gives the feeling of a sunset.
Ms. Sancho also likes to hand-paint fireplaces to make them look as if they are made from mosaic tile. She says a fireplace in any area of the home adds a spark of romance.
"I love to make the focus of the room the seating around the fireplace," she says. "It's a lounging area, a place where you can sit and have a glass of wine and read a book. It's something that's very lush and comfortable."

A spa in the bathroom provides another place for couples to unwind, says Eric Green, home-products expert at HomeClick.com in Edison, N.J. If a whirlpool tub doesn't fit someone's needs, he suggests installing a steam room. He also says music and candles can easily become part of any bathroom setting.
"Relationships are put under the gun because of stress and pressure," Mr. Green says. "You should be able to relax together. When you enjoy time in a whirlpool or steam room, you have no choice; you're pretty much sitting there doing nothing."
The biggest challenge of making a home into a love nest is helping couples merge their likes and dislikes, says Alex Dean, owner of the Alexander Group in Kensington. As a designer and renovator of homes, Mr. Dean says resolving clashing opinions is part of his daily business. Usually, the successful designs arrive through compromise.
"I'm constantly dealing with the dynamics of husbands and wives," he says. "She wants the cozy, intimate family room, and he wants all glass across the back of the room … . It takes some real discussion on some points."

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