Use these ideas to create a space for your personal comfort and style.

Easy Living

Okay, relax. The holiday rush is past us, and guests and wrapping paper have gone their own ways. Time to turn your attention indoors. Are you ready for a less fuss approach to decorating? This is your window of opportunity to refresh and renew your home and experience the feel-good results.

With that mission in mind, we searched for ideas that would bring more comfort, ease, and simplicity into personal surroundings.

Hilda "Hildi" Santo-Tomas, an interior designer known for her work on the popular TLC cable television show Trading Spaces, shares a clear-cut strategy that she incorporates in decorating decisions to achieve more relaxed living spaces.

"Architectural and design styles do differ because they reflect personal preferences," Hildi says, "but there is an art to the process of simplifying your home."

She led us to the residence of friend Bob Fehskens, an Atlanta residential developer whose urban loft home is filled with natural light and open views to the outdoors.

"Being in town, I was interested in finding something new yet reasonably priced," Bob explains. "Most important to me was the functionality of the space--whether or not it would work well with my lifestyle and personality. I wanted something unique that would put me at ease but something different from most traditional homes." Clean, distinct lines; richly textured neutrals; and an open floor plan characterize this 2,000-square-foot residence.

Architectural Airiness
"Less is more in this house," he states emphatically. No truer example can be seen than in the architectural design of the home, created by residential designer Franz Schneider, where a dramatic, floor-to-ceiling storefront window is the center of attention. This unifying element replaces a host of frills, which would have conveyed a complicated feel.

In the open-air loft design, everything has a function. There are no tray ceilings, chair rails, or trim. Franz ensured that only simple features prevailed. "He designs with a modern style of architecture," Bob says of his business partner. "The elements I like are a commonsense approach--open, light, and conducive to entertaining."

In an area with few room dividers, the spacious-looking kitchen is an extension of the living space. Franz connected the living area to the kitchen with small rectangular windows along the side walls. "The kitchen and dining area is one dynamic social center," Bob says. Even-Tempered Hues

With Hildi's design expertise, the furnishings in Bob's home were chosen with comfort in mind. They comprise the things he loves--a long and roomy sofa, volumes of subtly textured upholstery, a balance of diverse materials such as smooth sheet metal and limestone, and a sound system for acoustic ambience.

A crisp blend of sage and brown and cool shades of gray calm the senses and marry well with a free-flowing white backdrop and dark-wood accent pieces. With neutral colors as the foundation, it is much easier to accessorize by bringing in other hues.

"You focus on the elements of color here because they stand out against the organic yet sharp background," Hildi says.

"When the canvas is one like Bob's home, it works well with bold colors from a wool rug, glass pieces, an oil painting, or a simple orchid," she continues. "It is dark yet light; rich yet simple; minimal yet elegant; bright yet soothing. And it's all very comfortable--by design."

About Clutter
When asked about where we should put all the things we accumulate for our homes, Hildi suggests a type of give-and-take approach.

"People tend to collect clutter, and they think they need to display all their belongings. Over the years, Bob has tried to collect and showcase only special pieces. These make a strong but simple statement.

On the Simpler Side
Take everything out of the room, and only put back those special items that mean something to you. Even if items were passed on to you, if you don't like them--don't use them.

  • Find a global vision by incorporating objects from your travels into your home. It's a way to personalize your space and bring back fond memories.
  • Try the same pieces in new settings for a totally different perspective or angle. An item that's out of place in one room could be perfect for another.
  • Use calming colors from nature. These blend together in any room, and nothing stands out. Such hues make a great backdrop that's easy to enhance.