March 2008 Issue
A Sense of Spring
Mood-boosting ways to usher the season into your home.
A collective sigh of relief can be heard across Ohio every year as March rolls around. This year, March 20 signals the arrival of spring, and with it, the promise of longer, sunnier days. Spring is a time of renewal: snow melts, flowers bloom, people spend less time indoors and more time in their yards, enjoying the scent of freshly cut grass. Plants and people awaken from a prolonged slumber.
Craig Travis, Ph.D., a psychologist with Mount Carmel Family Medicine Residency in Columbus, sees it happen every year: Ohioans (and residents of other northern states) tend to seal themselves off in their homes and hibernate through the winter. Some call it the winter blues. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, approximately 25 percent of the population at the middle-to-northern latitudes of the U.S. experience winter doldrums during the fall and winter months.
The good news: You can kick those seasonal blues, and the best place to start is in your own home. According to Travis, our physical environments — the places we spend the majority of our time — have a profound influence on how we feel, respond and behave. “We’re also learning that environment has a real impact on a person’s body chemistry, brain chemistry, and everything else,” he says.
“It’s an overall sensory experience that really helps to create … that springlike, sort of fresh feeling that you’re going for,” adds Jenny Bova, ASID, of Jenny Bova Associates, Inc., an interior design firm in Columbus.
What follows is a sense-by-sense guide to help you achieve the mood-boosting look, feel, sound, smell and taste of spring in your home.
Touch: Get ready for ‘Barefoot Season’
Interior designer Diana Hudson, owner of Mentor-based Devine Designs, refers to spring in Ohio as the start of “barefoot season” — a time when we literally kick off our shoes, socks and slippers and parade around our homes barefoot. “Living for years in San Diego, it seemed like it was always barefoot season,” she says. “In Ohio, we only have a few short months where it’s comfortable to go barefoot.”
She adds: “Most of us, quite often, will leave our wool rugs out 365 days a year. But spring is a great time to roll those up and to feel the cool, bare wood floors, or your tile.” Consider replacing your heavier rugs, she suggests, with colorful, braided cotton or natural fiber sisal rugs that are soft to the touch and easy on the eyes.
Working with texture, one of the more overlooked elements of design, is also an excellent way to bring elements from nature into the home. “It can be as simple as bringing in branches from your forsythia bush,” Hudson says. “The branches, especially, can be very architectural. It’s easy and inexpensive to do, [while] still bringing the outside in and adding a different texture to your home.”
Fichus trees, she explains, are out, because “they’re too small, the colors are not right and they tend to be dust-collectors and darken the dark corners of our house.” This year, her plant of choice is the palm tree, which “[has] dimension, really great lines [and] beautiful, graceful arcs.” For a low-maintenance alternative, stores such as World Market sell silk faux palm trees that cost $80 to $130.
For greater effect, accent the palm tree with a small uplight, which you can put on a timer. Highlighting the tree in this way creates a shadow pattern on the ceiling, adding visual texture to the space.
Another option that appeals to multiple senses — and encapsulates the freshness of spring — is a potted lemon tree (Williams Sonoma sells them online for $69).
Sight: Infuse your space with color and light
Spring is all about renewal, says Bova. “It’s almost like you feel you’ve been cooped up in the house all winter, and you just feel like you want to make it fresh and new and feel like someplace you want to be.”
One way to usher in spring is to let natural light into your home by putting away your heavy, dark winter draperies and replacing them, for the spring and summer, with sheer linens and cottons, which welcome the sunlight into a room.
“If you have a room that doesn’t have a lot of natural light, the kinds of light bulbs that you use are important,” Hudson adds. “I recommend to people, if you have a room that doesn’t have a lot of natural light, and can often feel cold, [use] light bulbs that have a warm, red undertone, and it will visually warm up a room. If you have a room that gets a lot of natural light, and can tend to hold the heat … choose bulbs that have cool blue undertones to them, because it will visually cool the room down.”
Another way to increase the effect of natural lighting in a room is by changing the color of paint on your walls. Dark walls reflect less light (and absorb more light) than light walls, for instance, increasing the need for artificial lighting. White reflects 80 percent of light, while black reflects only 5 percent. Most paint manufacturers, including Sherwin-Williams, list a light reflective value (LRV) on each of their products. The higher the LRV rating of a paint color, the better it will reflect light.
As for color trends this year, Hudson says the green movement, and the resulting mainstreaming of environmentalism, is particularly hot right now in design. “The blues that we see are a reflection of nature — they are the blues of the sky and the blues of the sea,” she says. “The greens we are seeing are some wonderful light pops of citron.”
Other popular colors this season include reds and oranges, but “we’re no longer looking at barn reds,” Hudson says. “We’re now looking at spicy reds — the influences are from India, where there are spicy browns, so our reds are tending to be more brown and orange — elements of the earth.”
The simplest, most cost-effective way to introduce these colors into the home, she says, is through accent pieces, such as pillows. “It’s amazing how just changing out the pillows that come with your couch and putting some new ones on can give an entirely different feel to your room,” she explains. “That’s especially true for people who have neutral-colored, solid sofas and chairs.” Throws, rugs, bathroom towels, blankets and even accent walls are another way to incorporate small touches of trendier, bolder colors in your home.
Hudson also recommends rotating the art on your walls at least once a year to freshen up the look and vibe of your decor. “Changing out your artwork can really reflect what we’re seeing outside and can give your home an instant makeover, spending no money at all,” she says. For those who do not have an extensive art collection, Hudson suggests starting with your own digital camera. Snap photos of nature, or whatever inspires you, and then manipulate them on your computer, print them out, frame them and use your own artistic creations to accent your walls.
Olfactory: Find your scent
“When someone comes into a house that has a fresh or clean smell, they think the house is fresh and clean,” says Yvonne Lemming, co-owner (with Ellen Linkmeyer) of Studio des Parfums, a perfumery in Tipp City. At Studio des Parfums, blending artists help customers create their own personalized scents for the body and the home, using Galimard perfumes imported from France.
To freshen up the scent of your home in time for spring, Lemming and Linkmeyer recommend using room sprays or linen sprays — popular scents carried at the perfumery include cotton, lime and orange. Studio des Parfums also carries perfume-grade reed diffusers, which require no heat or electricity, and come in a variety of scents, including mimosa, marine, pomegranate and lavender. “If somebody is not really 100 percent sure what they like, lavender is a good standby,” Lemming says.
Other spring scents to consider: White flowers (magnolia, gardenia, etc.), and white peach are popular with the store’s customers.