St. Petersburg Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Letter to the editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message

Romantic decor is best with soft touch

Published February 8, 2008


Even if your decorating style leans toward no-nonsense, come Valentine's Day, romantic decor is a look to consider for a change of pace, especially if you're not a fan of modern.

I love the look year-round, especially when done right. Probably the best example I've ever seen was in a vintage 1920s Florida cottage in Dade City, home to a local decorator who combined everything from fatigued leather chairs to needlepoint floral pillows to Sisal area rugs to cherished old books.

The house could handle dogs and teenagers, yet still beckoned visitors to look, touch and take in the history and beauty of the surroundings.

Defining romantic decorating is a little difficult, especially a sophisticated romantic look that's not at all about love or romance, but really about beauty, intimacy, comfort and refinement.

What is it exactly, then?

Clothing designer Jessica McClintock, who wrote Simply Romantic Decorating, Creating Elegance and Intimacy Throughout Your Home Rodale, April 2007 defined it in the way she decorated her 125-year-old Queen Ann Victorian home in San Francisco. The beautiful house is featured prominently in her book, which showcases rooms there.

"I define (romantic decorating) as a classic style, beautifully made, that stands the test of time and can be accessorized to fit changing tastes," McClintock said last week by phone from San Francisco.

"I love a home that offers a soft and cuddly feeling, that's a refuge from the world where I feel protected and comforted."

Romantic decor, she says, is "timeless not trendy, a style that transcends fad and fashion."

She loves the idea of starting out with beige or "anything neutral" and then accessorizing with color.

"It's one of my clues to decorating," she explains. "It's easy and consistent and looks as if it was planned that way. It looks like nature (brought in) from the outside - blue from the sky, green from trees, forest and grass."

The interior of a romantic home should be derived pretty much from one palette, and accented in different shades.

The HGTV Web site offers a primer on romantic decorating. Tips include:

-Get the look through colors like pale blues, dusty pinks and creamy whites paired with richer taupes. Color schemes can vary in romantic rooms, but soft, muted tones are more conducive to rest and relaxation.

-Furnishings should be feminine. Focus on a few pieces with soft curves, then fill in with some unexpected masculine accents like an overstuffed chair, striped fabric or dark wood accessories.

-Fabrics should be soft and supple. For the most romantic feel, choose silk.

-When choosing accent pieces, highlight a few cherished things you already own.

McClintock loves the romantic life - living with 18th century furnishings, watching the old Merchant-Ivory films ("they inspire me," she says).

She surrounds herself at home with classical music from the time she gets up at 6 a.m. to play with her dogs and eat breakfast until she heads off to her offices in San Francisco.

Remember, romantic decorating isn't just about furniture. It accompanies a certain lifestyle and personality.

McClintock's favorite things?

"Romantic dinners, candlelight everywhere and flowers."

Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at

[Last modified February 7, 2008, 07:50:32]

Share your thoughts on this story

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the St. Petersburg Times.

Email Newsletters