How to Create a Cozy Room That Feels Like a Hug


On a cold winter day, there’s nothing better than a cozy room that invites you to sink into a comfortable chair and curl up with a fuzzy throw.

“No matter what type of home I’m working on, whether it skews more contemporary or more traditional, my goal is always to create something that’s cozy, warm and inviting,” said Shawn Henderson, an interior designer based in New York. “Most people seek that sense of comfort and security.”

David Jimenez, an American designer based in Paris, has different words for that feeling. “You can call it coziness,” he said, “but you can also call it making a space feel more layered, more comfortable, more casual. It all adds up to the same idea: You feel like you want to put your feet up.”

What’s the best way to create that cozy vibe? We asked designers to share some tips.

When you walk into a cozy room, it should feel as if it’s giving you a hug.

“Coziness starts from feeling sort of surrounded, and like the walls are closing in a little bit instead of pushing out,” said Jenna Chused, of Chused & Co., a Brooklyn interior design firm. “Painting a room a rich, dark color or using wallpaper helps to create that sense.”

For a sitting room in her own townhouse, Ms. Chused wrapped walls with a scenic paper depicting trees and clouds in various tones of gray.

Wood paneling is another option.

“We’re big fans of paneling,” said Shana Sherwood, who runs Sherwood Kypreos, a Los Angeles interior design studio, with her husband, George Kypreos. “It gives you a lot of visual interest compared to thoughtless expanses of drywall.”

In one kitchen, they used V-groove paneling on the ceiling and walls to make the space feel more intimate. “It’s architectural texture that brings the scale of the space down a little,” Mr. Kypreos said. “It makes it feel more comfortable.”

For the ultimate in softness, try upholstering the walls with fabric. That’s what Mr. Henderson did when he was designing his country house in Hillsdale, N.Y. “In all the bedrooms, there’s some level of wall upholstery,” he said.

One guest room ingeniously uses a section of wall upholstery as a generous headboard. “It’s an acoustical baffle that’s also soft to the touch,” he said. “Talk about cozy.”

Area rugs are an easy way to add warmth and comfort to a room. Look for thick, shaggy rugs, or consider layering two or more rugs to expand what a single, tightly woven rug can offer.

Tamara Honey, founder of the Los Angeles interior design firm House of Honey, used both strategies on a recent project. In a lounge with a bar that had a hard terra-cotta tile floor, she overlapped vintage Afghan, Turkish and Indian rugs across the floor, using pieces of other rugs to make throw pillows and floor cushions. “That way, people can lounge on the floor,” she said.

In the living room of the same house, Ms. Honey used a shaggy circular rug to define a seating area on more terra-cotta tile flooring. “It’s almost like this conversation pit,” she said. “It just feels good.”

“Lighting is very important for a cozy space,” Ms. Chused said. “Table lamps and floor lamps are most important, and you want soft, shaded light.”

Try to place the lamps exactly where you need them, so you can bring functional light to specific parts of the room without having to make them too bright. In her sitting room, Ms. Chused mounted a shaded swing-arm lamp on the wall behind the sofa and placed a floor lamp to one side.

Ceiling fixtures that wash the whole room in light are less desirable. If you have them, look for diffusers and bulbs that offer warm colors — for LEDs, the color temperature should be a warm white of about 2,700 Kelvin — and make sure you have dimmers. For her sitting room, Ms. Chused chose a Viscontea pendant lamp by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni that’s wrapped in a veil of fabric-like resin.

A cozy room is a great place to play up natural materials, including various species of wood and natural grasses.

When Mr. Henderson was designing the living room of his Hillsdale house, he painted the wall paneling a greenish gray, but left the original rough-hewed wood posts and beams unfinished for their rich visual character. Then he added vintage furniture made from other kinds of wood, including oak, rosewood and pine.

The designers at Sherwood Kypreos often take a similar approach. “Mixing woods gives you a warmer, cozier feeling,” Ms. Sherwood said. Her firm also frequently uses window coverings and lampshades woven from natural grasses for their visual warmth.

Choosing the right furniture is critical for a cozy room. Sofas and chairs shouldn’t just look comfortable — they need to be comfortable. That means finding pieces with lower seat heights, deep seat cushions and cushy, sink-in filling to encourage lounging and napping.

Ms. Chused has used oversized leather club chairs draped with sheepskin to create nests by the fireplace. Mr. Jimenez likes a backless settee or daybed placed in front of a fireplace, so people can admire the flames facing one way and turn to converse with others in the opposite direction.

Mr. Henderson has a low, armless sofa with a soft bench cushion in his own living room, which he put next to a wing chair. “The seat on that chair looks a little higher, but you sink down into it,” he said, and the wings offer a cuddly embrace. “A wing chair is one of the coziest pieces of furniture to have in a room.”

Pillows and throws are a must: A cozy room is the place to go a little overboard with downy and woolly textiles, to soften the look of the room and give people the option of customizing their comfort level.

“Use lots of pillows and have throws handy,” Ms. Chused said.

You can mix color and pattern for a collected look, and search out options that are luxuriously soft, she advised: “I use a lot of velvet, super-soft mohair and alpaca.”

It’s nearly impossible to have too many soft accessories — or for them to be too soft.

Layering a space using art and decorative accessories will make it feel more homey. Mr. Jimenez likes to decorate his own homes with objects he has collected over the years: framed art, small sculptures, interesting dishes and boxes, and many, many books.

“There’s something to be said for cozy spaces being filled with things that have meaning to you,” he explained. “It’s about what touches you. What do you love, what are your passions, and how do you project that in your space?”

Make a room personal and it will be comforting every time you step inside. And that’s the best kind of cozy.

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