What makes for Enchanted Connecting?
Curing the common house "cold"
Here's my Enchanted Home prescription for creating an environment which invites the pleasures of lingering conversation and connecting with friends & family in your home over the Holidays... These 3 ingredients create a simple but powerful magic -- enchantment even!
1. Banish furniture sprawl
Quick! What's wrong with this picture?
Uncomfortable conversational distances.
Social scientists, environmental psychologists and sociometrists study the way people use space. While they may cryptically refer to "intimacy-mediators of the proximity-gaze compensation effect on relational rules," what they're really saying is that seating that is too far apart doesn't feel good.
Cultures differ in the social distances at which they are comfortable, but we Americans find 4-1/2 feet to 5 feet is 'just right'. People instinctively gather in a circle when talking together. Thus, we prefer sitting across from each other or at a slight angle, rather than right next to each other.
Knowing how to use this insight can help you create spaces that make connecting more effortless and natural. Moving furniture closer together is especially important in large rooms, as in the photo above, where the impulse is to spread out the furniture to fill the space -- furniture sprawl.
Arrange your sofa and chairs much closer together, in a circle or U-shape, so people's faces can be about 4-1/2 to 5 feet apart. An L-shape will also work. If the room is large, consider creating one main seating area to accommodate 4 or 5 people, and one or two "auxiliary" seating areas to accommodate 2 or 3 people each. Then bask in the convivium!
2. Add layers of warm, flattering lighting
In contrast to fluorescent or halogen light which is on the blue end of the spectrum, incandescent lighting is on the yellow end of the spectrum --warmer and "glow-ier". This kind of light makes us look and feel wonderful. It's subtle and often subconscious, but quite powerful.
Take this idea up a notch with lampshades that are cream-colored, gold or amber rather than white. At night, the windows of your home will beckon.
Go for table lamps and floor lamps rather than torchieres or "high hat" ceiling can lights.
"I can't stand a naked light bulb
any more than I can stand a rude remark
or a vulgar action."
in 'A Streetcar Named Desire'
Many rooms are sorely underlit, making them appear flat and uninviting. So, aim for having at least three separate sources of lamplight, fairly evenly placed around the room. The space will come to life.
Another recommendation is to tuck two or three can uplights on the floor in the corners of the room. Click here to see what they look like
; they are widely available in Lowe's or Home Depot. This technique woks best when the lights are hidden behind furniture or plants. I suggest using a 25-watt bulb in these fixtures, even though the manufacturer may suggest 40 or 60-watt bulbs. These little jewels add so much dimension and fullness to a space, it's sublime.
Another secret weapon is the little-known soft-pink light bulb. These bulbs are magical because they cast an even warmer light which makes skin tones more attractive and alive looking. They don't actually give off a true pink color, only a mild warm tone, while emitting just as much light as a standard bulb. These pink bulbs cast a light that is closest to firelight and candlelight. This is the kind of warm, cozy feel to which we are instinctively drawn.
Sylvania and GE both make 60-watt and 3-way bulbs that emit this yummy glow. They are far better than any other bulb to warm up a room. Basic white, incandescent bulbs and full-spectrum bulbs (and overhead lighting) tend to create unflattering shadows that give a stark feel to a room. Click here to check out these bulbs
, or try Lowe's or Home Depot -- I can usually find them there.
Aim for a minimum of three good table lamps or floor lamps with pink bulbs and amber lampshades in your living room and dining room. Tuck two or three low-wattage can uplights on the floor in the corners. Then bask in the glow! Enchanting!
3. Have an easy place to put your mug
When people are gathered in a living room or family room, everyone needs a place to put their mug or beverage down that is within easy arm's reach. This means one should not have to move one's bottom in order to accomplish this! Every seat should have an end table or coffee table next to it. Sound too simple? Don't take my word for it; the proof is in the pudding -- of all the places you can sit in your living room, which one do you gravitate to? Where is your "sweet spot"? I'll bet it has a place to put your mug down!
Add a couple of well-placed occasional tables. The bask in the ease and comfort!