Faith Popcorn was right.
Cocooning -- staying at home for long periods of time surrounded by ultra-comfortable conveniences at one's fingertips -- would be the American way of life into the millennium, predicted the professional trend watcher and author of "The Popcorn Report." She even coined the word.
Say "home" to a cocooner, and up pops a mental picture of a sheltered haven, the perfect place to live, grow a family, study, play and entertain. Cocooner's don't need Faith Popcorn to tell them they enjoy staying home; cocooners have always known, like Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz," that everything they could ever want or need is in their own back yard.
Ms. Popcorn wrote her treatise on cocooning in the '70s, when she could only guess at technological advances in the latter part of this century. With 1999 technology, the trend toward staying home has gone, well, through the roof.
Average folks can now surf the Net, exercise on gym-quality equipment, watch a box office blockbuster, earn a living, do their banking, file tax returns, trade stocks and buy anything from Bisquick to a Buick ... without leaving the house. Instead of "Don't leave home without it," the cocooner's motto might be, "Don't leave home ... period."
We searched Western New York for the essence of cocooning. Join us on Home and Design's walking tour of select rooms from several stylish homes where cocooning is a way of life. We think you'll agree that these homes are so pleasant, so fun and so filled with amenities, no one lucky enough to live (or visit) there would ever want to leave.
A Great Great Room
"I want our home to be comfortable, useful and beautiful," Kathy Pokornowski says as we enter the great room in the newly built home she shares with her husband, Jim, and their three young sons in Clarence's upscale Spaulding Lake subdivision. "Of course I want people to say, 'Wow, this looks nice.' But we need to be able to run in and flop down anywhere.
"And my husband is a big guy. I want the furnishings to be comfortable for him."
Mission accomplished. As the center of their family activity, the Pokornowskis' great room is stunning, but inviting.
"This room has to be kid-friendly," explains Drexel Heritage's Kim Reichert, who did the interior design. "There aren't a lot of decorative accessories, so there's less chance for things to get broken. This is not a 'don't touch' room."
Indeed, the key word here is comfort. Deep sage walls and oatmeal-textured Berber wool carpet provide an earthy, serene backdrop for the French country casual sofa and love seat. Pattern has been pulled into the room in the wool area border rug with its greens, burgundies and golds, and in upholstery and window fabrics.
Smack in the center of the furniture grouping is a jewel-toned plaid, 45-inch-square ottoman, which does double duty as extra seating and as a coffee table where the children play board games, do homework or enjoy snacks.
The great room is also the Pokornowskis' home theater. Traditional cherry cabinetry, custom-made by Barzotti Woodworking of Guelph, Ont., discreetly holds a VCR, stereo, CD player and 53-inch television. An adjoining wall features a marble-inset fireplace, with more custom cherry woodwork.
Visible from the great room through two large archways, the Pokornowskis' spacious kitchen is popular with family members and guests alike. "Everyone does gravitate to the kitchen," admits the lady of the house, smiling.
It isn't difficult to see why. Walls are vanilla, and the floor is cream ceramic tile with hand-painted inlays. Glossy tan, black and oyster granite countertops swoop, L-shaped, around a commercial-quality cooktop and double stainless sinks. A handsome center island, topped with the same granite, holds a stainless vegetable sink.
A short granite panel serves as a sink backsplash and divider between the work area and the breakfast bar, where there are four wrought iron and cane barstools. There are also a long table and chairs, for casual meals not requiring the adjoining formal dining room.
More custom cabinetry by Barzotti conceals the large refrigerator and freezer. There is enviable cupboard and drawer space, a butler's pantry and built-in wine rack.
As she makes coffee for a visitor and monitors her son's pilfering of the cookie drawer, Kathy Pokornowski looks efficient and content.
"People ask us to go out to dinner, and I look around here and say, 'Why?' " she says. "My friends think I turn into a pumpkin at midnight, but I just like to stay at home."
Sanctuary, Part 1: Master Bedroom:
"Kathy wanted this to be the room she could escape into, to read or watch TV," says designer Kim Reichert as we enter the master bedroom suite. "It's calming and classic, not bold."
The monochromatic palette of taupes, tans and golds -- there is no accent color -- soothes and relaxes, even without sinking into the sumptuous, pearl-colored bed linens. Across from the king-size bed is mahogany custom cabinetry from Barzotti, hiding a 35-inch TV.
Pristine oyster carpet is "trackless," explains the designer. "It has thick pile that feels wonderful on bare feet, yet it doesn't show footprints or vacuum marks." A French looped wool area rug atop the carpet defines a boudoir sitting area and anchors an intimate furniture grouping. Beyond the sitting area and sliding glass doors, we see a second-floor terrace.
Lest we think the luxurious look means "hands off," Mrs. Pokornowski restates her priorities. "My kids jump on that bed," she says cheerily. "We dry them off there, after their baths.
"And they used to call these 'mother and daughter chairs,' " she says of the chair-and-a-half and ottoman in the sitting area. "I call it my mother and son chair. We read together in here."
Sanctuary, Part 2: Master Bathroom:
Incorporated in the master bedroom suite is an enormous two-room bath. A small room provides privacy for the commode; the larger room holds a gleaming white Jacuzzi whirlpool tub and twin sinks in a black, white and tan granite vanity.
A clear glass door opens into a spacious stand-up shower with multiple body sprays. "The kids love it in here," Mrs. Pokornowski says -- gratuitously, since we've already noted the cool bath toys.
(As an aside to the terminally curious: Another door in the master bath leads to three walk-in, climate-controlled closets. With a separate cedar closet. We warned you that you wouldn't want to leave).
For Buffalo attorney and nature lover Carmen Tarantino, local designer Karen Fick has created the quintessential cocooning space. Tarantino's sophisticated condominium overlooking Lake Erie provides an elegant glimpse at the powerful attraction of staying home.
Law is his profession, but ornithology is his avocation, if the furnishings of his third-floor study are any clue. There are authentic John James Audubon works, and the mahogany shelves are lined with bird reference books. In a nod to the proximity of the lake, the center of the hardwood floor is a compass rose of wenge and oak.
The room is wired for computer and sound -- Tarantino enjoys listening to recorded bird songs -- and his telescope is trained on the Lake Erie horizon. He keeps cameras and nature photo albums here. There are even a concealed mini-bar and refrigerator, behind mahogany custom cabinetry by local craftsmen at Elite Design.
With the black leather desk chair and matching black damask Baker tub chairs, earth-tone wool and silk rugs, and warm wood everywhere, this hideaway is masculine and cozy, but not dark. Plenty of natural light enters from the sliding glass doors and the window, and the glass blocks added to one internal wall capitalize on the sunlight spilling through a hallway skylight.
"We tried to create an English library appearance, without getting too heavy," says Ms. Fick. "We used the continuous flow of light and the cabinetry in this room to give him the feeling of being outdoors. He loves to be outdoors."
Working Out the Kinks
Also on the third floor of the Tarantino home: a very private exercise room.
Triple skylights here brighten the Brazilian cherry floor and exercise equipment. More Audubon artwork on carefully neutral walls, lush plants and a large television complete the spare, chic look.
The exercise room adjoins a large bath, which is only one door away from the Audubon room. A perfect day might begin with a workout and a shower, and end with pleasant hours spent in the Audubon room, reading, surfing the Internet or scanning the skies over Lake Erie for waterfowl or shooting stars.
Buffalo artist Arthur Lindberg was well-known for his waterfront paintings. Though he died in 1977, the Kenmore home he shared with his wife, Esther, is still a hub of art and creativity -- albeit in a different style from his. The newest incarnation of his vision comes courtesy of his granddaughter, interior designer Sandy Nelson of Designs of the Times.
She decorated one room solely with entertaining in mind: She has a pool table in her living room.
"It's our party room," explains the friendly, barefoot designer. "It all started because at every party, everyone always drifted over to a grungy old Formica pool table in the basement.
"So when we moved to this house, I just planned our living room to be a party room. We put the pool table in here, and I faux-painted the Formica to look like black marble."
The pool table rests on a beautiful floor cloth in zigzag black, moss green, French blue and cranberry. Hand-painted by artist Michael Mammana, the design was inspired by a picture of an old art deco serving tray that Ms. Nelson loved. After painting, the canvas floor cloth received four to five coats of polyurethane, rendering it very durable.
"You just wipe it clean," says Ms. Nelson.
Though it doesn't look it, the room is a collection of secondhand "finds." There's a moss green and French blue velvet stool, bought for $5 at a garage sale and re-covered. The same velvet is also on the Danish modern chairs, which were $15 each at the Antique Architectural Warehouse on Niagara Street. The sofa, topped with hand-sewn toss pillows in funky shapes like stars, was liberated from the Salvation Army for $50. It, too, has seen several reupholsterings.
So exactly what period is this room?
"I call it 'eclectic 20th century modern,' " says Ms. Nelson, surveying the lava lamp, Planet Hollywood memorabilia and brass Sputnik chandelier.
We call it fun.
Eyes Wide Open
Speaking of fun, our final cocooning destination is wildly fun, loaded with color and full of visual stimulation.
Though you probably didn't know it, there is a collection of Disney memorabilia in Clarence that almost rivals Disney World itself.
You won't be able to see it. Tom -- he asked us not to use his last name, given the value of his collection and his listing in the phone book -- is a very private collector. "I don't have many people over here," he smiles, like a cat with a mouthful of yellow feathers. "It's for me."
Designer Karen Fick's services were enlisted when Tom decided to build an addition to display his burgeoning collection. She worked with architects and then chose custom white lacquer cabinetry from Elite Design, track lighting and white walls, creating a museum-quality setting for the impressive collection.
"It all started with the Three Little Pigs," he says, surveying the ceramic figures, signed artwork, authentic marionettes, movie scripts and more. "I go to Disney three times a year; we have a place down there. I'm going again in October, for the start of Disney's millennium celebration."
There's a round coffee table in the shape of a Mickey Mouse clock. There are red and black Mickey and Minnie chairs, with yellow vinyl feet. There is clearly too much here for a first-time visitor to comprehend. But Tom knows each piece and its history. He escapes here, to relax, cleaning his collection himself with a large, soft makeup brush.
"I'm a kid at heart," he says. "Where else are you going to find a 57-year-old guy running around collecting this stuff?"
His latest acquisition is a 7-foot-long "101 Dalmatians" theater display. Now Ms. Fick has to find a place for it. A brief moment of panic flickers over the designer's face before she raises her eyes to the ceiling, the only space remaining: "Maybe I'll get suction cups," she says.