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Romancing the home Some ideas on creating a cozy retreat you just 'luv'

When you think of romantic decor, you may think of dizzying displays of floral prints, miles of lace and potpourri so overpowering it sends you screaming -- or sneezing -- out the door.

But on this day before Valentine's Day, let us remind you that a romantic look in your home is not limited to feminine frills and girly garnishes.

Sure, there are elements that appear frequently. Four-poster beds; soft fabrics (chenille, velvet, silk, matelasse and chintz are some favorites); needlepoint pillows; antiques; tufting; tassels; flowers on the nightstand, those sorts of things.

But whether you're a hopeless romantic at heart or simply find pleasure in sipping tea from a pretty porcelain cup, there's more to it.

"I think of things that make you cozy and comfortable -- like throw blankets, lush fabrics and lighting. Lighting is something a lot of people don't think about," says local interior decorator Susan Cherry Redino, who runs Cherry Tree Design.

A romantic home appeals to the senses. It's a retreat you enjoy coming home to. It's more about emotions, less about trends. It's furnished and accessorized with things you -- and the other people who live there -- truly love and are comforted by.

This is especially true when you are decorating for someone besides yourself.

You want to "create a space that reflects both you and your paramour," says Jacqueline M. deMontravel, editor of Romantic Homes magazine, via e-mail.

"The first impulse is that candles, an abundance of textures such as pillows and lots of feminine details create a romantic environment. While pretty and comfortable, a room has to be comfortable for those inhabiting it," she says.

The key: You need to involve your partner in the decorating.

"For instance if he has a passion for books, stack his best sellers throughout the room, perhaps add a vase on top with your preferred flower. This combination of two loves brings a couple together, and then the romance will take off," deMontravel says.

Romantic decor also has been pared down to reflect today's tastes and lifestyles.

Barbara Timlin, who lives in a 19th-century home in Allentown, describes the look of her master bedroom as romantic -- with its antique washstand night tables, Oriental carpet and four-poster bed.

But the bed has a modern feel to it.

"The bed has an elegant look but it's very simple -- with plain finials at the top. My parents had a big, ornate antique four-poster bed. It was very dark. Ours is more scaled down," she said.

Want to add a little romance to your home decor without going overboard -- and not just for Valentine's Day?

Here are a few ideas:

* Don't save your good china, table cloths and candles for special occasions only. Use them often.

* Display dishes, pottery or other things you love so you see them everyday.

* Group together family photos -- old and new -- in pretty frames on a skirted table.

* Hang a crystal chandelier in a bathroom, bedroom or over a kitchen island. Buy new or scour antique shops, estate sales, secondhand stores (it may have to be rewired or repaired.)

* Add a splash of floral -- on a chair, ottoman, pillow, serving tray.

* Upgrade the items you use everyday. Use cloth napkins instead of paper. A beautiful pen instead of whatever you find in the junk drawer.

* Hang a pretty wreath on a door, above a bed, in a guest bathroom. It doesn't have to be heart-shaped -- but it can be!

* Place big flowers with short stems in low vases on nightstands or next to the sink.

* Use beautiful soaps.

* Add romance to your garden -- and begin planning what you might do now. Think arbors, big hanging baskets, window boxes, porch swings, wicker furniture.

* Add some pink or red to your decor (see accompanying story for ideas).

* Put lights on dimmers.

* Fill the air with music you love -- one of the elements that lifestyle writer Lucia van der Post calls an essential, along with a few others.

Her words: "I've often thought that the things that really matter in a house (apart from it being filled with people one loves -- the one true necessity) are books, flowers, music, food and wine, none of which have to be expensive," she writes.

Talk about romantic.


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