by Claudette Rosen

When considering a home, we often look for elements that make us feel comfortable, perhaps reminding us of happier times in our lives, either as children or adults.

We try to recreate the feeling of security, comfort and familiarity - after all is that not what a home is?

The most successful interiors are those that take cognisance of their surroundings.  By this I not only mean the obvious architectural features but also the area and climate in which we find ourselves.

There is nothing more unsettling than, i.e. a monolithic concrete and glass structure on stilts, in a wooded, mountain-side, that reflects light from an alarming distance - like a light house with no function, or a wooden cottage in the middle of the city centre.

As I mentioned before, balance is a major player in design.If proportions are not balanced, distortion is the result.When considering a home, besides the obvious requirements of a roof over your head.There are other criteria, such as proximately to work, schools or religious institutes.Once this is established, we look for the elements that are most appealing and that say something about the economics of the neighbourhood.

  • Is the house close to shopping malls, sports arenas etc?
  • Do your neighbours maintain a certain standard?
  • Are the surrounding gardens and homes well maintained?
  • Is there a sense of pride in the area?

All of this may occur consciously or subconsciously.Often all the elements can be in place but something just does not feel right.

We almost all buy once we have the right feeling for a space!

So, what gives us the right feeling?

In my opinion it is a combination of all the right elements with something extra --- energy!

Energy - according to the Oxford Thesaurus is vigour, life, spirit, liveliness, vibrancy, to mention a few.Simply put, the environments that have energy are the ones that have a lasting impression and make an impact.

With our climates rapidly changing worldwide, it might be presumptuous to ask you to consider the climate you’re in, when choosing a style for your home (we may have to consider flexible homes at some stage,) but for now I’ll be presumptuous.To find inspiration for the Mediterranean, Caribbean and tropical climates, you need only consider what makes you cool, (besides logging on and looking at successful interpretations of dealing with the design issue.)

A space can certainly appear cool if the surfaces and finishes are.Colour and texture play a huge part.Consider the feeling of cool toned travertine tiles and stainless steel, versus the warmth of terracotta and wood.

Surfaces that are reflective, such as steel, glass and porcelain amongst others, feel cool to the touch, remember all your senses must interact with your environment (taste aside - unless it means judgment!)By incorporating these elements along with the colours that appear cool such as blues, aqua’s and whites we can visually cool the space down.Once again, balance these elements with a neutral palette of soft creams or white-washed walls and accessorize with dark wood elements, bring the Outside in - huge windows with shutters that can be closed keeping the sun at bay, while the cool sea breeze dances off your skin.

Outdoor living in these climates are prevalent, the middle of the dessert is a different story all together.

The homes in hot arid regions are usually, set in very thick walls with cavities and a cooling system that also acts as a filter from dusty purifying air as it passes through.The windows are small and deeply recessed to allow as little, sun into the space as possible.

The structure ideally should be positioned with the living spaces opening onto a courtyard that has either a fountain or pool in the centre.This has a number of functions; firstly, the sound of running water in the dessert is comforting to say the least.Secondly, any dust particles in the wind (of which I am sure there are many) become heavy and water logged when passing over the fountain, fall to the ground, thus purifying the air.

The interiors, albeit cool during the day, the stones are designed in such a way as to absorb heat and so when the temperature drops at night the dwelling emits the heat it has absorbed in the intense day into the home, creating a warm and comforting environment.

The neutral palette of camel and cream with terracotta or sandstone can be cooled down with cool colours and cool finishes.Bearing in mind that there is a lot of dust and light colours are not entirely suited.Choosing patterned rugs throws and fabric can work well, especially when chosen on locality.

In much the same way, the cooler regions too have small windows to keep the cold out and central heating.

These interiors do well to have warm colours and finishes that create a sense of safety and comfort.Our homes in essence shield us from the elements, physically and emotionally.

Warm colours, oranges, browns, yellows and reds create a sense of heat.Textures or surfaces associated with warmth are:

  • Wood,
  • Terracotta,
  • Woolen carpets
  • Rich fabrics in warm tones
  • Suedes and velvets

Decorating in neutral palettes with splashes of colour in throws, cushions and accessories allows for flexibility and change.Thus when a season changes, a quick change of tone is one way to move with the times and create a fresh feel.

Colour, texture and space in your home is what determines your comfort.Discovering what works for you, is where your journey begins.