Celebrity designer Brigette Romanek believes this is the year where comfort upstages cool.
By Kelly Philips Badal
With so many of us spending the better part of the past year sheltering-in-place and self-quarantining, it’s no surprise that our relationship with our homes has collectively shifted. And whether we love our surroundings—or desperately want to improve them—one thing became abundantly clear to interior designer Brigette Romanek over the last 10 months: We all want to feel more comfortable within them. That’s not to say that of-the-moment colors, materials, appliances and more don’t matter—they do—there’s just something larger at play.
Arden Project - Living Room | Photo by Douglas Friedman
“People are viewing their homes in a new light right now, looking around and saying, ‘If I’m going to be here, what do I want to have around me that will make me feel good and warm and cozy and happy?’” Romanek says. As a primarily self-taught designer who’s known for following her gut instinct rather than adhering to standard practices, Romanek’s soulful, energetic aesthetic has won her clients that include luminaries like Beyonce and Gwyneth Paltrow. (She’s also been recently named to the industry gold standard AD100 list for the third time in her five years in business.) And right now, no matter who she’s working with, she’s found that clients are starting to speak her language. “I design so much by feel, and right now, everyone’s looking to elevate and enhance where they are, mood-wise,” she says. “My clients are very much figuring out what works, what doesn’t work, and what just feels right. They’re experiencing their homes in a way they never have before. Not only is it about looking pretty, it’s about functioning really well.”
‘Comfortable’ Has a New Meaning Beyond Living Rooms and Bedrooms.
Romanek refers to the Venn diagram of comfort, function and beauty as “liveable luxe.” Though that’s been her own de facto mantra from the launch of her firm in 2016, she sees it as a much bigger theme for 2021. “When I listen to clients and they’re saying things like, ‘We really want to live in this room,’ I’m writing down words like ‘joyous,’ ‘happy,’ ‘cozy,’ she says.
The Bu Project - Master Dressing Room | Photo by Justin Coit
To her, the 2021 version of “comfort” doesn’t just apply to beds, sofas and chairs (though Romanek has plenty of opinions on these furnishings). Instead, the designer sees the concept as something that’s part of a whole home, inside-and-out rethink. The demand for dens and home offices, for example, has skyrocketed over the past 10 months with so many Angelenos working from home or managing Zoom schooling for their kids. “I’ve always worked to create beautiful home offices, but they’ve now become a new heart of the house,” she says, noting that clients are now more regularly joined by their children or other family members in these rooms. Sofas you can sink right into, cozy lounge chairs and built-in TVs are just a few of the home office requests she’s been fielding regularly.
Kitchens, too, are a surprising place that Romanek believes are ripe for an infusion of coziness. “We’ve known for a long time that kitchens are important gathering spaces, but now for the larger spaces it’s, ‘Can I get a couch in my kitchen?’” she says with a laugh. “We’ve gone beyond the banquette; now people want sofas you can really sink into and stay awhile.”
‘Feel-Good’ Interiors—However That’s Defined for You—Transcend Trends.
The Bu Project - Master Bedroom | Photo by Douglas Friedman
Bedrooms are the more obvious cozy contenders of the home, but Romanek sees a push for them to become even more comfort-oriented. She’s noticing a rising interest in plush headboards and larger custom-sized mattresses. And for one of her current projects, she’s designing a sleeping space that she jokes is really just one big bed—a true “cuddle room,” per se. And hey, who’s to say that a bedroom shouldn’t stand in as a warm hug, especially as current SoCal regulations still limit who we can and should hug in person?
|The Bu Project - Living Room | Photo By Douglas Friedman||Queens Rd Project - Dressing Room | Photo by Douglas Friedman|
Though outdoor spaces in Southern California have arguably always been important, the pandemic has only increased their priority within our lives. To wit, there’s even a trendy new Danish term for embracing outdoor living: friluftsliv, or "free air life” (which plays neatly off the still-popular “hygge” concept that swept the interior design world a few years back). “Before, it was all about getting the interiors done and then we’d focus on the outside; now, the outdoor living room is simply another extension of the house with equal importance,” says Romanek.
The Bu Project - Sitting Room | Photo by Justin Coit
The designer sums it up the signs of the times neatly: “If you can feel good where you live right now, that’s super, super important,” she stresses. “When I walk out the door, my clients should be left with a space that feels like a love letter to themselves.” And what’s more wonderfully comforting than that?
|The Bu Project - Bathroom | Photo by Douglas Friedman|
Follow Brigette Romanek/Romanek Design Studio on Instagram at @brigetteromanek