Home Design: The New Cozy

With “going out” and “getting away” feeling like relics of a more carefree era, today’s homeowners are creating all-inclusive retreats within their own four walls.

A glowing hearth and a farm table roomy enough for family and friends lend a welcome-home air to Pete and Amy Favat’s place in Weston. (photograph by matt kalinowski)

It’s pretty scary out there, so is it any wonder we (and our money) are sticking closer to home? Beyond rediscovering the joys of Netflix and cookbooks, though, a growing number of people in Boston and beyond are digging in and making their abode the epicenter of all that they do, a place where they can play, work, and bond with their family. This emerging design movement isn’t about adding media rooms and personal gyms as mere trophy amenities; it’s about building in comfort so that no one has to venture too far from the nest, ever.

“People are definitely hunkering down,” says Cambridge architect Maryann Thompson. “In general, my clients are looking for nooks, places where they can cuddle, have quiet conversations with each other and their children.”

Wellesley interior designer Andra Birkerts agrees. “When I suggest that the architecture of the space and its intended use work together, my clients now listen with great interest,” she says. “Remember conversation pits? Or sunken living rooms? These are aesthetics traced to modernism, but have an added interest now.” Whereas such rooms were originally designed as adult playgrounds, she adds, their current appeal is about keeping everyone within sight.

Coinciding with this nesting frenzy is a noticeable decline in minimalist interiors, with their rigid lines and spare palettes. In their place: warm earth tones and patterns, window seats strewn with cushions, and lots of textiles. Notes Cambridge interior designer Heidi Pribell, “Only in societies with excess is it chic to be all-black and restrained and deprived of your senses. With the economy being so unsteady, people want to get back in touch with themselves. Part of that is having interiors that are fulfilling and nurturing, rather than just austere.”

Deluxe home amenities, however seemingly out-of-fashion, can also play a role. One Newton couple, for example, hired Thompson to double the size of their house to accommodate a gym, a home theater, and a billiards room—all in an effort to make the home more inviting for their teenage children. “Even though they knew the kids would be leaving [for college],” Thompson says, “they designed the house to make them comfortable and keep them there as much as possible.”

Or to cushion them if they have to return post-college. Thanks to the dismal economy, many couples are expanding the offerings at Chez Parent in anticipation that their kids will boomerang. “Remember the movie The Graduate? In that film, modern architecture was alienating to the fragile twentysomething,” says Thompson. “This is a reaction to that—getting kids, family, and friends into all aspects of home life, so that they’re protected.”

—With reporting by Anne Vickman.


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