"Romancing the Home"

Steven Clipp, Architect | November 2014 Issue

In my last article I teased you with the statement that the design of your home can bring a couple closer together and inspire Romance.  Then I went on to discuss how to get started on a renovation project.

So no more teasing, let’s talk romance.

Twenty years ago my late wife and I were house hunting in Chapel Hill.  We toured a custom home by a well known Architect, in the right neighborhood and at an attractive price.  After an hour of immersing myself in the feel of the space, I realized that house would have us divorced within a year.

It was beautiful, impressive, and frenetic; there was so much background activity in the design that a person could not relax.  At the same time the spaces were hard-surfaced and cold.  Although it was open planned, the kitchen was isolated by distance from the sitting area.  The master bedroom was devoid of relaxing elements and was actually a balcony overlooking the workout room.  A divorce was forcing the sale of the home.

If that is bad design, what is good, romance inspiring design?  Romance is nourished by peace and stimulated by connection. 

Especially for the woman, the home needs to be her sanctuary, a place to relax and escape from the noise of life.  First reduce actual noise, don’t have music competing with video competing with talk – one at a time.  Then reduce visual noise, rooms with too many angles and too many competing finishes / colors.  You can include a lot of things in your home, they just need to harmonize.

Now let’s bring the couple together.  The two worker couple, especially with kids underfoot, has a limited amount of time each day to interact – so make the most of it.  Someone has to spend at least two hours in the kitchen every evening, cooking / eating / cleaning up.  If their partner is in close proximity this can be low-key bonding time.  A sitting area close enough to talk quietly allows one to do the dishes while the other reads the paper, or helps a child with homework.  Then there is a natural flow into an evening together.

Conversely, everyone needs ME time.  The ability to be alone enriches the time spent together.  So the man needs his cave and the woman needs her retreat.  His has to have a door to block the sound of the game – disconnected.  Hers should radiate calm but usually needs to be where she can feel the pulse of the home – connected.  Neither should be occupied during the all-important early evening hours.

The other time the busy couple naturally meets is in the morning; bathing and dressing.  A master bath flooded with sunlight just adds joy to the beginning of your day.  If the bath allows the couple to move easily around each other in a dance of awareness rather than in conflict, all the better.  An awareness to carry through to evening.  Sinks should be together, not with your backs to each other.  The bath’s baser functions, toilet and shower, should be compartmentalized.  Your spouse should always be a bit of a mystery who you rediscover on a regular basis.

At last we come to the master bedroom.  I asked a female Interior Designer friend what color should be in the bedroom to stimulate the woman.  She responded that the woman doesn’t want to be stimulated in the bedroom she wants to be calmed.  Only by first being relaxed can she become romantic.

I think of the master suite as a series of spaces.  There should be a foyer dividing the bedroom from the public hallway.  The bed should be in a ‘sleep chamber’, a quiet rectangular space calming in all ways.  There could be a small sitting area, just big enough for two to snuggle, and a transition space should separate the sleep chamber from the bath and closets.  Finally instead of a clinical bathroom I would create more of a dressing room with sinks and opening to the closets, but with enough space to allow for the dance of romance.

By the way husbands, an Architectural consult makes a great Christmas gift.  It is too late to renovate that master bath or kitchen for the season, but you can plant the seed and fill her with anticipation.