7 Ways to Turn Your Home Into A Cocoon Part 1

7 Ways to Turn Your Home Into A Cocoon Part 1

Futurist and trend-predictor Faith Popcorn first coined the term “cocooning,” 35 years ago. In its broadest sense, “cocooning” meant staying home and insulating oneself from danger, real or imaginary. Back in 1981, that meant retreating to living rooms outfitted with VCR’s, CD players, and Barcaloungers to satisfy that craving for warmth, family, and security.

It seems history has a habit of repeating itself.

Fast-forward to 2017, and Ms. Popcorn has now updated her term to the slicker sounding “uber-cocooning”, or even “super-cocooning.” She predicts now an increase in consumer desires for, among other things, water filtration, home security, and home delivery systems.

Incidentally, this “nesting” desire is nothing new to Chicagoans, albeit without the nagging feelings of impending cataclysm. For us, it arrives yearly, usually around November and slogs on through March. Days are shorter, colder and grayer. So when we ask prospective Chicago clients what they want their home to feel like, “cozy and warm,” is the customary response. Seriously, it’s like a scene out of Groundhog Day!

So rather than waxing on about dystopian solutions, Alan and I put our heads together, and humbly offer up some suggestions here from our body of knowledge on how to make your home more “cocoon- like” year-round (or at least until the apocalypse).

Cocooning Project 1: Let There Be (Warm) Light!

cocooning home, warm versus cool light

Back in the good old days of incandescent bulbs, you just had to pick wattage. Enter the dreaded CFL bulb. While the new CFL (fluorescent) bulbs are remarkable more energy efficient than incandescents, they tend to make your home look like a hospital from a horror movie. Thank god for LED bulbs.

Keep in mind LEDs all have different color “temperatures”, which are measured in Kelvins. It’s more the default these days for the new LED bulbs to be in the “cool zone,” meaning like CFLs, they also can cast an eerie, sterile bluish-green glaze across your home. So remember this rule of thumb: the lower the Kelvin number, the warmer, or yellower the light. Your typical incandescent equates to  somewhere between 2,700 and 3,500K, If that’s the color value you’re going for, look for this Kelvin range while shopping.

“Smart” LED bulbs are a whole different animal, and do not work with existing dimmers. Instead, they are a component of a “smart home system, like the Phillips Hue. So don’t go out and buy the most expensive LED bulb you can find without knowing what you’re in for. Dimmable LEDS instead are most likely what you’re looking for if you just want to replace your bulbs and gain energy efficiency.

Cocooning Project 2: Dress Your Windows in Layers

Those of us in Chicago innately know how to dress in layers. It’s a survival tactic in winter and a fashion statement about half of the year.

Window treatments fall under two categories: hard treatments (blinds, shades & shutters), and soft treatments (draperies and fabric treatments).

If you are serious about your cocooning, you could isolate and close off your room with a touch of a button, James Bond style.

But when you just have some utilitarian hard treatments, it just doesn’t feel right from a cocooning perspective. Hard treatments,by themselves, often rather naked:

not the coziest effect

But overdone soft fabric treatments sometimes get a deservedly bad rap too, courtesy of the 80’s and 90’s, when you could hardly even decipher that windows even existed beneath all those swags and jabots.

over cocooning effect with overdone drapes

you could easily lose a small child in these!

While the old aesthetic was suffocating and “over cozy” to us, naked, exposed windows to us are a little bleak. With our own projects, we try to achieve a happy balance between the two: a combination of a functional hard treatment layer paired with an understated decorative treatment.

Soft treatments never seemed that important to me when I started back in the design business, since I prided myself on being Mr. Contemporary-Sleek- Modern. But if there was one component that I’ve seen that most drastically changes the feel of a room, it would be soft window treatments. I’m not saying your living room should look like the I Dream of Jeannie bottle, just something that softens your hard windows a bit.

Consider this pretty room:

Nice, eh, but cold…

Now look:

The room’s ready for your next Netflix binge session when you close those drapes.

If you perchance to dream, here’s an absolutely lovely example of cozy, warm window treatments with three layers, courtesy of Traditional Home:

Stationary panels, gauzy sheers, and simple roman treatments all contribute to the coziness of this dramatic room.

But be prepared financially. There’s lots of labor, measuring, and material when it comes to layered treatments. Don’t say I didn’t warn you 😉

Cocooning Project 3: Pad Your Walls

The prevailing trend in interior design is clean, uncluttered and simple, but that’s not to be confused with cold. Invariable, when you’re working with analogous color palettes, and contemporary materials that appear flatter, cooler and/or or smoother, you’ve got to use contrasting textures. One of the most overlooked ways to do this is through some carefully chosen wall coverings. Not to be confused with the word wallpaper.

The word “wallpaper” continues to frighten and terrify people, and with good reason

The backdrop of frequent nightmares

make it stop!!!

Back in the day, wallpapers focused on patterns and a whole lot of them. Today, we view wall coverings as a tool to bring an alternating texture to a space, which ups the coziness ante.

Wall coverings encompass more than bold patterns, they’re also about texture. Consider grass cloths like these:

or even wood veneers like these:

Asian Essence wood veneer wall covering by Winfield Thybony

to lend a warm and inviting feel to your room.

Some luxury wall covering companies like Maya Romanoff even have fabric wallcoverings treated for soil and stain resistance!

Blanket Zig-Zag wool blend wall covering from Maya Romanoff

or for a less permanent solution, you could always cover an accent wall in fabric, drapery style, like we did here for a cozy bedroom feel outside of Chicago

cozy warm bedroom Chicago suburb drapery wall, luxury bedding by Dean Alan Design

We covered the wall in drapery for a cozy effect here in a hotel-like bedroom plan (Upholstered bed by Bernhardt).

Cocooning Project 4: Build a Fort

We’ve noticed a trend that clients are wanting seating groupings that feel more intimate, something better suited towards cozy conversations and “Netflix” nights. The traditional sofa/love seat concept doesn’t really foster this.

I get nervous looking at this…will I get the loveseat?

Instead, you can configure a sectional flexibly.  I’m not talking about those puffy, microfiber behemoths like this:

Just no.

They are usually out of proportion to a room. But consider sectionals that give a feeling of a “built-in” to a small room, upping your coziness quotient

A cozy book nook when the Christmas tree comes down

For the ultimate in flexibility, consider a “pit group.” Despite their “swinging” association with the 70’s,

pit groups are coming back into style, albeit a bit more tastefully. You just pick out the number of pieces,

sectional piecesand configure for your specific room

They’re wonderful before and after the Christmas tree comes down, because you can just add or subtract pieces and store them away until you need them.

So there’s the the first four tips for achieving that cozy feeling in your home. Next week there’s three more including:

  • paint color
  • textures
  • air care (no, there’s not supposed to be an ‘h’ there!

Stay tuned, and stay warm!

Dean Malambri Signature

Dean Malambri

Principal, Dean Alan Design Inc.

Share with a friend:
Holiday Survival Skills: The Christmas Costco Conundrum

Holiday Survival Skills: The Christmas Costco Conundrum

If you’re like us, Costco plays a supporting role in almost all of our holiday festivities. In fairly serious strategy sessions around the kitchen island, we try to figure out what things make sense to get there and how to get out FAST. Lists are made. Tactics are formulated (“you get the wine with the cart and I’ll meet you over at the beef tenderloin.”)  But on our trip yesterday, I had a new found understanding of why I both dread our annual holiday pilgrimage to Costco, and actually kind of like it too: it’s a bizarre modern American version of the old bazaar.

Giant TV’s dazzle as you walk in. You try to not make eye contact with the guy hawking the latest and greatest in juicing technology. And it seems you’re always bumping into people at the aisle intersections.

We don’t buy many Christmas presents there anymore. In fact, we hardly buy any gifts like we did in the 90’s. Back then, the cheap imports were starting to flow into our country like water. It was weird and wonderful: the cost of clothing and unnecessary appliances seems to plummet 50% overnight. Our gift opening ritual sometimes went on for 4 or 5 or 6 hours. But life in 2016 is different. In both Alan’s and my families, we have secured every cheaply rendered creature comfort by now. Probably way too many. So buying big plastic things at warehouse stores does not hold the allure it once did at Christmas. Instead, we buy mainly food, booze and an occasional item of whimsy that seems to promise us a feeling of coziness there, like fuzzy slippers or comfy earmuffs. And then there’s the added bonus of all those Costco sampling carts!

There’s a silent tactical battle that goes on into securing a good food sample at Costco, for something like a whisper of turtle cheesecake, or a bite of panko-breaded mozzarella (I know you know what I’m talking about!). Here’s the scene: there’s no samples on the tray, and the demonstrator is dutifully preparing the next batch of say, chipotle meatballs.

you know you want that meatball

You know you want a meatball, but can you wait until they hit the tray? So you pretend to look at some items in the general perimeter of the forthcoming meatball, but your eye is really just focused on the prize. Your peripheral vision has never been this honed as you browse the assortment of tortellini. You know it’s a ruse, and so do the other 10 people waiting for that meatball.

But when those meatballs are finally released for public consumption, a tidal wave of people casually but nonetheless urgently rushes over to the cart. Parents, looking to feed their offspring, gently prod their young in the direction of the meatball-  “get in there,” they urge. It’s like watching a pack of lions devour an antelope, just with slightly more polished manners. That old Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom show comes to mind.

I always feel bad for the people cooking up these mini treats because hardly anyone takes the time to say thank you or strike up a conversation. It’s a frenzy of grab-and-go, and then onto the next conquest, like the shrimp or something. So yesterday, Alan dropped the best shrimp sample joke: “$24.99? Hey, not bad for a little tail!” The hair-netted shrimp-sample-server roared with laughter. I groaned. “You can have as many shrimp as you want; you made me laugh,” the nice lady told us.

So we got the ingredients on our list, some artisan meats to go into my traditional antipasto salad, and got out. But we always get gas too (it’s so cheap), and so the familiar face who works as the gas station attendant came over to say hello. The neat thing about our Costco is that workers stay for years. They pay their employees extremely well, they have sane holiday shopping hours so that their workers can enjoy time with their families, and they offer very good benefits. So it seems no one leaves! At this point, I’ve developed a relationship with the gas station guy. We talk casually talk politics (he liked my Bernie Sanders bumper sticker), shoot the breeze, and for that reason, I come back again and again. I like seeing people I know when I shop.

Alan and I see holiday shopping differently now. With no one wanting or needing gifts, we instead decided to use our Christmas funds to donate to needy kids.

Presents on their way to the United Way!

But we still go to Costco, we just don’t buy the cheap stuff destined quickly for the landfill. We abhor their durable goods, like furniture, because we know that after that rush of the bargain, you’ll throw it away super fast and have to buy another one. These things are actually not durable at all , nor are they meant to be (look for upcoming posts about this). But we love their selection of foods and now Christmas has morphed into more of a Bacchanalian festival of food and drink more so than a gluttonous exercise in opening gifts.

And with the upcoming push from Amazon to sell groceries, I think we’ll still go to Costco for our holiday ingredients. It’s nice to get out to fight the crowds, get some great food and spread the cheer!

Wishing you the most joyous holiday season!

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

(and Gatsby!))

 

Share with a friend:
A Few Holiday Recipes Just in Time For Party Season

A Few Holiday Recipes Just in Time For Party Season

It’s right around now that looking at my calendar causes me to break out in a cool sweat. Parties, events, recitals- I’m sure you can relate!

So while I could go on about the fine points of the suspension system of sofas, I doubt that’s on your radar at this moment.

At this time of year, I’m always looking for dishes to bring to events. These two continue to be crowd pleaasers for me, and have now gone into the permanent holiday rotation schedule. They’ve also become a tradition in our family. Time-consuming? Yes, they are. Expensive? Yes to that too. Worth the effort? Again, yes, totally!

Think of making them as cooking therapy for a snowed in day (which are sure to come). And they travel extremely well for parties.

This first one is adapted from an old recipe book my mom adores, Noteworthy, which came from the Ravinia Festival. We oddly serve this in the late morning on Christmas day along with Champagne and a smörgåsbord of other munchies (I’m sure you have weird traditions too, don’t judge).

marinated-shrimpMarinated Shrimp with Oranges

Makes 4 servings, but we always double, even triple sometimes!

  • 1 pound large raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 orange, peeled and sectioned
  • 1 small red onion, sliced very thin
  • 1/4 C. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 C. unfiltered cider vinegar
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 2 T ketchup
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t mustard seeds
  • 1/2 t cilantro leaves (dangerous for a crowd and therefore optional)
  • 1/2 t capers
  • 1/4 t celery seeds
  • 1/8 t ground black pepper
  • Romaine Leaves or crackers

 

  1. One day or at least 8 hours ahead, marinate shrimp. In 4-qt saucepan, heat 3 inches’ water to boiling. Add shrimp, return to boil and cook covered, 2 minutes or until shrimp are cooked through. Drain, rinse in cold water and drain well again.
  2. In large bowl, combine shrimp, orange and red onion. In medium bowl, combine vinegar, oil, lemon juice, ketchup, sugar, garlic, mustard seeds, cilantro, capers, celery seeds, and pepper. Pour over shrimp mixture and stir to coat well. Refrigerate 8 hours, or preferably overnight. Serve on crackers or romaine leaves.

This next one is the holiday recipe one that I hang my hat on year after year. I make gallons of it and swear I’ll never do it again after seeing my grocery bill. But I do, every year without fail. Don’t skimp- the guy behind the deli counter will curse your name, but your guests may well kiss you harder this year. If there was ever a perfect leftover intended for a hangover, please let me know too.

antipasto salad

Mixed Antipasto Salad

adapted from Epicurious. I think the secret is actually the fennel flavor. People think it’s celery but  when they get a bite of anise flavor from it, it’s a surprise, and not an unwelcome one. I humbly nominate this also to be the perfect leftover holiday hangover nibble too. Near the end of parties, people will fight over tupperware containers with this inside.

For the marinade

  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

For the salad

  • 3 large carrots, cut diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 2 small fennel bulbs (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut crosswise into 1/inch-thick slices (about 3 cups)
  • 2 red bell peppers, roasted and cut into strips (or jarred)
  • 2 yellow bell peppers, roasted and cut into strips (or jarred)
  • a 12-ounce jar pepperoncini (pickled Tuscan peppers), rinsed and drained well
  • 3/4 pound black or green brine-cured olives or a combination ( I use a mixture of green Cerignolas and black Kalamatas)
  • 1/4 pound sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and cut into strips (or fresh cherry- either way)
  • 3/4 pound marinated or plain bocconcini (small mozzarella balls, available at specialty foods shops and some supermarkets)
  • 1/2 pound pepperoni or soppressata (hard Italian sausage, available at Italian markets, some butcher shops, and, some specialty foods shops), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices and the slices quartered
  • two 7-ounce jars marinated artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained well
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh parsley leaves plus, if desired, parsley sprigs for garnish

Make the marinade: 1.  In a small bowl whisk together the garlic, the vinegars, the rosemary, the basil, the oregano, the red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste, add the oil in a stream, whisking, and whisk the marinade until it is emulsified. 2. In a large saucepan of boiling water blanch the carrots and the fennel for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they are crisp-tender, drain them, and plunge them into a bowl of ice and cold water. Let the vegetables cool and drain them well. In a large bowl toss together the carrots, the fennel, the roasted peppers, the pepperoncini, the olives, the sun-dried tomatoes, the bocconcini, the pepperoni, the artichoke hearts, the marinade, the minced parsley until the antipasto is combined well and chill the antipasto, covered, for at least 4 hours or overnight. Transfer the antipasto to a platter, garnish it with the parsley sprigs, and serve it at room temperature.

So back to shopping and gifting!

Dean Malambri signature

Share with a friend:
Giving & Receiving Musings & Home Decorating Gift Guide

Giving & Receiving Musings & Home Decorating Gift Guide

The rhythms of this holiday gifting season are different for me this year. As a kid growing up in the 80’s, I remember the almost embarrassing orgy of gift giving and receiving in my family. But fast forward 30 years, and everyone has most everything they need so we opted for no gifts this year. But I love giving gifts so I got thinking…

We heard about this Carson’s Outlet in Aurora that handled all the overstocked merchandise from the regular stores. The day before Thanksgiving, they priced all sweaters and kids clothing at $3!  So we bought lots of sweaters and kids clothing…

img_4291

and found an organization that distributed them to disadvantaged children on behalf of the United Way.

We’re dropping it all off today!

I bring it up not to garner praise or feed my ego, but because this gift giving feels unfamiliar and strange, yet wonderful. Quite simply, I’m not used to it! As a kid, I used to come up with all sorts of internal “value calculations” about gifting that seem preposterous now. Now it’s about saying thanks to the Universe and honoring the law of giving and receiving.

To throw another wrench in the paradigm of gifting, Alan and I bought ourselves a gift- a subscription to Medici TV. Those of you who know us personally know that classical music is our other passion alongside design. Medici TV is this ingenious way to play concerts, operas, ballets, and music documentaries from Europe through your TV set (I have it on in the background right now!). It’s not quite the same as going to Symphony Center, but I can listen in my underwear, so there’s that…


If you’re still in search of a really special home-oriented gift for someone special or even yourself, Alan and I have dipped our toes into the world of online retailing at our new Facebook store that we call “Gatsby’s Little Designer Holiday Store.” We’ve searched high and low for unique items with character, style, and value that would appeal to our clients and friends. Here’s a taste…(click on images to go to the store)

"Im So Hammered" large bowl- $139
"Show Us Your Pearly Blues" Glass Candle Holders-3 Sizes
"Wooley Friend" Throw- $102 (assorted colors)

if you’re a bargain shopper and around Chicagoland, we have a collection of designer floor samples available at huge savings. These we can’t ship, but we can drop them off. Or come by and pick them up!

"Flynn" Bookshelf Sconce- $175 (was $456 new)
Large Silver Mirror with Sconces- $399 (was $768)
White Glossy Rococo Mirror- $69 (was $309)

We seem to be always hunting for mirrors (or everyone’s really narcissistic these days), so we have a collection of mirrors that we love (this section will grow a lot)

 Bubble Mirror- $340
"Good Morning Sunshine" Starburst Mirror- $269.00
"Mirror Mirror On The Wall" wall mirror- $99.95
"Daisy" Mirror - $145.00

We found some of the cutest handmade holiday pillows too! All locally made in Chicago!

"Presents on the Sleigh" Holiday Pillow- $98
"Dancer is a Dandy Holiday Pillow"- $80

Can’t decide? How about our ‘Gift of Color” gift certificate?

Dean Alan Design Paint and Color Consultation Gift Certificate- $199

Christmas inspires all sorts of warm feelings. I’ll leave with a quote by one of my favorite authors, Robert Fulghum:

Share with a friend:
Home Design: Where Interior Designers Shop (with their pants on)

Home Design: Where Interior Designers Shop (with their pants on)

Interior Designers shop a lot. It seems like a dream job right? Picking out a lamp here, finding a rug there. Is that all we do for home design? Furniture and decor shopping is, admittedly a fun component to my job. But like you, Chicago traffic annoys me. So while on TV it seems like interior designers know of some shack filled with French armoires, the reality is that majority of our time is spent figuring out how different “ingredients”  work together to create a beautiful home design.  And where we shop for these ingredients are places that sound kind of snobby, members-only and keep out places: what are known as “trade-only” design centers. They’re not scary places that require a secret handshake at all, but they’re also not traditional furniture stores.They’re kind of like old fashioned general stores for designers, but instead of butter, flour, and sugar, we’re there to find fabrics, furniture, decor, flooring, etc. ,  e.g. the “ingredients” that go into creating a beautiful home design. Please excuse the upcoming analogies, but they’re the best way by which I can explain why home design centers have the ominous sounding warning label, “trade-only.”

A Beautiful Home Design is Like a Cake

Say you want a cake. You can go to the grocery store, buy all the ingredients, research Croquembouche recipes online and make it yourself. Other times you may want a cake from a great local bakery because A) you don’t want to devote a whole day to baking and B) the local bakery cakes are always jaw-droppingly delicious. Of course they are, they make cakes for a living and bake them every day. So just it wouldn’t make sense to go the bakery for their cake ingredients, it’s also the reason it doesn’t make sense for you to go to a trade home design center for you to buy forty yards of fabric, some lining, 32 rings, 2 poles, 4 finials, 6 brackets and two wands in a platinum silver finish when you just want some nice drapery. OK, time for an analogy break.

Outside, trade home design centers often look like nondescript offices, not stores.

Arlington Design Center

Where’s the fountains?

Inside, there’s a bewildering amount of choices that tend to overwhelm people. Remember this is a place for working and browsing.

 home design center fabric wall
Home design center lighting display
Interior Designers shop for a lot of trims

Sometimes, looking at these “working walls” freaks people out,  so we ask you not to stare too long. Scary!

Don’t worry, there’s prettier displays too!

home design center furniture display at Design D'Vision

A room setting at Design D’Vision

Kravet fabrics and furniture home design showroom for interior designers

Kravet fabrics and furniture

CAI Design trade home design showroom for interior designers

A view at the CAI Designs Showroom

Sue and Mark Hermann proprietors Design D'Vision interior designers showroom

Sue and Mark Hermann, owners of Design D’Vision. They’re also our neighbors!

Who’s Minding This New General Store?

Trade home design showrooms employ people to help order samples, check furniture stock and contact factories with product questions. There’s often also people making things, and people constantly moving things. There’s no one trying to urgently sell you things because it’s a holiday or something. Everyone here respects that both big and small projects take time. That’s refreshing.

Arlington Interior Designer Home Design Center Claudia Mitroi

Claudia and her assistant making draperies

What Happened to Home Design Again in 2008?

The economic crash in 2008 played havoc to small independent furniture stores as well as larger well-known stores like Plunkett’s, and many closed their doors. Macy’s eliminated their entire design departments and opted instead to emphasize cheaper imported furniture, or what I call “fast furniture”. A new type of furniture store started to appear that emphasized low cost above everything else. No home design was offered, it was just cheap. And the established quality brands that weren’t being shown as prominently any more at traditional stores started appearing now instead in trade showrooms. So that gorgeous $8000 handmade sofa sitting pretty at the trade home design showroom had to move over and share the floor now with an also very nice $2000 sofa.

The New Compact in Home Design

Clients wanted assurances that if they were going to spend their hard earned money on better things, they wanted them to look very good in their homes (cue the designers). Interior designers were reluctant to open retail stores after the bloodbath of 2008 and the advent of internet shopping. And fewer people were lining up to buy uber luxurious furniture found at trade home design centers like the Merchandise Mart. So it’s like everyone decided to play a game of musical chairs. Some home design stores weren’t left with a chair, and that’s where we’re at today. The traditional ways people bought furniture pre 2008 were disrupted and the landscape has changed. It’s like Mayberry after a makeover!

Trade Showrooms After Their Makeovers

Today, trade home design centers serve as collective showrooms, lending libraries and meeting spaces for independent designers and their clients. Registered Interior designers can go to one location, draw from thousands of components and use a space to show you a unique and personal design solution.

interior designers Dean Alan Design, Elgin home design picture

The sectional is from is from Precedent, the swivel chairs from Lee Industries, the club chair from Kravet , the cocktail table from Vanguard, the petrified wood drink table by Palacek, the driftwood sculpture by Interlude Home, the pillows custom made by Claudia Mitroi and Jaipur, the lamp from CAI Lighting, and all brought together from the Arlington Design Center

You get to see large items in person instead of on a computer screen, not get hassled by salespeople, and a designer will listen to your feedback and adjust accordingly. Warranties, service, and deliveries are coordinated between the showroom and the design firm and all involved parties have incentive to make sure everything goes smoothly and without surprises.

You now can have your cake and eat it too!

Dean Malambri

Dean Malambri

President and Principal Designer, Dean Alan Design

Dean Malambri is President and Principal Interior Designer for Dean Alan Design Inc, a residential interior design firm primarily serving Chicago and the Chicago suburbs.

Share with a friend: