The word ‘casual’ brings to mind the concept of a lack of concern, a carefree and even somewhat lazy approach that is more functional then decorative and like most such impressions getting it right is much harder than it looks to the untrained eye!
Being able to merge the attributes that make a room look homey, warm and comforting without making it look tired, old and sloppy can be difficult. Doing so in a way that is both comfortable to live in and easy to maintain while still being relatively inexpensive to design and create is what takes the real skill though!
Naturally you want the rooms in your home to be comfortable and easy to live in and maintain – a simple beanbag with a washable liner would accomplish that nicely and I suppose one could call that casual although most would define that style as ‘early bachelor’ as would having your laundry hamper in the living room where you can throw your clothes as you come home from work while easy to live in this is not what we refer to as casual style.
To create a casual decor style that is livable but obviously done on purpose and by someone with taste and a certain amount of sophistication you need to
follow a few rules, such as:
• Use simple details in fabrics and accessories – try to avoid shiny materials and when possible lean toward textured or other weaves of interest such as linen and wool
• Rely on restful and muted designs and colors in upholstery, curtains and cloth lampshades
• Avoid too much symmetry but don’t allow it to become eclectic
• When possible use horizontal lines and simple, country themed artwork
• Furniture should be soft and comfortable, preferably oversized
• Use of slip covers are a plus and soft pastels and neutral colors or dark tones such as forest green, cranberry or navy can be used to create simple focal points.
Most casual rooms will rely on larger and more ‘blocky’ pieces of furniture rather than vertically high pieces or thin petite works. The larger scale provides a comfortable sense of security and confidence, as well as giving room for storage and spreading out.
A touch of whimsy here and there is perfect in a casual room, as well as unique items from flea markets and antique stores – bits of wicker, rattan or ironwork can create an accent or focus without being too ostentatious and are often found somewhere in storage in another room! When they do have to be purchased they are not expensive, and searching for these accents can be fun and rewarding in itself.
True casual style simply screams for an ottoman and some form of ‘conversion’ to allow you to use it both for seating or to use it as a serving tray or coffee table. Most finishes should be in lighter color woods such as oak and pine, although painted works, hammered iron or brass and wood carvings can also work well. A few accent pieces on a shelf or arranged in a usable bookcase or corner table are fine – but don’t go too ‘chic’ and avoid too many items or it will begin to look cluttered.
Bedrooms in a casual style should cause the viewer to wish to dive upon the bed and bury themselves in the mountain of plush pillows and blankets that they see there. Comfort and cleanliness without fussy colors or patterns work well here – white with a few neutral accents or patterns and numerous fluffy pillows, a simple piece of art on one wall and a simple lamp and shade is never out of place.
Another tenant of casual design is to use blinds, shutters or shades for light control rather than heavy drapes or other cumbersome solutions. Simple is best! Keep any details or trim on window treatments simple – if you wish a contrasting liner or ribbon and fabric tie-backs can dress up treatments a bit but don’t go overboard.
Floors in a casual room should be either some form of stone or tile work, stained concrete or hardwood. If you must use carpet rely on texture not color and keep it simple such as a Berber or Sisal.
Light fixtures can be almost anything from wrought iron or other metals to wood or even antlers! Here is where that touch of whimsy can really make a statement – use of a chandelier that burns real candles or small colonial candle-light lamps all can provide a unique but still casual feel.
If you create a comfortable strong and welcoming space with soft colors and rely on textures and old and rustic accessories, you are there. Just add a touch of whimsy and overstuffed low and long furniture and watch your guests relax.