21 ways to get a warm cozy winter home using textures, colors and light

2013DecJan BabyItsColdOutside opener
Our experts
  • Cheryl Beasley Globe Lighting, Portland
  • Carol Ellis Ellis Design Group, Eugene
  • Amy Estrin The Whole 9 Yards, Portland
  • Patrick McGill Talking Color, Portland
  • Martha Murray Martha Murray Design, Bend
  • Stephanie Sheldon Noun home store, Portland

Winters were cold and white where I was a kid. Sometimes big flakes drifted lazily from the sky like feathers from molting doves. Other times snow pelted and stung the skin of your face. One year Wilson Pond froze fast and fierce in a single night, forming ice as clear as window glass. We skated on its surface to watch fat gray fish circling slowly below until our hands numbed and we ran into the warming shack, where a woodstove blasted heat.

We shed hats and mittens. Damp wool smelled like wet dog. Sitting on rough-hewn benches, we’d feel slivers poke right through our jeans to stick in the soft backs of our knees. A solitary light bulb hung from the rafters. It swung back and forth in the bitter-cold drafts from an always opening door to make eerie shadows dart across the floor and fold into corners. The room was plenty warm. It was not cozy.

Creating a warm environment requires so much more than cranking the thermostat. Because people are sensual creatures who find rooms more comforting when they play to our senses, we asked Oregon design and decor experts for tips on turning up the emotional heat.


Sensual cashmere, tactile tweed and sumptuous velvet can make a room feel like a warm embrace.

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//Photo of pillow from The Whole Nine Yards by Sierra Breshears

Bring in fringe throws and cozy textures with throw pillows. Graphic-print velvets can work in contemporary to classic homes. Nubby bouclé has a midcentury modern feel. A.E.


2013DecJan BabyItsColdOutside Texture02 Change to heavier curtains. It serves a functional aspect of window insulation “and also emotional warmth.” M.M.

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//Photo of fabric twist from The Whole Nine Yards by Sierra Breshears


Right above the window is the darkest spot in the house, so add a fabric twist there, a drooping, swooping window treatment to get in some warmer, richer fabrics. C.E.

2013DecJan BabyItsColdOutside Texture04 Changing the pillows on your sofa, the colors of your candles or the linens on your table can change the “temperature” of a room. And add more pillows to up the ‘‘cush” factor. M.M.

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Your house needs a change of wardrobe just like your closet. “Think of it as a sweater for the home.” A.E.

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//Photo courtesy of Pendleton

Pattern can create a subconscious sense of cozy. Look for rich tapestries and woven fabrics. Avoid some bold, modern graphics that can feel cool. A.E.

2013DecJan BabyItsColdOutside Texture07 “I have some great throw pillows that are faux suede on one side and linen on the other. You change the mood simply by flipping them over.” S.S.

2013DecJan BabyItsColdOutside Texture08 Pay attention to acoustics. You can calculate and correct sound reverberation with the right combination of carpets, textiles, furniture and surfaces. C.E. 

2013DecJan BabyItsColdOutside Texture09 If you’ve been waiting to splurge on a rug, winter is the time to do it. Not only do area rugs define a space year-round, they add warmth both aesthetically and underfoot. S.S.




Echo autumn with rich hues and organic elements to keep a room feeling warm and welcoming.

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Wall paint will give you dramatic change for relatively low cost if you’re willing to invest the time to paint it yourself. Get rid of the “builder beige” and add color with more warmth and saturation. M.M.

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There’s no reason to dismiss any one color, because there are many variations within a color. Some are going to work. M.M.

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Autumnal foliage colors are an obvious choice that works well, but also consider unexpected palettes, such as deep grays that include warm brown and red undertones. Pair grays with oranges and golds for richness. A.E.

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Filling a bare wall, whether it’s with traditional artwork or your favorite family photos, is one of the fastest ways to make a room cozier. Switch art on your walls when switching out bedding. Consider an oil painting, a brooding portrait or a textural fabric landscape. S.S.

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To offset gray winters, use a warmer palette that includes reds, oranges and yellows. “They suggest a connection to the earth, sun and fire. The result radiates a calm, welcoming feeling.” P.M.

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Paint the wall behind the headboard in the master bedroom with a rich pigment such as eggplant, coffee or green-based blue. Even those not good at painting can usually handle one wall. C.E.

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Use different hues for each season on accent walls, which can be easily changed. P.M.

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Add an organic element to your entryway. Use dried flowers or branches such as pussy willows or dried berry branches. Their dark, rich colors are perfect for the winter season. S.S.



Combine flickering candles, luminous lamps and ambient lighting for a comforting, cozy glow. 

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Regional climate, landscape and light inform color choices. “The colors that you see in the landscape and the environment in the Bend area lend themselves to warmer hues.” M.M.

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Think of layering light in a room by using different sources: recessed light, ambient light, sconces, under-cabinet light, lamps and pendants. It feels better and creates interest in a room. C.B.

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We need more light in the short days of winter, but more light doesn’t necessarily mean brighter light. Get dimmers wherever possible. Keep several lights on low “to give you more of a glow than a glare.” M.M.

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Allow most lighting fixtures to disappear to better draw attention to the things or areas they illuminate. Let pendants and lamps be your wow factor, the jewelry. C.B.