Fulfilling decorating dreams still takes some time

By Carleton Varney

Special to the Daily News

We live in a world of comfort-seekers, a fact amply revealed in upscale coffee shops around the world that offer lounge chairs, coffee tables and sofas.

That’s a far cry from what these establishments used to be — cafeterias and quick-stop cafes. More and more, the traditional table with two or four chairs seems to be relegated to sidewalk-style service outdoors.

Across America, Starbucks has gone to a look that makes you feel as if you are at home when you are enjoying a coffee break. So when you sip your coffee inside a shop on Worth Avenue or Clematis Street, you’ll likely find yourself seated in a leather-covered, or imitation-leather covered, club chair of vintage-1940s design.

In the same way, today’s grand hotels create a parlor-style atmosphere in their lobbies, public areas and lounges, reminding us of the days when elegant living was truly with us.

A cup of tea or a cocktail at the Connaught in London’s Mayfair, for instance, is still served in a relaxed-lounge atmosphere; and the same holds true at Claridge’s and The Dorchester in London, as well as The Ritz in Paris and the very best American resorts. At the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, what is referred to as the Lobby Bar on the main entertaining-and-lounge floor is furnished with at-home-looking comfortable chairs, loveseats and pull-up English-style chairs, as it rightly should be.

Today, the word that perhaps best describes hotel/resort living at its best is “comfortable,” and no cocktail area in the lobby of a grand hotel should appear to be anything but a well-appointed living room. Bars with the table-and-chairs set-up are separately contained in spaces other than a main lobby.

Those who know me well know that I enjoy finding decorating lessons in what might seem unlikely spots. Take those upscale coffee shops I mentioned earlier. In addition to the club chairs and sofas, you’re likely to see game tables, where friends might play chess or checkers. And you are very likely to see a display of books in bookcases, along with a spot for displaying magazines and newspapers.

In this hurried world of e-mailing and texting, some folks welcome a chance to slow down a bit, whether in the coffee shop or in the home. (Here’s an idea: Why not set up a puzzle table in the family room, where family members can, from time to time, pause to contemplate where to join new pieces to the already-formed outer border?)

It all sounds so pleasant, doesn’t it, in a world hurtling faster and faster into cyberspace? And believe me, today’s frantic pace causes problems in the decorating realm.

When I’m decorating for a client and dealing with furniture-and-design firms that rarely stock goods, I know that a new custom sofa can take 12 weeks or more to arrive at the door. But most clients don’t really like to wait, that’s for certain. In their view, the coffee must be served the moment it is ordered, and the fabric for the club chair must never end up on back-order. In fact, I think the biggest dilemma facing decorators today is having to tell a client that an order will take 12 to 16 weeks for delivery.

Slowing down is not easy, and waiting for a delivery can be painful. No wonder that “ready-to-go” restaurants and even furniture stores are today’s “in” spots — and it’s not because of the quality of their products or because customers really want the “to-go” variety. It’s instead because time-pressed people settle. And they settle, sometimes, for things they really do not want.

So here’s a word of advice if your decorator has just informed you that you’re playing the waiting game. In the days to come, when the hustle-and-bustle world is closing in, remember that there are designer coffee shops and hotel lounges where you can sit in comfortable lounge chairs and sofas and enjoy a leisurely cocktail, tea, coffee or snack. It’s a perfect place to think about the joys of getting exactly the sofa or chair you really want.

Settling for what is the most expeditious is not where the world should be heading — in home decorating or in living, as well.


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