A black leather couch, mirrored chrome furnishings and crystal fixtures set against rich walnut paneling make for a glamorous yet inviting setting for guests to unwind.
Modern design can be sexy, but some prefer the fairy-tale perspective that comes from history. At Rachael's Dowry Bed and Breakfast in Baltimore's Ridgely's Delight neighborhood, the design aesthetic pays homage to the past.
"We opened in April 2010, following a complete restoration of this historic home, which was built in 1798," says Norman Finnance, who co-owns and runs the family operation with sister Letitia Bohner. Her son, Jacob Canal, is the marketing director.
Bohner, a self-taught design aficionado who oversaw the decor, describes it as "elegant and intimate," and rich in historical ambience.
"Our five guest rooms are uniquely furnished with authentic antiques from antique and vintage shops and family heirlooms," she says. "We wanted to reflect the original architectural style of a home built in the 18th century."
Thanks to sparkling guest reviews, the property was recently chosen by TripAdvisor as one of the top 10 bed-and-breakfasts in the United States.
In guest suites, many of the beds are four-posters in rich woods draped in duvets and accented with coverlets and bolster pillows. Chairs are covered in velvet, and some rooms have soaking tubs or a balcony. Each suite has its own name, adding to the charm.
Austin, the Baltimore interior designer, says that to create a romantic room, one must "understand and acknowledge that beauty exists everywhere." She also points out that it's not just couples who want to be pampered by an enchanting, tranquil space.
"For one of my clients, a busy [doctor], we wanted to reflect feminine softness and refined splendor with a soothing palate of creams, taupes, soft pinks, and hints of gold and platinum."
A 19th-century West Anatolia rug was placed over newly whitewashed hardwood floors. Venetian mirrors and glass lamps added a touch of glamour. In a sitting area, the designer used an intricate mother-of-pearl inlay table between two caned-linen-covered chairs. A sumptuous tufted fabric ottoman and a chandelier with beaded strands completed the look.
"Her poster bed is draped in folds of creamy silk fabric with a soft raspberry interlining that warmly complements the handcrafted jeweled and beaded pillows," Austin says.
To duplicate that romantic aura in your bedroom, for instance, retailers such and Pottery Barn, Macy's and others offer hotel-inspired lines. They range from high-thread-count sheets and sateen bedding to lighting and shiny trays perfect for serving breakfast in bed.
Austin says decorating one's space in the romantic spirit of a favorite hotel doesn't have to cost a mint.
"Money does not equate class, beauty or exceptional design," she says. "A house is bought … a home is made."
Tips for hotel-style at home
Don't scrimp on bedding. The better hotels have crisp cotton sheets, thick duvets, plus lots and lots of plump pillows and shams.
Make a statement. Use contemporary or antique furnishings that make a statement, and accessories to offset them with style.
Incorporate art. Paintings and sculpture enliven a room.
Don't forget the bathroom. Deck out the room with fluffy towels, pretty light fixtures and spa-like features, such as a soaking tub or rain showerhead, to help bring tranquility into the home.
Window treatments are key. A variety of window fashions are available that allow you to regulate light in rooms to create different moods, enhance views or add privacy. They also come in a variety of fabrics and colors.