Making room for romance

One of the suites at Rachael's Dowry, an inn in Ridgely's Delight.
One of the suites at Rachael's Dowry, an inn in Ridgely's Delight. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun)

Ever stay at a wonderful hotel and dream of replicating that style at home?

Travelers often covet the fluffy bedding, chic furnishings, deep soaking tubs and fancy showerheads that are standard these days at many hotels.

With Valentine's Day fast approaching, there's no better time to evoke a cozy, romantic bed-and-breakfast or a luxe hotel feel right within your own abode.

"The home is a sacred place. You share it with those that you care about and love the most," says Amanda Austin, owner of the eponymous Baltimore interior design firm.

"The question you should ask is if you're existing in your home, or if you feel alive in your home?" says Austin, who heads a small, close-knit design team. "It should be the place that you most want to be, and it should be a place that transports you."

Although a night at a hotel can be romantic, creating a love nest at home will yield repeated rewards. For inspiration, we turned to designers, as well as some of the region's award-winning innkeepers and premier hoteliers.

For instance, you may want to experience some of the glamour and elegance of the Four Seasons Hotel in Baltimore's Harbor East.

"The decor and ambience of the hotel are rooted in the spectacular location on the Inner Harbor," says Paul Harris, who designs Four Seasons properties around the world.

Harris, who is working on hotel projects in Manhattan and Dubai, notes that the architectural and interior design choices made for the Baltimore location were intended to take advantage of the dramatic views of the city and harbor. "Truly a spectacular backdrop for romance," he says.

Describing the hotel's decor and ambience, Harris deconstructs the color scheme — a neutral palette of natural woods, stones and metals meant to enhance the beauty of the location.

The hotel is awash in a bevy of luxurious, richly textured fabrics, from plush velvet couches and leather chairs to full-length drapery.

"They create a cocoonlike comfort that feels both luxurious and private," says Harris, noting that the light palette and floor-to-ceiling windows mixed with soft accents make one feel "like you are floating on the water or in the clouds."

"Floating equals fantasy," he adds, "and that is a wonderful setting for romance."

The artwork adorning the walls of the Four Seasons also helps to evoke sentiment, Harris says.

"The art collection creates intimate moments in the hotel that encourage guests to slow down, pause and reflect together. … It's like having an in-house date night always at hand."

Even if you don't have collectible paintings or artwork, adding a pop of color can create an air of enchantment. Paint can do the trick, say experts, but so can fun furnishings and accessories.

That's the vibe of the aptly named Hotel Rouge in Washington, where interior designer Andrea Dawson created an oasis that celebrates the color color, which, of course, suggests romance.

"You see the bold use of red throughout Hotel Rouge," says Jaclyn Randolph, a spokeswoman for Kimpton Hotels. "From the whimsical statues and pillows to a mural depicting Venus, the goddess of love."

The San Francisco-based company owns 57 boutique hotels across the U.S., including Baltimore's Hotel Monaco. The brand is known for its hip interiors, which meld luxury and a certain playfulness.

At Hotel Rouge, the provocative execution of the color red first makes itself known in the living room-style lobby, lined with sparkling red quartz tiles that shimmer with flecks of silver and gold.

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.

The look continues in the guest rooms, which feature floor-to-ceiling red faux-leather headboards, crimson velvet draperies and custom-designed furnishings.

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.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun