Need a Retreat? Start Within Your Own Home

I had the pleasure of chatting with design expert Susanna Salk at Anthropologie in New York City. She was signing copies of her new book "Weekend Retreats" -- a beautifully-executed ode to down-to-earth second homes. "I didn't want to feature any rooms that looked too perfect or too magazine-like," says Salk, who used to work at House and Garden and Elle Decor. "I wanted these homes to feel lived in." Since many of the homes featured were decorated by homeowners on a budget and since many of us don't have weekend homes of our own (sigh), I asked Susanna for ideas on how to make any home feel like a retreat. (Although, I recommend the book for the drool factor alone!)
Her first thought: Choose a room in your home and do everything you can to make it special. "It should be the best it can be," she says. If you don't have a room, choose a corner in one of your rooms and decorate it beautifully. Before you spend a penny, she suggests pulling furnishings from throughout your house. In every home there are underused pieces. Find them and rethink the arrangement. If you love a chair and you rarely sit in it, consider why. Should you add fluffy throw pillows? Maybe it needs a luxe throw?
Susanna says it's important to splurge on a few items that will make you happy. Maybe you add a cushion in a rich pattern, a colorful piece of art, a vintage lamp. Just make sure you choose items that say "retreat" to you.
Her next tip: Mix everything --styles, price points, textures, colors. "If I have a really expensive piece, I love putting something inexpensive on it," she says. "It's all about contrast. I love surprising people." She said that the nicest homes tend to be ones where the homeowner features lots of things he or she adores. Rather than try to buy showcase pieces, surround yourself with things you love. That's when your home will really pop. "Don't worry about matching too much," she suggests. When you love things, they tend to work together, she says. 
I'm skeptical. If I put all of my favorite things together, it would be one big overcolorful mish-mosh. But Susanna nods knowingly. "Pare down," she says. Editing is so important, she adds. You have to know exactly how much decor is just right -- and when it's too much. But that doesn't mean what's left can't be items that you love.
In her living room, she has a very inexpensive rug from Pier One and curtains from Anthropologie mixed with higher ticket items. She is a firm believer that beautiful homes shouldn't cost a fortune, and she's constantly mixing things up. Don't be afraid to do the same.
Cheap Trick: Think in multiples. These plates take on greater visual significance since they're grouped together.
Easy upgrades? She suggests buying furniture at yard sales, painting and adding some of Anthropologie's gorgeous knobs. She also encourages you to copy what you see in magazines or on  websites. "Design is the one field where plagiarism is allowed," she says. "Take advantage of that." See an idea you love? Put your own unique spin on it and copy away.
Photo Credit: John Gruen, Weekend Retreats, Rizzoli

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