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Creating a casual luxury home

Mar Jennings

What is casual luxury anyway? How does it apply to everyday living? How does one learn to embrace the esthetic of casual luxury? All great questions — and the answers are simple and easier than you think.

Mars Jennings
casual luxury

make the most of your space

What is casual luxury anyway? How does it apply to everyday living? How does one learn to embrace the esthetic of casual luxury? All great questions — and the answers are simple and easier than you think.

The basic premise begins with rethinking, repurposing and redesigning: Focus on attainability, have fun and get inspired by the endless resources available.

Life on Mars book coverThat said, my home, Rosebrook Gardens, in Westport, Connecticut, is a snapshot of my soul. One visit will reveal to you a deep part of who I am. Truth be told, my affair with my surroundings began early in life by moving Disney prints and posters around my bedroom. Soon the posters were replaced with framed reproductions of master paintings and art prints. As I fine-tuned my design taste, I became wiser and more in tune with comfort and beauty, thus discovering my “casual luxury” home design esthetic. Back then I simply referred to this style as “cheap and chic.” But I soon realized it was so much more, a way of life that embraces resources and creativity while maximizing space.

No matter where I live, I always begin my design by focusing on what I love about the space. What you cherish should manifest itself in many places: the windows, the fireplace mantel, the floors, the high ceilings, the wood moldings, the openness and natural light. Once you identify what you love, it’s time to maximize the beauty. For example, I love my divided-light windows. So rather than cover them, I dared to go bare! I painted the trim in an oil base high-gloss white. The results allow me to enjoy the details of the windows while admiring the views of the garden, regardless of the time of year. It’s the best of both worlds!

Garden sign
Dining room

Here are my five principles of “casual luxury” design:


Texture, texture, texture!

You do not need multiple colors to create a professionally designed look: A monochromatic theme can be beautifully stepped up with a variety of textures for a more luxurious professional look — smooth, rough, wooden, metallic, woven, opaque, sheer.


Choose shades that reflect your overall feeling

For example, cool colors are perfect for minimal designs with great natural lighting. Warm colors are great for traditional designs or antiques. Want a dramatic space? Darker colors add it but can overwhelm a space if done to an extreme. For impact without overwhelming the room, consider using a neutral shade overall combined with a bold accent wall.


Something old becomes something new

Flea markets, tag sales and grandmother’s attic are excellent resources for treasures that have sentimentality and history. This is a must in the design of any room, as you can’t complete a casual luxury room with new stuff alone! Accessories such as candles, books and trays can be used for added decoration.


Create height

This is important as height brings your eye to new levels. This is simple to accomplish if you follow four rules of layering:

  • Flooring — Hardwood, carpet or an area rug? I prefer the combination of hardwood floors with an area rug. If you have connecting rooms, the carpets should match for a harmonious transition. Two different carpets will break the cohesiveness of the space thus disrupting the color palette.
  • Seating — I love furniture, and seating is important in any room. Less is more and oversized pieces can come back to haunt you. Better to go with classic, timeless pieces with interesting lines.
  • Wall hangings — Anything you put on the wall should be at eye level unless you are dealing with the space over a fireplace mantel or accent art, which you can stack for drama.
  • Crown molding — Crown molding is an added detail that increases the value of your home and provides a beautiful finishing touch.

Create reflection

Reflection creates light, light creates energy, and energy creates a special ambiance in any room. A silver trophy filled with candy, a mirror placed off-center, a glass tabletop — all these reflect light beautifully. Apothecary jars are a must-have for any room. Fill them with moss balls, shells or even birch branches. These vessels reflect light while allowing you to capture tidbits of nature for all to enjoy.

Here’s one final note

Learn what you like in regard to colors, textures and styles. Although your taste may change over the years, your core likes and dislikes will not. Once you hone in on the basic elements of your own casual luxury esthetic, building and matching your style is easy. Your casual luxury designs are within you.

And there you have it.

About the author

Mar Jennings is a modern lifestyle expert, television personality and author. He is known for his signature style: casual luxury.

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