In the depths of winter, we rely on our homes to provide us with winter comfort and entertainment. Chilly temperatures keep many of us cooped up indoors more than we’d like, and when we do brave the winter weather, we want to come home to the comfort of a warm oven, a hot cup of tea and a cuddly throw. Here we’ve compiled some of our favorite winter-comfort tips and tricks—many suggested by you, our readers—for creating a cozy home that welcomes your friends and family and makes a long winter speed by.
Create a Cozy Home for Winter Comfort
Huddle Together: Save on heating bills by rearranging your furniture so you sit near interior walls rather than exterior walls, which can be drafty in older homes. Create a more intimate seating area for winter by pulling all the furniture in toward the center of the room.
Light Right: We’re more reliant on artificial lights during winter’s long nights. You can create a warm atmosphere and keep the electric bill down by choosing highly efficient, dimmable LED bulbs. Give yourself many lighting options—for example, a bright lamp near a favorite reading spot might eliminate the need to use overhead lights. For warm nighttime light, look at a bulb’s Kelvin temperature, which measures its warmth or coolness, and aim for temperatures between 2500 and 3000.
Window Winterizing: Heavy drapes made of thick material help provide an extra layer of nighttime insulation. In the day, open all shades so sunshine can pour into your home and help warm it.
Gear Up: Organize your entry to make bundling up easier and to avoid tracking slush and mud through the house. Put an absorbent welcome mat and proper storage in your entryway, mud room or just inside the door, including a coat rack or hooks, shelves or cubbies for shoes, and baskets for hats, gloves and scarves. If you want to take off your coat and boots and immediately put on your fuzzy sweater and house slippers, keep those near the door, too.
Dress the Part: It's winter, so dress like it, even indoors. Every degree you drop your thermostat can lower your heating bill by up to 2 percent—meaning it’s cheaper to wear a wool sweater than a T-shirt around the house! (If you’ll be away for a weekend or more, turn down the temperature to 55 degrees—the lowest you can go without the risk of freezing your water pipes.)
Bed Down: Make your bedroom your winter haven — a calming, soothing place where you can rest and recharge. Start by clearing all clutter, then decorate with only the art you love most. Pile the bed with your favorite blankets and linens, and install a romantic chandelier on a dimmable switch.
Cozy Home Crafts: Try taking up a new craft or hobby. Knitting, cross-stitching, learning an instrument or language, crocheting, painting, drawing, sewing, trying a new form of exercise, scrapbooking or making DIY home décor (check out our Natural Home Guide to Winter Crafts and Projects) are all fun solo or with friends.
Fireplace Heating: Curling up by the fire is the ultimate way to warm up and save on heating bills. Pull the family, a bunch of pillows and a pile of blankets together in front of the fire, or throw together an impromptu dining room and eat dinner by the hearth. (Get tips for a healthy, efficient fire and read A Healthier Hearth, A More Efficient Fireplace.)
Pile It On: Just looking at a big pile of blankets, pillows and throws can make us feel warmer, and guests will feel like part of the family when they can grab their favorite woolly blanket and settle in for movie night. A stack of pretty folded blankets in a basket can go just about anywhere. Choose high-quality blankets and throws you’ll keep for a lifetime—wool and organic cotton are good bets.
Cooking Warmth: Baking bread, simmering mulling spices, roasting a turkey or slow-cooking soup all warm up your cozy home and fill it with delightful aromas.
Tea Up: Warm up from the inside out with a mug of steamy tea, cocoa or coffee. This warming winter tea recipe from The Herb Companion serves two, but you can multiply it and save the herbal tea mix.
Family Game Night: Create one night a week when everyone looks forward to staying in: For example, designate Tuesdays as family game nights, and let every family member choose one game to contribute to the Tuesday tournament. Or get a group of friends together and rotate through games and hosts.
Stay Fresh: Indoor air can be stifling, but conventional air fresheners and candles rely on chemical scents. Instead, use an essential oil diffuser (check out Mountain Rose Herbs) to disperse a fresh scent such as citrus. When buying essential oils, choose 100 percent pure organic essential oils.
Warm Hearts: Stuck indoors? So are your friends and family. Write a friend or family member an unexpected letter or card to fill your time and brighten theirs.
Soak It In: A hot bath with fragrant herbs and skin-softening minerals could be just what the doctor ordered to warm away winter blues. To make an herbal bath blend, combine 1 cup Epsom salts with 1 cup baking soda and 40 to 50 drops of whatever essential oils you like best. Add about 1 tablespoon to a hot bath.
Pet Project: Pets get cooped up in winter, too. Replace hours of outdoor exercise with mental stimulation by doing basic training exercises with your dog, or try an obedience class at a local training facility. Get instructions for obedience exercises at Raising Spot; find an American Kennel Club in your area on the American Kennel Club website.