April Cornell on dressing your bedroom | Home Front

April Cornell
Oct 01, 2015

April Cornell is the founder, principal designer, and creative and executive head of the April Cornell brand. Since 1975, she has produced signature linens and ladies clothing for U.S. and Canadian customers. She travels, sources, and manufactures seasonal collections full of prints and vintage detailing. Cornell thinks changing your quilt, throw cushions, and other adornments can change the personality of your bedroom. She shares tips on how to make your bedroom a sanctuary.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She's happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

hi everyone! I am super excited to be here with you and talking about decorating, and bringing an artistic point of view to your home!


Welcome everyone! Thrilled to have April Cornell here with us today. Her name is associated with beautiful, colorful bed linens, table cloths and napkins and clothing. Since 1975, she has produced a line of fabrics and products based on her own designs.  She knows a lot about changing the personality of your bedroom with quilts, pillows, colors etc. Thanks for being with us April. For a prize today, we will pick a chat poster who best describes why their own bedroom is a sanctuary. The prize will be Barbara Barry's beautiful book Barbara Barry: Around Beauty. ($65; Rizzoli). I will announce winner at end and then please email me your mailing address. Let's chat.

Where do you get your inspirations and designs? How are you inspired to create such beautiful items?

Nature has been my main assistant for many years. The open flower, the turning leaf, the bowing bird are an unending well of motifs, ideas and colors. Vintage references in lace, antique embroideries and tailoring details, all add to the depth of design. For me, travel continues to offer new color ways and inspirations, like a fabulously colorful trip I just took to Provence in France!

what truly would you say April is the the right 4 colours to have in your bedroom for the perfect ambiance and should a bedroom linen quilts and pillows be changed with the season??

Ooohh...This is a good question and one that many people ask me. First I choose a print I love (I've got a few of those;) ) and I draw my colors from there. A flower will always have tones of the same color - that gives you two to three colors, and add the green from the foliage because a designer has already put these colors together so they're balanced. So, any of those colors become your dominant decorating color, for paint, ceiling, rugs, etc.. And I use them in greater or lesser amounts, depending on what I really prefer or like the most. That way, a palette you love can be re-used in varying strengths in different rooms. Finally, I add white to break up the colors.

Hi April. Do you have good ideas for a bedroom that is lacking closet space? We have one small, dark closet, and another larger one, but it's not great. We have room for an armoire, but all I see are big, bulky pieces that would feel pretty cumbersome to me. I'd love a few suggestions.

I have the same problem! I have a bed with drawers built in underneath, and shelving, where I keep books behind my bed. It holds a lot and takes up no extra room. Hooks can hold colorful clothes, or your clothes of the day. You could choose an armoire that is light colored, so it appears less massive, or take the doors off and use a pretty curtain to soften the look.

I enjoy changing my home for the different seasons, and for holidays such as Christmas time. What suggestions do you have for the bedrooms other than just a toss pillow on the bed? I don't want to get too carried away, but I feel that changing with the seasons keeps a house from getting boring.

Oh fun! Whimsy or traditional - there's two ways to go. A velvet throw in seasonal colors, candles that twinkle, a swag or garland over the bed. Photos of Christmas past on bureaus, and charming Christmas ornaments or tiny stockings on drawer pulls and doorknobs. Merry early Christmas! 

How many throw pillows are too many?

well- I have been in the throw pillow kingdom for a long, long time! I don't think there can be too many. Practically speaking- for a couple - four pillows, for the heads, one throw pillow each for their laptops, one for the cat, and then there's two per chair, three per bench...does that feel like too many? ;-)

Are there good "rules" for layering a bed to make it appear cozy and appealing? Something like mix two florals with one plain/check? I love how bedrooms appear in your catalogs and stores and would love to achieve the same effect at home.

You have got it! That's a decorating recipe I really like. Two prints in coordinated colors, probably two different scales, but with a similar spirit, and something solid, plaid or embroidered that reflects those colors in a different format- more graphic, or a solid. 

Hi everyone. If you have a room that needs help, I'm looking for makeover candidates for our weekly feature House Calls. All you have to do is email a description of your room and some informal photos and what your problems with the room to me: makeover@washpost.com. If you have any questions, email me. Thanks. Mari-Jane.

So the code for today is HF7401

When choosing a new color scheme for your bedroom is it best to start with the quilt/duvet and build from there?

Yes, it's the biggest canvas you have! And you draw all of your room colors from it [as long as it has pattern]. If you have a solid duvet choose some colorful throw pillows to find your extra decorating colors.

Hi April, I just love all your beautiful clothing. I would love to see more floral nighties. I am really big on anything Victorian, and your clothing is the best.

I love Victorian inspiration for nightwear. My first vintage piece was bought on Canal Street in New York in the 1970s - I haven't stopped with those references ever since. Pleats!  Eyelets! Pintucks! Lace! Cambrics, voiles, ticking stripes, LOVE!

Hello, this subject is perfect timing! We are moving into a new home soon and taking the opportunity to upgrade to a king bed since sellers are leaving their gorgeous upholstered headboard, which is an almost-black dark grey and has contemporary lines. Our other furniture is more vintagey and cottagey, and we lean toward mismatched bedding. I'm struggling to dress the bed, and can't figure out how to marry the styles and maintain a peaceful space. Thank you.

Actually grey can have a vintage character if you soften it with rose, soft pink, ecru, and whites. Go soft, not strong, add some vintage style pillowcases, soft stripes. An other idea is to repaint the headboard into a soft white or antique and add any colors you like. Making a king sized bed cozy, takes a little more deliberate work. Good luck and congratulations on your new home!

How do you mix multiple patterns while still keeping a soothing feeling in the bedroom?

I like harmony, so I look for the common colors to build on. At least three patterns to make a color story, but find the link between them. Green can be a good link even if not the dominant color. It can be taming.  


Hi Jura! Can you recommend a carpet store in Montgomery County that might have a good selection of remnants? I'm looking to have one bound to create a large area rug for my odd-size living room (a trick I learned about here!). Thanks in advance!

Try Carpet Palace in Bethesda. Lots of decorators shop there for remnants too.

I'm wondering about the adorable, fabulous shoes shown in the catalog with the lovely April Cornell outfits. Can you tell us where you found them? and where we can get them? Thanks a bunch! Shannon

So glad you noticed! I love shoes too but, these are mostly vintage- of which we have a wardrobe for photo shoots. Shoes are an indulgence of mine..;)

We have a platform bed, no headboard, and I'm looking for ideas to dress up that space. We don't have anything on the wall yet, and just use two sets of king-sized pillows on the bed. Looking for bed pillow and/or wall ideas. We're big readers, so the wall idea needs to be practical for sitting up in bed.

I would add some cushions for sure (we've got lots!), in the same color family as your bedding. Those are good for propping up books too, and will add a complexity that makes your sanctuary more beautiful. What about a soft wall hanging above your bed? Even a pretty quilted textile or throw can work and pull it down in the winter for extra warmth.


Why isn't there a direct link to the weekly Home Front live Chat on the Home and Garden Section? There used to be before the section was changed. If it is there, I am not seeing it. It would be helpful to know who is going to be on the weekly Home Front instead of searching for the information on the Washington Post website.

Hi! Digital editor of lifestyle here. The homepage was recently revamped so now there are few ways to get to the Home and Garden section. The best way to find it from the homepage is press Lifestyle on the top bar, a Home and Garden link sits under the Lifestyle title on that page, plus our content posts on the lifestyle stream. Or hit sections on the top left, scroll to Lifestyle and the subsection options will pop up. You can also type in washingtonpost.com/home into your browser. 

How do YOU create a peaceful sanctuary in your bedroom??

Soothing colors on the walls, number one. Soft filtered lighting, extra soft bedding with velvet edges to hold, pillows you can sink into, a painting that 'takes me somewhere' to look at before I fall asleep. A 'salon' area to read and be cozy. A cat. [and my man!]

Hi, I have a small galley-ish kitchen with light wood cabinets, grey Silestone counters and darker grey tile floor, and bright green glass tile backsplash. I am having the kitchen repainted, but can't seem to find a good color. Current color is a too-bright yellow. Main problem is what will go with the cabinets (a lot of brown, although light in color) and the bright green. Should I go with a much paler yellow? Or just white? Thanks for any suggestions.

I like the paler yellow, not lemony and not butter. Would you consider repainting your cabinets? Two shades of yellow could carry the kitchen to a whole new place. Try Sherwin Williams SW6686 lemon Chiffon.  If you do the cabinets add Lantern Light SW6687 on the frames. Thanks for the question, fun!

I love color, but my husband doesnt... How can i change his mind?

ahh...always a challenge to change someone's mind! How about introducing color in small ways? A painting, a cushion, a colorful throw. Flowers. And, there is always a guest room, to express yourself more colorfully. I do think color adds joy, if you let it in, it can start to transform mood and create ambiance too. Soon he'll be asking for more! ;-)

Do you own and manage the stores that bear your name?

Yes, I do own them, which has been such a beautiful experience, and have a wonderful team that manages them. We love meeting our customer directly! 

How do you come up with your patterns on the material? Are they revived from prints from olden days or imagined new within? God Bless & Thank You! -Missy Howard 

Thank you for asking! The inspiration comes from both; original watercolors, or found treasures from the distant past. I've had the distinct pleasure to travel the world and collect really wonderful antique textiles, those have been an inspiration many time over! Here's one of my original watercolors turned tea towel

I am desperately in the market for a new living room sofa, but am having a difficult time finding a brand/style that goes with my very eclectic style (which includes a modern barcelona chair and some antique pieces as well). I'd like a low, comfortable sofa that is not too modern and well constructed. Any suggestions of places to look or styles to try? I should also add that I'm very reluctant to buy something online without having the opportunity to sit in it first. Thanks so much for any advice you can offer.

Have you thought of a vintage sofa? They tend to be much lower and you can reupholster in your own fabric choice and add the right comfort too- like down filling in the cushions. I have a very cool sofa covered with old Guatemalan huipils, that I would describe as Spanish Colonial [from Mexico] with indigenous Guatemalan fabrics. Love the funky unexpected combo!   

Why not offer all of your beautiful clothes in the plus size option?

Oh- we would so0 love to. This is an important group of women for us. Every season we are adding more styles and will continue to do so. We have added a XXL size this season, that's new too. And thanks so much for being a fan, keep an eye out for new styles!

I've been a fan for many years. With all the trends in colors these days, what would you recommend for a color palette that would be easy enough to adapt to color accents as those trends change? Is there a way to do that easily and affordable without painting everything white or beige?

There are some palettes that really do go with almost everything, and don't date quickly. Light grey that be cleaner and whiter, or pinker and warmer [my preference] You can then add touches of soft rose, and white- it will do the neutral job- but feel alive. Or, green is such a good grounding color, you can go soft olives, and darker olives, if you like warm woods, golds, wines and browns, and add an off white wood trim. Lighter spirit? Lighter greens, more apple, celery, and cleaner greens set off almost every palette, from blues to yellows to pinks. Go green! Go Grey! Go color and a harmonious home that feeds your happiness. Live beautiful as we say around here!

I bought an amazing quilt from you about two years ago, I wanted to add more cushions but can no longer find the same pattern. Do you often bring back the old patterns?

Thank you! We do bring back patterns from time to time- and sometimes we can find within our world your missing piece through our customer service. [We have an April's Attic on line too that houses old styles.] However, we generally work through evolving color palettes that we link to from season to season. So..we may not have an exact match for you, but we probably have a good coordinate. 

Hi April, Thank You for such vivid beautiful patterns you bring to us! I adore the patterns, but have begun wearing white. Emily Dickinson clad herself in white in her latter years. Have you considered doing more items in white in the lovely vintage style you create? And in the plus sizes as previously asked. Just curious!

Emily Dickinson! Lovely. Yes, I too love white, in all the layers and complexity that it can be. We do have a wedding collection every season, that usually has a duster, a dress, a cover ups, some tulle underprices, camisoles and scarves. Keep your eye on the website, and on April's Attic for current and former collections. I think we need to increase our plus size offering here. Thanks for the reminder!

It was really fun hearing about your business and your inspiration. So cool that your fans know all your patterns and colors and are collectors. We appreciate your being with us today on Home Front. Next week, we will have Lauren Liess on the chat, a popular designer and design blogger who has a new book Habitat: The Field Guide to Decorating. Thanks all.

It has been such fun chatting with everyone! I love making a home joyful, peaceful and inspirational. Artistic women- you rock! Thanks so much Jura! 

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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April Cornell
April Cornell is the founder, principal designer, and creative and executive head of the April Cornell brand. Since 1975, she has produced signature linens and clothing bearing her label.
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