5 things Gwyneth Paltrow's designer does to make a home feel expensive, that aren't about buying expensive things

Focused around spaces that make you feel good, livable luxe – coined by designer to the stars Brigette Romanek – is all we’re thinking about. Here’s how to make the look your own

Living room with curved furniture and white walls
(Image credit: Michael P. H. Clifford. Design by Brigette Romanek)

For Brigette Romanek, there’s one design philosophy that guides her through all of her projects. The Los Angeles-based designer – and collaborator with Gwyneth Paltrow on projects including the actor and Goop founder’s Montecito home – is renowned for her schemes that feel richly layered and luxurious, while still wholly approachable. Now she’s put a name to her signature look in her debut book, Livable Luxe.

While interior design trends come and go, livable luxe is a concept we can get behind— in essence, a livable luxe space is one that encourages connection, is filled with things you love and makes you feel good.

Happily, that means it’s achievable for everyone – and can look a little different depending on what makes you feel good. To help you along, Brigette has shared her tips for embracing the idea of a livable luxe scheme – and we’ve delved into each of them below.

What is a livable luxe scheme?

The concept of livable luxe has been part of Brigette Romanek’s work since she started designing – it just took some time to put a name to the feeling she was pursuing with every project. It builds on her ideas of how to make a home that feels good – something she’s spoken about before with Livingetc’s editor-in-chief, Pip Rich. ‘It’s about creating spaces where you feel supported, like your best self, no matter how your day has been, because you're surrounded by things that bring that out of you,’ she explains. ‘Even the color of the walls has an effect. It's all part and parcel of making you feel great.’

1. Mix in inexpensive pieces for a rich, soulful scheme

White living room with hanging chair

(Image credit: Douglas Friedman. Design by Brigette Romanek)

In her book, Brigette talks a lot about her ‘Gucci meets Gap’ approach – the idea that a livable luxe scheme is made up of pieces from both ends of the spectrum, high and low. Not everything has to be expensive to feel luxe, she argues. ‘Soulfulness to me is just such a big component of design – that it feels like a place you can be comfortable in and enjoy. Having a crazily expensive living room sofa that the kids can’t go on isn’t the way I would ever want to live.’

Instead, build your scheme through pieces that you love. ‘My clients will have things that mean something to them, and then we figure out how to incorporate those pieces,’ Brigette explains. ‘One of the most beautiful areas in my Laurel Canyon house are some $5 or $10 vases I put on a table. Collectively, it looked like an incredible installation – it was the talk of the living room because it was unusual – but the whole thing probably cost $180. It was just very soulful for me because it was putting together that layer of things that I just loved. I really want the house to be one's favorite, most special environment.’

2. Embrace the idea of negative space

A corner of a room with a bench, art piece and a vase

(Image credit: Michael P. H. Clifford. Design by Brigette Romanek)

Negative space is an age-old concept in interior design, but giving your scheme a little room to breathe will help you create something that feels more luxurious – and allow you to build on it over months or years. ‘I like for everywhere that your eye lands to have a beautiful piece that resonates with you or evokes some sort of feeling, and so with that, I tend not to have pieces everywhere – it's just a bit more open,’ Brigette explains. ‘It also allows clients to add things when I leave: another layer for pieces they find in their travels that they love, for instance.’

3. Create a sense of balance through texture

Living room with curved furniture and white walls

(Image credit: Michael P. H. Clifford. Design by Brigette Romanek)

In a livable luxe scheme, texture is king – and Brigette has some materials she returns to project after project. ‘I love linen because it just supports anything you want to do,’ she explains. ‘If you want it to be a cozy look, schlubby linen is great; if you want it to be more of a fancy environment, linen again can be your answer. It has such a relaxed beauty to it. I really like mohair, alpaca and worn-in leather, too. I guess I have some throughlines in my schemes.’

The key, however, is in the mix. ‘Having a lot of mixed textures makes a space cozier,’ Brigette adds. ‘It helps to create a sense of comfort and ease.’ When she and Gwyneth Paltrow decided on the stone for the home bar in the Goop founder’s Montecito home, for example, ‘We were like, okay – now how do we balance that and not make it seem as though someone should be behind the bar taking your drink order? That's where textures are so important. We put the whole story together – all the textures and the samples – until we came up with what felt really livable and easy. It's a fancy bar, but you can take your shoes off on the cozy rug to walk over to it.’

4. Go for your favorite color, but the neutral version of it

Dining room with blue walls and green dining chairs

(Image credit: Tyler Hogan Photography. Design by Brigette Romanek)

Understandably, a neutral color scheme might come to mind when you think of the phrase ‘livable luxe’ – but that doesn’t have to be the case. ‘You can take any color you like and do a muted or deep version of it,’ says Brigette. ‘Once in a while I'll do something super poppy and bright, and I love mixing that in, but that's based on my clients and how they want that room to work for them.’

When she does use color, then, Brigette often opts for the neutral version of it. ‘If it's a pink, maybe it's a dusty pink; if it's a blue, it's possibly a blue with a grey in it,’ she adds. ‘Livable luxe can mean different things to different people and it's what it evokes and means for you. But the idea behind it is that it's cozy and inviting.’

5. Incorporate ‘moments’ into your spaces

View through front door into hall with round table

(Image credit: Anson Smart. Design by Brigette Romanek)

A little like vignettes, moments are places in your home that you’re drawn to, often because of a feeling they encourage in using them. ‘I'll create a home for someone along with them and it's an incredible space, but nine times out of 10, there's going to be a spot in the house that feels like their spot,’ Brigette explains. ‘It's just where they have decided, “This is where I feel the most relaxed or comfortable or invigorated” – whatever the feeling is that's important to them.’

So how do you create a moment? ‘Oftentimes it's a spot with no more than three pieces in,’ says Brigette. She recommends thinking about what would draw you to a certain space – perhaps it’s a spot for reading, or playing an instrument – and arranging objects within it until something clicks. ‘The right pieces will come together and sing – they’ll have a vibration about them,’ she adds. ‘Together, they’ll create a lovely feeling – a sense that this corner is special.’

Deputy editor (print)

Ellen is deputy editor of Livingetc magazine. She cut her teeth working for sister publication Real Homes, starting as features editor before becoming deputy editor. There, she enjoyed taking a peek inside beautiful homes and discovered a love for design and architecture that eventually led her here. She has also written for other titles including Homes & Gardens and Gardeningetc. For her flat in a converted Victorian property, she takes inspiration from the works of some of her favourite architects and tastemakers. She has a particular passion for green design and enjoys shopping small, local and second-hand where she can.