Fairfield County design experts offer warm weather decorating advice

The summer house

Design experts offer warm weather decorating advice

by Lisa Sullivan

By now, some three months into the coronavirus, you are likely a little tired of your house. The initial novelty of “hunkering” down, whether you live alone or with others, has probably worn off, and you might be ready to freshen things up for summer.

This can include anything from a simple decorating project — such as adding some seasonal throw pillows to your couch or using summery fabric napkins on your dining room table — to a larger, more involved plan — like repainting your kitchen a sun-drenched yellow or hanging breezy, lightweight drapery panels around your living room windows. Whatever you decide, this is definitely the year to bring the summer inside.

To help get you started, we asked several area design experts for their ideas on how to make a house into a summer home:

Kate Smith, Kate Smith Interiors, Fairfield

Summer is my favorite season, and I love designing rooms that exude the cheerful, fun, and optimistic mood of this time of year.

My favorite way to create the feeling of summer is through color. Bright blues and greens really reflect the landscape and they are an instant mood booster to bring into your home. I love to tame these pops of color with more neutral hues so your eyes have a place to land. Incorporating whites and natural tones serve as a palette cleanser for the eye.

Another way to reflect the season is to bring the outdoors in. I do this with plants, greenery, and fresh flowers to make the space come to life. A room will always feel more welcoming with fresh flowers, and plants look great and can fill up visual dead space.

I also try to incorporate nature in subtler ways, such as using natural fiber rugs in jute or sisal, and organic materials like bamboo and rattan. These materials add warmth to a room, and help to ground the space. They also add a dose of textural interest.

One of the best parts about summer is the relaxed feeling we all get, and I think a home should reflect that as well. While I love a tailored look, I think a family should be able to really live in their home, without fear of anything being too precious to use. Because of this, I’m a huge fan of performance fabrics on everyday pieces.

Carey Karlan, Last Detail Interior Design, Darien

Summer is about indoor/outdoor simple living. Everything that we would do to freshen up our home is about lightening up and stripping down our interiors and simplifying our lifestyle.

During the summer, in particular, it's useful to think of your entry as starting with the drive up. It's worth it to lay in those cheery annuals, redo the window boxes, and create some drama with your entry flower containers or wreaths. Colorful, fun new doormats, inside and out, will help shake off the winter grime and handle the spring mud.

Paint is still the most economical way to have a big impact on home decor. Consider painting the front door a fun new color, or just painting a tired room a pleasing soft white such as Benjamin Moore’s Simply White.

Heavy winter area rugs can be inexpensively replaced with sisal rugs purchased online. In my dining room I change the brown lampshades to cream — sounds extravagant but it makes a big difference. Changing your pillows and throws to lighter linens and cottons is refreshing. It's a great time to pull back the curtains, pull up the shades, open the shutters, and throw open the windows — at least to let some fresh air circulate. Scents (candles and soaps) should change with the seasons as well.

Consider restyling and decluttering your coffee table, mantel, bar, and dining room table. Shop at home for lighter, brighter objects/centerpieces. A good technique is to remove everything from the surface and just start over. At the very least, if you put fewer things back and add some flowers, you’ll feel refreshed. Tools, glasses, liquors and mixers on the bar should be changed up for summer drinks. In terms of silly swizzle sticks and cocktail umbrellas — if not now, when? A simple white bowl with fruit or greenery from the yard makes a great dining room centerpiece.

Even if you can’t change all your bed linens, just putting a simple white matelasse coverlet over what you have will say summer.

Michael La Scala, The Dock Shop, Darien and Westport

We encourage our customers to bring the beach and/or coast right into their home. Our goal is for them to feel like they’re on vacation in their own home; it should be their happy place.

We carry home furnishings and accessories that can help homeowners achieve this…such as the ship’s bell from a clock, hand blown glass buoy balls which look great placed on a bookshelf or in a corner by a window where they can reflect the light, wind chimes, a wreath made of driftwood and starfish, lightweight blankets with whimsical drawings of a coastal map (this looks beautiful hung on the wall or thrown over an upholstered white or cream armchair), a seaglass Mahi or Marlin created by a local artist, or porthole clocks in nickel or polished brass.

Sandra Long, Laura’s Draperies, Bedspreads & More, Norwalk

A simple way to lighten up your home for the summer includes adding some bright color accessories that remind you of fun summer activities, like going to the beach, hiking in the mountains, or just chilling in your backyard. I would remove heavy and dark color window treatments and replace them with lighter colors and softer palettes, and I would simplify the treatments with simple valances, Roman shades, or just soft shades.

For summer, I would suggest fabrics that are light, summery, and cool (with seashell, fish, or sailboat patterns), or that feature a simple design on a white or neutral background, a pastel palette, or bright fun prints with vibrant colors. The fabric background should be fairly light so the fabric does not have visual weight, and lightly textured fabrics such as linen or sailcloth always feels light and airy.

Andrew Bogdan, Budget Blinds, Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan, Rowayton

In the summer, people want to cool things down both inside and outside their homes, and many of our clients are opting for solar shades, which can be internally and externally, and which block UV rays but still offer a view through them when they are lowered. This also helps keep furniture, fabric, and rugs from fading. These shades are available in several colors; the darker color shades are particularly useful for rooms in which you want to reduce glare, such as the kitchen, home office, and rooms with TVs. They pair well with draperies to provide enhanced insulation during the summer and winter seasons, helping to keep energy bills down.

Our woven wood shades, which always seem to say, “beach” raise like a Roman shade and add texture to a space. They are available in a wide variety of colors, such as traditional wood tones but also white, gray, blue, and green, all ideal for summer decor, and they can be cordless (motorized), which most homeowners seem to prefer today.

This time of year, we find that clients who have skylights want some type of shade or covering on them; we recommend honeycomb shades, which help keep a room much cooler and can be ordered as manual or motorized.

Joe Soave, Seasons Too, Darien

When it comes to outdoor living, we always recommend solid, pattern-less colors for large pieces, such as sectional or chaise cushions; this way you can move around, replace, and care for these essentials without trouble, plus your eyes won't get tired easily of the selected color. For a splash of summer color, rely on throw pillows, table cloths and dining ware, instead.

You can also consider changing the layout of your outdoor furnishings. If you have seating groups or multiple areas, for example, move the pieces around — swap your lounging vs. dining areas and you'll have a new patio right away. You can also change the color of your umbrella canopy: match it to a non-dominant color in your furniture, or go with a bright new option. Add some bright colors to your throw pillows and update your dining ware to finish off the transformation.

For chilly nights, consider a fire pit. Aside from the warm, cozy look it provides, it adds function by making late nights comfortable and extending the patio season well into fall. Set up some classic adirondack chairs around the pit and you'll have a new favorite spot in your backyard for socially-distanced evenings with family and friends.

Debbie Simon and Iwona Dobson, Good Goods, Darien

We feel that summer is a time when homeowners tend to step out of their comfort zone and decorate with bright color…pillows, lamps, and throws are often used to bring a pop of color into the room.

Another pop of color can come from wallpaper. We are finding that an accent wall in a bright multi color print to coordinate with the accessories has become popular and keeps the cost down from covering all the walls.

Whether you are decorating inside or out, performance fabrics, which are available in many colors and patterns, are popular, and you don’t have to worry about the sun fading them and there is little maintenance required.