The change of seasons offers an opportunity to make changes of your own — not just in the way you dress, but in the way you dress the rooms you live in.
“I grew up in a house where it was a family event to change literally everything — like slipcovers, curtains, pillows and even china” — with the seasons, said Amanda Nisbet, an interior designer based in Palm Beach, Fla., and the Hamptons, who grew up in Montreal.
To this day, she follows that practice. “A year is a long time, and you don’t always want to look at the same things,” Ms. Nisbet said. Putting away winter accessories and digging out summer ones “heralds a new season.”
If the goal in winter is to create a space that feels warm and cozy, the objective in summer is to make those rooms feel light and fresh. We asked interior designers for advice on exactly how to do that.
Switch Out Pillows and Throws
One of the easiest ways to change the appearance of a room is to switch out decorative textiles. “First and foremost, change out pillows,” said Zoë Feldman, an interior designer based in Washington, D.C. “That’s a very simple solution.”
In the winter, you might have heaps of heavy pillows, covered in velvet or chunky wool, that provide warmth. In the summer, lightweight linen or cotton is a sensible choice.
Aside from the material, consider the visual warmth of your color choices, Ms. Feldman said: “For winter, you might want warm colors like curry, russet and olive green. Then in summer, you can switch that up for softer blushes or brighter hues like periwinkle, salad green and butter yellow.”
The same holds true for throws. Summer is the time to put away any sheepskins or thick wool blankets hanging over the arms of sofas and chairs, and to bring out gauzy cotton and linen blankets or lightweight throws in fresh colors.
“Fabrics have a seasonal quality to them, and velvets, mohair and any sort of felt, to me, has a fall-winter feeling and a warmth that is not always suitable in spring and summer,” said Nick Olsen, an interior designer in New York. During the summer, he likes to put crisp slipcovers over sofas and chairs upholstered with heavy fabrics.
“A white cotton-duck slipcover or a linen slipcover just feels really fresh for spring and summer,” he said. “It’s also practical, because your upholstery gets less wear.” And it’s easy to wash those covers at the end of the season.
Frumpy slipcovers fell out of favor with the decline of shabby-chic style, Mr. Olsen said, so make sure that yours are well tailored to your specific pieces of furniture. If you’re making your own, the fabric should be preshrunk, he added, to avoid problems later.
Roll Up the Rugs
Large rugs are unwieldy and difficult to store, making it tough to change them with the seasons. So some designers use layers, putting large, summery rugs below smaller wintry rugs that can be removed.
“When there’s a big space, sometimes I like to do a neutral, natural rug like a jute or sisal on the bottom,” said Emma Beryl, an interior designer based in New York. “Then, in winter, I’ll maybe layer that with a wool or silk one to make it more textural and warmer.”
In the summer, the smaller rug can be rolled up to reveal the jute or sisal, she said, “which is a great summer choice.”
Change the Curtains
For a major transformation, Ms. Nisbet recommended changing the curtains.
“In the winter, I like cozy décor, and I have boiled-wool curtains,” she said. “But in the summer, I like it to feel airier.” So she temporarily replaces the wool with cotton or linen curtains in ticking stripes or a solid, light color.
“It makes a big difference,” she said. “You feel like you’re in a whole new room.”
If your curtains have hooks that hang from rings, changing them is relatively easy. “It’s not that laborious, especially if you get the whole family involved,” Ms. Nisbet said, “which is what my parents did.”
Make a Cool Bed
As the weather warms up, it’s time to swap out those downy duvets and woolly blankets. “I have a drafty apartment, so I have a duvet that’s rated for extra warmth, but it’s not appropriate for summertime because it’s just too hot,” Mr. Olsen said.
To dress a bed for warmer nights, start with simple bed linens — plain white sheets, he suggested, or ones with a subtle floral pattern — and top them with a light, breathable blanket made of cotton pique or matelassé.
“That’s just a practical thing,” Mr. Olsen said. “It’s not even a design thing.”
But it’s still nice to keep a throw or thin blanket at the foot of the bed, Ms. Feldman said, “so if you’re taking a nap, you don’t have to get under the covers.”
Decorate the Dining Table
Much like putting a slipcover over a sofa, covering a dining table with a tablecloth can give it a new expression, said Ashley Whittaker, an interior designer in New York. “In my dining room in Millbrook, I have this sepia-toned, pastoral-scenic wallpaper that skews very fall,” she said. “So in the summer, I put a really fresh, pretty tablecloth on the mahogany table, which just brightens up the whole room.”
Ms. Whittaker also uses summer as an opportunity to change her flatware, dinnerware and glassware — specifically, she switches to bamboo-handled flatware, playfully
patterned plates and colorful drinking glasses.
“Storing things that you love, and rotating them with the seasons, freshens everything up,” she said, and allows you to enjoy favorite accessories all over again.
Rethink Your Relationship With Fire
If you have a fireplace, you probably don’t use it much in summer. But if you have a yard, there’s a good chance you’ll spend some evenings around a firepit. To help with that shift, Ms. Feldman recommended emptying out the basket or other container that normally holds kindling and firewood by the fireplace and restocking it with lightweight throws and pillows that can be carried outdoors on cool evenings.
Candlelight is desirable throughout the year, Mr. Olsen said, but it’s worth refreshing your candles for summer. “Black candles in the summertime are a little Gothic,” he said with a laugh. “Candles come in all pretty colors, so maybe switch them out for a fresh green or blue.”
Fill Your Vases and Bowls
Of course, one of the best ways to make your home feel summery is to take advantage of nature’s bounty. Whether you buy them in bunches at the green market or pick them in your garden, vibrant peonies, dahlias and other summer flowers will add a blast of color anywhere you may have displayed evergreen branches, magnolia leaves or dried flowers in the winter.
Even leafy tree branches will do the trick, said Ms. Whittaker, who often cuts them from trees in her yard to stuff into vases. “I have ratchet clippers that can cut a huge branch off a tree,” she said. “I’ll put it in my dining room, and suddenly it’s like a summertime forest.”
Bowls filled with in-season fruit, like peaches and pears, are similarly effective at bringing nature’s beauty indoors. Just don’t overthink it, Ms. Whittaker advised — because a truly summery interior should feel relaxed. “Bringing an informality to the formal,” she said, “is a really nice thing to do in summer.”
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