by Theresa Rolen Long
Five in the afternoon in July at Aunt Mary’s Florida home meant two things—a punctual thunderstorm and cocktails for the grown-ups. Inside the guest room, my post-beach ritual consisted of an arms-up cool down while standing in front of the window A/C—hair blowing Farrah Fawcett style—followed by a dive onto the soft white bedspread. Sunburned and content, I’d strain to hear far-away living room sounds. Bare feet on terrazzo tile, shuffling in time to Latin jazz, and bar glasses clinking with ice. Even the most kempt beach houses of the time carried with them a faint, musty smell, which, strangely, mingled well with that of fresh seafood broiling in the oven. After a short respite, I’d join the rest for dinner and spend hours sitting cross-legged atop Chinese Chippendale dining chairs. We ate and argued over games of Trivial Pursuit. Aunt Mary always won.
Sensory memories of happy vacation places strike us unexpectedly, triggered by sights, sounds, or scents. Thoughts of my aunt’s home conjure visions of its worldly yet colloquial décor and color palette—a pristinely staged 1960s Tropic-Asian amalgamation, avec the ubiquitous lanai. Moody turquoise and jade accented darkly lit wooden den walls, while baby blue and pink bedrooms conversed freely with the sunny yellow kitchen.
Reminiscing about your own favorite holiday spots is inspirational. Focus on what your senses recall, and you will find ways to blend happy memories into your seasonal decorating scheme. Here are a few simple ways to bring summer (and all its memories) into your home:
Pare down. Put away heavier accessories and décor for colder months. Roll up oriental rugs and put down natural fiber. Think simple, like a summer rental house.
Slip on slipcovers. Slipcovers were invented to protect upholstery from sweat, dirt, and pollen during the hot summer months, before central air conditioning made it more of a nonissue. Today’s slipcovers are fitted and tailored. Go with light neutral linens, or try unexpected materials like ticking stripe, seersucker, or distressed sailcloth.
Change your window treatments. Exchange heavy draperies for breezy linen, cotton, and sheer fabrics. Or delete them altogether, taking full advantage of longer days and beautiful summer light.
Add color. Sunny days mean bolder colors. Paint a wall, ceiling, or door, and add accessories in interesting color combinations. Some of the hottest combos right now are olive green/teal/lime; mauve/white/gold; lilac/camel/deep blue; and dove grey/bright yellow/mint green.
Add pattern. Store away your velvets, furs, and brocades. Add throws, pillows, and tablecloths made from colorful ikats and block prints, watercolors, and sophisticated tie-dyes. Embrace culture with Moroccan, Indian, and African tribal textiles. Or swing the other direction and go with floral chintz, a la Mario Buatta, or jungle prints showcasing monkeys, tigers, and fruit.
Bring in greenery. Speaking of ferns and palms, bring them inside. Decorate with orchids, bromeliads, terrariums, giant lilies, and flowers from your garden or yard.
Consider British Colonial furniture. This style harkens back to European colonization of climates below the equator. Wooden furniture brought from home couldn’t withstand the humidity, splitting and cracking over time. So they recreated English style using tropical materials like teak, mahogany, ebony, wicker, bamboo, and animal skins, adding the signature carved pineapple motif to these sturdier furnishings.
Add nautical influences. If your existing design scheme accommodates, add some stripes, ropes, shells, corals, and brass accents. Be careful not to overdo or your house could end up looking like a seafood restaurant.
Stock a stand-alone bar. Purchase a bar cart, or create a bar using a tray on a chest or table. Fill with quick, easy cocktail ingredients, pretty liquor and wine bottles, and some clean, sparkly glasses and decanters.
Encourage summer reading and board games. Stack paperbacks, classic novels, and vintage board games in communal rooms on places like mantels and dining tables. Encourage young and old alike to cozy up and tune out for a bit.
Be ready for guests. Park a shoe mud tray by entryways for flip-flops and sandals. Stock extra sleeping bags, pillows, and blankets for unexpected overnight stays. Warm your guest room with flowers, carafes, fresh towels, and summer-scented candles.
Create your outdoor living room. Lastly, don’t forget your patios, decks, and terraces—extensions of your home in warm months. Keep toys and sporting equipment at bay. Organize using metal bins or baskets in enclosed areas. Add indoor/outdoor rugs, furniture, lighting, sunbrella pillows, and soft seating, and create comforting water features and fire pits.
Whatever seasonal changes you make in your home, keep it casual, breezy, and inspired by your vacation daydreams. Happy summer!